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Michael W. Conrad & Noah Bailey Talk Double Walker

Interview conducted by James Ferguson

ComiXology Originals is adding another horror tale next week with Double Walker from writer Michael W. Conrad, artist Noah Bailey, letterer Taylor Esposito, and designer Kyle Arends. The haunting tale delivers neurotic folk horror in the hills of Scotland. I had a chance to speak with Conrad and Bailey about the project.

In Double Walker, Americans Cully and Gemma McCarthy decide to take one last trip before their carefree, childless days come to an end. Headed to the magical Scottish Highlands to hit up all the tourist locations, their romantic getaway soon spirals into a nightmare full of paranoia and violence. While staying at a B&B, the young couple soon find themselves at the local pub where they meet a barkeep who weaves tales of Scottish myths and legends and learn of a bizarre string of murders in the area. Haunted by the stories and their recent personal tragedy, their marriage is challenged, forcing them to confront their deepest, darkest fears.

James Ferguson: When you hear “fairies” you usually think of someone like Tinkerbell. What kind of creatures are the fae in Double Walker?

Michael W. Conrad: The idea of faeries having purely benevolent alignments is a bit of a modern convention. These beings have been part of human belief structures for a long time, and I like to think of them as having had a place in the world before us… an ancient society on the fringes of our own, one that overlaps in certain areas.

I’m drawn to the idea of moral ambiguity; of beings having personal agency and desires that don’t take suffering of others into account. This idea is not an abstraction, even the best among us exhibit thoughtless and outright selfish choices routinely in pursuit of comfort, convenience, and appetite. The fae are like fungus, or insects — their morality is not definable by human standards.

Noah Bailey: Michael references a lot of actual creatures from Scottish folklore in Double Walker, and while I wanted to try to bring my own fresh look to these creatures, I couldn’t help but draw inspiration from some of my favorite fairy tale illustrators. There are a lot of references to artists like Gustaf Tenggren, Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac in the imagery. These “fairies” are not so friendly, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend attempting to put them in a jar. Hahahaha.

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JF: What drew you to the setting for Double Walker?

MWC: In 2019 I found myself in Scotland, specifically in some of the locations highlighted in Double Walker. I fell in love with the architecture, history, and beauty of the area, and knew that it would be the perfect setting for Noah’s illustrative style. While I think a story like this could happen anywhere, it seemed perfect to place it in Scotland, and to lean into the folk horror that seems to hide in darkened pub corners, and the dense forests that encircle the Lochs.

JF: What kind of fears or anxieties did you draw upon when creating Double Walker?

MWC: Identity. So much of what Noah and I explore in our books centers around questioning self perceptions and the connections we share with others. When I was young I used to stare into the mirror until I could no longer see myself, I would see a meat thing looking back at me, the body without “me” attached to it, without ownership. This used to scare the hell out of me, but I couldn’t stop doing it. In many ways a book like this is that kind of exercise, a removal of ownership and personhood, stripping down and taking an honest look at who we are without the safety of self definition. Our story doesn’t give the characters the choice, they are forced into this examination.

NB: For me, while trying to create an overall visual energy for Double Walker, I really wanted to convey a sense of discomfort and uneasiness with the environments that Cully and Gemma found themselves in. The idea of experiencing such a terrible tragedy while on vacation in an entirely foreign place, and then continuing with the trip- only to find yourself in the middle of a hunt for a vicious serial killer. I mean, I can remember being a kid and getting freaked out when trying to fall asleep at a friend’s house. The overwhelming sense of dread and the fear of possibly never being able to return to your home is something that I just find absolutely terrifying on its own. Unfortunately in the case of Cully and Gemma, there are many, much larger concerns.

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JF: How would you describe Cully and Gemma as Double Walker begins? What's their relationship like?

MWC: I’d like to think that Cully and Gemma are in a good and healthy relationship. They’re young people with a baby on the way, and unlike many, they’re ready for it. Their trip is the kind many take before entering into the responsibilities of parenthood… unfortunately it doesn’t go as planned.

NB: From the first reading of Michael’s script, I instantly felt so well-acquainted with these characters. He really did an incredible job of allowing the characters to speak for themselves and act and react in a way that seems natural to them. From my perspective, they seem to be two individuals who had led very full and very different lives before meeting each other, and they came together at a time when they really understood themselves and their individual needs. I see them as a very healthy couple, accepting each other’s idiosyncrasies and pasts- just fully prepared to care for each other and grow together. I love the way that Michael gave very little exposition in a traditional sense, but just like an acquaintance that you would meet on a trip out of town- their entire history is right there to decipher and speculate about.

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JF: Has creating Double Walker changed your feelings about Scotland? Would you still want to visit?

NB: I have never been to Scotland, but after doing all of this research for the book I really can’t wait to get over there and explore in the future!

MWC: I love Scotland and look forward to visiting again. Scotland is home to some of the most incredible people and sights in the world, I would encourage everyone to make the trip. I would however urge visitors to tread lightly, and stick to the path… you wouldn’t want to attract attention from the ancient beings that still have power under the gray skies of the Highlands.

Horror DNA would like to thank Michael W. Conrad and Noah Bailey for speaking with us. Double Walker is set for release on July 13th through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle. As a reminder, if you're a subscriber of ComiXology Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited, or Amazon Prime, you can read it for free.

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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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