Interview: talking with Gareth Brookes about his “psychedelic, semi-pornographic, monoprinted sci-fi epic”
Ok, this may well be a fair way into the future. But just the look of it made me all excited and wishing the time away.
I’m finally ready to preview a few pages from my new comic ‘The Land of my Heart Chokes on its Abundance‘, a wordless, psychedelic, semi-pornographic, monoprinted sci-fi epic about human arrogance brought low.
The first installment should be available in the summer, although exact dates and details remain a mystery even to myself.
Come on, what isn’t doing it for you with either the name The Land of my Heart Chokes on its Abundance or that great description ‘a wordless, psychedelic, semi-pornographic, monoprinted sci-fi epic about human arrogance brought low‘?
And if that isn’t enough, have a read of what I thought of The Black Project and imagine Brookes bringing his unique style and sensibilities to this.
I wanted to know more, even at this early stage, so figured I’d ask the man himself…
Richard Bruton: The Land of my Heart Chokes on its Abundance – will explaining the title act as a spoiler?
Gareth Brookes: When I was a student I was really into Rainer Maria Rilke’s ‘Sonnets to Orpheus (Wikipedia) but I left my copy on a bus. This line ‘The Land of my Heart Chokes on its Abundance’ stuck with me, then recently I picked it up a copy in a charity shop, but that line was nowhere to be found. I think I just misremembered the line and changed it in my head over the years. I really like it and it fits the story because the characters have misremembered and misinterpreted their own past, and because they live in a landscape that’s alien and follows its own weird and infernally fertile logic. There’s also a doomed love story that will emerge in later parts so the title will become more appropriate as the thing progresses.
Richard Bruton: Similarly the description of The Land of my Heart Chokes on its Abundance as “a wordless, psychedelic, semi-pornographic, monoprinted sci-fi epic about human arrogance brought low” is deliciously vague. Is this merely a big tease for the story or is it more the open-ended description of a man who’s partway through a work with a not quite finalised idea of where the whole thing’s going?
Gareth Brookes: It’s a bit of a tease! But its also a pretty good description of what it actually is, I finished the first issue recently and it’s a bit like waking up from a dream and going ‘what the bloody hell was that all about?’
Richard Bruton: Is there any chance at this very early stage of things to let us into the plot a little more?
Gareth Brookes: Because it’s wordless it’s hard for me to know how much to put into words, it’d be nice to see how people interpret the story and whether they actually understand it because at this stage I have absolutely no idea if it even makes sense or if it’s a massively self indulgent pile of visual gobbledygook. I got the idea for the story from looking after a friend’s dog. I’m not really a dog person and found it unnerving to share experience with this creature that was interpreting the situation in a radically different way to what I was. It started me thinking about what dogs actually think is going on, and to what extent they’re responding to the instincts inherited from their wolf ancestors. Then that started me thinking about what it would be like to be a human in that situation and the story just came from there.
Richard Bruton: The art for The Land of my Heart Chokes on its Abundance looks fabulous. Or at least the images I’ve seen thus far look fabulous. The colours, the imagery, the strange shapes against a landscape, all so intriguing. Can you tell us a little of the process involved?
Gareth Brookes: I used monoprinting, which involves rolling ink thinly onto a piece of glass then laying paper on top and drawing on the back with a biro. It’s quite awkward because you can’t touch the paper with anything but the tip of the biro, and you can’t rub anything out. I picked some deliberately horrible colours because at that stage I wasn’t taking it very seriously, but they looked good and sort of ‘alien’ so I kept them.
I went on a boat trip around the coast of Norway about a year ago, and that had a big impact on the look of it. The way the landscape looks more alien and inhospitable the further north you go, but also becomes more mythic and evocative and conducive to inventing stories.
Richard Bruton: Wordless. something you fancied doing, or something necessary for the story?
Gareth Brookes: It’s necessary for the story in the sense that I wanted the whole thing to feel completely alien, and using language would bring it back into the sphere of known culture if you see what I mean. It’s something that Lando (Decadence Comics) does in his comics to great effect, and his comics were a definite influence on this project. Also it felt like after The Black Project, where the writing is centre stage, it would be a challenge (and a relief} to do something completely the opposite.
Richard Bruton: Is The Land of my Heart Chokes on its Abundance with a publisher or are you going self-published?
Gareth Brookes: I’m going fully self published and homemade on this one!
Richard Bruton: How did you find the change from self-publishing to working with a publisher for your first graphic novel The Black Project? Is it a relief having some of the non-artistic elements taken out of your control or do you find yourself missing the cut and thrust stuff of self-pub?
Gareth Brookes: Working with Myriad on The Black Project was a great experience, and it’s taken the work much further than I would have been able to achieve with self-publishing. It definitely feels like a relief for the book to have a life of its own, out in the world that doesn’t entirely rely on me dragging it around in a suitcase!
It’s quite hard to start again when you’ve spent over four years on something like The Black Project, so I made a conscious decision to make a small press comic. Small press was where I came from creatively, and I think of it as part of my creative process. If you start something with the idea that it’s going to be a graphic novel that’s going to be published then you’re limiting yourself and missing out on the funnest part of the creative process, which is not knowing what you’re doing. There are always going to be people who dismiss self publishing as vanity publishing, but I think that if you look at it from the modern readers perspective, they like the idea of finding you through your published work and then being able to access online content but then also being able to buy handmade or small run stuff directly, all these things feed off each other.
Richard Bruton: When will The Land of my Heart Chokes on its Abundance be out?
Gareth Brookes: I sold some at the Alternative Press Fair the other day but I need to make more. It’s 92 pages to run off on a laser printer then each one is hand bound using a Japanese style binding. Also the front and back covers are handmade monoprints, so it’s all a bit time consuming. I’m going to spend the next few weeks trying to make loads then hopefully I should be able to make them at a more leisurely pace after that. They should be available in my web store by mid June.
Richard Bruton: Finally, something I always like to ask, as it’s fascinating to hear people’s answers…. what was the last comic work that you loved? and can you name someone as a name for the future?
Gareth Brookes: I picked up a load of Whizzer and Chips annuals from the 80’s and I absolutely love them! It’s strange to see how much British society has changed, stuff like The Bumpkin Billionaires and Store Wars make it read like a radical left wing socialist newspaper. Plus stuff like Sweet Tooth which wouldn’t be allowed now because it would encourage children to eat sweets!
In terms of names for the future, that’s a toughie because every week I’d probably have a different answer but I think Abe Christie, Jack Fallows and Emix Regulus are all coming up with interesting work right now.
Thank you to Gareth for taking the time to answer my questions and supplying those process pics to go along with the answers. We’ll be talking more about The Land of my Heart Chokes on its Abundance nearer publication.