When the graphic novel Vitiators was published last year it was by some comic critics immediately crowned as the most disturbing manga ever produced. Inspired by the incredibly bloody, violent, and grotesque Japanese illustrations of the ero guro genre, Vitiators has been described as a mixture of the unapologetic cruelty of Suehiro Maruo, the warped sexual contortions of Shintaro Kago, the griminess of the landscapes of Hideshi Hino, and the metaphysical madness of Junji Ito.
Recently we were approached by its author/creator Elytron Frass who asked us if we would be interested in paying attention to Vitiators, and as we appreciate this extraordinary comic and its sensual depravity, we asked the writer about the origins of, among other things, this work, his appeal to extreme themes, the influence of ero guro and much more.
1) What can you tell us about your background (education, family, etc....?)
EF: Within the arts I choose to operate pseudonymously and as someone who's abandoned their own day to day identity, their past, their future. I'm never present anyway whenever I am not creating something. I find zero value in family, society, and typical behavior. The world those things find purpose in is merely someplace I'd been thrown into and never wanted any part of.
Fig.1. Cover of the graphic novel Vitiators (2022)
2) How did the graphic novel Vitiators come about?
EF: I just needed a receptacle for all the bile that distended me about the abominable traits of fandom and readership, authorship, and even creation itself. After releasing my ero guro novel Liber Exuvia (Fig. ), all of my ideas, my dreams, my intrusive thoughts, came in the form of crudely drawn cartoons. I couldn’t visualize anything outside of that medium so I knew I had to pursue it in some way whether that be through animation or a comic book. I stumbled upon Charles on social media, and we made arrangements to collaborate remotely. I admired the rawness of his drawings and the expressive emotional layers that they managed to draw out from me. The graphic novel format seemed to be the answer for the gross particularities we wanted to express. Personally I wanted to glorify cruelty, the tensions existent between sex and death, and the impossibility of transcendence through transgressive means or otherwise, while at the same time condemning partiality for the victims and perpetrators of these constructs. Through the archetypes explored I wanted to expose their volatile collaborations that rejoice in the fever dream of a petty, self loathing, and heinous god. I never wanted heroism or villainy from graphic novels so much as texts and images that celebrate atrocious acts not in support of but in spite of the ideologies that often accompany them.
Fig. 2. From the Vitiators (2022)
3) Was the project entirely your idea or did the illustrator Charles N. also contribute to this?
EF: Most of the time my script informed what you see on the page but many times Charles would go off-script and show me a sequence that I'd then revise my script to accommodate those improvisations. Yet, going off script wasn't always welcome. We would be at each other's throats one moment and working in beautiful synchronicity the next. We kept the tensions high for the betterment of the work, and not only did it pay off, but we became tighter friends afterwards.
Fig.3. From the Vitiators (2022)
4) What attracts you to the extreme themes as treated in your graphic novels?
EF: If art is the only realm where we can be free then why not be tyrannical in it? Why also be self defeating? Why not abandon all inhibitions? Why not raise as many terrible questions as you possibly can and just delightfully leave them unanswered like bastards found on the doorsteps of strangers?
Fig.4. From the Vitiators (2022)
5) Do you have a pessimistic view of humanity?
EF: I'd like to think there's a better word for my brand of pessimism that hasn't revealed itself yet, since pessimism feels too pejorative. I'm quite pragmatic and enthusiastic about hopelessness and gloom. I see much opportunity and joy in the darkness of things.
Fig.5. Cover of the graphic novel Liber Exuvia (2018)
6) Which ero guro artists did most influence you?
EF: Suehiro Maruo because most of his erotic grotesque work is self serious and avoids both cuteness and typical manga tropes. He is very much influenced by the French Decadent and Symbolist literature movements which I'm also an avid reader of.
7) Why did you identify with the ero guro?
My artistic interests tend to be erotic-grotesque adjacent; so, I try to give back to that medium that's given me so much inspiration.
Fig.6. Promotional artwork for Vitiators done by Charles N. (aka. Stretched Skin)
8) How do you deal with the public reaction on your work?
EF: I've learned to love reaction purely--giving zero fucks whether said reaction is positive or negative. Being ignored is much worse than being despised.
9) Besides ero guro, what other artists influenced you?
EF: Joel-Peter Witkin's photography and Zdzisław Beksiński's paintings are among my favorites to revisit but I'm also moved by alchemical woodcuts and just about any artistic depictions of occultism.
Fig.7. From the Vitiators (2022)
10) Are you familiar with shunga art? If so, what are your thoughts about this art form?
EF: Both classic shunga and what modernists such as the late great Toshio Saeki has reinterpreted as such certainly inspire me. That inspiration is more so represented in my novel Liber Exuvia. Yet even outside of my work, those woodblock prints are something I circle back to often. I tend to like shunga's more fantastical depictions of sexual scenarios--anthropomorphised phalluses, breasts, and vaginas, and of course, and when bats, octopi, and other beasts are depicted copulating with men and women. It feels more symbolic than the typical depictions of coitus and, so, implies a mytholic narrative. I can't help but want to write short stories for that sort of art.
Fig.8. From the Vitiators (2022)
11) Can you make a living as an author?
EF: No, but I can at least make enough chump change to buy the pornographic books of other indie artists I admire without coming out of pocket.
12) Are you working on a new novel? If so, what it will be about?
EF: While I don't want to reveal too much I am currently writing an erotic tête-bêche (a double sided novel) that examines themes of Gnosticism and marital transgression.
Fig.9. From the Vitiators (2022)
Fig.10. From the Vitiators (2022)
Fig. 11. From the Vitiators (2022)
Fig.12. From the Vitiators (2022)
Fig.13. From the Vitiators (2022)
Fig.14. From the Vitiators (2022)
Fig.15. From the Vitiators (2022)
Fig.16. Other artwork by @stretchedskin
Fig.17. Artwork by @stretchedskin
The following video features a comprehensive and compelling review of Vitiators...
You can follow Elytron Frass on Twitter.
Vitiators can be purchased on the following page.(we're not an affiliate)
Click HERE for an interview with the award-winning graphic artist John Coulthart
Sources: Vitiators by and Elytron Frass, theaither,com