Interview: John Arcudi on Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever, B.P.R.D., and A God Somewhere

In 2010, Mike Mignola offered up the origin of Hellboy background player Sir Edward Grey in his own mini series Witchfinder: In the service of Angels. This year, B.P.R.D. writer John Arcudi takes Sir Edward to the American frontier for more Victorian era intrigue with the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra. The book is called Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever, and the first issue hits shelves next week. 

I talked to Arcudi about the five-part series, scripting for the legendary John Severin (preview included), his ongoing work with B.P.R.D., and last year's A God Somewhere OGN from Wildstorm. 

 


 

PM: When we last left Her Majesty's Witchfinder Sir Edward Grey, he was hunting down demons in the back alleys of Victorian London. In your story, he's off to the wild west. What brings the Witchfinder stateside?

 

JA:  He's on the hunt for one fella from the Heliopic Brotherhood who's taken off for the States.  It's an obsession of Grey's and like all obsessions, it leads to trouble.  Sucks for him, but we wouldn't have a story without it so…

 

PM: Can we expect Sir Edward to settle down in America, or do you see him traveling around the globe?

 

JA:  He does not settle in America.  not at this point in his life, anyway.  It's back to London for him, though his future holds many travels on assignment from the Crown which could take him anywhere, at least one of which we've already had a peek at ("Abe Sapien: The Drowning").

 

PM:  Can you tell us a bit more about those rascals, the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra? They have a presence in America as well?

 

JA:   They're everywhere, man.  They're like bugs!  Actually, their presence in the States is more limited than what you might find in Europe and in this case we're really talking about just one stray brother.  A character, by the way, longtime BPRD readers have already met.

 

PM:  How much research goes into a period piece like this, with elements of both Victoriana and Western? Would you consider yourself a fan of Westerns, whether in prose, comics, or film?

JA:  As I said to a friend of mine, there are bad Westerns just like there are bad movies of all genres,  but at least in a bad Western you still get to look at horses and Monument Valley.  All of which goes to say, yeah,  I love Westerns and quite a bit of research went into this story.  I needed to find the right territory for the setting, needed to make sure the indigenous mythology was sound, needed to research specific cultural imagery (petroglyphs, for instance — petroglyphs being images carved into the stone-face of caves, canyons, etc. by aboriginal peoples, heavy with cultural significance — play a role in the story), but all that pales in comparison to the research that the awesome, awesome John Severin did for this book.  Or maybe he doesn't need to do research anymore.,  Maybe it's just all in his head.  Whatever the case, he knows how to draw a stage coach, knows what a rear-boot is and what it looks like, knows where to hang the oat and water bucket.  Amazing.  As for the VIctoriana, I just read Mike's script for "In the Service of Angels."

 

PM:  What are some of your favorite westerns, popular or obscure? Did you catch True Grit? 

 

JA:  John Ford's best movies "The Searchers," "Stagecoach," and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (even though Stewart and Wayne are way, way, way too old for their respective roles that's probably my all time favorite) are really high on the list, but "The Long Riders" is great, "The Ox-Bow Incident," "Baron of Arizona,"  "Johnny Guitar," "Ride the High Country," "Sons of Katie Elder," and all of Sergio Leone's stuff… you know, I could just keep going, so let's stop here.  And I have not seen "True Grit," but love what I've seen of Jeff Bridges performance and really should see it.

 

PM:  Looove The Long Riders. Every collection of Hollywood siblings is in that! 

How did John Severin get involved with this series? The pages we've seen so far are absolutely stunning. And his style is pitch perfect for a Victorian era mystery. 

 

JA:  That was Scott Allie's doing.  Sev had done a "Conan" story for Scott, and then Scott asked him to do a "War on Frogs" one shot with me.  Sev enjoyed the process, so when Mike and I talked about this Western Grey story, who else could ever do it better than Sev?  Scott asked and Sev said "yes," and I couldn't be happier.  Sev is the best, bar none.  You can't help but look at his landscapes and feel them to be real and accurate.  They give you a better sense of what the high prairie is than even photographs can.  And his ability to draw faces is stunning!!  The Paiute characters in the book don't need props to identify them the way other comics artist play it.  He can just nail ethnic traits and qualities, making these characters beautiful and unique.  i don't know any other comic artist who can (or ever did) do this.  Needless to say, the whole process of working with him was both intimidating and exciting. 

 

                        

                        

 

PM:  Now to B.P.R.D. The world seems to have gone to Hell, and we're really starting to see the ramifications on the larger populace. Was it always the plan to escalate the Bureau's conflicts to something so visible and damaging to the world at large?

 

JA:  Always?  No, but for a very long time we've been talking about the approaching armageddon.  Given that Hellboy's been going in that direction for quite some time, that should give you an idea of when we started talking about how it would play out in BPRD.

 

PM:  The series has long functioned as a revolving ensemble, with new characters entering and exiting the Bureau from story line to story line. One of the new members–or I should probably say potential new members–is this mysterious homeless girl named Fenix. Can you tell us a little bit about her involvement with the team and this growing crisis?

 

JA:  Fenix is going to start out as a political pawn in the "BPRD" dynamic, or rather there are BPRD members who will TRY to use her as a political pawn.  A very important relationship among the current members is the metaphorical chessboard for this game, but beyond that she'll prove to be much, much more to the Bureau.  She's got a secret — two secrets, actually — that connect her to the BPRD universe far more integrally than I believe readers are anticipating.

 

PM:  Growing ensemble aside, the constant is Abe. Where's Abe at this point in his strange, strange life? Longtime readers know he's far from the meek and inquisitive iteration we've seen on film. But even over the course of the comics, he's gone to some pretty dark places. Is he jaded? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for him? 

 

JA:  Abe…. yeah, Abe's headed in a very strange direction.  Mike and I talked about him last week and I think (I hope) folks will be very surprised where Abe ends up.  There is a light, but it might be the proverbial oncoming train, you know?  is he jaded?  He was, but not anymore.  Abe is beginning to really believe.  What he's believing, well, you'll see.

 

PM: So, it hasn't gone without notice that Hellboy's expressed interest in checking in with the BPRD after years of separation. Any comment on that front? 

 

JA:  It's a funny thing how that's going to work out.  Mike mostly leaves me alone on my book to pursue stories and character developments as I see fit.  He never gives away what I'm going to do ahead of time, and while this is something the two of us are doing together, the original plan is all his so I don't want to say how we're going to handle this just yet.  i will say that readers will be blown away by what we do.  I know I was when he first told me.

 

PM:   Before we wrap up, I want to highlight a book you did last year with Wildstorm that really snuck up on me. You put out an OGN called A God Somewhere with Peter Snejbjerg, which I reviewed here on the site). It's a fantastic superman-gone-bad story told from the perspective of the best friend. Tell us a little bit about the origins of that project.

 

JA:  Thanks for mentioning this.  It was a really important book for me.  Writing super-heroes is always — well, I usually don't do it all that well, but I knew that if i could approach the concept of superhuman drama obliquely I might actually be able to contribute something to the genre.  The superhero stories I've read mostly are about the superhero and about some larger plot — you know, some sort of action thriller with lots of punching — but it seemed to me and my collaborators that there was another way to talk about the subject.  Make it less about the fighting and more about the struggle, if that doesn't sound too cheesy.  Artist Peter Snejbjerg, colorist Bjarne Hansen and I have been lucky enough that there seems to be a lot of people who agree with us.  The book has sold out, and is going into a 2nd printing, which is very gratifying.

 

PM:  That's great news! Any idea when we can expect that second printing? Any other OGN's or creator-owned projects kicking around?

JA:  Thanks.  I've been told it will go back to press in the summer.  DC has a plan and that's part of it — waiting a little while.  And I have a few other projects I'm developing (partly thanks to AGS's success) that are creator owned and may or may not come out as OGN's, or as series.  It all depends on how the publishers feel they can best make money.  Or at least some money, which would be nice.

 

PM:  This is the part where I ask for any hints of teases for BPRD developments to come. Or any other projects we should be looking out for. Spill!

JA:  Okay, well, we'll be bringing back a character that NOBODY will expect to see again.  I'll also tell you the next series is going to be huge in the development of both the new environment of the BPRD's collapsing world, and of one character.  One character's gonna go in a really cool, really unexpected direction, and you can believe me when I say that this character will change forever.  For real.  See, what I say over and over to folks is that this series is one huge story.  We're not preserving trademarks here; we're telling a massive tale where people change because that's what Mike and I know is best and right for them and for this novel we're crafting.  Usually when characters change, it's just because there's a new writer on it, but this is part of the large plan.

 

PM:  Thanks again! 

JA:  Thank you, Paul.

Comments

  1. I love Mr. Arcudi and all his work. He does some really subtle character work in all his books which is the hook that keeps me coming back to him time after time. Before he and Guy Davis came to BPRD it wasn’t nearly as good as it is now. They have put their signature stamp of greatness on it and made it the book that it is.  
    I am a student in a college and everyone knows that I am a comic book fan at said college; so one day I am walking down the hall and a teacher stops me and says that she is thinking about making a course based on graphic novels. She doesn’t know what else to teach beside McCloud’s ‘understanding comics’, ‘Maus’ and ‘Watchmen’. A big smile crept on my face and ‘A God Somewhere’ instantly came to mind because it is the ultimate combination of slice of and superhero genre. She fell in love and currently compiling a course based on my suggestions. None of this would have been possible with out John Acrudi and ‘A God Somewhere’. 

    Great Interview Paul and some really good questions.  

  2. Mignola made a great choice in letting Arcudi in the BPRD world. I love his work, especially in the BPRD/Witchfinder titles. And, yes, I must get A God Somewhere, been meaning to get that.

  3. Thanks iFanboy. This is a great BPRD fix.

  4. Should I have read the first witchfinder? I would love to read a good western comic!

  5. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @WeaklyRoll  The first Witchfinder mini is excellent. It is not a western though. This is a departure for the character. The preview looks great, right? 

  6. The Mignolaverse continues to expand and fill out.  Nice interview, Paul!

    (And I’d never even heard of ‘A God Somewhere’. Another book to read. Great. 😉

  7. I love BPRD, and the fanboy in me really doesn’t want Abe to became this Fish-Being.

  8. @Paul it definitely does. I will look for the first witchfinder and pick this up next week. thanks! 

  9. Very good interview. Thanks for posting it. Hellboy/B.P.R.D are among my favorite titles and it’s exciting to hear about the energy going into these stories.