Busy with book stuff, but here’s a bedtime story I’ve been saving. Except it isn’t a really bedtime story. But it is how the artist Dave McKean answered my favorite question, and his answer certainly qualifies as an early influence, so I say it counts.
The first thing I really remember sort of having an affect was this terrible, boring, bland, banal television program called Nationwide that was on in England at about 6 oclock. It was just local news, it was dull and boring. And, you know, you’d come home from school, my Dad would come home from work, and it was just on in background, we’d have some tea. It was just drab stuff, you know, go out to see the latest patch of cabbages growing in Norfolk, I mean it was just dreadful stuff. And one evening they said “Now we’re going over to the Isle of Wright for a story, and younger viewers may find this disturbing.” This had never I mean this was really a strange thing to say, and we all went like this [slowly turns head away from imaginary tea to imaginary television] and this piece came up with these families reporting that they had seen this figure who was erect like a man, but very shaggy. And people had been calling it a wolfman. And this particular couple said that they had woken up at three in the morning and seen this figure in their doorway, and it bounded down the stairs and out of the house. Now the context is the thing, the context is banal program about local events, and it was a strange story, totally deadpan, absolutely played straight. I still don’t know if they were joking. It might have been April the First, might have been a stupid joke like the spaghetti trees. It might have been, but I still don’t know, and it terrified me. It absolutely terrified me, and I absolutely remember, with the hallway there in the doorway, doing this [wakes up with a start, checks the imaginary doorway] to see if the wolfman was there.
You don’t know what you take from these things, but I think what I took from it is context is everything. You play one expectation against something else. It’s very powerful. And actually that’s something I’ve always tried to do in the stories, the things that we’ve done. You think you know its one kind of story, and you twist it or change it…
(Transcribed from the Q&A following this event.)