Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman I am not an animal, I am a comic book character based on a real human being who was once, errr, how can I put this? Heroic? A little different? Someone who had some difficulty with singing and sleeping? Nah! Sod that for a game of soldiers! Hey! Tom! How would you describe me? The Elephant Man, also known as Joseph Carey Merrick.

1) What are your own origins, Tom?   I'm from Liverpool, which the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission described as being the, 'finest Victorian city in England'. We've got a large number of UNESCO world heritage sites, and the amazing architecture is regarded as some of the best in the world. There's been a lot of gentrification over the years, but when I was growing up, there were a lot of rundown and abandoned Victorian buildings, factories, and warehouses. It's easy to imagine it as being Victorian era London, which is probably why a lot of the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films were shot here.

I grew up reading The Beano (a UK kids funnies comic) and regularly raided the library for Asterix and Tintin books. As I got older and left university I had a series of boring jobs that gave my brain plenty of time to think about its own stuff, that's when I came up with the idea of making my own comic.

The True History of the Elephant Manby Michael Howell and Peter Ford
2) What inspired you to create, ‘Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman’?   Throwing my hat into the ring and creating a comic felt like the natural progression of being a comic book fan. Merrick is something of a melting pot of ideas and influences. Obviously the core inspiration is the history, and I've thoroughly analysed Treves' reminiscences and The True History of the Elephant Man by Michael Howell and Peter Ford, along with anything else I could get my hands on. There's the David Lynch film as well, and although our comic is very different, I imagine it's played its part.

For the comic itself we tried to get the feel of the old Penny Dreadful books of the period, especially for the cover. It starts very much as a pulp revenge story but then fans out and brings in the classic Stan Lee and Jack Kirby superhero tropes of superpowers, masked heroes, secret identities, and Lovecraftian themes of curiosity to uncover forbidden knowledge.

From a creator's standpoint, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird and what they did with the first issue of Turtles, and Dave Sims' self publishing of Cerebus are hugely inspirational.

3) In your own words how would you describe this story?   Joseph Merrick: The Elephant Man fights the occult, in a Victorian tale of gin joints, black magic and carnival freaks.  Or in other words, 'Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman' is a Victorian pulp / adventure / horror / cape gas-lamp comic set in 1880s' London. Based on a fictional version of the life of Joseph Merrick, it steps between historical facts and turn of the century folklore juxtaposed with the American superhero comic conventions of super powers, masks, secret identities, and fantastic adventures.

4) What song would you say best represents this comic and why?   Initially I'd say 'Joseph Merrick' by Mastodon but that seems maybe a little bit too “on the nose”. 'Rise Above' by Black Flag would be a good choice, as just like the DIY Hardcore/Punk Rock ethos of Black Flag, myself and Luke have built this comic from the ground up ourselves. There's no help from publishers and we don’t have to answer to anyone else. We're just steamrolling through making comics.

The Elephant Man, also known as Joseph Carey Merrick
5) If you could get a celebrity – either living or dead – to promote your wares, who would you choose, and why would you want to choose this particular person?   I think Joseph Merrick himself would be the obvious choice, as one of our reviews said the comic had an “inversion of the negative” that they found empowering, and it would be nice if Merrick himself felt that way about it. Other than that I'm a big David Lynch fan, and it would be fantastic for him to be involved because of his own connection with the source material.

6) What have you learnt about yourself through this endeavour?   Apparently I'm OK at writing comics and I can operate on a very low amount of sleep.

7) During your time in this field, what is the one thing that has kept you in good stead?   Working with a talented team has been an absolute pleasure and there's nothing better than seeing new art come in and watching it come to completion. I'd say myself and Luke are very much on the same page and there's a certain level of synergy at play. I really couldn't be prouder of the final comics that we've produced.

8) If ‘Merrick’ had a motto, what would it be?   “I am not an animal! I am a human being! I... am... a... man!”.

And on that, slurp, gurgle-gurgle, note, I'd just like to thank Tom for telling us about his comic book, Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman, before directing you towards his official website, facebook, and twitter pages. And while you're at it, please feel free to pick yourself up a copy at Comixology.

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