“Ridiculous real-life events started over-taking what I thought were the absurd, unrealistic ideas I was writing” Steve Horry on putting a rock star into Downing Street in Lizard Men from Comichaus
What if a rock star was elected prime minister of the UK?! That’s the premise for the new Lizard Men mini series from Comichaus and writer Steve Horry that’s debuting on Kickstarter this week. With all the political upheaval in the past 2 years, this isn’t as ridiculous as it might seem (after all there’s a reality TV star in the White House), especially if the reason for this shock election was mysterious reptilian men who secretly run everything behind the scenes. We catch up with Steve to chat conspiracy theories and political upsets.
In Lizard Men you have a rock star elected prime minster – we’re guessing that was inspired by the recent unpredictable political events of the last year and a half?
Steve Horry: To a degree, yes. It started brewing way back in the build-up to the 2015 General Election. A couple of things converged: I was reading Jon Ronson’s fabulous Them: Adventures With Extremists, which I followed by reading John Higgs’ even more mind-blowing The KLF: Chaos, Magic & The Band Who Burned A Million Pounds, which lead on to The Illuminatus! and the Principia Discordia. And then one night I saw Russell Brand on Question Time, spouting forth on politics. A politician – can’t remember who – challenged him with ‘why don’t you stand then?’ So a thought along the lines of ‘heh, that’d be funny’ was quickly followed up with ‘but what if he found out that actually there really is an illuminati, and he got power and discovered that actually can’t change anything? He’s got to do what he’s told?’ So off I went down a rabbit hole, investigating every conspiracy theory I could find. I have read some proper mad guff, and I’m throwing as much of it in here as possible. Sadly, I’ve had to leave out the cat people from Sirius, but maybe one day…
Then the last year and a half started unfolding and I started panicking as ridiculous real-life events started over-taking what I thought were the absurd, unrealistic ideas I was writing! At one point both Kid Rock and Kanye West were talking about standing for office, both of which would have sent me scurrying back to the drawing board.
Do you think that would actually happen in this country, or is it just a great idea for a comic? And it’s really just down to the Lizard Men!
SH: Ordinarily I’d be all realistic and say that I think it would be extremely unlikely in this country. The party system is constructed in such a way – and party leaders are selected in such a way – that it would be pretty difficult. But then the last couple of years have been utterly baffling, so who knows?! I just found the idea irresistible. It wouldn’t leave me alone, and after much wrestling with how to realistically explain how Dylan came to power I figured I could hand-wave all that away with ‘the lizards done it’ and crack on with my story.
The characters seem to have a familiar feel to them – Dylan is a bit Russell Brand and Ian the Lizard Man looks a bit like Ian McKellen, was that intentional or just a coincidence?
SH: “Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”
Though when writing, I find it useful to have someone in mind who would be ‘right’ for that character. It helps me visualise. And in that case, Sir Ian was in my head and mentioned in the script as a reference for Catia. There’s also an element of visual shorthand to allow me to get across something about the character, their tone of voice, how they carry themselves, by referencing someone familiar just enough to leave an impression. The name was a placeholder, but it stuck in the end because I love the idea of a character who is truly evil having such a banal name. That’s not a diss on any Ian’s out there, by the by. I’m very aware that my name is Steve.
I designed Dylan myself, though the only real-life person I looked to for inspiration was for his hair. It’s based on the cut Jaime Harding of Marion rocked in the 90s, which I still maintain looked AMAZING! Dylan basically had his imperial phase in the mid-late 90s and he’s not changed his haircut since.
How did you meet up with the artists and did you have a specific idea for how you wanted the book to look and feel?
SH: Catia and I have ‘spoken’ over the internet so much, but we’ve still not met! We’re hoping to get her over to the UK for a convention or two next year. I came across her work frantically Googling artists after the guy I originally had lined up for Chalk – our Comichaus anthology strip – disappeared. I was desperately searching for a new artist with a super-tight deadline looming and was impressed by her work, so we contacted her out of the blue. She was thankfully available, and it’s worked out brilliantly. I was originally planning to draw Lizard Men myself, but the more we worked together on Chalk, the more impressed I was by the quality of the work she was producing and her speed. She’s really versatile and easy to work with. My wife recently gave birth to our second child, and with his birth looming I was realising that I just wouldn’t have time to draw it myself. I asked Catia if she’d be up for drawing a couple of pages and they were fab, so it became a no-brainer. She draws Dylan much sexier than I do.
Chiara on colours is an old friend of hers, and their work gels together really perfectly. They’ve both got the tone utterly right. I’ve been banging on about Lizard Men being a rise and fall story. There are lots of them over the six issues, and they’ve latched on to that wonderfully. And Ken I met again through working on Chalk. He was bought on board by Comichaus, and it turns out he’s both bloody good at what he does, super-helpful and into the idea enough to let me drag him along for the ride.
The design of the book is very fashion and rock n roll inspired (it looks like a 90s Face magazine) was that part of the plan all along? I notice you have a credit for cover design.
SH: I had a strong feeling of wanting the book to look distinctive. I didn’t want it to look like a comic; I wanted it to stand out and look a bit posh, and a splashy action image would feel really wrong for the story I’m trying to tell. I love big splashy action images as much as the next reader, mind. The rock ‘n’ roll/fashion mag look developed naturally as I worked on the story; given Dylan’s prime was the mid-late 90s, so it made sense to reference that period with some of the design choices. It’s nice to draw the covers, ‘cos they’re the fun, easy bit.
There are stacks of references in the design and the dialogue, and in the character names. The cover and our promo imagery features a play on the classic illuminati eye symbol. According to a couple of the theorists, the lizard men came to Earth in ancient Sumer, so there’s the Sumerian cruciform for ‘sun’ on the cover, Dylan’s surname, Zamani, is the Sumerian word for ‘lightning’, which felt appropriate. And so on.
You’ve been supplying stories for the Comichaus anthology already, but how did that evolve into them publishing Lizard Men as a mini series?
SH: It’s happened pretty organically. ‘Evolve’ is the right word. Pete Genepool – who runs all things Comichaus –got in contact with me about contributing something to Comichaus way back when he was starting up. I mentioned this idea and he was mad keen, but six page serialised chunks didn’t really feel like the right format for it. I ended up developing Chalk instead but we carried on talking and talking in the background and he was really into the script from the first draft. I’d considered pitching it to a couple of people, but it felt like I’d already found a natural home. He’s been an awesome sounding board throughout the process, really supportive and encouraging and FUN to work with. I love what he’s doing. I love his ambition, and I love how passionate he is about comics, especially the indies. He is very much A Good Man. Without him or Mira, our awesome editor, the book wouldn’t exist.
How long is Lizard Men planning to run for?
SH: This series has always been – in my head – six issues. It’s self-contained, but I do have a couple of thoughts around what a series/season 2 could look like should enough people be into it. Mira seems pretty invested and wants me to write it forever, but once this is done I have another Big Shiny Idea that is calling me. I’m currently trying to repress that for a little while I’m working on the final drafts of the last couple of issues of this.
And finally if you could see a rock star or celeb elected as PM who would it be?
SH: I’m looking at the news right now and thinking one real-life celeb in a position of power is enough. Someone not so baffling or likely to cause a nuclear war would be nice.