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Interview conducted by James Ferguson

Arthurian legend has gotten the horror treatment in Once & Future from BOOM! Studios. The series puts a new spin on the stories of old, bringing back the great King to unite...or destroy England. I spoke with writer Kieron Gillen about the project during the tail end of New York Comic Con. I felt bad because this was probably the millionth interview he did during the convention, so his voice was a little rocky.

James Ferguson: This could be because I'm just an ignorant American, but from an Arthurian legend standpoint, I wasn't aware of he could destroy everything...

Kieron Gillen: Oh no. That was me.

JF: [Laughs] I figured, I read it in a comic, so it could be true.

KG: That's me playing with it. I have that with Bridgette when she says, “I never quite trust that kind of thinking.” I realized that would be an interesting way of thinking about it. When you have the idea that Arthur could be a villain, then you start rolling with it. What kind of things could have other meanings?

JF: Thank you for clarifying. Now I don't feel like such an idiot.

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KG: It's fine, especially since Once & Future isn't about one set of Arthurian mythos. We're riffing across the whole 1,500 years, so we're picking and choosing and moving around. There's also a lot, so choosing what is in continuity is impossible.

JF: The monsters that have popped up, at least in the first two issues, have been pretty...elaborate to say the least. How did some of those come about?

KG: When I do a first issue, I need to show why you should read this comic. At least the main ingredients should be in there. In this case I want to meet Arthur, get the reveal about him possibly being the villain, and Bridgette and Duncan, along with some folklore and research. This is also an action comic. It's not a slow detective comic. I wanted to have almost the equivalent to the James Bond teaser. I thought about what a good, interesting idea would be and that's where the questing beast came in. It's not quite as obscure. If you genuinely care about Arthurian shit, you probably know it. It's in the book Once & Future King, so it's not unknown, but it's not one in the common knowledge.

JF: So if you were listing out monsters, it's not like werewolf, vampire, questing beast..

KG: Right. Exactly. You don't get questing beasts at Halloween. There's no sexy questing beast. I was immediately charmed by it. We see how Dan [Mora] drew it and its belly is distended. It's called a questing beast because its belly is full of dogs and they're all yapping. Questing is what you call an animal when it's hunting after prey. The questing beast also inspires people to go on quests and people chase it, so it's actually a pretty good pun. I'm quite impressed. This is so weird, so this would be a good thing to fight as a one-off and introduce the stakes.

Also, it was about how to make it weird. We're a fucking action horror comic, so how are we going to sell what the hell this creature is? How we can refresh something to make it unusual and weird, like the ladies in the lake in the second issue. Ladies in the lake are interesting because most people think there's only one. It's more like a job title. We showed them as horror maidens.

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JF: With the likes of the questing beast and ladies in the lake already, anything else you'd like to tease going into the next issues?

KG: We've mentioned Galahad. He's known for many things, but he's best known as the grail knight. In most of the stories, he finds the grail. That implies where we're going. The thing about Once & Future is that it's an ongoing. Originally it was going to be minis, then I realized there's so much here. In six issues I have not touched Lancelot, Gwenivere, Mordred, or Morgana Le Fey. I haven't even used Merlin. I have not fucking touched all these really big characters. There's so much meat on the bone. I'm also open to using any British Isles folklore so I can bring in other stuff as well. There's a big universe of stuff I can pull in.

JF: So you can grab Monty Python or Mr. Bean?

KG: We talked about what Arthur meant in different times in history. The Holy Grail is a great example. Then it meant that.

The first four issues of Once & Future are currently available from BOOM! Studios. Horror DNA would like to thank Kieron Gillen for taking the time to speak with us.


About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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