In this next installment of talking about wolves, I got to chat with Tom and Nimue Brown, the co-creators of the Hopeless, Maine graphic novel series. Tom Brown is also the illustrator for The Crows, and there are three of Tom’s original illustrations in the eBook version and five in the paperback!
Hopeless is a mist-shrouded island off the coast of Maine, and a creepily gorgeous example of New England Gothic. Check out their website for a whimsical and deeply Weird introduction to this world, enjoy the art, and maybe row out to the Etsy store where you can load up with all the creative goodies. Just be careful: there’s a lot of things that can get you when you’re not watching.
Right! Let’s get to it. Here’s Nimue Brown on Werewolves in film and lit, and Hopeless!
Nimue & Tom Brown on Werewolves
Tom and Nimue Brown share a love of gothic decay, poetry, wild landscapes and strange creatures. They have been collaborating for years, brought together initially by a publishing house. In the summer of 2009 they launched The Hopeless Vendetta – a weekly newspaper charting life on the fictional island of Hopeless. Many new members of the Hopeless, Maine creative family have since joined them there. The Hopeless, Maine graphic novel series is now published by Sloth Comics. There are also illustrated novels, an RPG soon to be released, and a film project in the works. Their tentacles continue to spread…
The Browns are collectively influenced by Robert Holdstock, Lord Dunsany, the pre-Raphelites, folklore, the modern Druid tradition, Steampunk, Miyazaki and things gothic and gaslit. Both have worked separately in their respective fields. Tom has created covers for Professor Elemental and Steven Savile and art for games, as well as charming illustrations for C.M. Rosens. Nimue writes pagan nonfiction, poetry, songs and fantasy novels.
Nimue: Tom admits that werewolves have always been his least favourite monster, they never caught his imagination. I think this is because he didn’t do enough hair sprouting rage in his teens. Dog Soldiers (2002) has to be my favourite werewolf film, it genuinely spooked me and for some time afterwards, I could only walk in the woods at night while singing, which is wholly irrational in so many ways. I enjoy monsters that are too powerful for humans to overcome, I think we need that. I also have a trashy love affair with really bad special effects, I take great joy in terrible transformation sequences.
Tom: When I was growing up, werewolf special effects in movies were shit, and that didn’t do it for me.
Nimue: For me, the werewolf is all about the monster on the inside getting visible on the outside. Whether that explores the horror of our own monstrosity, or the wonder that is someone accepting the unacceptable self… there are lots of good places to go with this.
I’m uneasy about the monster as romantic hero stuff we keep seeing more of. It feels too often like a loss of claws, a taming of what should be wild. All those paranormal romances with the bite removed from the monsters, bothers me. We need our monsters to be properly monstrous, even (or perhaps especially) if we want to have sex with them.
We do have some werewolves on Hopeless, Maine. This is in part because we have a situation in which things folkloric tend to show up as real.
Tom: I only started enjoying drawing the werewolves when I realised that I could make them look tragic and starved and then they became frightening to me when I could draw them as half-starved things with a lot of their skeleton showing.
Nimue: There’s the horror of something suffering and not in a good shape that calls on a person to end its suffering – that kind of horror is in the mix with our werewolves. They aren’t thriving. They are pitiable, the intrinsic demand there is horrific. Also, it allowed me to do a gag about reoccurring lunar hirsute disorder.
In many ways, the werewolf’s curse has always partially been about tragedy and pathos. What do you think about turning the werewolf into a figure of horror in this way? Feel free to comment or join the discussion on Twitter #WerewolfTalk!
While you’re here: you might want to check out the Kickstarter project, and Nimue has a Patreon page where you can be anything from a small thing in a bottle to a glass heron. All levels are worth it.