‘Project: Cryptid’ and ‘Cereal’ Writer Mark Russell: The Conskipper Interview

Mark Russell brings two tales of terror to audiences this fall with a contribution to AHOY Comics Project: Cryptid anthology (with artist Jordi Perez) and the long-awaited collection of Russell and Peter Snejberg’s unique take on the Monster cereal mascots you remember from childhood entitled Cereal.

Russell spoke to us about both new projects, monsters, and supermen in this exclusive interview.

Where did the inspiration come from for your story “Ballroom of Death” in the new Project Cryptid anthology?

Mark Russell: Well, I was thinking about how hard it would be to be a cryptid now that the planet is crawling with humans, each one with a cell phone and Instagram account and it occurred to me that one of the hardest hit cryptids would be the yeti, because of all the tourist traffic on Mount Everest and how off-putting that would be to a creature that was used to having the mountain to themselves.

Did you get to choose your cryptid of choice for the story?  In either case, what stood out to you about a Yeti story?

Russell: Yeah, luckily, I pitched a yeti story and that cryptid hadn’t been taken yet. So it pays to be quick on the draw. 

The framing is very similar to a classic EC horror comic tale.  Was this your intention?

Russell: Not really. But I think the old EC comics worked for much the same reason that most horror works. It uses the weight of your own anticipation against you. Which, I guess, is what suspense really is.

Your Cereal series with Peter Snejberg will be collected in October in a new graphic novel and will also include the conclusion of the story.  What can you tell us about working on the comic with Peter and what fans can look forward to?

Russell: Peter was great to work with because he gets that these are ultimately stories about people. Not human beings, per se, but people. That it’s about them dealing with the fact that they’ve become monsters more than it’s about the action. And I think that’s really reflected in the nuances of his artwork. The body language and facial expressions.

And, to me, that’s what really makes the story come to life. What gives it soul. The fact that it’s not just a story, but a small town of characters you feel like you get to know. And I think this is also what fans can look forward to. Getting to know these monsters in a way no cereal company ever intended.

You have stated that the idea of the monster is one that plays “an expansive role in our collective conscience” and that monsters are also sad characters.  Why is this sadness an essential element in telling a monster’s story? 

Russell: Life sets out many traps and, from some, there is no escape. And this is what makes monsters. And this is a tragedy. There’s a moment in each of these character’s stories when they’ve realized that they’ve fallen into a trap from which there is no escape. This is not the life any of these characters would have chosen for themselves and how they choose to deal with that fact is what gives us the story.

Your recently completed Superman: Space Age with Mike Allred.  Looking back on the series, what  memories do you have about it?

Russell: Hanging out with Mike and Laura in Eugene (where they live and where I grew up) and just talking through our ideas of who Superman is and what we wanted this series to be like. I wish I had the opportunity to approach every series like that one. To hang out with every artist before beginning a series the way I did with them.

Upcoming projects? 

Russell: In addition to the collection of the Cereal stories coming out in October, I have the collected trade paperback of Deadbox (the story of a cursed DVD machine) coming out in November and the collected trade for Second Coming: Trinity coming out not too long after that. So, hopefully, people will leave some room on their bookshelf.

Project Cryptid #1 is now available at your local comic shop and the Cereal graphic novel will be available in stores on October 12, 2023.

If you’d like to hear more from Russell, check out our previous two interviews with the prolific writer right here and here.

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