Peter Crowther: ODDER JOBS

Peter Crowther recently contributed the short story From an Enchanter Fleeing to the Dark Horse Books Odder Jobs collection.

You are a big fan of comics and graphic novels. How did you get lucky enough to write a Hellboy story? Were you already a fan of Mignola’s work?
I’m a big fan of Mignola’s work but, paradoxically, I hadn’t read all of it. Thus the job first off entailed my reading the full HELLBOY canon, in order to immerse myself in that ‘world’ and get a feel for adding to it. You know, you don’t get jobs like that too often, more’s the pity. It reminds me of that old Woody Allen gag in What’s New, Pussycat? where Allen tells Peter O’Toole about his new job dressing and undressing the girls at the Follies Bergere. O’Toole listens and then asks what the money’s like. Twenty francs a week, Allen explains. O’Toole says, That’s not much. And Allen adjusts his glasses, shrugs and says, It’s all I can afford. And that was pretty much the case with this . . . except I did get paid!

As to how I got involved, well . . . I guess I first heard of the project from Chris Golden (the editor) with whom I maintain a steady if infrequent correspondence. The next step was either me begging him to let me have a go or his asking if I’d be interested in trying him with a story: alas, I can’t remember which one (though I suspect the former).

And yes, I’m a very big fan of graphic novels . . . and, indeed, of actual comicbooks, particularly the DC titles of the 1950s. My big question is why doesn’t DC do Archives of the likes of Strange Adventures, Mystery In Space, My Greatest Adventure, House of Secrets, House of Mystery and Tales of the Unexpected? Or Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane? Showcase? Mr. District Attorney? Rex the Wonder Dog? Or, for crying out loud, Superboy?!! And so on ad infinitum. And if it’s because they reckon they won’t make any money on them then why don’t they sub-license them to me and PS Publishing? So, Paul Levitz, DC’s Head Honcho, if you’re reading this, it’s a serious question: email me on editor@pspublishing.co.uk and let’s try work something out and do something to keep the old stuff alive and accessible (not to mention affordable!) for the real fans: don’t for God’s sake follow Marvel’s example and end up publishing the same volume of ‘safe’ stuff in multitudinous formats. (End of rant.)

Of the newer stuff, I love Alan Moore’s work, and Neil Gaiman’s. Then it’s the likes of Seth, Daniel Clowes, Los Bros Hernandez, Adrian Tomine and so on. There’s some absolutely wonderful stuff out there . . . particularly outside the superhero genre. People should do themselves a big favor and search out the obscure stuff . . . but do keep on buying the old silver- and golden-age reprints! That’s an order!

From an Enchanter Fleeing is a beautiful work, with comedy, sadness, and hope rolled into an eerie ghost tale. Is this a story about life or a story about death?
Every story is a story about death – it’s implicit in there. And that’s because we measure everything up against death. It’s the only certainty. It’s the prospect of death – or rather, of life’s finite-ness – that makes so many things so wonderful, so enjoyable. And, you know, I have to say that, much as I do not want to die – and believe me on that one! – I wonder if so many things would be so powerful or so enjoyable if we could live forever . . . or, at least, a heck of a lot longer than our current 60-80 years expectancy. So, I think you best summed it up by suggesting that Enchanter is a story about ‘hope’. That’s what I like to think all of my stories are about.

You established a great comedic repoire with Hellboy. Was it fun stepping into his shoes (hooves)?
It was fun, sure. But it wasn’t too much of a departure for me in that I use almost the same voice for my New York private eye, Koko Tate. And let’s face it, Mike has already set the scene in the comicbooks: all I did was continue the flavor and maybe expand on it just a little.

You bookend Fleeing with quotes from Percy Shelley and Shakespeare. Both were known for the occasional “ghost story”. Are they inspirations for your ghost tales?
I get my inspirations from everywhere, whether I’m writing ghost stories or non-ghost stories. My biggest influence is Ray Bradbury – the Guv’nor, for my money. After him, I’ve read and admired (and occasionally . . . let’s say I’ve ‘emulated’) all the greats, from Lord Dunsany to Kurt Vonnegut, Charles Dickens to Stephen King, M. R. James to Ramsey Campbell, Damon Runyon to Elmore Leonard, and on and on.

Do you believe in ghosts?
Yes. I could leave it at that but I’ll add this: I have no first-hand proof of an afterlife or of beneficial spirits or malignant ones. But I would draw your readers’ attention to my essay in Stephen Jones’s Dancing With The Dark collection a few years back. Every word of it is true. I’m sure some smartass could come up with an answer but, you know, I don’t want a damn answer. I like the possibility that there’s just an occasional bit of magic in an increasingly un-magic world. So talking teddies, Santa Claus, fairies, benevolent ghosts, pissed-off ghosts, Bugs Bunny, vampires, werewolves and monsters from ‘beyond the stars’. . . I believe in them all because I want to believe in them all. And I believe that those folks who don’t believe in them hold that opinion because they don’t want to believe in them.

What is PS Publishing?
There’s a very long answer to this question but the best way of tackling it is to direct interested parties to the website on http://www.pspublishing.co.uk. I’ll just say this: we started the company a little over five years ago and have now published around sixty books with another 30-or-so on the schedule between now and September 2006. We’ve picked up nineteen Awards plus lots of kind and generous reviews and comments…plus, inevitably, a few negative ones. Happily, I’d say the ratio is less – much less — than 99/1 in our favor.

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