Shady Grove Rest Home promises residents tranquility in their final years. Instead, it delivers terror in the form of Bingo, a palliative care cat that snuggles up to whichever resident is next to die. Is Bingo’s power supernatural, or is something more ominous at play?
James C. Harberson III and I wrote it (with the scripting by Harberson III). The artist is Stephen Baskerville, a brilliantly-talented comic book, video game, and advertising artist. He has worked for, inter alia, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Egmont Fleetway, Curve Studios, Asylum Entertainment, and KUJU Entertainment. He resides in the UK and you can learn more about him here.
Here is some quick byplay from an exchange that Jim and I had on he we got this project going . . .
“So Jim- we finally got our graphic novelette up and running . . . I thought it would be interesting for our readers to hear how we did it . . .
We got the idea from the story of Oscar the therapy cat in a Rhode Island nursing home that was able to predict which patient was going to die next . . . How did we get the nurse involved? I know we wanted to make it a dark EC type of experience . . . . . . .”
“Death Cat was your idea. You wanted to exploit the Oscar story and so we wrote a Death Cat-like vignette into our second screenplay, Dark Messiah. In it, rest home staff bet upon which resident Bingo the Death Cat will next snuggle (right before religious maniacs murder everybody). I called him “Bingo” for the cute, if dark, irony: Old people like to play Bingo, and getting “bingo” means victory. Here, it means death. You wanted to call him “Lemmy,” after Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister (to whom I believe you’re distantly related).
We cut the vignette during the Dark Messiah editing process and rendered it a stand-alone horror comedy short. I conceived of the sexy nurse (Why do I keep calling her the “slutty nurse”?) as a counterpoint to Bingo’s promise of death. On a side note, we agreed to have SFW and NSFW versions of Death Cat because my vision was more overtly sexual than yours (though not by much). As I’ve said before, you’re the moral compass of our process.”
“Moral Compass?!? Dear God, we’re all in trouble . . . . Anything named Lemmy is automatically excellent- especially if he comes from the Fraser clan back in Scotland. I’m still sad we didn’t name the cat Lemmy, but Bingo was better.
More importantly, finding the right mix of how much we want to “go there” is always a constant negotiation between us. If we both had our way, we would drop the hammer and do the most outrageous stories. Our first screenplay was just mayhem- I have no idea how that will ever get made! Since we are just getting our footing in this format, and industry, I try to be the voice of (commercial) reason. We have to get things made that we can show to the broadest cross section of people. By having two versions, we can have a more fully realized vision that pleases us and a tamer version that is interesting to a larger segment of people.
One of the cool and surprising parts of this is how we found Stephen Baskerville. He’s the artist and we found his work on the internet and ultimately engaged him. The two parts that are crazy to me is the fact that he is based in Bath, England and the fact that he turned the art work around so quickly, did such a terrific job and that our edits were the minarets of the minor. I give a ton of credit to you for your adaption from our original screenplay format into the graphic novel script format. My guess is that you storyboarded the ideas so well from our original story that it was easy for Stephen to understand. It seems like he had the structure to implement what we wanted with the flexibility to inject his own style and ideas.
Jim, remind me how we found Stephen- I know we had a devil of a time agreeing on the artists tone and style and then finding an artist/group that we felt like we could trust. I’m stunned that we let ourselves (two reformed lawyers!) take a chance on an overseas artist. We believed in the Stephen’s art. However, I don’t know about you, but I was terrified when we got the first pencils. I didn’t know what we were going to get. I was so happy with what I saw- the first samples were amazing. it was a huge relief. What were your thoughts around that?”