Adam Gorham Talks Punk Mambo’s Punk Style and the Balance of Horror Plus an Early Look at Punk Mambo #2
Punk Mambo is out now courtesy of writer Cullen Bunn and artist Adam Gorham. Punk Mambo is a hard-living voodoo priestess who grew up in London, then relocated to Louisiana’s Bayou Country. Now, she’s a mystical mercenary for hire. In her first-ever solo series, Punk Mambo investigates a series of abductions in the New Orleans gutter punk scene, stumbling upon a deadlier mystery that takes her to the haunted shores of Haiti.
We got to talk to Cullen about this new series and now we get to talk to Adam Gorham about the punk influences of the comic and the balance of horror visuals.
Graphic Policy: Punk Mambo has the word “punk” in it and brings up that aesthetic. Did that music and style have an influence on how you approach the look of the series? Did any particular music influence you?
Adam Gorham: I don’t listen to much punk or very hard music; my tastes lean toward the folk-y alternative end of the musical spectrum. The punk aesthetic is one I’m familiar with, though, and is a lot of fun to explore in terms of drawing this character. With Punk’s overall look I kept it simple because I’d have to draw her on virtually every page, so I did away with many accessories I once considered for efficiency’s sake. My variant covers are where I did the most digging for punk rock influence. Early on, my editor, Lysa [Hawkins], had the idea of treating my covers as punk show flyers, giving them that vibe. So we looked at numerous album covers, posters, flyers, etc. It’s been very fun.
GP: Voodoo plays into the series. Did you do some research into that when designing the look and art? Was there anything about that religion as far as that that stood out to you?
AG: Early on I thought about how best to incorporate Voodoo iconography into my pages. I wanted to be sensitive because I came to the property largely unfamiliar with Voodoo folklore or as a religion. We are exploring the folklore. [Writer] Cullen [Bunn] is very courteous in his scripts because he’d write notes about what imagery he wanted in there, and what the mythological backgrounds of the Ioa are. It was very helpful. It reminded me of American Gods, seeing deities portrayed through a contemporary lens. In other words, I shied away from using symbols and iconography I didn’t fully understand and instead gave the supernatural elements in our series my own flavor.
GP: The character is relatively new. When it comes to the art, does that free you up at all as far as style and look?
AG: Working on Punk Mambo has been really gratifying for me because I’ve been able to draw it in a way that feels naturally to me. Valiant as a whole is so supportive. They’ve allowed me to up my game here by allowing me to make this character and series my own. I was new to the character, and I’ve come to adore her.
GP: Horror can be over the top scary and also relatively mild, it really runs the gamut. Does that cross your mind at all? Was there anything you’ve done for the series that was too over the top you needed to go back and tone down?
AG: Here and there, I toned down gore and violence for certain action beats. I’m not opposed to getting nasty with horrific violence, but the tone of Cullen’s scripts just didn’t call for anything too mean. Cullen obviously is skilled at writing horror, but horror has many notes and I believe he knows when and how to play them. While Punk Mambo is certainly in horror territory, I think the heart of this story is about Punk Mambo discovering the roots of her magical abilities and how to appreciate them when they’re gone.
GP: When tackling that, there’s in your face horror and psychological where the reader/viewer’s mind does the real scares. Did you think about that at all as you put together the series?
AG: I certainly did. I really love composing a scene where something gnarly happens, but building atmosphere is important, too. I’ve been able to do plenty of both so far. Hopefully, readers feel they’re getting a bit of everything in Punk Mambo as it progresses.
GP: Thanks so much for chatting and looking forward to what the rest of the series brings!