A modern retelling of H.P. Lovecraft‘s iconic story Herbert West Reanimator, Reanimator Incorporated is a graphic novel that combines a classic horror tale with an exploration of existence itself.
Featuring artwork from Lyndon White, who is well versed in bringing Lovecraftian horrors to life, the new book preserves the original story’s contemplation of the human condition while injecting it with new philosophical and theological themes.
We spoke to writer Andy Perry to find out more about how he’s bringing the legend into the modern day.
Kirstie: Tell us about your new graphic novel, Reanimator Incorporated.
Andy: It’s a story inspired by the original H.P. Lovecraft tale from the Necronomicon series, but for those who’ve not read it (or even heard of Lovecraft – and there’s unfortunately plenty out there), it’s about life, death, resurrection and everything in between.
The main protagonist, Herbert West, is chief scientist for a major R&D organisation. He’s working on a reanimation device that atomically disassembles, repairs and reassembles cadavers, restoring them to life. West is under huge pressure from his boss to get the product to market, and ends up sacrificing more than he bargained for.
Apart from the gratuitous gore, there’s a theological slant to the story. It explores where the soul travels in the period between death and reanimated life. Can the same person be reanimated with the same soul? If I had to sum up Reanimator Incorporated, I’d say it was a ‘thinking man’s horror’.
Kirstie: What made you want to put your own spin on H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West – Reanimator?
Andy: The idea behind the story is something I’ve been thinking about for years, then I realised it fit nicely into the world of Lovecraft and his mythos. One thing I was certain of was that this would not be a retelling or straight-forward modernisation of the original Reanimator. The word ‘incorporated’ from the title has various meanings, one of which is that we incorporate other aspects of the Lovecraft mythology and our own ideas into the story.
The aspiration is to create a piece that appeals to both fans of the original and those who’ve not encountered a Lovecraft story before.
Kirstie: How did you decide which elements of the story you wanted to change in your retelling?
Andy: There needed to be modernisation, so the serum injection has been changed to an AI-driven atomic assemble unit, which is a taste of a very near future for people to relate to. We also wanted to play with the characters too. Each are effectively grandchildren of the original story’s characters, and we use this lineage to create their story and motivation.
Kirstie: What are the important themes from the original that you wanted to preserve in your graphic novel?
Andy: Although it’s not overt in Lovecraft’s version of Reanimator, there is a strong theme that questions the premise of the soul, its origins and its journey. This is also the case in some of Lovecraft’s other stories, such as The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. I wanted to keep this theme but bring it to the forefront of the story. Blending the metaphysical with undead cadavers clawing people’s arms off has been quite the balancing act.
Kirstie: You’ve drawn inspiration from other classic horror and mythology as well as Lovecraft’s other work for this book. What’s your trick to blending these influences together?
Andy: The premise of reanimation is rife throughout classic and modern literature, so I think people will draw parallels with a number of stories from Frankenstein to Pet Sematary, whether I tried to or not.
One aspect of the book, which will become more apparent in Chapter 2, is the influence of Dante’s Inferno. I won’t spoil the surprises just yet, but pulling the various concepts and ideas in some respects is easy because people will form their own allusions, but doing it with the right level of subtlety involves lots of head scratching and re-writing.
Kirstie: Tell us about the philosophical and theological ideas you explore in your book.
Andy: The influential line this series is inspired by is when the Lovecraft’s narrator asks a recently awakened cadaver, “Where have you been?” To me, this conjured up an image of a soul being pulled back to its body for reanimation, but made me question where the soul had been in the intervening time between death and life. Was it idly waiting around, or had it started a new journey only to be forcibly pulled back into existence (or our perception of existence)?
There are also allusions to the Star Trek Transporter Paradox, which itself draws upon major philosophical questions regarding whether a person or object identically rebuilt or cloned is the same as its source. For those not aware of the idea, each time the Star Trek transporter ‘beams’ one of the crew to a new location, the person is disassembled atom by atom, and the atoms are transported and reconstructed in their new location. Dissolving a person’s atomic structure will likely kill them, so when they are rebuilt, is it a clone of the original person, and can a clone ever be the same as the original?
Let’s not get onto the ethics around the creation of life and what makes something alive…
Kirstie: What do you hope people take away from your graphic novel?
Andy: I hope readers finish Chapter 1 with a greater sense of intrigue and questioning on some of the themes, while at the same time having really enjoyed the story and been left mesmerised by Lyndon’s amazing artwork.
Kirstie: Why did you choose to fund this project through Kickstarter?
Andy: Lyndon and I both have experience of Kickstarter, having successfully run various projects through the platform before. One of the best things about Kickstarter for me isn’t just the money-raising aspect, but also the marketing aspect. It’s a great hub for people who are looking for independent work with new slants and nuances. Hopefully it finds a great audience there.
Kirstie: This is the first in a six-part series. What are your hopes and plans for the series after this book is done?
Andy: The outline for the next 5 chapters are in place with a fair amount of detail for Chapter 2, so it’s a case of me getting on with the script and working on the evolution of the story. It’d be great if the readership increases and hopefully, as we delve deeper into the concepts and theories, the audience will grow. I’m really excited to introduce some of the other ideas I’ve mentioned for Chapter 2 and beyond, and to continue to work with Lyndon (and the rest of the production team) on sharing ideas for the rest of the series.
You can keep up to date with the series here.