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'It's someone else's story, but you're talking' - INJ Culbard is At the Mountains of Madness

At the Mountains of MadnessOur favorite graphic novel of 2010 was - without a doubt - Mr. I.N.J. Culbard's stunning adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness.

Lovecraft's work is inspiring, but also incredibly tricky - something to which a thousand film-makers, novelists and artists can attest. Mr. Culbard stunned us (and the Guardian, Geek Syndicate, etc. etc. etc.) with his amazing interpretation, both in the svelte editing and the jaw-dropping artwork. With pen in hand, we tracked the man down in an expedition of our own.

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PK: How did you first get in to comics as a reader (not a creator)?

INJC: I got into them because I couldn't read. I've always "read" comics.

PK: …and as an artist?

INJC: I saw an ad from Dark Horse Comics about their new recruits program so I went for it and got "in", whatever "in" means. This was 2004 I think. It was published in 2006. I followed that up with some work in the Judge Dredd Megazine, a six page short of my own called "Monsters" with a hero in it who was a sort of Kung Fu fighting all action Wogan via James Bond and then I met up with Matt Brooker, who lives near me, and he gave Ian Edginton my email and Edginton mailed me to ask if I'd like to draw Dorian Gray for SelfMadeHero and I said yes please. That was essentially it.

PK: How does the adaptation process work?

INJC: I take the story apart and I put it back together again. That's my approach. Often times (not always) an adaptation to comics form has meant an abridged version of the original story and I just didn't want to do that. I wanted to do what a film director would do and make it my own and focus on addressing the change in medium and in some instances even add flesh to bones, create scenes, anything in the pursuit of being able to "show" where has previously only been "told".

PK: With something like At the Mountains of Madness, how do you choose what stays and what goes?

INJC: You keep everything that's important and relevant to the story and to the way that you, the adapter, are telling it. Yeah, it's someone else's story, but you're talking, you've got the spoon. It's only ever gonna be a version of somebody else's story... so make it your version.

At the Mountains of Madness

PK: When did you first read H.P. Lovecraft?

INJC: I think I was 11... not entirely sure anymore. Roughly that age. I'm sure my age changes every time I tell this story. More importantly though I came to it via the roleplaying game from Chaosium. I mean WOW! SUCH a scary game to play. Especially when you're 9 (see, changed it already!)

PK: Approaching the art can't be any easier. How do you go about drawing non-Euclidian geometry?

INJC: You study non-Euclidian Geometry at Miskatonic University.

PK: In our stalking...er... research process, we’ve spied that you’re starting Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter series for SelfMadeHero. What else do you have in the works?

INJC: Oh, lots of stuff I can't actually talk about just yet. One major US publisher and another big UK publisher for starters. Its going to be a very busy year(s).

Sherlock Holmes PK: That's really exciting to hear! You've also created an entire series of Sherlock Holmes adaptations with Ian Edgington. Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed character in film/TV history. (True fact!) Besides your own (and the original), which is your favourite interpretation or adaptation of the great detective? And why?

INJC: Difficult. I could give an obvious quick answer like Jeremy Brett. Goes without saying, doesn't it? Even though he was a little (cough) older than Holmes his performance is really quite a rare and brilliant thing. But then there's the Hammer Films version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" from 1959 was it? With Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Brilliant. They took the story and told THEIR version of it and it scrubs up very well indeed. Then there's "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes". "HOLMES!!! YOU BOUNDER!!!" Need I say more? That film is brilliant and Christopher Lee is in it again!!! And isn't "Brotherhood of the Wolf", which whatever way you cut it, a sort of unofficial adaptation of The Hammer version of Hound of the Baskervilles but with martial arts? There's so much of it. I have so many pastiche collections, films, books, etc.

PK: At the London Book Fair, we heard rumors of a dream world in which the artist is given a full year to finish a single book… if you had that time, what would you choose to do? And how would this differ from your normal process?

INJC: I don't actually think it would suit me producing a 48 page book in a year. What would be wonderful would be if I could afford to that! But I'd go crazy. That's just not how I work. I'd be doing loads of books and calling them unofficial side projects. I like to keep busy. I have to keep moving.

PK: We note that the “wuk wuk” of the giant albino penguin wasn’t in Lovecraft's original text. Now we’re curious. What noise would be made by a member of the mighty beetle civilization (the one that arises after humanity is extinct in "The Shadow Out of Time")?

INJC: Wait and see.

PK: We certainly will. Thank you very much for your time. We can't wait to see your next project in print.

Valley of Fear

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All images are copyright Mr. Culbard and SelfMadeHero. You can read more about Mr. Culbard's latest work at his blog, Strange Planet Stories, or you can badger him on Twitter at @injculbard.

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