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An Interview With Mike Carey, Author of The Devil You Know – Part Two

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This continuation from part one wraps up an interview with Mike Carey, author of The Devil You Know.

Carey is best known for writing the X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four comic books and has been a major name in comic book circles for more than ten years. I came to know him via the publication in the U.S. of his first novel.

Scott Butki: If you were allowed to go back and return to high school but with any special powers you choose would you do it and which superpowers would you choose?

Mike Carey: I think I'd pass.  Special powers would be cool, but having to relive my high school years?  That doesn't appeal much.  If I did, then I'd probably go for invisibility.  The power not to be bugged is a great and precious thing. 

Where would you suggest someone, as an adult like my friend I alluded to in part one, start with her explorations into graphic novels? Do you encounter the stereotype I referred to, that comic books are for kids, not adults (or at least not those of the non-geeky type)? 

It's difficult because you're always going to get a kind of verfremdungs effect when you encounter comics for the first time.  I could reel off a list of my own favorites and say "try these," but unless you're coming in from the right angle you can just find comics storytelling too strange and alienating the first time you encounter it. 

One possible way in is through the sort of hybrid books where you get a sequential visual narrative but with accompanying text rather than in-panel dialogue.  The Chaykin adaptation of Bester's The Stars My Destination, published by Byron Preiss back in the eighties, is one that I enjoyed a lot. It also makes a certain amount of sense to stick to genres that you already know and like.  So, for example, don't read a horror comic unless you enjoy horror prose. 

If you do enjoy horror prose, then read Junji Ito's Uzumaki, which is one of the best horror narratives of the twentieth century in any medium – right up there with Lovecraft's Shadow Out of Time and Kubrick's The Shining. Beyond that, I'd say pick up a good anthology like one of the comic book editions of McSweeneys or Image's Flight. That way you can dip into a lot of different styles and approaches and see if any of them work for you… 

Where do you stand on the Batman TV series – frustrating in that it was so campy it besmirched comic books? Or good fun? Or somewhat of both?

I enjoyed it as a kid – and actually took a while to realize that it was sending itself up.  And I can still enjoy it now, when I'm in the mood.  Let's face it, superheroes are hard to do seriously in any medium other than comics.  It's like if you try to do a straight dramatic version of an opera, you immediately realize how ludicrous opera plots always are.  Conventions that you don't question in a comic book — like costumes — become huge stumbling blocks in movies and TV shows. 

What question are you most tired of answering?

Actually the one that causes me most grief is the "what else have you got coming up?" question, because I always miss something out and leave one of my editors feeling really aggrieved.  But the hardest one, which I usually duck, is "where did you get the initial idea for X,Y or Z…"

What's the biggest misconception about you? About comics writers?

Well, some people make assumptions about me because of the kind of material I write.  They expect someone dark and brooding, and actually I'm more sort of like Arthur Putey (a character in a Monty Python sketch).

I don't think there are any general misconceptions about comics writers – just a lack of any conceptions at all.  People don't know we exist, unless they've got the passion themselves.

Thanks again to Mr. Carey. The Devil You Know is the best book I've ever read with exorcisms and a succubus.

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.