Gets Snaked By Meth
Clifford Meth Talks About New Comics Project
with IDW now," started the email from writer Clifford
Meth, inviting me to stop by the booth at Comic-Con and chat.
There may have been drinks involved, but when talking to Meth,
it's best to keep your wits about you.
in December, cover by Ashley Wood
it happened, our schedules never coincided in San Diego,
but he did promise that he'd give us a shot at talking about
his new comics project, first in quite a while of writing
what would more accurately be called "illustrated fiction."
He's worked with some of the greats, and one interesting
point about Snaked is that in an earlier prose version of
the story, the late great Dave Cockrum did the illustrations.
in a way, we're also seeing ideas put forth by Cockrum,
too, as Snaked's British artist Rufus Dayglo had full access
to and used Cockrum's designs.
again, though, let me just let Meth tell it...
McCaw: So it’s a political-action-horror
story – dare I ask what sparked this idea?
you peek beneath the surface of most human stories, the
same basic motives typically drive characters into action—the
craving for another human being’s affection, an appetite
for power, and the need for revenge. I suspect that two
out of three of these lie at the core decisions made by
most political leaders; it’s rarely the quest for
justice or liberty or democracy or whatever term is currently
in vogue. Clinton and Bush have little in common with King
Arthur; that’s the difference between human leaders
and fictional heroes.
that, if you drop a man who is youthful and naïve and
basically honest into the midst of today’s political
quagmire, he will find himself quickly dysfunctioned by
leagues of inertia. However, if you change the equation
by giving him abilities far beyond those of mortal men,
well now—that's a whole new ball game!
a bit about Bill Timmons, and why your logline references
Meth: Bill Timmons is similar in some regards to
Heinlein’s Valentine Michael Smith—he's a stranger
in a strange land, as many idealistic young men are at the
age of 21; fresh from school, eager to please, possessed
of a basic sincerity that creates unrealistic expectations
of other human beings who are older and mature and basically
dishonest. But Timmons has some things they don’t
have, which are snake-like abilities that manifest over
mythos assume that, given powers, “good” people
will use those powers to benefit mankind and "evil"
men will use power towards selfish ends. But most people
are built of conflicting impulses; their sense of morality—of
right and wrong—is circumstantial. And that’s
how I play Bill Timmons. He is neither heroic nor villainous
but rather forced to cope with the world. And like any of
us, he uses any means at his disposal to do so.
McCaw: Can you launch a new comic in the industry
without trying to drag in the superhero fans?
Meth: No. At this point, superheroes—at least
the major ones—are as imbedded in pop culture, as
iconic, as Santa Claus… and rightly so. But regardless
of what anyone has read or hasn’t read, I’m
fairly certain we’ve provided a story that stands
loose of those tropes. You need no background in comics
to enter this story—nor will a robust background in
superhero comics leave you feeling as if you’re encountering
clichés. The story is fairly rich.
the description you’ve sent me, it sounds like SNAKED
obviously has a sentimental value to you because of Dave
Cockrum. Could you explain Cockrum’s involvement,
particularly for those not aware of your history with him?
Meth: Dave was my very dear friend and we worked
together on numerous projects—one of the first was
a short story of mine entitled “Snakes” for
Aardwolf Comics #2. It wasn’t sequential
art—we ran the full text with half-a-dozen illustrations.
developed Bill Timmons—the protagonist—for another
story entitled “Snaked” and for a film treatment,
but the character designs are based on Dave’s initial
output. Dave was one of the industry’s best character
McCaw: You say you’re keeping some
of Cockrum’s designs. Where did the dividing line
come, and did you and Rufus change any designs that were
hard to let go of?
Meth: Rufus has certainly made this book his own.
I shared Dave’s designs with Ruf but gave him free
reign to do what he wanted. I’d been living with some
of these characters in my head for more than 10 years, so
it was important for me, and for the success of this project,
to have Rufus develop a sense of ownership. I’m quite
happy with what he’s brought to the party, and we’ve
struck up an interesting overseas friendship.
McCaw: How did you hook up with Dayglo,
an artist who in this country will likely only be known
by people that are already buying IDW books?
Meth: Ted Adams suggested Rufus. He had been working
with Ash Wood on various projects and IDW expects Rufus
to be a rising star so Ted wanted to give him something
important… When I looked at his samples, I saw that
Ruf was very adaptable and SNAKED needs that kind of flexibility
because it is by no means straight horror or straight action
or straight anything.
McCaw: How much of this has turned into
collaboration with Rufus – and do you find yourself
changing things because of his strengths versus Cockrum’s?
Meth: Oh, it’s very much a collaboration.
I’ve handed Rufus specific camera angles and sequences
that he’s seen differently, but I’m appreciative
of that; he needs to see my story through his eyes. He doesn’t
muck with the script, though.
with Dave, Rufus operates at Jack Kirby speed. Even when
Dave was young and healthy, he had a difficult time meeting
deadlines. Rufus is the opposite—he has his eye on
the calendar. This book is coming out on time!
McCaw: You’ve flirted with comics
before, but obviously have garnered critical respect and
fan-following for your prose. Why dive into comics now?
Meth: It’s a different dance—a different
set of challenges. With prose, it’s all me—no
teammates to rely upon. That’s what I loved about
wrestling and competing in martial arts; it was all me.
But there’s different and equal pleasure in playing
baseball and football and soccer where it’s not you—it’s
the team…Of course, I’ve always loved comics
just like I’ve always loved film so the desire to
make great comics has never gone away.
McCaw: Any last plugs for creator-related
charities, or perhaps just a final thought?
Meth: I’d urge people to look for The
Complete Journey by Wm. Messner-Loebs from IDW Publishing,
not because it’s a charity project but because it’s
wonderful comics. They might also pick up my prose collection
One Small Voice, also from IDW, which will be out
in January. The book assembles some wild talent from comics’
Classic Rock period, including Alex Toth, Gene Colan, Dave
Cockrum, and a few others. Roy Thomas wrote the introduction
and the cover is by Neal Adams…
You must have me confused with someone else.
Look for Snaked from IDW in December.