“No-one gives form to that un-nameable existential horror that lies inside all of us like he can” Fraser Campbell talks psycho noir horrror The Edge Off and working with artist Iain Laurie

Scottish small press superstars, Fraser Campbell and Iain Laurie are set to blow people’s mind with their new collaboration – The Edge Off, which is now funding on Kickstarter. It reads like the bastard lovechild of William Burroughs and Shaky Kane, brought up on a diet of Charles Bronson movies, and is a surreal, psychedelic crime thriller, that could only come from the twisted minds of these unique talents. We caught up with writer Fraser Campbell to find out what the hell The Edge Off is all about and what it’s like working with such a unique artist!

Your new book The Edge Off is a surreal mix of psychedelia, horror and crime, how would you describe it to new readers?

FC: What seems to be emerging from people we’ve showed it to is, “Taken meets Eraserhead”, so yeah, it’s a crime thriller that ends up getting very weird!

You team up with the truly one of a kind, Iain Laurie. Can you tell us a bit about how that came about? Have you worked together before? And did you know you wanted him to draw this from the start? 

FC: Iain and I have been pals for ages and have worked together on and off for more years than I care to remember on stuff like Black Cape and Mothwicke. The Edge Off was Iain’s idea originally. It came up when we were chatting about doing something together. He suggested I write a straightforward crime thriller and then we’d rework it, adding his ideas and we’d see what we ended up with.

What does Iain bring to the book that another artist might not be able to realise?

FC: He brings Iain Laurie. There’s no-one else like him. No-one gives form to that un-nameable existential horror that lies inside all of us like he can. He makes the monsters we can’t even picture real. He’s also just generally a great guy to collaborate with. You have all the ideas and creativity he brings plus good communication, quick turnarounds, etc. He’s also got high standards, and he’ll push you for your best, which I’m always looking for with a collaborator.

With a book like this, how does the scripting process work? Do you give Iain quite a loose brief and let him go off and do his own unique thing and await the results? Or do you have to be quite prescriptive in what you ask him to draw?

FC: Developing the story was pretty collaborative. The basic idea was to do a draft of a relatively straightforward crime thriller and then take it apart and see what we could make out of it. So I did that and we went back and forth a few times until we ended up with the final script. I think we had a couple of attempts that got to an actual artwork stage that didn’t work, for various reasons. But that was the point, it was quite experimental. We were trying to break the story and see what we could make with the pieces. We knew we could create a cohesive but unusual, very “us” story if we just kept at it. Eventually, we ended up with something that I think reflects the pace and energy I’ve kind of become known for and Iain’s ability to take you places no-one else can.

It reminds us of everything from William Burroughs to Shaky Kane, were there any specific inspirations which helped you develop the story? Did you always intend it to be quite so dark and horrific? Or did that evolve in time?

FC: It was always intended to be quite dark and I think this is where our background comes into things. Iain and I grew up in very similar towns in Ayrshire and the kind of broken man you often come across there has always featured in the stuff we’ve both done. We come at it from different directions I think, which probably helps make it an interesting collaboration. In terms of influences from my end, I think any crime writer probably aspires to be as precise and economical as Hammett, without a hope of getting there it’s fair to add. I’m also a big fan of the forlorn, post-hippie era cynicism of Gregory McDonald’s Fletch novels. I also had Altman’s The Long Goodbye in mind and Performance, another crime film that has a woozy, drug addled theme to it. There’s also a lot of Statham style “one man against the world” action movie stuff in there as well.

For Iain there’s Lynch obviously and people like Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns and I think more recently Jeff Lemire from the comics side of things. But I think below that on anything Iain and I do there’ll be that baseline influence of the era of British TV drama we absorbed growing up. Alan Bleasdale, Dennis Potter, Mike Leigh, people like that. That’s kind of baked into us I think.

You’re releasing it on Kickstarter this week, so what extras can we look forward to? And do you have any specific plans for the book’s release once the Kickstarter has finished? 

FC: You’ll be able to get a print or digital version of the book and you’ll also have the opportunity to get a commission or an original page from Iain. I think we’re going to keep things fairly simple on this one, but we will have a very special pledge level that we think will get people very excited. We’ll announce that a few days before launch. If we go over target, we’re looking into movie style lobby cards as a stretch goal which I think will be fun. Backers will get their copies a little while after the Kickstarter finishes but I think we’re holding off an official general launch until Thought Bubble in September, so if you’re keen to read it, backing the Kickstarter is the way to go!

And finally, what’s next for you? Will be seeing any new Alex Automatic work from you this year?

FC: Yes, James is hard at work on #3 right now. After a couple of issues introducing and establishing Alex, this next issue signals where the rest of the arc is going as we inch towards the truth about who Alex is and who he was before we met him. I’m pretty excited about this one and I think James will knock it out of the park, as usual. We’re hoping it will be ready for Thought Bubble in September, so look out for a Kickstarter in July or August for that one.

You can back The Edge Off on Kickstarter here. And to pick up the first two issues of Alex Automatic and Fraser’s other work then visit cabalcomics.bigcartel.com.