Monday, September 10, 2012

Jacob Oley and Gregery Miller

Jacob Oley studied English at UMass Lowell and is now writing in North Carolina. In addition to the text and image collaboration with Greg Miller, tentatively titled Tales of Reverie, Jacob is working on a number of other writing projects, including a novel, short stories, and always poetry.

Gregery Miller is a working illustrator with a strong desire to show story through his work. He also does a lot of writing and has many stories in progress that he hopes to illustrate in his life-time. He feels that comics is a perfect medium for him as an artist because anything is possible with a very little budget (just the cost of supplies really). “Vimshaw” is the first piece of a larger project he has been working on with writer Jacob Oley. Their project is a mythology of sorts and they're eager to continue working on it and see it grow. They are very excited to be a part of Hellbound III and hope to continue collaborating with all of its amazing creators in the future.

How did the two of you meet and what prompted your creative partnership?

Gregery: I met Jacob while I was at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. He was a long-time friend of my roommate Nic. We hung out with the same group of friends and around the time of my graduation in 2009, we started talking seriously about working together. I focused my thesis project on a fictional universe of characters I was creating. Close to graduation, I realized I needed a writer to help me focus my thoughts and organize my ideas, and do the writing! Although I had a lot of ideas and wanted some control, I enjoyed drawing much more.

Jacob seemed perfect for the job because we had a lot of the same interests when it came to art and fiction. Using the ideas from my thesis, we began working on a private blog in our free time, in hopes of developing a graphic novel. Over the years, we’ve started additional blogs and a strong creative partnership. I hope that we can continue to create together as we have many stories lined up.

Jacob: Yes, we decided to embark on a project in which we would combine our two mediums that we felt complimented one other well. When Greg exhibited all of the characters he had created that needed a universe, we were able to build one on the spot, and it is still growing.

What inspired “Vimshaw”?

Gregery: Vimshaw was a name Jacob had come up with. He wrote a poem with that name based on the character we started working together three years ago. It stuck with me and I urged him to let us use it as text for Hellbound III. The story presented in “Vimshaw” is a development of that poem and my ideas for a man-bat character.

Jacob: Vimshaw is a mysterious character, being that he has a vague sort of history to him, yet it’s certain there is twisted darkness surrounding him. This would be the aim in uncovering further aspects of the character. What was Vimshaw wrestling with up in his tower? Where was his power struggles located? And what were the motivations for such? I think the piece we submitted for Hellbound was a great way for us to really study Vimshaw and learn more about him and his significance in our mythological universe of Gaiyai. We learned that he was at once a human being, which is something neither one of us expected.

Gregery: After a number of revisions, the story you see is what we came to. The idea for the character started from a pretty strange event. During college, I snuck into an abandoned opera house near Roxbury with some friends. It was one of the most exciting and terrifying experiences of my life. My imagination was flying when I was in there. I saw old pianos, looked down through a chandelier at the top of the house, and walked through a cobweb covered balcony where no one “living” had sat for years. When I was in this place, probably from paranoia, I had an idea that a dark creature was watching us. It was something mysterious, that was hiding and observing us. I imagined a giant “man-bat,” as I called it at the time, half-jokingly. I drew the character many times before we used him in this story.

The tower in “Vimshaw” is probably somewhat influenced by that broken down opera house. But the tower is more influenced by something I've been thinking about since I was a little kid. I had many nightmares as a child and one recurring nightmare I had was when I was forced to climb a teetering tower of crumbling structures all mashed together, like you see in the comic. Barns, sheds, houses, all stacked one on top of the other like some kind of strange aged art project. I don't know what was forcing me to do so, maybe curiosity. It was very scary and it stuck with me.  I've drawn that tower many times throughout my life as well.

A number of ideas between Jacob and me were carefully pieced together in this, and we hope it can resonate as something original and interesting. We also hope that it can continue into a longer story, and that we can continue to combine influences and ideas like this on future collaborations.

Explain to Hellbound readers your creative process. Was the story written independently and before the art or did both develop together?

Gregery: The process of this story is difficult to remember or explain, but I’ll do my best. It was definitely organic and chaotic at times. The story and the art developed together for sure. When we knew we were entering Hellbound, we starting writing and drawing what we wanted the story to be like individually and communicating over the web and phone as much as possible. With Jacob having moved to North Carolina and myself being Massbound, we did our best to collaborate in the most effective ways possible, which was through our blog.

It was definitely difficult at some points as we had totally different ideas about some things and many ideas still floated in our minds from our old versions of the story. One thing that happened in this story that was unexpected was Vimshaw starting as a human, and also having the profession of “colporteur,” an old word for someone who peddles on the streets, carrying everything on their back to and from their homes, morning and night. I thought this was very cool imagery when I first learned about the colporteurs and how hard it would be to walk on an inclined dirt road to get home each night. We tried to revise and revise on both writing and art until we could somehow meet in the middle on this. Basically we threw everything out there, and then whittled it down from there.

Jacob: Greg had emailed me about Vimshaw, a blog post I had written about three years earlier. He suggested using it for Hellbound III. I hardly remembered writing the text, which was written when we were in the earlier stages of figuring the character of Vimshaw out. The post brought a lot of questions back to mind about him, so we used it as a carving block to fine tune the details of his existence. I pared down the piece of writing into more of a poem format and sent Greg the results. We broke it down to eight pages, and he drew accompanying strips to match with the text. We determined that the way the poem was written did not lend well to a narrative arc, especially with a limited numbers of pages. We then determined the five most important themes and advanced the plot that way. The images at this point drove the text, as I had to rewrite the text as more of a straightforward “legend” to make it flow smoother.

Is this your first horror story?

Gregery: This is my second; I had a wordless horror story featured in Hellbound II.

Jacob: Indeed.

Are you each a fan of horror? If so, what are some of your favorite stories? (And they don’t have to be limited to comic books.)

Gregery: I’m definitely a fan of horror. My favorite horror films are probably Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, and, although it’s kind of fantasy horror, Pan’s Labyrinth. There's horror in a lot of stories that aren't classified as horror, and these influence my art too. I love the terror in epic stories like The Lord of the Rings. I think I prefer horror with fantasy and sci-fi twists, and with created worlds.

Jacob: I do love any art work that involves elements of horror. I find them amongst the most moving pieces of work, because they seem to tap into that little dark corner in the human brain that we rarely go into, except when we are sleeping. When I was a kid I was first really drawn to horror through the 3 Scary Stories compilations. I thought that the illustrations were absolutely terrifying, and they gave an ugly face to each memorable story. Later on, I really started to appreciate the stories of Edgar Allen Poe.

Artistically, was there anything you were hoping to achieve? Where you happy with the results?

Gregery: I’m very happy with the results; although I would like it to be about 90 pages longer.

Jacob: I think the biggest thing we were trying to achieve artistically was a finished piece of work! And yes, I’m happy with the results. Through collaborating and brainstorming with Greg over the years, we ended up constructed a vast and often overwhelming mythology. A lot of the elements of certain characters and their significance to the plot were still something we were learning about, so it was good to spend some time focusing on a specific character. I think we succeeded in officially casting “Vimshaw” in Tales of Reverie.

Thank you, Jacob and Gregory.

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