As summer gives way to fall and the warm days dissipate into cold nights, the darker elements of the world begin to reveal themselves. It’s appropriate, then, that “Halloween Eve,” a Kickstarter campaign-funded one-shot published through Image Comics, writer Brandon Montclare (“Fear Itself: Fearsome Foursome”) and artist Amy Reeder (“Batwoman”) would make itself known in early October. The comic combines the efforts of the former editor/artist team behind the Matt Wagner-written “Madame Xanadu” at Vertigo to tell the tale of Eve, a girl whose imagination is about to catapult her and her co-workers into a land of nightmarish danger.
Young Eve works at a costume superstore called Halloween Land, and just before the October 31st holiday, very strange things begin to occur around the shop as Eve and her friends find themselves facing off against the very visages they sell. CBR News spoke with both Montclare and Reeder about the one-shot’s development process, utilizing Kickstarter to get their vision into the hands of readers and their decision to publish the book though Image.
CBR News: You’ve both worked for Marvel and DC in various capacities, so what made you want to bring “Halloween Eve” to Image?
Brandon Montclare: Image Comics is what I think of first when I think “Creator-Owned.” That’s simply the publisher’s foundation. But history aside, the last year or so has really been great for the publisher, and looking forward to what they’re publishing, the next year is even more exciting. That’s not a coincidence. It’s the place where top talent goes to do the projects that matter most to them.
Amy Reeder: Image really is great! For “Halloween Eve,” I’m penciling, inking, coloring, even lettering the book. With Brandon, I own this 100%. At Image, that 100% is creatively on the page, but also [includes] the rights to the finished project. Nobody can tell me how to do it, or what to do with it. And that’s how Image likes it! There’s no fight for that kind of control. More than that, they’ve been enthusiastic and helpful with everything — from picking up the book almost immediately to promotions to production. It’s the best of all worlds, except that they don’t pay you a page rate (which is of course the way it has to be, since you’re working for yourself instead of working for them).
Did your Kickstarter campaign affect with where the book landed? In fact, what was your overall experience like with Kickstarter?
Reeder: Kickstarter came into play because we needed to finance the book. We were setting up the Kickstarter stuff before we had the Image deal. We inquired at Image and a couple other places to see who was interested. If we didn’t find a publishing partner, we were probably going to try to entirely self-publish. But either way, a full-color book is expensive and time consuming.
Montclare: [Kickstarter] was a great experience. To be able to interact with the fans and supporters — in fact, we’re still interacting with them, sharing the process of finishing the book and other behind-the-scenes stuff. I can’t say enough about how validating the whole process is, and I think Amy agrees. Kickstarter is a big deal; it evidences the demand for your comics. For freelancers who are separated from readers by the publisher, it’s sometimes difficult to understand how much your fans value the work. That comes at a price, of course: You don’t have all the support of a traditional publisher. Kickstarter is a lot of work, but it’s a viable, alternative way of doing things — and that’s been very interesting for us.â€¨
How did you wind up teaming-up on “Halloween Eve?” Was it the direct result of working together on “Madame Xanadu?”
Reeder: Basically it simply grew out of our friendship. Brandon was my editor on “Madame Xanadu” at Vertigo, and before that he was directly involved with me getting hired for my first professional assignment at TokyoPop. So we’ve known each other for all of our “professional” lives. I needed a break from DC and other people’s characters, but going out on your own is daunting! Plus, I wanted something that would be on the shelves in a relatively short amount of time. And last but not least, I was, frankly, a bit shellshocked from my experiences on “Batwoman,” so I needed a partner who I could trust, someone who gets me.
Montclare: I’m, of course, amazingly flattered to be working with Amy. After coming off her contract with DC, she’s had no shortage of offers. I haven’t done a ton of writing, but most of the work has been with really big names — Michael Kaluta, Shane Davis, Simon Bisley. Part of that is certainly that they all know me. But beyond that I really try to tailor what I’m writing to their artistic strengths and preferences. I think it’s the editor in me.
Reeder: I know Brandon’s writing — even stuff that hasn’t been published yet — and I really like all of it. He’s an immensely supportive collaborator. As my editor, Brandon was never heavy-handed in ways that you hear horror stories about. Since I’m doing everything art-wise, I wanted to work with someone who’d not just give me my space, but create a story that’s really best served by letting me do my own thing on the page.â€¨â€¨Was the concept behind Eve and her imagination coming to life something one of you brought to the other or one that you came up with together?
Montclare: I came up with the initial idea.Â I live across the street from a gigantic Halloween costume shop in Greenwich Village, so a little bit of “Halloween Eve” is “writing what you know.”Â At first, Amy wasn’t very high on the idea.Â We were trying to work it out at a sushi place on Bleecker, and at one point I was going to suggest a totally different kind of story. But in pretty short order, Amy started adding to it and seeing its potential, making it as much hers as it was mine.
Tell us more about Eve. We know she’s got an incredibly active and dangerous imagination, but how does that manifest itself and how does she react to her new abilities?â€¨â€¨Reeder: Eve gets caught between two worlds. One normal and the other…not. She’s an ordinary girl put into an extraordinary circumstance, so she freaks out! But that’s nothing new, since she’s freaking out in the real world all the time, too. Eve has a lot of ideas about how things work, but unfortunately they’re mostly all wrong! I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that her obstacles are, when you boil them down, really the same in both worlds. Facing yourself is something all young people go through, but for girls especially, it can be the scariest thing in the world.
Montclare: I’ll add that “Halloween Eve” really is a short story. We have to introduce the characters, the “real” world, the “fantasy” world, the conflict and the resolution all in less pages than two monthly comics. It’s a challenge, but all formats have their unique challenges. To make the story work, in a lot of ways it’s just kept very simple. Eve’s concerns are very familiar, but we tried to reflect them in an interesting and unexpected way.
From what I’ve seen of the preview pages, you go really deep into fantasy and horror elements. Were there specific movies, books or shows that influenced what made it onto the page?
Reeder: We drew a lot from “The Wizard of Oz” — it was in Brandon’s story, and I’ve connected to it artistically as well. I even hid some references in the book. For instance, I made sure to include a lion, a tiger and a bear in the book. I’m also a huge fan of the 80s sequel “The Return to Oz,” and I feel like I’ve put some of that in there as well — like, there’s someone who looks like Jack Pumpkinhead’s little brother.
Montclare: “Wizard of Oz” is the most obvious — we even put that one on the cover — but the influences are all those types of stories, where a kid enters a fantastic world and has to make their way back out. It’s funny, Amy and I are doing a weekly podcast where we review comics. It’s just for the Kickstarter backers, but the two we’ve done so far are “Runaways” and “Joe the Barbarian.” Total coincidence, but both of those are, at their core, the same type of story. I also think some of the longer Vertigo series where the worlds reveal themselves have been influential: “Sandman,” obviously, but also things like “Lucifer” or “Books of Magic.” “Nightmare Before Christmas” is something I think about a lot, because that world is as much about the actual “holiday” as it is the monsters that populate it.
How do you work together when creating? What’s your process like for coming up with stories?
Reeder: It’s pretty organic. We’re neighbors and see each other all the time. I feel that I can deviate from Brandon’s script and change anything, right down to the dialogue. Of course, we talk about it first, but that freedom is there. And I definitely go to him with all the art. He sees everything, from roughs to finished pages. Sometimes he’ll spot a mistake or a missed opportunity, and I’m grateful for his second pair of eyes. Plus, the Kickstarter and semi-DIY nature of working at Image has thrown us together on a lot of things ancillary to the artwork, like producing the book or dealing with the distribution. Brandon has experience and knowledge with that stuff even beyond working at DC, which has been essential to making the book a reality.
Montclare: Amy worked “Marvel Style” on “Madame Xanadu” with Matt Wagner. That probably should be clarified as “old” Marvel Style, when the artist would just receive a plot, then draw it and then the writer would go back to add dialogue. The original plan for “Halloween Eve” was to do something along those lines, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I tried, but everything seemed too flat. I was a lot more comfortable putting it all in there, and then letting Amy take it and run any which way she wanted. â€¨â€¨
What was the design process like for Eve, her friends and the creatures going bump in the night?
Reeder: For her friends (or co-workers, rather), I wanted every character to look really different, to the point that they’d be easily recognizable even in silhouette. I figured that would make it more fun as you see them interact, and it makes it easier for readers to follow along. As for the creatures and such, that was a hard one. I’ve had to come up with a lot of different creatures based on common costumes. I wanted to make them both odd and familiar. There’s a page that’s actually an homage to the “Where’s Waldo” books, and I really had to pause and think up all of the possible things I could draw. There are a lot of Easter eggs in there! The nice part was, because it’s a fake world based on costumes — and costumes are already derivative of something else — I did fewer reference searches and just trusted my gut. I figured, if it’s not accurate, even better.
Montclare: I’m smart enough to stay out of the way on the design stuff. Amy is a top notch artist, so I’m just around to watch. What I feel I can do, however, is give her a lot with which to work. Some of this is in the general idea behind the book: Halloween, a female lead, characters who aren’t quite adults, even though they think they are. More specifically, I think everything I put in the script is going to influence her. I’m not talking about the art direction; it’s more the room for interpretation that the writer leaves in there. You want these people and the places to seem real.If you’re too tight with the script there’s going to be a disconnect because someone else is drawing it. So I try to leave a lot of room for interpretation, different layers of meaning, complexity, what have you. That way Amy can pick her emphasis. And Amy does that, putting in the peaks and valleys as she strings together the panels and pages.â€¨
Do you have more “Halloween Eve” stories ready to roll if this one does well? Would future plans include minis or would you stick to the one-shot format?
Montclare: There’re a million things we couldn’t do with Eve in 32 pages, and a billion things we couldn’t do with the world we started building. Amy and I went into this, however, expecting it to just be a satisfying short story.Â Totally self-contained.Â There wasn’t any idea of doing more, but having worked with this story, it’s now a lot more tempting to do more.Â Ultimately, that’s a good sign, whether we do more “Halloween Eve” or not.Â To have something that leaves the reader wanting more is rare.Â I’ve talked to Amy about some new ideas — we’ll see what happens.
Reeder: That’s how I am. I need time to process stuff. Brandon talks too much and too fast, sometimes, but he’s right — the potential has really grown. Plus, I’m happier working on “Halloween Eve” than I’ve been on anything else. That happiness has translated into me being more productive, so if the fans react to it in a big way, then doing more is pretty much inevitable. If that happens, I don’t know the format. A longer series would make sense, since we’ve already done the one-shot.
The very first “Halloween Eve” one-shot goes on sale Oct. 10th from Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder and Image Comics.