“Beasts of Burden,” Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s series about adorable household pets engaging in the serious and sometime bloody work of investigating supernatural events, received the deluxe hardcover treatment this week, courtesy of Dark Horse. The collection includes the recent four-issue miniseries, as well as the Eisner-winning short stories that introduced the heroic dogs (and cat) in “Book of Hauntings” and subsequent “Book of…” titles. CBR is pleased to present several pages of the hardcover’s behind-the-scenes extras, and share a few thoughts from the creators about the “Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites” collection.
“Jill and I are both really pleased with how the book came out, she’s specifically said she was very happy with way her paintings were reproduced, I’m very happy with the design and the size of the book,” Dorkin said. “This is the first time I’ve had something of my own collected in a hardcover edition, so it’s a bit of an occasion for me, and I think it turned out really well and showcases Jill’s art beautifully. And of course its just nice to have all eight stories together in one volume to put on the shelf.”
Thompson added that, for readers who may have missed the series the first time around or don’t have the “Book of…” stories, “this is a great way to not only get all of the stories in one volume, but behind the scenes material and it’s a great value as well.”
“I’m a lot better as selling other people’s work than my own. All I can say is, a good number of folks have enjoyed these stories, they’ve won a few awards if that matters to anyone and some well-known comics creators have said some very nice things about the series,” Dorkin added. “Anyone who is interested in checking the series out can read several of the early short stories online for free or look through the book at their local shop or bookstore and if they like what they see, the collection is a paltry $20. Less on Amazon. You get eight stories that are complete and add up to a larger story being told, with fun characters and terrific painted art. I think it’s a good book, worth every nickel asked, but I’m biased.”
Regarding the bonus material, Thompson told CBR, “I think readers will enjoy getting a peek a the process we go though to create a comic – especially a painted one. People are always asking me about how I paint, how detailed is the drawing I do before I begin painting – and some of those questions will be answered. It’s extra stuff! Everyone likes extra stuff!!”
Dorkin added, “If you’re someone who enjoys Jill’s art, I’d assume the extra material is something you’d be interested in seeing. The same goes for folks who like seeing aspects of production and process. There’s only a snippet of a script page, but it’s not like anyone’s clamoring for that sort of thing, it’s just there as part of an illustration of Jill’s working methods. There is also a new story page slipped in the book.”
Given that “Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites” collects the short stories for the first time as well as the miniseries, CBR asked Dorkin whether seeing all of the material together might reveal how the characters or concept have changed and grown since their debut in “The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings.” “Well, for one thing, the project began as a one-shot short story, and that was supposed to be the end of it. It wasn’t supposed to be a series. Because of this, a few things in that first story have been worked over or have been quietly dropped, such as Jack, the beagle, understanding what his owners are saying in the first story,” Dorkin said. “We’ve established, since then, that the animals, by and large, can only speak with other animals, occult creatures and humans who practice magic or are enchanted or what have you. They can’t understand much of what average folks say beyond repeated phrases, sort of like the ‘Far Side’ strip where human speech is reduced to, ‘blah blah blah, Ginger – .’ But when we did the second story, I realized we needed to start world-building and firming up the characterizations and dealing with how magic works in the stories and all that, I started making notes to keep things straight, and began thinking about why Burden Hill is haunted and where the series can go from that first story. Now I have two notebooks filled and a few files on the computer of story ideas, which I hope we’ll get to use to make more comics.”