Who Is The Real Monster?
The Modern Frankenstein
launches from Magma Comix this week and Tripwire just spoke to its writer Paul Cornell and artist Emma Vieceli about it…
TRIPWIRE: What was the genesis of The Modern Frankenstein?
I wanted to write about medical ethics under pressure in the modern world, and then I realised that there was an archetypal modern Faust figure ready to sum all that up.
TW: How did Emma Vieceli come on board as the artist?
I’ve always wanted to work with her, so I approached her first, hoping she’d do it.
TW: How closely have you worked together with Emma?
I’ve opted for an approach where I often sum up what happens on a page and the dialogue, and let Emma decide the panel structure. Her innovative style has contributed an enormous amount to how this comic looks. It’s an ideal collaboration.
TW: The story references the pandemic. How does that element play into the story?
Only in that it’s thrown into stark relief the ethical issues involved.
TW: What made you choose Magma Comix as the home for this series?
I pitched it to Denton Tipton just before he left his old company, and he took it with him. He’s been incredibly supportive.
TW: The Frankenstein story is such a familiar one, so how did you approach modernising it while still remaining true to Shelley’s original concepts?
I’m drawing more on my love for Hammer’s first two Frankenstein movies, which are much more about the doctor, to the point where he doesn’t really create a monster in the second one. The ethical dilemma at the heart of the Frankenstein character, that he seeks to break through conventional morality for the sake of the greater good, is what informs this title.
TW: And on a related question, why do you think this story is still one that appeals to readers two hundred years after Mary Shelley’s book?
Because the thematic issues in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
book have become more and more important. Shelley’s Frankenstein
was written at the very start of science’s venture into what can and should be done.
TW: You have been drawn to medical stories before. What is it about utilising these themes that appeals to you as a writer?
Because medical stories deal with the core theme of life and death.
TW: How would you describe The Modern Frankensteinin one concise sentence?
A twisted horror-romance about falling too much in love with big ideas.
TW: How did you come on board of The Modern Frankenstein?
Paul and I have been friends for a long time and often said how fun it would be to work together. He approached me about this one and I was instantly drawn to the story!
TW: How closely did you work with Paul Cornell?
Denton Tipton and the Magma Comix team are happy to let us work directly together. So Denton is always part of the process, but The Modern Frankenstein
team are in direct communication. This means I get to talk back and forth with Paul, tell him what I’m loving in the scripts, and get his direct thoughts on layouts along with Denton’s as the editor. It’s a nice way to work!
TW: What was it like to work with Pippa and Simon Bowland on colours and lettering?
Again, the direct communication is lovely. It means we can fuse more as a team and understand what each other means when they make certain decisions. I think it makes the whole process feel fully collaborative more so than working remotely via the publisher.
TW:You have worked on Doctor Who comics. How did you find that and what skills did you pick up drawing these comics?
I have! Just one season on the Eighth Doctor comic with George Mann, and boy we had fun: my favourite Doctor, a writer who would become a friend, and a chance to create a brand-new companion in the form of Josie Day. We’d love to revisit it one day. In terms of skills, every job teaches me something, for sure. We’re always learning. But also, working with Titan back then as an artist was why they knew me to approach me about writing the Life is Strange
series, so it put me in a great position!
TW: How did you approach creating the look of the characters?
I design characters a lot by feel when writing or drawing. So the design has to come from the character. Who they are, what they’d wear, how they’re trying to appear. Paul had written a great story here and had an idea already on the direction for James’ design. I just took that and made sure I was also presenting someone who could appear somehow unreal and blank. Someone who you never really know what they’re thinking. Someone who has had to bypass a lot of his own programming to get to where he is now. And Elizabeth just sprang onto my sketch page, almost fully formed! I read the synopsis and the issue one script and there she was. For me, a well-formed character, or one I’ve written, will just sort of come to be, based on who they are.
TW: It is such a familiar story, so how did you make it look fresh and modern for a more contemporary reading audience?
It’s a familiar premise and theme, but not a familiar story. This isn’t a retelling of Shelley’s story, this is a new exploration of her themes that are still relevant. It’s frighteningly easy to take her important discourse into a modern setting, because it’s still a modern conundrum. Science. Ethics. Just because we can
cross a line, should
we? We talk about a greater good, but who gets to decide what that costs?
TW: You have worked a lot on young adult series, but this is a darker comic than your usual work. What was the appeal for you of working on this?
Yeah, this was out of my comfort zone in many ways, but that’s what drew me to it! Also, Paul knows I’m a sucker for a complex love story and that’s exactly what this is. I love emotional conflict: good people doing bad things, bad people doing good things. Anyone who’s read my work knows I live in the grey areas. A lot about this story is exactly what I love to tell, and I don’t feel as limited in what I can show as I sometimes can in the YA bracket. I hope I can do justice to it.
TW: Can you describe the series in one sentence?
EV: The Modern Frankenstein
walks a line between desire and fear, be it for a person or for achievement.
The Modern Frankenstein
#1 is out from today from Magma Comix, an imprint of Heavy Metal