There are things that live in the dark through choice. Most of your typical horror staples would fall into this category—vampires, werewolves, demons and the like. It’s in their blood. You know they’ll always gravitate to the shadows, and that’s where you expect to see them.
But you can find yourself in the dark for a lot of other reasons, too: reasons that are nothing to do with your own choices or your own nature. Imagine a monster that lives in the dark, like it or not, because the dark has been woven through it like a ribbon through braided hair; because the dark has become a necessary part of it.
A zombie without a viable physical body: a ghost haunted by itself. That’s our Voodoo Child, as envisioned by Nic and Weston Cage, and we like to think he’s a long way from the monster-du-jour vibe of the classic horror or ghost story. Pick up the first issue and you’ll see what I mean. Gabriel Moore is a night creature unlike any you’ve ever seen before – and there are mysteries about his creation and his nature that will make you, as they unfold, continually see him in different lights.
Gabe’s backstory is unique too: stretching from the last days of the antebellum South to the traumatized landscapes of post-Katrina New Orleans, and drawing the two together into an unsettling skein of secrets and revelations. As up-close and personal as most good horror is, this is also a comic book about a place: a unique and amazing city, and the people who live in it.
At this point I have to make a confession that may disturb you. I’m British.
Okay, that doesn’t bar me from writing about America. Obviously not. I’ve written many books set in New York, Los Angeles, Nevada, Arizona… But then I’ve been to those places, and I’d never been to New Orleans.
At some point when we were plotting out our first arc, I realised that this was going to be an insuperable obstacle. You can only bluff so far, and the setting in this book is so important to the story that I felt I was hamstringing myself and endangering the project by working just from travel books and documentaries.
So in February of this year I packed a case and headed out for the Big Easy, arriving a week before Mardi Gras. This was eighteen months after Katrina: the Mardi Gras after the one they talked about cancelling. I took a cab from the airport straight into the Quarter and found myself – at half past one in the morning – in the midst of a citywide party bigger and wilder than anything I’d ever seen.
My first thought was that I’d messed up the timing badly: how was I going to get a feel for the rhythms and landscapes of the city if I was fighting my way through crowds the whole time and being distracted by this massive, heroic saturnalia?
If you’ve ever been to New Orleans, you can probably see the punchline coming here. For me, it took until the Monday night – the eve of Fat Tuesday – to realise that I was seeing the spirit of the city given physical form. This was New Orleans shouting itself to the skies: saying in words, in music, in dance and in a billion colored beads “we’re still alive, and we’re still here!"
I took a lot of photos too; visited voodoo temples and urban cemeteries and levee walls, Louis Armstrong Park and the convention centre. That was what I was there for, after all. But I think it was the epiphany that came to me on that Monday night, when I was walking down Bourbon Street on a rainbow-colored carpet of beads with a “big-ass beer” in one hand and a cigar in the other (only cigar I’ve smoked in the last ten years, swear to God) that justified the trip and got me on the right wavelength to write this story.
Umm… I don’t mean I wrote it drunk, by the way. I just mean that something clicked at that point; something came right. And although I felt like I was made out of cracked glass as I packed my case again and headed out for the airport on Thursday morning, I was already thinking out the first scenes of Voodoo Child#1 as I went. And, you know, wondering how much of this was going to be tax-deductible…
If you know New Orleans, I hope you recognize it as it appears in this story. If you don’t, I hope you’ll see some of the Big Easy’s many moods reflected here – and maybe get inspired to go and see the reality for yourself.