Earlier, Facts in the Case brought you some photos from the ghouls photo shoot from Providence #7. We contacted the ghoul designer Susanna Peretz of SusannaPeretzFX who was generous enough to provide additional background about the photo shoot that resulted in one of the great visuals for Providence. The interview was conducted over email last week. We added links and a few visuals from SusannaPeretzFX Providence portfolio webpage.
Facts in the Case of Alan Moore’s Providence: Tell our readers a bit about you. Where are you based? What’s your background? What do you specialize in?
Susanna Peretz: I’m based in London. My background is in fine art, sculpting, mold making, make up, prosthetics, hair and wigs. I run my own fx studio where we provide all of the above.
You’ve collaborated in the past with Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins. Could you tell our readers a bit about some of these past projects?
I worked with Alan and Mitch on Jimmy’s End and His Heavy Heart, two short films that developed into the feature length film Showpieces which has just been released as part of a Box Set available from Amazon. The films were shot in Northampton which as I’m sure you know is Alan’s home town. The world in which part of this story is set is actually called Nighthampton – a dark mirror image of the town.
How did you collaborate with Providence artist Jacen Burrows? What came first? Did your ghoul designs follow Burrows’ ghoul drawings, or did Burrows’ drawings follow what you were doing with the prosthetics? Did you both work from descriptions from Alan Moore and/or H.P. Lovecraft?
Alan has a very vivid imagination and the brief came from him as well as an initial sketch of how he envisaged the ghouls. I am a Lovecraft fan anyway so am familiar with his style.
My process started with research into different images that related to Alan’s description. This took in studies of everything from gargoyles to monkeys to bats, canine and feline features, facial structures and teeth. Everything went in the melting pot of ideas prior to the initial sculpt which I then showed to Mitch and Alan. I believe the illustrations came after this. It was a long process!
(note: see Burrow’s later comments below)
Alan Moore is renown for lengthy comics scripts. Did he write a “script” specifically for this panel, or was it just part of Providence #7 script? How long were his instructions? Could you share any particulars?
Alan wrote a meticulously detailed script for each panel of the comic as well as a history of the ghouls, their development within society and their eventual unfortunate status as barely glimpsed outsiders living beneath Boston, growing in resentment of their human overlords. It’s a pleasure working with such rich material. The backstory of these characters is intrinsic to the final design.
Was Alan Moore present at the ghoul photo shoot? If so, tell us about how that went, what he did or said?
It was a tight schedule for the shoot over a few hours in a London location so Alan was not present but has such faith in his team that he trusts us to get the right results!
However when Alan is on a shoot he likes to get in front of the camera. We recently made a short film to promote Cinema Purgatorio – a new comic of Alan’s in which Alan delivered an introductory monologue in character as a teddy boy looking back on his mis spent youth in the darkened cinema.
What are the ghoul prosthetics made out of? What is your process to create them?
The prosthetics are made of silicon. I decided for them to be pull on masks in order to make their application as quick as possible as we had three actors to put into the make up within a limited time period.
The process involved creating a life cast – a plaster copy of the actor’s head like a bust – on which to sculpt the mask. Once the mask had been molded and cast it is painted and finished with each individual hair punched in with a customised needle to create a natural looking hairline.
We’re interested in credit where credit is due. You created the prosthetics and make up. Mitch Jenkins took the photo. Are there other individuals to acknowledge in producing this panel? The models? Others?
I had help from my assistant Jennifer Drew during the making process as well as on the day of the shoot. The police officer in the panel is actor Andrew Buckley who also plays Bobbles the Clown in Showpieces where he is pretty much unrecognisable under my make up design.
According to John Higgs, Alan Moore called this “the most expensive panel in comic history.” Can you give our readers a rough sense for what the overall cost for this was?
The products and materials alone came to around two thousand pounds [nearly $3,000 U.S.]. On top of that you have to consider two months work to produce the pieces, studio costs, assistant’s fees, actor’s fees, location hire, camera, lighting… It all adds up but it is this attention to detail and realism that sets Alan’s work apart.
There may be a market for comics collectors interested in purchasing items related to Providence. Would you be be interested in selling any ghoul prosthetics, or other related objects?
I’d be interested in creating limited edition pieces based on my work for Alan. It’s something that could be available at a later date.
Anything else you’d like to share about working on Providence and/or working with Alan Moore?
I love working with both Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins. They are something of a dynamic duo. They are both unafraid to push boundaries and are very inclusive to their team. It’s a joy to be a part of their projects and incredibly nourishing for your own creativity to have such inspired and inspiring people respecting and supporting your own ideas. Alan’s knowledge of history, literature, politics and mythology is quite staggering. The conversation could go anywhere when Alan is around.
Addendum: We asked Jacen Burrows if he saw see Peretz’ images before he drew Providence #7. He responded: “I did a few drafts of designs early on for Alan so we had a design on the comic side. Later on, I saw early versions of the photos and modified King George to match those a little more when I got to drawing the interiors. But my initial design and the one they used were really similar so I assumed they had seen them. If not, Alan was probably steering us both towards the same goal through the process. But I never had direct contact with anyone except my editor.”