Fountain first exploded onto the comics scene with his critically
acclaimed 1994 graphic novel The Sound of Coming Darkness
(Blackbird Comics). After having stories in Caliber Presents,
Creature Features, and Weird Business, Fountain's
next graphic novel was The Tell Tale Heart (Mojo, 1995).
This controversial, popular and acclaimed book was a collection
of Edgar Allan Poe stories interpreted with Fountain's illustrations.
After an appearance in Mojo's The Big Bigfoot Book (1996),
Bill Fountain the comic creator all but disappeared. In the
ensuing years, Fountain became an award-winning educator, blues
critic, and a filmmaker. He recently returned to comics with
The Raven, a comic book version of Poe's classic
REVOLUTIONSF: Why after a ten-year hiatus did you decide
to return to comics?
BILL FOUNTAIN: A combination of life happening and a growing
frustration with the declining quality of the comic work I was
being offered drove me away from graphic novels and into other
media ten years ago. I spent the last ten years teaching, cycling,
writing, directing films and raising a daughter. I think more
than anything, the thing that brought me back to creating comics
was I felt a strong need to communicate and express myself using
sequential art, and more to the point, to communicate with this
up and coming generation.
It was also a huge “practice what you preach” awakening
moment for me. You are telling these kids to pursue their dreams
with passion and never give up and you aren’t doing likewise.
Doing The Raven comic was me finally walking the walk.
We stray from the path but occasionally the path finds us again.
With a vengeance.
What has been the reaction to The Raven, both critically
So far, great on both fronts. Charles de Lint compared me to
“Tim Burton as a cartoonist,” which was really awesome.
It thrills me to hear middle and high school kids discussing
Raven after they read it. The Poe Museum in Virginia
sold out of the book in less than two weeks. That was a real
honor to not only have my book in the mseum but that it was
well received. I’m enjoying the dialog that the book and
the lectures are opening up. That to me is the real reward of
the project. To see fifth-graders running to a dictionary or
checking out Poe books in the library is great. It’s the
best kind of reaction to get! My favorite reaction so far was
a student at a high school who heard my reading and said “He’s
cool. But he’s crazy. He’s crazy cool.”
The Raven is your first self-publishing effort. How
did the experience differ from your previous books?
Scary. Fun. Amazing. It’s different in a million ways.
The biggest difference is you are in charge of everything. You
put together the book signings, lectures, workshops, appearances,
etc. You have to become a 24-hour-a-day marketing monster. The
good news is that you can get the book exactly the way you want
and do with it whatever you want. The bad news is the same as
the good news. I have learned tons in just the short time the
book has been available and it’s an ongoing lesson.
Having said all that, I highly recommend it to anyone who is
considering self-publishing. It’s amazing to me that you
can create a book all by yourself, get it printed, get it distributed,
put it for sale online and people will find it and buy it. I
think now more than any other time, it’s very easy to
get your work seen, purchased and appreciated by a greater audience.
It’s really a heavy-duty commitment wearing both hats
but it’s worth it. It’s also awesome and awful that
you have no one to blame but yourself. If the book succeeds
or fails, it falls on your shoulders. That is some powerful
motivation to succeed.
You've produced three Poe-related graphic novels and numerous
shorter comic book stories, what is about Edgar Allan Poe that
appeals to you?
It’s difficult to pinpoint why I seem to gravitate back
to Poe. I think in large part it has to do with the emotional
resonance his work carries for me. The wild thing is the more
I talk about Poe with my lecture audiences and readers, the
more I discover they feel similar. There is something about
Poe’s work that requires you to commit to it emotionally.
And once you commit, you are locked in. Poe’s writing
is not easy to dismiss or forget. It’s also the murky
depths of Poe’s work. I love many writers but Poe is the
one I can always go back to and find something completely new
nearly every time I revisit his work. He intrigues me at every
Why do you think there have been so many graphic versions
of Poe's works?
I think because Poe’s work cries out for imaginative
minds to visualize his words. Everyone who reads a story like
“The Tell Tale Heart” or “The Black Cat”
develops a strong mental image of what it looks like in their
heads. Artists can’t resist Poe. The real problem for
me with a lot of the graphic versions is they want to change
Poe’s words. To me, what is the point of doing a Poe project
if you alter or adapt his language? There is also a tendency
to try to “modernize” Poe. It’s crazy. The
beauty of Poe’s work is how he puts a sentence or phrase
together. It’s the whole notion of the joy of having to
look up a word that is so archaic that it was old in 1845 when
it was written!
Don’t get me wrong, there have been amazing graphic versions
of Poe’s work. It just makes me crazy when people think
they can “edit” or “fix” Poe! I try
to tell the kids I talk to that my comic book of “The
Raven” is not an adaptation or a translation of Poe. The
words of the poem are all there, unedited, unchanged. The words
all belong to Poe. The pictures are mine. They are my reaction
to Poe’s words. This is how I see it. How you see it might
be very different. Both our reactions are valid — that
is the beauty of reading!
Are you working on other Poe-related works?
I am working on a short experimental film version
of Raven using live action and stop motion animation.
The lectures and dramatic readings are booked all the way through
May and then we have a college thing lined up with the solo
play. There are plans to produce the play version I wrote next
year. There is a filthy rumor that I might be working on “Masque
of the Red Death” or “The Black Cat” next.
But that’s all it is. A filthy rumor! Currently I am committed
to an ongoing bi-monthly full-color comic series tied to a new
feature film coming out next year, so the next Poe comic may
be a while down the road. But it’s definitely down the
road. I don’t think Poe and I are done yet.
Can you tell us more about the "ongoing bi-monthly
full-color comic series tied to a new feature film"? Are
you scripting as well as drawing? Are you publishing this as
It’s really exciting. The book is called Daddy Dumaine
and it’s directly tied to a new film called Connected
coming out next year from director Brad Keller and Fireside
Entertainment. I’m also working on the film. The script
is written by William Peirson, a fantastic screenwriter who
co-wrote Brad’s last film, A Killer Within. I will
not be publishing this one. Fireside is handling all of that.
It takes place in New Orleans. It’s a wild story. Voodoo
underworld. Artistically it’s very different than anything
else I have ever done. The whole look and design of the book
is based on New Orleans Tarot cards and voodoo motifs/symbols.
I get creeped out drawing it. The thing I love about the project
is that it’s heavily researched and based on the real
thing — not the average or stereotypical presentation
of voodoo or vodun.
Plus the characters are amazing. It’s an adventure. I
think it’s going to turn out to be something really astounding.
Your first Poe-related projected (The Sound of Coming
Darkness) was targeted toward an adult audience, while
your second (The Tell Tale Heart) was geared toward adolescents.
The Raven appears to be for an even younger audience.
Was this an accident or by design? What was your intent when
creating The Raven?
Some accident, some design. More than anything I think it’s
that I found an audience that was starving for something I was
dying to do. I work with kids every day and I saw a hole that
wasn’t being filled.
I’ve spent the last few years really working on building
a stronger academic curriculum for the students I teach. Kids
are so much more intelligent and insightful than they get credit
for. In my experience, they excel when you raise the expectation.
I was shocked when I started lecturing at middle and high schools,
how much students today love the work of Edgar Allan Poe and
how hungry they were for creative material that engages them
as readers. I had always loved “The Raven” and wanted
to do a comic book using the poem. I set out to create a comic
book about Poe’s “Raven” that expressed how
I saw it but at the same time didn’t dumb it down for
first two Poe works are long out of print. Are there plans to
Definitely reprinting them. Both The Sound of Coming Darkness
and Tell Tale Heart. When we go into the second printing
of Raven, which is shortly, I am going to include some of the
stories from the Mojo book The Tell Tale Heart and make
the whole thing perfect bound. Maybe color. We are working on
it. I am also including a more age-appropriate version of “The
Tell Tale Heart” in the collection.
I recently completed a short film and screenplay version of
The Sound of Coming Darkness that I want to eventually
turn into a trilogy of graphic novels. There’s actually
three parts to the entire story, not counting “Cask of
Amontillado” as a prequel. I love the look of the original
Darkness so more than likely we will do a limited edition
of the original graphic novel and publish the others as we can.
After your successful return to comics and Poe, will you
be returning to some of your other dormant comic projects such
as your Level Ground comic strip, Tamura (part
of which is printed as "The Sleeping Glass Heart"
on the flip side of The Raven), and the unpublished Final
There are a ton of dormant projects sitting there that I would
love to explore. Level Ground ran as a weekly comic strip
for over 20 years. I would love to revisit the characters at
some point but probably in graphic novel form as opposed to
another comic strip. Tamura will continue as chapters
in every other book I publish, while I continue to make the
other chapters as films. There are nine chapters in all that
make up the whole story.
I’ve actually thought about trying to find a home for
Final Cut with another publisher. It’s a finished
graphic novel I did about twelve years ago. There are also two
completely finished graphic novels that I never shopped around.
I don’t know why. Back then I wasn’t all that concerned
with anyone seeing the finished product. I just wanted to draw!
How is producing comics different for you from ten years
ago? Do you approach it differently? Do you rely on old tricks
and techniques or have you invented/discovered new ones? Do
you find those around you treat you and the work differently?
It’s very different for me now. I do approach it differently.
I think the biggest difference is that I originally produced
my work in a vacuum, literally. No one saw anything until I
was finished. Now I have family, friends and allies who watch
the work in progress and I value the interaction and feedback.
My six-year-old daughter is really great at that. She can come
in and look at a page I worked on all night and tell me what
works and what doesn’t. She has a great eye. My friends,
wife and students are also a tremendous sounding board. It’s
great to have a support base like that constantly reassuring
you that this or that is cool.
Over the last ten years working with a bunch of up and coming
young artists, I have developed some techniques that really
work for me creatively. I offer a workshop where I teach these
tricks to kids. The techniques have opened up some amazing doors
for me. I think I’ve really been able to tap closer to
my creative source than ever before.
Do I find I am treated differently? Yes. It’s wild what
happens when people find out you have this whole other side
to you. I have these incredible moments where kids at my school
that I don’t teach and that I don’t know will bring
me their drawings to look at and talk about. And in many ways,
it has opened up new connections in my teaching. Students who
might not have listened to me before when I was just the “computer
teacher,” sit up and take notes now that I am that “Raven
artist.” It’s forced many of the students to
rethink the labels, you know?
And more than any of that, the effect it has had on my own
child is really incredible. She doesn’t see anything as
impossible. If Daddy decides to draw a comic book, publish it
and take it around the world — boom — that is not
impossible or even difficult. And if Daddy can do it, so can
she! I love that she can see how to take an idea out of your
brain put it into a form and show the world. She and I are working
on a book right now that I am publishing next year. She wrote
it and will be helping to draw it.
Are there other author's works that you'd like to adapt
into either comics or film?
There is talk of taking our (David Goodwin and myself) puppet/live
action theatrical production designs of The Martian Chronicles
and turning it into a series of graphic novels, if Bradbury
was cool with it. David has an amazing adaptation of the book
and we have some really incredible designs for the whole thing.
It would really be mind-boggling to work on, especially working
with David on the artwork.
I have something in the works with a very famous musician and
composer adapting some of his songs into a trilogy of graphic
novels. I can’t say more about that yet.
I would love to illustrate a Michael Moorcock or Jonathan Carroll
or Chuck Palahniuk or Paul Auster story. If I ever had a chance
to draw or produce any of their work, I wouldn’t hesitate
You've been dubbed a modern renaissance man. You're an artist,
a writer, a filmmaker, and a critic. When someone asks what
you do what is your response?
I usually say, with a straight face: “Whatever I’m
interested in.” To me, there isn’t a difference
in anything I do; it’s all about the same thing, just
different media of expression. Everything I do is related to
creatively telling stories. And it’s all interconnected.
I think each medium offers something really unique and amazing
so I try to use them to their ultimate effect. I’m working
on designing puppets for a live action/puppet theater production
of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, while working
on an original graphic novel about Martians called Martian
Requiem while preparing to direct a theatrical version of
H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds next fall.
I go where the voice tells me to go. I am still learning to
listen to my creative voice but I credit it with knowing what
to work on next. It knows exactly where it’s going. I
don’t. I’ve learned to surrender to it and it almost
never lets me down. I love using a variety of mediums to explore
an idea. It’s wild to be drawing Martians while building
and animating Martian puppets. And somehow it all falls into
place. Don’t ask me how. But it works.