The Horror Tree’s Selene MacLeod sat down with the creators of Casefile: ARKHAM to discuss the series, the art, the writing, Lovecraft, and all things in between.
Here is a sample from the interview:
Selene – First, tell us a bit about yourselves, and your background in writing and art. The bio info on your websites is a little thin.
Josh – Josh Finney is an author of sci-fi, horror, and neo-noir. He is 5’6”, weighs 155 lbs on a full bladder, and has black hair that is slowly going silver. If someone was to play Josh in a movie about his life, it would be a young Brad Dourif, best known as being the voice of Chucky—although Ishi is more akin to Brad’s portrayal of the twisted mentat Piter De Vries in the film Dune.
If Josh were a beverage, he’d be a cup of scalding coffee. If Josh were a celestial body he’d be a planetoid in the Oort Belt. Josh’s best friend is a rodent. He gets his best ideas while in a half-awake state. He eats raw oatmeal. Every day. He listens to music that could be mistaken for a factory collapsing. He’s seen ghosts, spontaneous human combustion, and a UFO in broad daylight. One of those prior statements is not true. If you were to break Josh down into his key chemical components he’d be at least 3% coffee. The rest would be piss and vinegar. His atomic number is 60: Neodymium.
When Josh throws parties he serves heavy water and yellow cake.
Josh is an unlucky son of a bitch. He’s been in two serious car collisions and been shot in the back. Josh is a lucky son of a bitch. He’s walked away without a scratch from two serious car collisions and survived an almost-fatal gunshot wound.
Josh Finney is soon to ditch that by-line for J. Ishiro Finney. This is because when people hear the name Josh Finney they remember it as “Jack Finney,” famed author of the sci-fi classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This is a problem. Works written under the “Josh Finney” name include: Casefile: Arkham, Titanium Rain, Utopiates, and World War Kaiju.
Patrick – I have been at this art thing for over 15 years, with experience in games, multimedia, art direction and comics. I’ve done a lot of tabletop game and CCG work, so many people know my art without having any idea who I am, including popular games like Arkham Horror, Call of Cthulhu, World of Warcraft’s Hearthstone, Dungeons & Dragons, Legend of the Five Rings, Numenera, World of Darkness, and nearly 100 cards for the Game of Thrones CCG.
I was also on contract with Marvel’s marketing division for a while, creating concept art, point of sale advertising, and dozens of pictures for the Marvel Style Guide.
In comics I’ve done a lot less work but have had the opportunity to do a lot of different things. I generally only do one or two projects a year in this field. Most recently I provided interior art and covers for Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space: The Lost Adventures from American Gothic Press. My graphic novels include Casefile: Arkham Vol. 1, World War Kaiju, Nain Rouge: The Red Tide, and Starkweather: Immortal.
And of course the upcoming Casefile: Arkham volume, which we just happen to be here to talk about!
Selene – What about the horror genre appeals to you?
Josh – First, bear in mind I don’t see CASEFILE: Arkham as a horror story. It’s a detective noir at heart. It just happens to be in a horrific world where monsters, god, and black magick exists. One aspect I loved about the first book, Nightmare on the Canvas, is it doesn’t need the monster to remain functional. It’s just a story element. This is less so in the second book, but it too is still a noir at heart.
But what about horror appeals to me? I’m drawn to the genre for reasons different than most. People often explain their love of horror having to do with the thrill ride of being scared or even personally identifying with the monster. There’s also those sadist-voyeurs who enjoy seeing death and suffering at 24 frames a second. For me, though, I consume horror in the same way I do war stories. It’s a crucible. It’s delving into the furthest extremes of the human experience and seeing how we all respond. Who breaks? Who sacrifices themselves? Who survives and why?
I’m a bit of a latecomer with horror, mostly having ignored the genre until the mid-2000s. A decade prior I’d been the victim of a random act of gun violence, one which started with a 9mm bullet finding its way into my stomach and ending with me near death on an operating table. My body survived. But when all the buried emotional damage of the attack finally found me, I found the horror genre.
Submerging myself in all forms of horror. I literally watched and/or read everything I could, from the most gut wrenching of slasher flicks, to the more terrifying of cerebral horror. Stories of people struggling (and sometimes fighting) their way through these extreme situations resonated. Good horror explores questions like: How do we face death? How do we face loss? When the world goes to hell, does our humanity survive?
Patrick – I like the same things about the Horror and Detective Noir genres: the fact that if you test yourself by looking into the darkness of those stories without blinking, you’ll come away having learned a lot about who you are. Those bad things that you were afraid to admit about yourself, and those good things that you didn’t know were there. They are genres of self-discovery. And both very thrilling because of it.
Making art for a dark world like Casefile is difficult but rewarding. It’s not just gross-out horror, it’s slow tension, creeping unease, a dark buildup of dread and worry. If I can get the art to take the viewers to a place where they feel honestly uncomfortable, then I’ve definitely succeeded. That’s hard work but it’s a challenge I like.
Selene – How did you come to collaborate?
Josh – Both Patrick and I had books published by Archaia Press back in the 2000s. So we ended up tabling together at a lot of conventions. Then one night after a show in San Francisco we went out on a bar hopping shit show of a bender. Somehow we ended up at Coit Tower, blitzed on peyote, acid, and good Irish rye. That’s when the spirit of Jack Kirby materialized, taking the form of the great Red Celestial. And he said, “I come bearing tidings of horrid shit to come. Comics are getting to be real crap. You know it, I know it, even the Big Two knows it. And it only gets worse! I foresee a bleak time soon when Squirl Girl will become a plague upon the 616 Universe! A Scrappy-Doo sized turd in the punch bowl! And she shall smear a rainbow colored skid mark of pseudo-intellectual neo-Marxist claptrap and bad art across the pages of once great titles. You two, you kids, you gotta do something about this horseshit. So, make good books. Be the one, shining light of hope in this bleak shit show to come.”
After that, what choice did we have? So Patrick and I started creating comics together.
Patrick – We’ve since stopped taking Peyote, however.