The following is our interview with editor of Cauldron Magazine Sam Noir from the second issue of Sequential Magazine which included interviews with creators attending TCAF and reviews of debut books. You can download it through our gumroad or buy a print copy through Studio Comix Press
Sam Noir is a writer and cartoonist based out of Toronto. He is a member of the publishing/editorial team for Cauldron Magazine. CAULDRON is a high quality, full color comics anthology in magazine format, featuring supernatural themed tales for a mature audience. His work has appeared in multiple volumes of Toronto Comics Anthology, Strange Romance, Monstrosity, and Hogtown Horror, as well as indie titles including Victorian Four and Major North. He has also produced covers for Chapterhouse Comics.
- What’s the origin story of the magazine? What sparked its creation and how did the initial contributors come together?
Cauldron Magazine is a comics anthology of Supernatural Tales.
It is a passion project conceived by like-minded friends as a co-operative publishing venture. It stemmed from casual discussions with Shane Heron and Ricky Lima (the brilliant team behind Black Hole Hunters Club). These were enthusiastic conversations about the kind of anthology comics that we would ideally like to read ourselves, but did not exist. Stories for mature readers that challenges their notions and expectations, in a high quality, larger magazine format to showcase the artwork.
The three of us discovered a kindred spirit in Casey Parsons, who came aboard the first issue with so much gusto and explosive creativity on his cover and interior art, that we all agreed that he deserved a place on our editorial round-table.
It is four creators who each bring a story to every issue. Either one they are contributing to, or one that they are specifically curating based on their own tastes and preferences.
Our publishing model operates as a circle of peers, rather than a traditional editorial hierarchy. Decades ago, Underground Comix were produced in this manner, as are many contemporary art-comics collectives, but it is rather unusual for a more commercial genre-based product like ours.
- With it being an anthology of smaller stories what themes and types of stories are you choosing to create for it?
A Cauldron is the perfect analogy to the anthology format itself, where writers and illustrators contribute their own unique complimentary and contrasting flavours. A Cauldron evokes the macabre and supernatural, sufficiently broad themes to unleash and inspire creative freedom. We’re leaning heavily towards Horror and Monster genres, with a dash of fantasy and sci-fi to spice things up. A Cauldron is enchanting, we hope the magazine is as well.
Editorially, we don’t define what we are looking for in a Cauldron story, but collectively we know it when we see it. A fitting story is not simply dark in its tone. Weaving a satisfying tale in a limited number of pages and panels requires great skill. Every moment and word must count. We are always attempting to defy audience expectations at every turn.
In my contribution to the first issue with artist Robert Freeman, The Sun Rises on Edo, the creative hook is the melding of Steampunk and Kaiju. Beyond that novelty, the story requires a relatable, emotional core. The monster stomping Tokyo at the turn of the last century, also functions as a metaphor for the consequences of industrialization and the class struggles at the forefront of contemporary conversations and headlines in the real world today.
- What goals do you have with the project either personally or as a group?
First and foremost we are building a creative playground to experiment and push past the boundaries and limitations of most mainstream comics. It is important to nurture an environment where we inspire each other and feel challenged enough to swing for the fences every single time.
We want to present opportunities for our contributors to grow and develop. In the case of artist Keith Grachow, Ricky Lima graciously allowed him to co-write their segment for the second issue. Jason Tocewicz has a very cartoony style, but we challenged him with material that was much more morbid and adult than what he has drawn previously.
We also love taking a chance with the energy and vigour a relative new-comer like Jeffrey Myles brings in partnership with a more seasoned and established script writer like Fred Kennedy in their story The Wild Boy.
The success of the first two issues has frankly taken us by surprise given that we set out to assemble a modest, niche publication for our own amusement. Imagine our surprise to find that there is a much larger audience hungry for edgier content. We’ve discovered that many of our supporters come from outside the traditional comic book venues. We hope to continue to build and grow that readership.
While other anthologies aspire to the bookstore market, we are a periodical magazine. This is why we are not numbering our issues, but giving them seasonal and yearly designations. We want every single issue to be accessible.
- You’ve designed the publication to continue the classic pulp magazine format. What did you and the other collaborators enjoy about the classic magazines that you wanted to continue?
We want to evoke the look and feel of those publications, yet remain contemporary storytellers. Taking genre tropes and finding a way to subvert and blow up their associated trappings…
I think the perfect example is Shane Heron’s work in our first volume, where the set-up takes a cue from the classic Savage Sword of Conan comics, but with an end result that is completely unexpected for a Barbarian tale. Similarly mining Sword and Sorcery ground, in a much different fashion, Becca Gorefield is writing and drawing for our third issue.
- Which older publications were you inspired by?
The Comics Magazine format was most popular in the sixties through to the eighties on the newsstands as a way of ditching the oppression imposed by the Comics Code authority. Mad Magazine is the earliest example that springs to mind, but the most influential were the three published by Warren Magazine. Titles like Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella brought the horror genre back into comics after being banished in the fifties. There was also Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan, and I know Casey Parsons always cites the painted covers on the Rampaging Hulk Magazine as a big source of his inspiration.
The one magazine that we most often talk about is Heavy Metal, and in turn the European bande dessinée comics albums where much of their content originated. A full colour glossy periodical for a decidedly adult readership. We alway strive for that level of quality.
The editorial team often talks about how we all discovered these rather lurid and provocative magazine when we were a little too young, and the impressions they made on us. Essentially challenging our notions and expectations of what “comics” were and the figurative and literal larger, wider possibilities of the art form. If anything, those “feels” are what we are chasing now as grown-up publishers/editors/writers/artists.
- Do the artists enjoy working with the extra room on each page compared to a normal comic or do they dislike the extra work it takes to fill the page
Yes! To each individual artist, a wider, bigger canvas like this can mean much more detail, or more panels per page, or a greater impact when using a splash page or double page spread (Keith Grachow demonstrates this beautifully). The physicality and dimensions of a magazine sized periodical opened up in your hands is something that the digital reading experience cannot possibly replicate on a tablet or phone.
In the case of an artist like Casey Parsons, with a classical fine art background, the larger format allows him cut loose with painterly subtleties and expressiveness that might otherwise be lost in the smaller real estate of a regular sized comic book. Particularly now that we’ve switched to offset printing with our second issue, there is so much more range that can be captured in the lighter and darker ends of the spectrum. Robert Freeman on the other hand, is such an incredibly draftsman, who puts so much thought and detail into his pages. We’re proud that this format allows readers to really appreciate his delicate fine line work.
- For issue 2 you had a beautiful cover by Adam Gorham, how do you select your cover artists?
My first instinct is to simply state how incredibly lucky we are given the calibre of our cover artists so far, but that might be a little disingenuous. The incredible network of friends and peers in the comics community based out of Toronto is the reason we not only have such wonderful covers, but fantastic and sophisticated interior art as well.
We’re all HUGE fans of Adam’s work and talents, and we owe him a large debt of gratitude. His generosity and graciousness with our team is demonstrated in not only taking time from his busy schedule to provide us with a stunning cover, but also donating the original art. Having a Marvel/Archie artist on board has certainly gifted us with a great deal of credibility.
We also need to sing the praises of Casey Parsons, who provided the painted colours for Adam’s line art on the second issue. The fantastic cover art on our first issue is Casey’s as well. His Frazetta-esque snake-woman painting is gorgeous and continues to bring the magazine a lot of positive attention.
- Since there are several stories in each issue, how do you choose the subject of the covers?
We collectively choose an artist we admire and give them the freedom and autonomy to do their best work within the boundaries of “Supernatural Tales”. Allowing a cover artist to self-direct has achieved the great results to date, so we’ll continue to try and work that way.
- Any future plans for the magazine you would like to share? When is the next issue planned for?
We are currently on a twice-yearly schedule, and would love to increase the number of issues produced in 2020. Our Fall 2019 Kickstarter campaign launches at the end of May, and that issue debuts at Fan Expo the last weekend in August. We are extremely proud of the diversity of creators and content that we are carefully curating for future issues, and strive to make every issue better than the last.