As a meditation on the duality of man, Robert Louis Stevenson‘s The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde remains a timeless classic. Few works of fiction can boast so many adaptations, and yet authors still find themselves drawn to this story, finding new and creative ways to adapt and update the work, and new angles from which to approach it.
One such author is Cooper Anderson, a Glasgow-based writer who has dragged Stevenson’s work kicking and screaming into the modern age in his new graphic novel. A collaboration with artist A.C. Ironside, Inner Workings brings some blood and guts to the timeless tale. We caught up with Cooper to talk about the project.
Tom: Can you give us a summary of the story?
Cooper: Inner Workings is a contemporary retelling of the Jekyll and Hyde story where the classic characters from the Robert Louis Stevenson novel are placed in modern-day London. The story starts off after Jekyll has already taken the infamous serum that brings out the evil known as Hyde. Jekyll, living in an ever-changing world of moral ambiguity, has to navigate between his light side and his dark side – a dark side that may or may not have just killed someone.
Tom: Can you describe your first encounter with the story of doctor Jekkyll and Mr. Hyde?
Cooper: Like a lot of people, I had only ever encountered Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde through a bunch of pop culture representations. That is until last year when I was studying for my masters at the University of Glasgow. We were on winter holiday and I noticed that it was one of those public domain books you can get on your iPad. I then realised I had never actually read the classic story. So I downloaded it and read it in a couple of days. Then I remember thinking how fun would it be to see something like this play out in modern times.
Tom: What themes of the story resonate with you and with today’s world?
Cooper: I really enjoyed the theme of self-reflection, the idea that when looking deep within ourselves we see both parts of us that we like and other parts we don’t like. Exploring that even further, there is the theme of ‘the parts of myself I don’t like can sometimes feel really good.’ In the original story, Jekyll just can quit taking the potion that turns him into Hyde. In this book, Jekyll eventually realises that despite being made up of extremes, Hyde does have some good points to make. I think most of us have that little voice in our head that asks, “Am I a good person?” or “Would I help that person if I really had to?”, and those answers sometimes changes over time.
Tom: Can you describe the key ways in which your story differs from the original and the reasons that you chose to depart from the source material?
Cooper: The most obvious one is that this book takes place in the modern world. There are smart phones, huge companies that have deep pockets and a lot of enemies, and even NAZIs. Another obvious difference from the original is that the consequences are a lot more dire. In the original, the story takes place during the 1860s, where reputation and giving one’s word was taken more seriously. People adhered to societal rules very closely. In this book, people are getting assaulted and murdered much more openly.
Tom: Can you tell us how your collaboration with A.C. Ironside came about?
Cooper: We were both studying at the University of Glasgow and we had a creative writing class together. I had briefly mentioned that I wanted to write a comic book but needed an artist. She mentioned being an artist and showed me her portfolio and I was really impressed with her work. I pitched her the idea and it must have gone better than I thought it did because she agreed to do it.
Tom: In what ways do you think that her artwork complements the story?
Cooper: A.C.‘s work is brilliant. She really took the themes of light struggling against the dark in a lot of really cool ways. Her style can be very in-your-face and obvious, while at other times, it’s incredibly subtle. We had tried to do it digitally at first and we got to page ten before we realised that this book had to be hand-drawn. So A.C. started over and hand drew the pages then inked them – similar to the way Japanese Manga artists will do their weekly comic books.
Tom: The ending of the comic implies the possibility of a sequel. Do you have plans to return to this story in the future?
Cooper: Like with all indie comic books, if enough people buy the book then there can definitely be a volume two. I have a story in my head where Jekyll and Hyde can go from where the book ends and there are more than a few unanswered questions that could find their answers in the next volume. It’s all up to the fans.
Tom: Lastly, do you have any other projects in the works that you would like to tell our readers about?
Cooper: At the moment, I’m really just excited to get back to writing prose. I’ve got a few short stories that have been begging me to finish them and then I’ve got a middle-grade novel that I’m really close to finishing as well. But if the right people come along, I can always return to the world of comic books.
We’d like to thank Cooper Anderson for taking the time to talk to us, and wish him every success with Inner Workings!
To keep up to date with Inner Workings, you can follow ArrowKey Studios on Twitter.
You can also contribute the the Kickstarter, which has now met its primary funding goal!