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IDW Gets Snaked By Meth
Clifford Meth Talks About New Comics Project

Available in December, cover by Ashley Wood
"I'm 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.

As 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.

So 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.

Once again, though, let me just let Meth tell it...

Derek McCaw: So it’s a political-action-horror story – dare I ask what sparked this idea?

Cliff Meth: When 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.

Accepting 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!

Derek McCaw: Explain a bit about Bill Timmons, and why your logline references superhero mythology.

Cliff 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 time.

Superhero 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.

Derek McCaw: Can you launch a new comic in the industry without trying to drag in the superhero fans?

Cliff 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.

Derek McCaw: From 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?

Cliff 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.

I then 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 designers.

Derek 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?

Cliff 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.

Derek 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?

Cliff 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.

Derek 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?

Cliff 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.

Compared 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!

Derek McCaw: You’ve flirted with comics before, but obviously have garnered critical respect and fan-following for your prose. Why dive into comics now?

Cliff 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.

Derek McCaw: Any last plugs for creator-related charities, or perhaps just a final thought?

Cliff 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…

Charities? You must have me confused with someone else.

Look for Snaked from IDW in December.

Derek McCaw

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