Although we’re the wrong side of Halloween, Chris Welsh’s dark, dank monster book Ness is still giving us nightmares. The tale of a group of teenagers who get drawn into a world of tentacled beasties and supernatural Celtic cults is back on Kickstarter to get the final two issues funded and so we caught up with creator, Chris Welsh to get to the bottom of the monstrous world of Ness.
Tell us a bit about the inspiration for Ness – did we read somewhere about you wanting to create a great British monster book?
Chris Welsh: That’s exactly it. I’m a sucker for giant monsters in media and wanted to set something with them on our little island. Where better to do that than Loch Ness?
What was it about Loch Ness and Scotland that made you want to set it there? Was it the legend of the monster or the ability to tie it in to Celtic folklore?
CW: A little of everything, really. I’ve visited the Loch a few times and it’s always inspiring. It really feels like there could be something lurking in the depths… (although I don’t think there is, sadly). I wanted to put a spin on the old tales and introduce some Lovecraftian elements – the simple idea was to create some monsters that COULD be responsible for the various ‘Nessie’ sightings, but are actually part of a much larger plot . Once I had the basics of the story I fell into a folklore rabbit hole and plucked out a bunch of things I could use to tell the full story. The cult, the washer woman… they’re all taken and twisted to our own means.
Issue #1 felt like the set up to an 80s slasher movie, with the monster as the main focus whereas issue #2 has more of a supernatural and folk lore twist to it, was that always part of the plan to develop and evolve the story over the course of the mini series?
CW: I’m a huge fan of all types of horror and genre movies, and I wanted to spread the story over a few different ones. I was also very keen to instill the story with a sense of escalation – each issue brings nods to different genres and generally gets ‘bigger’. Issue 4 is about as big as it could possibly go, and I can’t wait for people to read it.
There’s a bit of Lovecraft influence in there with the tentacled beastie, but what other books and films inspired you with Ness?
CW: Lovecraft plays more of a part than just the tentacles- the cosmic horror angle starts to come out more clearly in the last couple of issues. In terms of story and how I wanted the book to play out, Del Toro was a huge inspiration. I love his brand of horror and how each of his films has a specific ‘look’. As for the general ‘giant monster movie’ aspect, films like Pacific Rim (Del Toro again!), Cloverfield, and even Godzilla played a part.
Were there any monster cliches you were keen to follow or perhaps keen to avoid?
CW: Lots, both ways. I liked the idea of following the expected route and then throwing in curveballs. II think we’ve done a good job avoiding the cliche pit-falls, but I can’t talk too much about the biggest one I wanted to avoid because it’d be a story-spoiler… you’ll just have to finish the series and trust us to know when to to twist and when to stick to the lines!
You’re kickstarting issues 3 and 4, what made you choose to double up on the issues at this stage?
CW: We learned a lot during the first two Kickstarters , and felt confident enough that we could pull it off. If we had known how positive the reaction would be to the series, we might have tried to Kickstart all four books in one go. Issue one was a little late being delivered thanks to a few small mistakes made during the production, but issue two came together much more easily – that’s the joy of experience, I guess. I also felt like Rob and Dee were really hitting their stride, so it made sense to me to have them produce both books at once rather than book three, then a wait whist we got Christmas out of the way, THEN finally book four. Hopefully this way we’ll be able to get all four books finished and posted out before the end of the year. Fingers crossed!
How did you and artist Rob Carey get working on this together? And how much input does he have into creating the world of Ness or do you pass over fully rounded scripts? Did his rendering of the Ness beast (and also the scary gollum like woman in issue #2 who is properly horrific) live up to or exceed your expectations?
CW: Everything Rob touches turns to gold apparently, including my scripts. I’ve been lucky with artists so far in my fledgling career, and Rob is another shining example. I sent him what I would call ‘finished’ scripts, and the instruction that he should ignore them or change segments if he knew a better way to do it. Some parts went in a different direction to what I had in my brain, but each time it was the right decision for the book – my vision was mine, but what Rob came up with was always stronger. An example – my idea for the hag in issue 2 was more fantastical, something ripped straight from a horrific fairy tale. But Rob grounded the creature, making it more human (but still clearly not) which made that segment of the story much creepier, much more unsettling.
We should also give a mention to the awesome colours from Dee Cunliffe which gives the book that really dank and slimy feel to it! And also the awesome artists you have making variant covers for Ness – I love the Casper Wijingaard one you showed me at Melksham!
CW: Absolutely! I’ve been incredibly lucky to pull together an amazing team – from the core artists to the pin-up artists who got involved. The pool of talent in the small press scene is huge and I barely dipped my toe in.
And finally, what’s next? more Doc Dino? More Wart? Are you looking forward to doing something a bit lighter, or more dark and horrific?
CW: Oh, so much stuff. If I can pull it off, 2017 will be a big year. We’re planning more Wart (issue 4 and 5), Doc Dino (issue 2), plus four new potential projects currently in different stages of development. Some have artists attached, others aren’t quite up to that stage, but I know exactly who I want to work with on all of them… even if I’ve not asked them yet.
If you could sum up Ness in 5 words, what would you go for?
CW: CREEPY SCOTTISH MONSTERS RUN AMOK.
You can back the Kickstarter for Ness issues #3 and #4 here (where you can also get copies of issues #1 and #2
Author: Alex Thomas
Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.