As part of their Berger Books imprint, Dark Horse Comics recently released Salamandre, a 150-page graphic novel from I.N.J. Culbard, the supremely talented artist behind the likes of Wild’s End at BOOM! Studios, Brink at 2000 AD, and a series of critically acclaimed Lovecraft adaptations including At the Mountains of Madness and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
We’re obviously huge fans of Culbard’s work here at the Big Comic Page, so we were thrilled that he was able to take a little bit of time out of his busy schedule ahead of Salamandre’s worldwide bookstore release on the 20th of December 2022 to have a chat with us.
BIG COMIC PAGE: Firstly, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. So, tell us a little bit about young Kaspar Salamandre, our leading man. What’s his story?
INJ CULBARD: He’s a young artist who loses his father and loses himself in his grief, who goes to stay with his grandfather in a country where art is oppressed by a totalitarian regime.
BCP: There’s obviously an autobiographical aspect to this graphic novel. How did you go about adapting your own early life experiences into a story like this?
INJ: I took a dramatic event from my childhood and made that the finale of my story and then I worked backwards from there. In short, I wrote what I knew and I started at the end.
BCP: The setting for the story is broadly fictional, although there are some definite real-life parallels. What prompted the decision to go for the fictional approach rather than making this a real-world historical story?
INJ: I’d describe the setting as a sort of misremembered version of our world. Memories are formed from emotional experiences and I was keen to look at the way we try to articulate those emotions. I wanted to lean hard into the way we confabulate stories, so it’s not about how things were, it’s about how they felt.
BCP: What are the challenges of being essentially a ‘one man band’ on a graphic novel like this as opposed to working with a separate writer, letterer, etc. and which approach do you personally prefer?
INJ: Second guessing. Panic. Lots of challenges, can be stressful, but I use advice given by bomb disposal experts. Don’t “rabbit hole,” do one thing at a time, accentuate the positive and just be glad you’re not defusing a bomb.
BCP: How has it been working alongside Karen Berger and the team at Berger Books?
INJ: I love working with Berger Books, with Karen, Richard, Rae and Adam. It’s great and I always say this when we’re finished on a book but I sincerely learn a hell of a lot. A really lovely team to work with, always incredibly supportive.
BCP: What would be the one thing you’d hope that a reader would take away with them after reading this book?
INJ: To quote Meryl Streep quoting Carrie Fisher, “Take your broken heart and turn it into art.”
BCP: Do you have anything else in the pipeline that we should be keeping an eye out for?
INJ: I draw a series for 2000 AD which is written by Dan Abnett and lettered by Simon Bowland. It’s collected into paperback volumes, there are five volumes so far and we’re currently working on the 6th.
Salamandre is on sale at all good comic right now and at bookshops worldwide on the 20th of December.
You can read our glowing review where we called it “a tale of loss, family and the power of imagination from one of the most talented cartoonists in the business today” by CLICKING HERE.