Erika Price is an independent comic writer-artist whose work is as experimental as it is visually startling, straddling the line between body horror and outsider art. Ever gracious, Erika agreed to answer some of my questions…
JLW: Your Disorder series is described as ‘dark and surreal short horror comics created as art therapy’. Does horror have a unique therapeutic power for you?
Erika: Absolutely, for me horror inherited a lot of the language and visual traditions of German Expressionism, which was an art style frequently used to process difficult and traumatic experiences, and so the genre lends itself to that very easily, both for creators and for audiences too.
Disorder primarily works with body horror too which again was a sub genre that was coined at the time for art made to process deeply traumatic events such as the aids crisis. I believe horror inherently lends itself to the voices of those society has hurt and repressed.
As a trans woman in the UK I’m very aware of the toll that people’s feelings of entitlement over your body, and the media’s obsessive desire to turn people into something for consumption can have on a person
Where do you start with a strip? Do you start with a concept or is it more a case of a single image flashing up in your mind?
It varies from project to project, with Disorder specifically things are very loose and modular, I might have a theme or song, or thing I specifically want to talk about in mind when I start, or I might sit and do automatic writing and cut ups until something comes out of it as a point of instigation.
Frequently with the scripts for Disorder I’ll write it, then scrap the visuals and redo them, then scrap the written componant and redo that, or keep parts but rearrange them, it’s a very modular project. Conversely a lot of the comics for Skin were originally done for zines with specific themes in the brief. Other projects have just sparked out of particular images or genres that resonated and felt like they would be a space to explore particular things.
Reading This Dread Disease We Call Skin, I got a real sense of the borders between the body and the world beyond the body losing all definition. Town-folk become their town made flesh and a patient grows screens on their skin, gateways to the media landscape. On the first read it’s horrific but on second reading I got a sense of… I dunno… of physical liberation and power I guess, of transcending limits. Am I barking up the wrong tree here? Or am I just rambling?
The wrong tree is a bit of a strong word, I’d say more a tree I wasn’t looking at at the time of writing. The blending of bodies with towns and media devices is talking about the particular horror of being part of a group of people that society feels ownership over and entitled to consume. As a trans woman in the UK I’m very aware of the toll that people’s feelings of entitlement over your body, and the media’s obsessive desire to turn people into something for consumption can have on a person. More widely the book is about how isolation and alienation from others hurt and warp us.
Clearly something keeps compelling me to work this way, possibly masochism…
How is the indie comic scene right now? Is it a place one can be transgressive and experimental within or have things become stuck in their ways?
I think currently the indie comic scene, like all of us are desperately hoping to be allowed outside again! But yes, indie comics definitely has spaces for people to be experimental, it’s a scene driven largely by love for the medium, and in the uk it’s a small enough scene that folks don’t get too tribal in terms of genre, or experimentation, and as such theres a lot of cross pollination and folks reading each others work even if they are making wildly different things, which I think is healthy for an artform.
Your pages and panels can get wonderfully intricate. Do they take a long time? Do you zone out/hit a meditative state when you do them?
They do take a long time yes! Too long probably, but clearly something keeps compelling me to work this way, possibly masochism. There certainly are parts that are meditative.
Do you listen to music as you create? If so, what?
I do yes, I listen to a lot of trans musicians when I work, such as Black Dresses, Backxwash, Censored Dialogue, Lauren Bousfield.
I like that connection to other trans people while working, I feel like so much of the art we make is part of a chain and that both seperately and together we’ve developed a visual and thematic language to talk about how it is to exist in this world, being a part of that is wonderful.
Thank you Erika!
Erika Price’s comics and prints can be obtained HERE.