Frank at Home on the Farm is a wild and unique new book from publisher Mad Robot Comics. Created by writer Jordan Thomas and artist Clark Bint, Frank is a psychological horror mystery set in a 1920s rural England that is still recovering from the First World War.
Issue 1 is currently on Kickstarter, and I recently got the chance to ask Jordan Thomas a few questions about the book.
MIKE PHILLIPS: Let’s kick off with a brief synopsis of the story.
JORDAN THOMAS: Sure. Everything starts with our main character, Frank, arriving home after the war to his family farm to find his parents and brother missing. This is the inciting incident that kicks off all the other madness.
PHILLIPS: Tell us a bit more about Frank?
THOMAS: Well, Frank was little more than a teenager when he was sent off to the front line. Obviously surviving that is going to have a pretty extreme impact on a person. He has some physical scars from the experience, but also a lot of mental ones. Nightmares, haunting visions, paranoia – so, when he arrives back to his safe place, his home, to find his family missing he doesn’t take it well. The weird way the animals all seem to be watching him also doesn’t help!
PHILLIPS: It’s an interesting setting you’ve chosen. What made you settle on this time period and location?
THOMAS: The story, from when it first jumped into my head, always involved a man coming back from war to find his family missing from their farm. I settled on WW1 because of the devastation it caused to communities at the time. The chaos it left adds a sense of confusion and disconnect that allows our mystery to take place. Also, I really like horror that is set before everyone had phones and the Internet – the ability to Google everything has really hurt scary stories!
PHILLIPS: Totally agreed. Internet access in fiction can be a storytelling crutch, and it can also pour cold water on spookiness. Are there particular influences on the story from the world of horror?
THOMAS: Oh definitely. I love reading Stephen King. On the first page you see the unnaturally large barn that dominates the farm – that’s kind of our Overlook Hotel from The Shining. David Cronenberg is a big influence on the story. Movies of his like The Fly and Videodrome both visually and thematically are definitely in there. David Lynch with the creepy locals and sense of alienation. Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez is one of my favourite comics – our cover is a bit of a homage to that amazing work.
PHILLIPS: Yeah the cover looks great! That also leads us on nicely to your collaborator on this project, artist Clark Bint. What has he brought to the story?
THOMAS: Clark is incredible. Mad Robot Comics founder and editor on this book, Matt Hardy, introduced me to him (thanks Matt!), and I knew he was perfect for Frank. His work is so incredibly detailed, and he loves researching the period to get everything just right. I gave some direction on how the farm should look, but the design of the town is all Clark. His work is so atmospheric, and he really knows how to tell a story. I fell in love with his page layouts in his previous book Murder Most Mundane. [Laughs] That sentence sounds kind of weird, but yeah I’m mad for an inventive page layout. He also draws a great farmyard animal.
Plus we get along well and discuss a lot of ideas for the story and the pages, so that’s really great. Having an artist who connects with your story is important.
PHILLIPS: Absolutely. So what are your plans for the future of the book?
THOMAS: A first draft of the whole story was written before Clark started work, so we always knew where everything was going. I like working that way as it allows you to seed lots of cool themes and ideas throughout that become important later on. We debated a few different options for how we would release it, and settled on a 4-issue miniseries. But we’re still pretty flexible within that structure. For example, issue 1 was meant to be 28 pages of story, but then I had an idea for a really creepy final page, so we extended it to 29. Clark nailed the extra page so I’m really happy with that choice.
Clark is currently working on Issue 2, and already we’ve added in a few more pages to give him more space to work his terrifying magic. So, yeah, there’s a clear end point, but we can play with how we get there.
PHILLIPS: Sounds great! Can’t wait to read it!
Once again, you can back Frank at Home on the Farm now on Kickstarter!