Eli Shockey is an author, creator, and mentor. Most importantly for us, he is the mastermind behind the captivating ‘Greylock’ comic book series. Beyond the pages of his spellbinding tales lies a man with a heart dedicated to making a difference. While his imagination delivers complicated stories, he draws his inspiration from real-life experiences and transports them to a not-so-invisible magical realm filled with lots of action, fantasy creatures, and inequality.
We had an opportunity to chat with Eli about his upcoming ‘Greylock’ series, so we took it and gained a better insight into his creative process, inspiration & how his magical world works in general.
Comic Basic: What was the main inspiration behind ‘Greylock.’ I’d like to know more about this mix of High Fantasy, wandslingers, and dystopia. I’m a huge fan of high-fantasy settings, and I honestly enjoy the world-building sometimes more than the stories themselves, so what inspired it?
Eli Shockey: What inspired me was the fact that I was in the middle of developing the Greylock, and I originally had it as a hidden world story. I also had an idea about this Monster Hunter being in this fantasy world that lives underneath the surface. I realized that urban fantasy was already crowded with “hidden world” stories when people didn’t know what was going on.
I figured it would be more interesting to see the effect of that magical world on our society. It would be much more interesting to see how our world would look if these species had been there from the beginning and everybody was just sharing the same planet together.
The ‘hidden world’ truly did become a cliche in the last couple of years. It’s also much more difficult to set up and sell. The main character in your book is the so-called ‘Greylock’ It’s implied over the course of the story that he has done something really bad, and basically, being a Greylock means you have a brand of shame on your, so to speak, and there are a lot of parties trying to eliminate you. So what are Greylocks exactly?
Greylocks are essentially taken from the Mennonite culture of shunning. In some of the areas that I grew up in, there are a lot of Mennonites and Amish folks, and I’ve seen that when one of them does something bad, they can get shunned.
Nobody is talking to you. They can’t take part in their own community. They can’t part in anything that is beneficial to being part of that community.
In Greylock’s world, the House of Magi is this overbranching, essentially magical UN, and they run most of the stuff. It’s one big bloated bureaucracy. And if you commit a crime against any of them, no matter the severity of the crime, you will get shunned. It can me something as small as mugging, or it can be something as big as killing a house mage. It will all result in being branded a Greylock.
Everything runs through the House of Magi. The schools, most jobs, social programs, things like that. I work in juvenile justice, and there’s that stigma of committing a crime, and even after you’ve served your sentence, there are still parts of the community that you’re just not allowed to participate in anymore. And this concept was kind of my basis for Greylocks.
When you’re a Greylock, no one is really allowed to help you. You’re kind of on your own, and there’s a life expectancy of pretty much a year or three years, and that’s it.
Ok, so the Greylock is the main character, and he is also black and hunts vampires, just like one iconic character from Marvel. To what extent was Greylock inspired by Blade?
Yeah, I laughed a lot when I saw that question because I was like, yeah, definitely. Blade was a huge inspiration for me when I was growing up. It’s one of my favorite movies and one of my favorite comic book characters growing up. Blade was a really big inspiration for it.
Being biracial myself and having a black experience in America, it was really cool to see somebody like that on the big screen. I felt represented, and it really stuck with me.
There are a lot of mythical stories and fantasy stories about all these monster hunters. But they’re usually white men with long flowing hair, like Van Helsing, Hercules etc. They are usually depicted as that, and there should really be more other people represented in monster-hunting stories.
I totally agree, Blade is kind of a universal symbol of badassery. He’s also one of my favorite characters. And even though I’m white and a woman, I FEEL represented by him. I associate with him on a very deep and personal level. We need more “Blade-type” no-nonsense characters. But I digress. I saw on your website that you like to mix anti-capitalist themes in your work. You also mentioned that House of Magi pretty much runs everything. I guess you could draw parallels between this and corporations. And I was wondering whether House of Magi was actually that representative of capitalism in Greylock?
Yes, Greylock is very much a dystopian story. The art is cyberpunk, and you know a big part of cyberpunk is always corporations taking over. It’s a very capitalist and bloated way of ruling. It’s very much an oligarchy, and these small families that are ruling are maintaining a huge amount of wealth. They are essentially hoarding the best magic for themselves.
In the story, you’ll see people using wands, and you’ll see people using a scepter like Greylock uses, or guns and stuff like that, and bows. This House of Magi mages are just using their hands.
Atagun and I sat down and tried to figure out the best way to visually convey the differences between those castes in society. So casting magic by hand – this is how somebody in the upper echelon of society would use magic.
So, speaking of Atagun, you’ve collaborated with him. I already did an interview on ‘Knight Terrors: Poison Ivy’ with him. So I’m familiar with his work, but how did the two of you come up with ‘Greylock’?
Both Atagun and I worked for ‘Mad Cave’ a couple of years ago. And during that time, I told him that I had something planned that he would have liked. We hit it off immediately. I sent him the first issue of it. He definitely latched on to it.
It was also an easy connection with him because he lived 30-45 minutes away from me. It was an easy connection due to our close proximity but also our interests aligned. It took a year for us to develop the story from the ground up.
We agreed on the open world and not a hidden world. We would talk about the style a lot. Pinterest boards are a very big thing for us when we collaborate. I think we have a Pinterest board that has like 6000 pins or something.
At the very least, he gets annoyed because I pin more stuff than he does. We’re on the same page when it comes to most of the things. We have a good collaboration going on and a friendship where I can say something, and he knows exactly what I mean. He can translate it, or he’ll give me an idea.
But you did say most of the things. What are some of the things that you did not agree on?
He’s more fashionable than I am. I don’t know if you saw and read the last part. There’s an original Greylock design. The first design was my idea, and it was super weird looking. Again he translated it exactly like I was thinking. I gave him the references, and it came out looking super stoic, very Westernized, and very knightly.
We worked on it until it matched his personality. We eventually came up with this very utilitarian Greylock smock. I think it looks cool, but I’m biased.
Something just occured to me, is Greylock technically a superhero? If anyone in that world can use magic, does that make him a superhero or just an average guy?
The way I look at Greylock, he is a glorifiedexterminator with a side job as a Hitman. His job is pest control; in a city filled with magical creatures, there’s bound to be ones that the more evolved look down on. And if these magical beasts, like the vampires and such, nest in your house, you call him, and he will get rid of it for you.
For us, it sounds glamorous, but in their world, it’s not like a super glamorous thing. We think of Hercules and the likes, but in his world, it’s not the best job in the world. It’s the one he is very good at. He excels at it, but it’s very much looked down upon.
I wouldn’t say that Greylock is a superhero, mainly because, as you’ve said, everybody can do magic. It’s an easily accessible resource. He just learned how to use it in a way that helps him most efficiently.
So you mentioned that you work in a juvenile detention center. I guess when you work with troubled youth, you’ve heard some things and seen some things. My question is, were any of your works, current or previous, inspired by some of your stories from work?
I work in a juvenile detention center as a counselor, and I spent a few years counseling folks in the community. It’s either people that spent their entire life in prison or on probation.
Most of the kids that I work with can’t stay away from superhero comics and movies. They can’t stay away from all these stories of people in costumes essentially beating up somebody that had the same job as them at one point.
You would see somebody mugging somebody, somebody stealing your car or selling drugs, and the superhero comes and beats them up. And these are the crimes that a lot of my kids have committed in order to get incarcerated.
I saw the dichotomy between that because they are rooting for the person beating them up. Essentially they have this really strange moral question. They see in these books that the person that is beating them up is in the right, and the crime that they have committed as the bad guy, so they constantly see themselves as the bad guy.
I wanted to beg the question of, you know, having somebody having grown up in a life of crime and doing this stuff and choosing something more than survival. A lot of the time, working with these kids, survival is essentially the best they are going to get you know. Not a lot of resources, not a lot of support in their home lives. Survival is pretty much all they can manage.
When I’m counseling them, it’s all about how survival is not enough. You have to want something, something more out of life. To be able to do something more. A big part of the message of Greylock is what I try to teach my kids. Survival is not enough, and it’s never going to be enough.
What’s your opinion on the current state of comics and the superhero world in general? Do you think that the sudden popularity of the MCU put the actual source material on the back seat?
In my opinion, if you’re going to translate anything into a different medium in general, I think that you shouldn’t try to stick as close as you can to the source material because the audiences are going to try to pick that apart.
The closer you stay to the source material, the worse it gets if people are really die-hard about it. If you say you’re going to adapt this specific thing, I think you’re setting yourself up for failure. I prefer making it your own work. What makes this character work?
Like Spider-Man, for example. “With great power comes great responsibility” it’s baked right in there. It’s been said 20 billion times in the comics, and each movie finds a different way of doing it. There are different ways to make it your own, and I think that is a good way of honoring the material.
When you try to adapt something shot for shot, it ends up cheapening it a little bit because if you wanted to see the original, you already had it on the pages, and some things really wouldn’t make any sense on the screen.
So you wouldn’t mind ‘Greylock’ being adapted to a live-action or animated series?
I would mind it being adapted to live-action, absolutely. I don’t think it would work because of the magic high fantasy element. I think the FX budget would break the studio. The comics are great because I can do whatever I want.
So I think you would need the GDP of a small nation in order to make it somewhere close to it. I think animation would probably be close to actually doing it justice. It would be awesome, but it’s not the main goal.
So speaking of upcoming and potential projects, what’s cooking after Greylock?
So my main goal currently is the ‘Greylock.’ Y’all need to preorder it, and you can do this by following this link. Y’all need to tell everybody about it. Tell your Mama, tell your friends, tell your babies, tell everybody you know. Just because I think it’s a great story, and preorders are essential in comics.
You know, I am currently working on what could be ‘Greylock’ volume 2 if that’s something that people want. If they like the series when it comes out. I got it cooking, but they got to make it happen right. I am currently on an anthology – The Amaranthine.
I’ve got a Kickstarter that I’m working on, but not anything ready to announce besides the ‘Greylock.’
If you could write about any iconic superhero or villain, which one would you choose?
For the villain, I would definitely go with the Hulk because I think he has a destiny to inevitably become the villain. Like in Peter David’s canon, he essentially ends up as the Maestro. I’d love to write something about that and, like, just the current comics timeline, not something far in the future.
As for the hero, I would really kill a Midnight Sons if Marvel came to me tomorrow and said, what you want to write, I’d probably do Midnight Sons. I know I would do a fantastic job on that.
You can check out the ‘Greylock’ series as well as other Eli’s other works and projects by following this link as well as his official site. He’s pretty active on social media as well, so give him a follow: Insta/ Twitter: @staticshockey ; TikTok: TheGreylock