By Anthony N. Castle
Emmet O’Cuana is a freelance critic and writer with reviews, features, and fiction featuring in Hopscotch Friday, FilmInk, Sequart, Film International, 100% Biodegradable, Decay Magazine and Aurealis. Emmet has more recently turned his hand to writing comics as well as reviewing them, so we caught up with him and chatted about the transition from reviewer to creator…
Editor, reviewer, former podcaster, all-round savant; how is it that you approach comic writing?
Goodness, what a generous assessment. For me the appeal of comics is the DIY approach to storytelling. The simple laying out of images and words on a page can conjure intimate scenes, or epic spectacle. The instant sense of immersion has always been attractive to me as a reader, the simultaneous play of pictures and language – and I have discovered the same goes when I write for an artist.
It’s a shared conversation about how to tell a story. I find the process of collaboration richly rewarding for that reason. Like Michelangelo’s line about discovering the statue in a block of stone, through another person’s point of view a story gains a richness it did not have as mere script. That doppelganger-effect of the creative process follows all the way through to the moment the page is first read. Benevolent doublethink, let’s say.
Your most recent story The Hurly Burly’s Done presents a scenario that is domestic, apocalyptic and ultimately touching and tragic. What is the origin of the piece?
Hurly Burly is a story I have described as a very literal interpretation of ‘I will love you until the end of time’. I wanted to take that passionate, loving phrase and twist it into something disturbing, like the ironic twist of a Faustian bargain. We have an old couple, alone at the end of their life. The wife passes away and the husband is left behind to suffer in grief. And someone is outside knocking on the couple’s front door.
I was so happy that Dave (Dye) immediately understood the domestic ordinariness I was trying to capture in the script and how it can be the setting for such profound and unbearable loss. This is something I know from my own immediate family and clearly it has been on my mind for some years. The script was my opportunity to try and expunge some of those feelings creatively.
Hurly Burly is the first of four short comics you are producing with Dave Dye. How did the collaboration come about?
I interviewed the man. Dave produced an astonishing graphic novel – The Anzac Legend – which not only describes the landing at Gallipoli by Australian and New Zealand soldiers in World War I, but is a visualisation of the campaign. There was something quite moving in that I felt. I must have made a half-decent impression, because he reached out to me afterwards and asked if I wanted to work on something.
Are all of these stories set in a similar context and will they all feature in the 100% Biodegradable anthologies?
Well I tend to write around different ideas that pop into my head and have been concentrating on shorter pieces lately. There is no overarching shared connection between them (beyond I suppose the common element of horror – my dark Irish Catholic passions in play I assume, Anthony).
One story was inspired by Julia Round’s book ‘Gothic in comics and Graphic Novels’, where she applies hauntology to Scott McCloud’s discussion of how we read comics. Obvious take – what would a haunted comic be like for the reader?
Dave Hailwood’s 100% Biodegradable is a great anthology well worth checking out. We’d love to be featured there again and we have a standing invitation from our stalwart editor.
What else is on the horizon for your comics work? What can we expect to see in future?
Well Mr Matthew Dunn and I have been working on some projects. I tried to fit an idea around his visual style and came up with a trepanned occult detective. That made for an unusual exchange of messages. We have also been mulling over a script about a particularly dark incident in Sydney’s history which I am proud of.
As a newly minted Australian citizen I am very interested in learning more about this country and soaking up as much detail as possible. I am eager to get my teeth into stories with a focus on actual events. I am currently working on a script set in the 1980s that taps into some Australian comics icons. I want to get everything shipshape on paper first and then explore the nitty gritty of licensee ownerships and so on. Failing that, I might do Ctrl-F on the script and replace any offending names with ersatz stand-ins, Destroyer Duck-style.
Shane W. Smith is one of the most earnest and passionate Aussie comickers I have come to know. I pitched him a short story that I have only belatedly realized is a snarky takedown on my part of Ayn Rand. Shane, ever the hard worker, turned around the pages very quickly. I’m really looking forward to seeing it out there on the Con floor.
But in the near future I am going to be presenting a paper at the Superhero Identities Symposium at ACMI this December 8 & 9. I am really looking forward to seeing the panels too, boasting the likes of Paul Dini, Nicola Scott, Hope Larson, Tom Taylor – it’s an embarrassment of riches.
Follow Emmet on Twitter: @EmmetOC