One of the more intriguing publications to enter the house recently is Murky Depths, a “quarterly anthology of graphically dark speculative fiction.” Featuring Richard Calder’s “Death and the Maiden” in serial comics form, Murky Depths also has fiction by Jon Courtenay Grimwood. What makes the publication different is that it features short stories alongside comics, with very sophisticated art. Essentially, Murky Depths is a hybrid antho of comics and fiction, with some pop culture features.
It is exactly the kind of prototype that I think will eventually be successful as a replacement for the staid and non-youth-friendly publications that have seen their subscription bases plummet in recent years. And it’ll happen not by publishing totally different sets of writers, but by doing things like combining comics and fiction, and having a dynamic design style.
Anyway, I highly suggest you get in on the ground floor and order a subscription because Murky’s at that early point in their development where a lot of reviewers get it and kinda go “What is this? A mag or an antho? A fiction mag or a graphic novel?” Every successful mutation encounters this kind of resistance at the beginning–that’s what lets you know it’s something a little different.
Terry Martin, the editor of Murky Depths, was kind enough to answer my questions via email…
What makes your publication unique?
I believe there are a number of things that make Murky Depths unique. Its blend of comic strips and straight prose for one, and how many magazines these days have illustrations commissioned for each prose story? If you’re not taking the PDF route which a lot of small press mags are taking these days then you have to have a quality product and I feel we have succeeded in doing that. It’s great when someone picks up a copy and you can see them hesitate as they feel the difference, some people have even let out a gasp!. It comes at a price of course both in the production and the weight in mailing it out but I really do believe we have a great product and one in which both writers and artists will want to appear.
Why did you start Murky Depths?
I’ve been publishing fanzines and the like for years but nothing as ambitious as Murky Depths. As a writer I’ve been collecting magazines to see what kind of stories they take so that I know which of my stories stand the best chance of being accepted. There are very few that I could say, hand on heart, I really want to be seen in. I love comics too and remembered some of the early UK Thompson publications that blended strips with prose fiction. I’d been considering starting a new SF magazine for quite a few years but I know how hard it is. Then, in the early part of last year it all seemed to fall into place: A magazine that featured both dark comic strips and straight prose stories with the latter each having a double-page illustration, and giving it that graphic novel feel to the whole thing by formatting it at the American comic book size with perfect binding.
Why the title?
I’d been using Murky Depths for about three years before I knew what the format was going to be. I knew I was going to publish a magazine, I just didn’t know to begin with what it would be. There were plenty of small press efforts out there which meant I had to push the boundaries and be different. My fear was that I’d alienate readers of both comics and straight prose but in fact people have surprised themselves. Murky Depths is a reference to the dark recesses of our minds but Steve Stone’s cover for Issue #1 just seemed so right for the debut.
What’s up next for the magazine?
Issue #2 has the first part of a two-part prose story from UK fantasy writer Stan Nicholls, although it’s more sci-fi horror. There’s also a new serial strip I absolutely love from Luke Cooper featuring a cop, but I won’t reveal too much about it just yet. As for Richard Calder you either love his work or you hate it but “Death and the Maiden” is his first departure into the world of comics and I’d just like to say watch out for Episode 4! We’re doing an interview with Violent Comic artist Darren Douglas in the next issue Ã¢â‚¬â€œ he’s crazy but brilliant! Geoff Taylor’s artwork will grace the next cover and subscribers should expect to receive the December issue in mid November.