The monsters have won
Realm Of The Damned is a unique graphic novel from the creative team of writer Alec Worley and illustrator Simon “Pye” Parr (2000 AD). Raw, fast-paced, and bristling with atmosphere, classic gothic monsters are unleashed for a modern rampage of redemption and damnation. It is a bloody and blasphemous epic that features appearances from heavy metal titans Behemoth, Emperor, and Mayhem. Realm of The Damned is set in a dystopian world run by vampires. To make things worse, the most brutal vampire ever is brought back to life. There is no one left to protect us from what lurks in the dark. The vatican’s last line of paranormal defense, the Congregation, has finally been overrun by the supernatural forces of darkness. Our heroes are all dead; only the damned remain. Among them is Alberic Van Helsing and the creatures that were once his prey. When an apocalyptic evil is resurrected in the forests of Norway, it falls to Van Helsing to become the hunter once again if mankind and monsters alike are to see the dawn. Realm Of The Damned is rumored to portray biographic events featuring the black metal band Sons Of Balaur. Their debut full-length album is released on Season of Mist Records.
HMA: Can you tell me about your background and how you and your partner created the comic book ‘Realm of the Damned’?
Simon “Pye” Parr: My background is in graphic design, rather than art. For thirteen years or I worked for 2000AD. So I was a designer for them for years. I always did a bit of art on the side. One piece of which got seen by Plastic Head, who was the publisher of Realm of the Damned. They got in touch with me to ask if I wanted to do some art for them instead. And that’s kind of lead from one thing to another, and now I’m sort of full time freelance artist.
HMA: And how about Alec?
Simon “Pye” Parr: Well Alec I know through 2000AD. He was a writer for them as well. And when Steve said he wanted to do a horror comic he seemed like sort of a natural fit because he’d done a werewolf story and some other kind of horror story for them. So I kind of got us all together and that was it really.
HMA: What are you visual influences or references… You know we all have our obsessions, artists that we like, styles that we like. What are yours?
Simon “Pye” Parr: Yeah. I really really like Moebius.
HMA: French artist?
Simon “Pye” Parr: Yeah, just an amazing artist. One of these guys who can sort of turn his hand to any style and do it with confidence. So Moebius is sort of a big influence for me really. He’s one of these guys who can paint and do these huge murals, he can do very tight and detailed artwork. He just seems to draw however he wants every time he does it. And well, or did. So yeah that, and I quite like old War Hammer art as well. I always like getting into, Kev Walker, Paul Bonner. People like that, really amazing painters. War Hammer were used in some band artwork as well, like Bolt Thrower.
HMA: There’s always a connection between music art.
Simon “Pye” Parr: There’s that sort of high fantasy stuff does make a little bit of a crossover. I remember I actually loved the artwork from Sepultura ‘Chaos AD’. That sort of mummified guy with all the techno stuff around it. Which that was absolutely vapid about, I have no idea who did that. That was great.
HMA: And so you say that the visuals can tell a story.
Simon “Pye” Parr: I think that’s something you don’t really get in many other genres of music. It’s like, as much as you do in metal anyway. The kind of storytelling in the artwork. It’s got quite an artistic side to it.
HMA: You did mention your collaboration with Werewolf Press and also Steve paid some attention to your work and wanted to have something release from you and that resulted with the Realm of the Damned. How did the project develop?
Simon “Pye” Parr: Steve had some fairly clear ideas to start with about what he wanted in the book. So although the kind of story and the look of it was up to me and Ike. He had a very strong vision of where he wanted to go, so he kind of wanted a musical angle on it. That originally started out being kind of punk rather than metal. And he was like you know, I want a vampire, but I don’t want to be a kind of good guy or in any way kind of justifiable in their actions. I want them to kind of be evil as fuck, really. And I think one of his things was that he wanted everyone in the book to be a cunt. That’s what he said. There’s no redeemable characters. He wanted classic horror stuff really. And then, we kind of went away and what he came up with sort of had a black metal twist to it all. That sort of gave it it’s own identity a little bit because you go back to the characters and redesign them with that in mind. And it started to create the world.
HMA: Would you call it tongue in cheek or would you call it… What’s the word?
Simon “Pye” Parr: No not at all. He wanted to avoid that a little bit. But I think you can’t have something be so relentlessly grim without acknowledging how ridiculous that is. So yeah, there is some humor in the extreme ultra violence.
HMA: So what metal references do we have in the book aside from the obvious?
Simon “Pye” Parr: The backstory of the band resurrection they’ve got to start is obviously taken from a lot of Norwegian black metal, so church burnings and all that kind of stuff. And obviously there’s a fictional band in the comic, or there is at the start. They all die fairly quickly.
HMA: Is it going to be a series of books or how is the story going to develop?
Simon “Pye” Parr: As I was saying, Steve kind of had a very specific idea of where he wanted to go with the first book, so he chose the monsters in effect, so we had to build a story around that. Whereas, the sequel is absolutely going to be entirely me and Alec. So we take the story where we want. But yes, there will be sequels. We’ve got a set kind of overall theme for the following books, but I don’t know how much I can say about that. But I’ve got to start doing the concepts for that in the next week. I’m hoping to get another book out kind of as soon as we can really. Which would be good because I want to develop the style a little bit. The way it looks. I feel it’s quite unique, but I’d like to kind of push that a little bit. Make it weirder or different or better.
HMA: Obviously it’s done by hand, can you tell me more about the way you work?
Simon “Pye” Parr: There’s a few panel I inked by hand as well, but generally I do my inking in Photoshop. Rather than working on white I work on gray, so then I can draw with white on black. And then I do the tones at the end, and the gore. Yeah so, yeah it’s very digital. There’s a lot of scanned textures and things like that. I like to blow paint around and get a bit mucky. You feel like you make a run for your own bat sometimes.
HMA: Have you done work for bands?
Simon “Pye” Parr: I have. No one big, but just local bands and stuff. I’ve done quite a lot [bits and bobs]. But yeah this one thing Steve said, you know this gets out and it’s obviously there are a lot of people in the industry looking at it and you might be lucky and see if I might be doing band artwork. Which might be quite nice. I’d quite happily do it.
HMA: How did you decide to follow a career in comic books?
Simon “Pye” Parr: I’ll do kind of anything that pays really. I do sort of large format sort of still life oil paintings as well. And obviously I do a bit of graphic design. I’ve done a lot of science fiction book covers as well. Which are a bit more design led. I like topography. So yeah, being a freelancer you’ve got to do basically whatever people want to pay you for really. You use a lot of similar parts of your brain when you’re doing that you know. I feel the same satisfaction doing design as I do drawing comics. So yeah, this things taken me kind of nine months or a year to do.
HMA: That’s how long it took?
Simon “Pye” Parr: Yeah: And obviously I spent a couple of weeks doing prep work and then the actual drawing probably took about nine months.
HMA: So it must cost quite a lot putting something like this together.
Simon “Pye” Parr: Yeah absolutely. This is like a lot of the reason you don’t get many original graphic novels. You tend to get things sooner than you would in the store or whatever because it’s a big outline to start with.
HMA: So we have the Sons of Balaur, which I think is a dinosaur?
Simon “Pye” Parr: Yeah it’s Romanian for dragon.
HMA: Okay. And so I would imagine that is a fictional band, right?
Simon “Pye” Parr: Yes, absolutely. Although there is a kind of… there are a few guys dressing up as it and they’re going to do some shows and stuff I think. So, we didn’t intend it to be this way, but it’s become a kind of Gorillas of heavy metal kind of thing.
HMA: I mean I read the biography on the Facebook profile. The band is some sort of forgotten band from the black metal period the early ’90s?
Simon “Pye” Parr: That’s the backstory yeah. The real life band has kind of taken on a life of its own outside of the comic really.
HMA: Obviously, some bands were involved… not every band was involved in murder and church burning, but why take that story? By all means the events were extreme, but at the same time it’s a bit of a sad story.
Simon “Pye” Parr: Yeah, absolutely. And kind of no matter how you feel about kind of religion, sort of those churches are sort of amazing buildings.
HMA: I totally agree.
Simon “Pye” Parr: It’s a complete travesty to burn one down. Like I don’t understand that at all. But I think because of… Steve was very keen to have a kind of black metal angle, nothing says more about that, you know, nothing’s better known about that scene than the church burning. And as far as the fictional band goes, they’re kind of just… They started off as a promotional tool. Really, just as a bit of fun to have at shows and stuff really. But like, I’ve had really very little to do with them beyond, that’s you know obviously that’s Steve’s side of it. He owns the record label and he has access to a lot of musicians. So it started out as a bit of fun, and they’ve spun their backstory based on the comic because in the comic they’re dead by page six. So there’s not very much to say about them before that point.
HMA: So I mean, please forgive me if I sound too harsh with my comments. When I was doing my research it felt a little bit like Spinal Tap, but with black metal, with a book rather than a movie.
Simon “Pye” Parr: Right, right. Yeah I hope it doesn’t come across like that. We haven’t tried to take the piss out of that kind of stuff. Obviously they did what they did, and that meant something to them. I’m not condoning that. But we weren’t taking the piss out of it either.
HMA: So on the signing of Forbidden Planet, did you go as the Sons of Balaur?
Simon “Pye” Parr: Oh no, me and Alec didn’t, we were like two kind of weedy sort of normal guys. We signed a couple of hundred copies. It was fun. I’ve not done a signing. I did a signing in 2008 but not for myself before if you know what I mean. So yeah, that was cool. We sold lots and had a good laugh and I got extremely drunk afterwards. It’s not an established thing yet. So we are kind of waiting for once it gets out there… The day after it was released, it’s not like it’s an established character or like Alec and I are particularly big names, so we kind of… It was as big as it was going to be, if we’re being honest.
“Does for vampires what The Walking Dead did for zombies. Worley and Pye fling you into a nerve-shredding apocalyptic world of blood and darkness. Like having your head between the speakers at a death metal gig, in a good way – sensory overload, hallucinatory, adrenaline-fuelled.” – Mark Chadbourn (author of the Devil’s Looking Glass, Hellboy, Doctor Who)
Interview by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2017 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.