Eliot Rahal dropped a double feature last week with two separate creative teams, and he was kind enough to spend some time answering my questions about “Creature Feature,” “Midnight Vista,” how he works with his teams and how his year’s going.
You can find these and more of Rahal’s work wherever fine comics are sold. Bonus for whoever reads to the end: Eliot’s favorite cryptid! It’s a good one.
First off, thanks for your time! Let’s dig in. Anything cool, exciting, terrifying, ridiculous going on in your life right now that you feel comfortable sharing?
Woah! I was not expecting this question right off the bat! To be honest… I feel weird saying it. I’m really looking forward to winter in Minnesota. This past summer has been filled with travel. So is my entire Fall. And I’m just feeling a little worn out. Looking forward to slowing down. Although this past year has been great. Super fun. Like, the best summer I’ve had since I was a kid. So that’s fun.
“Cult Classic” is a mash-up dream from pulp hell for all of us nerds who thrive on classic horror/sci-fi, serials and anthology shows. Where’d you get the idea, and how did it come to fruition?
It grew organically. We had two books, “Return to Whisper” and “Creature Feature.” We decided to smash the worlds together, build it out with other short stories, and see what happens. It’s been wild, but incredibly rewarding. Anthology story-telling has such a rich tradition in horror, which is how we got here. By following what we love.
Tell me a bit about working with John Bivens on this book – his art’s packed with loving detail and a lot of good, gooshy horror. I laughed a few times at the page turn in shock and glee, so it’s definitely working. How detailed are your scripts in terms of layout, and where did you want him to really go to town?
Yes, John’s art is superb. He’s a meticulous craftsperson, and I am blown away by his technical skill. I’m not sure how to exactly answer this question because everyone’s scripts are different, but I provide page count and panel count with as concise description as possible. And I always keep in mind that it’s not a novel. It’s a script. It’s meant to be read. It’s meant to inspire someone to engage with it. And that’s what John does so effectively. I wanted to bring it specifically at places where the most disgusting thing happening, but also to the quieter, more intense and emotional moments. It’s those things that sell the insane violence of the story.
Similarly, Hannah Jerrie and Iris Monahan really turn up the gore and the neon terror in this book. Did you have a vision for the mood of “Cult Classic”? What do they each bring to the process?
I am 100% blown away by Hannah and Iris, and I have John to thank for that. They were former interns of the studio that John and I belong to, World Monster Headquarters in Minneapolis. But I work at home. And John actually works in the space, and has for much longer than I. And honestly, having Hannah and Iris on this book feels like we’re cheating. They are so good. I told them the palate I wanted. They got it. They did it. They made it better and more beautiful than I could have ever hoped for. These colors help tell the story so much. And they have been just so easy to work with.
You’ve talked about this elsewhere, but what’s your vision for “Cult Classic”?
Just a place where people, or myself, can come make stories. A never-ending building game. Something that invites people to connect and create scary stories with us.
With “Midnight Vista” you’re working on a book that’s a bit more personal to you, and the passion there shows in Oliver’s innocence. We really feel the horror of that flashback in the first issue. Can you talk a bit about what it’s like writing from a paranormal experience? How’d you extrapolate the story from your memories?
Yes, I mean… I guess I just take the subject matter seriously. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m having a lot of fun, and I certainly try not to make it dry. But overall. The way I approach the story comes from a real place. It’s inspired by what I believe to be my own personal “close encounter.”
How’d you get in touch with Clara Meath and get her signed onto this project? There’s a lot of earnestness in her art, and it seems like that’s pretty key to the story.
Minnesota is full of incredible artists. And Clara is exceptional. We met because of the Minneapolis comics scene in the state. I became familiar with her art. Mike knew her work. I had the pitch in. It was just a perfect match. But yes, what you are saying is true. Clara put her soul into these pages. A true perfectionist.
Mark Englert brings that good ol’ sci-fi skew between daytime normality and alien horror. What’s key in his work for “Midnight Vista” to succeed?
Mark’s colors provide us with the feeling. They guide us to the emotion we want. His work allows the story to read so fluidly. He’s created a unique tone for this book. It heightens everything. And it couldn’t have been easy.
And, finally, you’ve got Taylor Esposito working on both of these books and he’s a stalwart in the industry. How does his lettering enhance the final product?
Taylor knows me. He knows my jokes. My dialogue. He’s been through there for me, thick and thin. He’s an expert. He’s fast. He’s awesome. And he’s super fucking clutch when it gets to be the 11th hour on a book going to press. He’s put in the tiny details that make the book breathe.
You’ve mentioned elsewhere, and it’s clear from how you work in the industry, that you pay special attention to the whole creative team and process when making a comic. Can you talk a little about why that’s important to you?
I don’t know if I’m paying special attention. I just like to give as much of myself to a project as I can. That means giving myself to my collaborators. They are giving me their best. And I want to do the same, to the best of my ability. It’s a respect thing. Something that took a lot of practice, and a lot of mistakes, to learn.
What kind of media do you consume when you’re working on a project? Is it totally related to what you’re doing, or more broad?
Anything that sticks. I mean I do my research for tone inspiration — a variety of novels, comics, music, and movies. However, I am just trying to make sure I’m keeping up on my weekly reading. Sometimes I feel like I’m falling behind and getting actively dumber as I grow older.
That said, what’re you reading/watching/into right now?
Reading: On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous, Immortal Huk, Daredevil, Jimmy Olson, and whatever else I can get my hands on and finish.
Watching: Unbelievable on Netflix is great. Plus! CREEPSHOW! Yes!
What else do you have going on right now? Anything you’d like to share? (Books, appearances, collabs, events, anything!)
Last week the first issue of Cult Classic: Creature Feature drops from Vault Comics, along with the second issue of Midnight Vista from Aftershock Comics. And, I was just a special guest at ValleyCon in Fargo!
Finally, if you have one, what’s your favorite creature/cryptid?
Favorite monster: Frankenstein. Also one of my favorite books. But favorite cryptid … I’ve become really obsessed with the ideas of Tulpas (thought forms) lately.