In the recent anthology of “Clive Barker’s Hellraiser: Bestiary #4,” (BOOM! Studios) a little girl is terrified of her abusive father. Afraid of being hit again, the frightened child calls out to a higher power for help. The one who answered the girl’s prayer may shock you when you read “And God Will Send His Angels.”
After solving the puzzle box, the Cenobites arrive at the doorstep of the little girl. Pinhead debates about what o do with the innocent little girl standing in front of him. Writer/digital painter Christian Francis spoke to me about how “And God Will Send His Angels ” came about, working on “Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut,” adapting Clive Barker’s works, including “The Damnation Game.”
An interview by Jorge Solis.
Bloody-Disgusting: Tell me how you became involved in the recent issue of “Hellraiser: Bestiary?”
Christian Francis: Mark Miller (Seraphim’s VP and writer of “Next Testament”) has been my writing partner for two years since I started working with Seraphim after my work with Occupy Midian. He mentioned that “Hellraiser: Bestiary” was a possibility and asked whether I’d be interested in writing anything for it. Next thing, in a fit of over-excitement, I had 6 stories written. I sent them in to Ben Meares (Seraphim’s comic “Tsar”) and he singled out two of my stories as being contenders. As I wasn’t au fait with comic scripts, he helped me craft them into what you see now.
The second story “The Science of Madness” is the story that I am most proud of and I believe will appear in issue 6. This writing really got me excited to the possibilities of comic book storytelling, which I hadn’t appreciated before, as all of my previous writing has been for film and television, in a script-editing or ghost-writing capacity.
BD: Tell me about keeping the story through the perspective of the little girl. In “And God Will Send His Angels,” she sees the Cenobites as heroes.
CF: That story was actually based on a dream I had when I was about 15 years old. After seeing “Hellraiser,” I was fascinated by the Cenobites. On the UK cinema poster, it had the tag line ‘Angels to Some… Demons to Others’. This must have resonated with me as I dreamt of being a child that had been kidnapped, and the Cenobites came to save me. That stayed with me for many years; how someone could see these beings and could consider them angels.
The story itself, especially as it is not that long, needed to stay with the girl as much as possible. I felt you had to see the girl’s life, and feel for her, empathize with her and the hell she lived in; which would better lead the reader to understand why she would see them as angels.
BD: Because many fans quote lines from the “Hellraiser” films, was it a challenge to write dialogue for Pinhead?
CF: It sounds weird but writing for Pinhead was easy. As he is such an established character, and Doug has given him a distinct voice, his words seem almost natural. If you cannot hear Doug say them, then they are the wrong words. The humans are so much more difficult. As a middle aged Englishman, writing as a small American girl is, understandably, more alien to me! [Laughs]
BD: Tell me how you became involved as a digital painter for “Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut.”
CF: I speak to Mark Miller daily. Over the past few years we have become good friends and we use each other as sounding-boards for ideas, as well as the person the other one b*tches to when either of us are annoyed. While he was overseeing the editing of “Nightbreed: The Directors Cut” with editor Andrew Furtado, he told me that he was having major issues. They couldn’t find the final shot; the mural painting of Boone and Lori on the hill. Andrew had checked hours upon hours of footage and nothing could be found. Mark didn’t know what they could do.
So I spent the next thirty minutes taking elements of the murals currently available from “Nightbreed,“ and made a final frame. I sent it to Mark and said “Like that?” After a few minutes I got a reply back from him, overexcited saying how that was exactly what was needed. After some magical work from Andrew, that one photoshop image transformed into what you see in the film, and the final shot of “Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut.“ Being a part of that legacy is, without a doubt, the most proud I have ever been.
BD: Now that the Director’s Cut is now available for audiences, is it a relief to finally have it out?
CF: A huge relief! After all the work of Ryan Danhauser and José Leitão, and with their tireless efforts building and cultivating an amazing community of fans. The fact the missing footage is available is one thing, but the finished product is beyond anything a fan could hope for. Clive’s actual vision finally realized in HD! It is proof that the fans have more power than they think and, with it being Clive’s exact vision, is a joy to behold. The pinnacle was the premiere in LA, for which I designed the poster. Seeing it on screen and Clive’s reaction was as much as I could have asked for.
BD: When you design the audio and print covers for Barker’s books, do you focus on the imagery from the text or from the themes?
CF: First and foremost I look at the art Clive has made for the book, then use that as a basis. If there is no available art, I read the book again and try recreate the central theme as an image. After I am done with a few variations, Clive has a look, and he will normally ask for a change, whether big or small; every time it improves the design a thousand percent. I cannot take credit for any of my designs for his work as they are all from his head, whether words or art. I merely interpret what he provides.
BD: You also created the look of the website for Seraphim Inc. Tell me about the images behind the icons for comics, about, news, and shop?
CF: That was also from Clive’s head. Each icon is a piece of his art from his extensive archives. I would never try and ape Clive’s style. I merely look to him for creative input, and the work does itself. The idea of the icons were all down to Mark Miller. He asked if we could have pictures instead of words, so I scoured Clive’s archive, and found so much suitable work. This allowed me to source around 50 icons that I felt suitable. Then between Mark and I, they were whittled down to those chosen for the website.
BD: Tell me about working on the typesetting and designing Clive Barker’s “First Tales?”
CF: That was such an exciting project – And the first typesetting and designing I had actually done for a hardcopy book. It was a good 5 months, and many hours a day, choosing fonts, cover images, logos that would fit together. And I am so appreciative to have been trusted with a job so big – but looking at the finished product I couldn’t feel more satisfied. But, I will say this, if Photoshop and InDesign never existed, I would not be talking to you right now!
BD: Do you have favorite work of yours amongst the collection?
CF: My favorite designs are probably the concept UK book cover for “The Scarlet Gospels,” the audiobook cover for “Thief of Always,” or the mural for “Nightbreed: The Director Cut.” My favorite written piece is the adaptation of “The Damnation Game,” which I wrote with Mark. Hopefully soon you will be able to see both!
With everything, I am always learning. Ask me in a year and I am sure that answer will change as the best is yet to come!
BD: What other projects are you working on now?
CF: Most new projects cannot be spoken about as they are all hush-hush, so the most exciting projects will have to remain a mystery! However I can tell you that I have written many, many scripts for Seraphim which are currently circling producers. “The Damnation Game” being one. I have written comics with Mark Miller and Ben Meares, which are awaiting approval.
I am also involved with the designing of images/covers for forthcoming books/movies. Along with this I find myself assisting with the development of a new TV series and working as a builder for Madefire motion comics, which has so many amazing Clive Barker stories to tell in a new and innovative ways. Not to mention that I have co-written the forthcoming movie adaptation of “Jacqueline Ess,” as well as scripting a stage adaptation of one of Clive’s short stories! There is so, so much coming, that I wish I could tell you…