Comics Features

INTERVIEW: James McCulloch – Creator of The Grime

Written by Davidde Gelmini

The new anthology The Grime (Kickstarter here) features stories showcasing the horror genre at its nastiest, as creator James McCulloch explains:

APTHYC: You say that you want to make people feel in need of a shower at the end of each issue?

McCulloch: Yeah, I feel the best horror, in any medium, is stuff that affects you. One of my favourite horror films is the French film Martyrs. It just leaves you feeling abused. Like you’ve been through a journey. I want that to happen when people read The Grime.

Something changed in horror a few years back. It started to become more about annoying teenagers that you don’t really like dying in uninteresting ways. You need a connection for horror to work. So I wanna make a connection with people, and then abuse that.

Ultimately I just like my horror to dig under your skin and bury itself in there. Make you question humanity. Maybe I ask for too much though.

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APTHYC: Can you talk about the talent that you have onboard?

McCulloch: The talent we have onboard for issue 1 is insane. We have the writers, Chris Welsh (Wart), Tom Ward (Merrick the sensational Elephant Man), Dave Cook (Bust), Lizzie Boyle (Cross, Sentient Zombie Space Pigs) and myself.

We have some of my favourite artists on the small press scene, Conor Boyle (Sentient Zombie Space Pigs, On Dangerous Ground: Bannockburn 1314), Dan Charnley (Tracks in the Snow, Hel.Hunter, The Box), Janine Van Moosel (City of Lost Souls, Thirteen), Bekah Withers (How To Kill Bears), and we have fan-favourite from the fan art scene Garry Robertson.

We’re also trying to bring in new talent every issue, so along with Garry, we have Kevin Allen, who is a graphic designer from Edinburgh doing the story Blinded, and Maxwell Hewitt, who is a tattoo artist from Edinburgh doing the cover.

Like that isn’t enough, we have Iain Laurie (And Then Emily Was Gone), Norrie Millar (Duality), and Rob Daus (another newcomer to comics who has worked the fan art scene) doing pin-ups that will run through the issue.

APTHYC: Are you also looking for aspiring new creators?

McCulloch: Yeah, that’s one of the things I really wanna do with The Grime. I wanna get people who’ve never done any work in comics, but want to get involved, a doorway in. Give them the chance to work on a project with people who are established in the small press scene. This issue we’ve brought in some first-time artists. Next issue, we’ve already got 2 new writers and artists involved.

At conventions you always have people coming up and asking about how to start in comics, or how to go about publishing things themselves… This way we get to go through it with them and introduce them to a lot of people who have a deep-rooted love of small press. And there are a lot of guys out there who realise that the small press scene within the UK is massive and filled with talent.

APTHYC: Will the stories vary in terms of plot, tone, and art style?

McCulloch: Yeah, the tone will generally be dark and slightly twisted, but I’m giving the teams free reign to do what they want, within the guidlines of having something that is as disturbing as they can make it. Ultimately, I trust the people I have working on this to deliver something special. I really can’t wait to see the final product.

APTHYC: Can you give us a taste of some of the stories?

McCulloch: It’s really hard to do that without giving the game away.

The Nihilist (Tom Ward, Dan Charnley) is a twisted dark homage to 80s slasher films with the introduction of an amazing character I really hope to see more of.

Blinded (Chris Welsh, Kevin Allen) follows a girl who gets thrown out the back of a van… She has no idea where she is, or why she was taken there. But something has went horribly wrong, she just needs to work out what, which is made even harder by the fact that she can no longer see.

In Killer Be Killed (Dave Cook, Janine Van Moosel, Garry Robertson) you get to delve into the mind of a killer, what drives them, what motivates them to do what they do.

Free Go (Lizzie Boyle, Bekah Withers) asks the question of who is really in control of a decision, a night, a life.

Smash and Grab (James McCulloch, Conor Boyle), in a world that has succumbed to the zombies… where food is depleted and there is no hope… going to the shops can suddenly become a most dangerous and futile excursion.

APTHYC: What do you think of the current state of the horror genre?

McCulloch: The last couple of years have been really good for horror comics as a whole. You have everything from And then Emily was Gone, to The Walking Dead, and Nailbiter. Even DC has had some phenomenal titles come out in the last couple of years. There’s definitely an audience for horror in comics, which is great.

For too long people have pushed horror comics under the rug like it was the dirty unwashed cousin of the bigger superhero titles. But there’s been phenomenal work going on out there for well over a decade.

In films… Well most of the directors I really like haven’t really been up to much for the last few years; Hollywood seems determined to just throw found footage films and remakes down our throats. But there are some good unusual films getting through with lower budgets. Bad Milo, John Dies At The End and Before Dawn were all great for totally different reasons. It seems that when Hollywood has run out of ideas, independent film makers will rise from the underworld and take over. That and the French. The French are coming up with mind-blowing horror… The same as Japan was ten years ago.

Horror seems like a dirty word in the world of books. There are so many outstanding horror books hidden under thriller, or dark urban fantasy. In most book shops, you have to go to fiction to even find classic horror books, which is kind of sad when you think about it. I spent most of my teenage years reading Shaun Hutson and James Herbert. I still love a good horror book.

Horror computer games are massive.

It’s a mixed bag really… I think there are really good people working on some outstanding stuff. Regardless of where people want to hide it, there’s no getting rid of it. We like to be scared.

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APTHYC: Do you have anything else in the pipeline?

McCulloch: I have so much on right now… It’s been crazy, but in a good way. I have an homage to ’80s action films called Kid Monkey with artwork by Razor Bastard‘s Paul Johnson that is full-on, action jackson, batshit crazy.

We’ve just released issue 3 of City of Lost Souls, and we’re hoping to get issue 4 out at the start of next year. That’ll be the end of the first book with book two starting before the end of 2016.

I started drawing my own comic called My Crappy Comic Book Diary, which is about my lifelong struggle with depression and my ineptitude at the whole “being an adult” thing. They’re going to come out every 3 months.

I’ve just got Dan Charnley in for a 50 page graphic novel called The Forest, the chair, and those forsaken there which I’m really excited about. I just love how he puts a page together.

I’ve collaborated with George Lennox, from Vietnam Zombie Holocaust, on a story in issue 2 of Cult Empires Horror Show, drawn by Norrie Millar and coloured by Janine Van Moosel. It was my first experience writing with someone else but I really enjoyed it. We’re already talking about doing another story in a later issue.

There’s a spin off from City of Lost Souls about a female private investigator in Glasgow, and three other titles I’m working on right now. One of which is actually haunting me in my sleep. I’ve had far too many a sleepless night from it. It’s definitely fuelled by the dark voices inside me trying to burst out.

But I’m concentrating on the rest of them first. I only have so much money to produce comics. You know, a man still needs his pizza.

Are you excited to check out The Grime? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!

About the author

Davidde Gelmini