Exclusive Interview: We Test ‘Memoir’ Creators Ben McCool and Nikki Cook’s Memories

By Alex Zalben

Indie horror is making a comeback, in the wake of The Walking Dead’s success. So credit to writer Ben McCool and artist Nikki Cook for not taking the easy route, building a mini-series out of the monster-of-the-month. Instead, their series Memoir deals with a high concept (which we’ll get to in a second), fleshing out the lives in a town big on secrets and low on memories.

With their book hitting the stands this week, we chatted with the team about how they approach horror, their influences, and put them through a short memory test.

MTVGeek: Tell us about Memoir – it has a pretty high concept to it.

Ben McCool: MEMOIR, in a nutshell, is a creepy amalgamation of TWIN PEAKS and THE TWILIGHT ZONE: small town dysfunctional America with a sci-fi/horror twist. Lowesville, a small town out in the arse end of the Mid West, is a place where nothing much happens, and the folk living there like it that way. However, one morning Lowesville’s residents awakens with no idea of who they are, where they are, or what’s happened… It seems the town’s memory has been erased. All except for the mind of one man: he remembers everything.

Cue stashed dead bodies, many a rambling lunatic, plus a strange girl claiming to be the Daughter of God…

Geek: Nikki, how do you approach the idea of loss of memory graphically?

Nikki Cook: I am all about the acting. Describing how people feel through body language and expression is a pretty heavy skill- I’m always trying to get better at it. What the people in the town are going through was personally catastrophic for each of them. I want the reader to feel it through the way the characters stand, or wrinkle their eyebrows, or dissolve into the floor.

Geek: Ben, any particular episode(s) of The Twilight Zone influence you in particular?

BM: The Twilight Zone: one of my favourite shows of all time. Stunning stuff, way ahead of its time. Though no particular episodes had a direct impact on the creation of this story, I certainly aspired to replicate some of the tension, creepiness and crazy-ass characters it offered; I can’t think of another show that did anywhere near as good a job.

For the record, my fave episode is probably STOPOVER IN A QUIET TOWN. Amazing. And what a twist ending!

Geek: Why “Memoir” instead of “Memory?” I assume this is a story-based choice we’ll find out about later?

BM: You will indeed! And that’s all I can say. After all, I wouldn’t want to give anything away…

Geek: Okay, game time: What’s one memory – if you had your mind completely wiped otherwise – that you’d want to hang on to?

NC: When I was in college I went on an impromptu road trip half across the country with my best dude friend. We ended up on a mountain in Colorado, drinking shots and watching a lunar eclipse from Buffalo Bill’s grave. We got a hotel room on a borrowed credit card, played spades with strangers and ate seven-eleven sandwiches. That was basically the most awesome vacation ever.

BM: Crikey, good question. One memory… Hmm. Meeting my lady for the first time? Nah, that’s way too soppy. Especially for this interview! Seeing the first issue of my debut mini-series, CHOKER, in print was special. Also, my first pint of Dublin Guinness was spectacular.

Let’s go with the Guinness. ;-)

Geek: What’s one memory you absolutely would want to get rid of?

NC: pretty much every crazy train flasher that i’ve seen can go into the ether with no complaints from me. Sorry hobo flashers, you are far too memerable for my tastes.

BM: Any time my beloved Aston Villa Football Club (or should I say, “soccer” club) loses to Birmingham City, the sinister cross-town rivals. I’m left chronically depressed for days afterward…

Geek: What’s the most unnecessary thing you remember, that you can’t get out of your brain (song lyrics to Spin Doctors songs, sports trivia, all the dialogue from Three Amigos, etc)?

BM: I’m a total sports nerd (not too many of us in comics, truth be told—FREAK!) so sports stats constantly haunt me. Also, random movie trivia: the most ridiculous, non-interesting info imaginable.

Did you know that during the filming of Ocean’s Eleven, George Clooney had a keg of Guinness installed in his dressing room?

NC: The first two weeks after I moved to New York I had the super flu and couldn’t get off my air mattress. Since we hadn’t hooked up the Internet yet, didn’t have a TV or really any possessions at all- I watched the one DVD we had just about seventy times. The Ray Charles story is forever playing on a loop in my head.

Geek: What’s something you always forget?

NC: I endanger my life every other day forgetting to turn off the coffee pot. I live on the edge.

BM: I never, ever remember to put my clothes in the tumble dryer after being washed in my building’s communal laundry room, meaning they’re usually sitting on the side and horribly damp when I arrive to dry the bastards. Eww.

Geek: I know the book is more scifi (or fantasy [or horror]), but what’s your favorite real life graphic novel memoir (biography or autobiography)?

NC: Does Fishtown count? [Editor’s Note: It does] That book has some deep dark human nature to it. I also might love Fart Party more then words can say.

BM: Graphic novel memoir? I’d have to go with Alan’s War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope by Emmanuel Guibert. If you haven’t yet read it, make sure you do.

“Regular” biographies? Too many to pick a definitive fave from. Anything by a noteworthy actor, director, writer or sportsman will usually captivate my attention. One that springs to mind at the moment is MR. NICE, an autobiography by drug smuggler turned university lecturer Howard Marks: at one point the guy had forty-three aliases and eighty-nine phone lines. Also, controlled 10% of the world’s hash distribution. Crazy, fascinating shit.

Geek: Quick quiz to see how much you remember some frequently misplaced items. Without checking:

Where are your keys?

NC: In the lady bag.
BM: In my jacket pocket. I, er, think.

Where are your glasses?

NC: On my face.
BM: Don’t wear glasses, but I still have a pair sitting on my desk, staring straight at me. Hmm.

Where’s your wallet?

NC: Lady Bag holds all.
BM: It’s still crying in the corner, severe overuse in the bar last night having left it extremely traumatized. The poor thing…

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