Jill Thompson’s “Scary Godmother” flies again in October, courtesy of Dark Horse. Originally published as comics and hardcovers by Sirius Entertainment and adapted into animated specials by Mainframe Entertainment, several of the red-haired fairy-witch’s adventures are currently out of print, a situation that will presently be addressed with the Dark Horse volumes, the first of which collects the fully-painted stories, “Scary Godmother,” “Revenge of Jimmy,” “The Mystery Date,” and “The Boo Flu,” with additional bonus material. CBR News spoke with Thompson about the new collection (advance solicited in this month’s Diamond Previews), the recently announced new “Little Endless Storybook” for Vertigo as well as the upcoming “Beasts of Burden/Hellboy” written by Evan Dorkin, about the past and future of “Scary Godmother” and creating stories for young readers.
Each of the “Scary Godmother” stories center around the title character, who lives in the perpetual Halloween world of the Fright Side; Hannah, the goddaughter; Scary Godmother’s pet ghost Boozle; Mister Pettibone, the Skeleton in the Closet; Bug-a-Boo, the monster who lives under Hannah’s bed; and Hannah’s human cousin Jimmy. The first book, titled simply “Scary Godmother,” was published in 1997, while “Ghoul’s Out for Summer,” the most recent new material, hit as a six-issue miniseries in 2003. Thompson was also involved in the two animated specials, which first aired in 2003 and 2005.
Thompson’s motivation for releasing the new Dark Horse editions was simple: “I wanted them to be in print again! And working with Dark Horse on ‘Beasts of Burden’ has been really great,” she added. “I love the looks of their product…and they were very enthusiastic about being the new publisher of ‘Scary Godmother!’ Definitely a response I was looking for when I was shopping around for ‘Scary Godmother’s’ new home.
“What we are planning is to package all of the color stories in one volume, including the story that was in the ‘Trilogy Tour II’ book, and a bit of additional material,” Thompson said. “We will also package all of the comic book, black and white stories in a second volume. I’m quite excited to have all of the material out there again.
“I actually have enough extra art to fill a sketchbook or something, doodles and li’l paintings and all of the art I did when we were working on the TV shows…”
Beyond making the original “Scary Godmother” books available again, Thompson is hoping to get a jump on new stories, as well. “I would love to do two more hardcover stories, much like the original books. I’ve had them in my head for a while, so I’d like to be able to get them down on paper and into readers’ hands, of course. We’ll have to see if Dark Horse is interested in that,” Thompson told CBR.
“I’d also love to do more comic stories,” she continued. “I’d have to gather my notebooks and look back at stories that I was going to tell and see if they are still workable. I’m hoping fan reaction will be great for the reissue and there will be a place on the shelves, apps, iPads for new ‘Scary Godmother’ stories. There’s a whole group of fans who are only familiar with ‘Scary Godmother’ as animated Halloween specials on Cartoon Network. I’m hoping that they will enjoy seeing the material the show was based on!”
And while the new edition of “Scary Godmother” is set to drop just in time for Halloween,” Thompson is quick to ensure readers that the book can be enjoyed year round. “While these ‘Scary Godmother’ stories all take place on Halloween, the characters are able to move easily to stories that have nothing at all to do with the holiday,” she said. “Think the ‘Addams Family’ and the ‘Andy Griffith Show’ mash up! It’s a slightly gothic, totally silly, spooky fun comic that mixes in all of the things that I love – Halloween, monsters, wrestling, cooking, craft, humor and fun all in one comic!
“I just want people to read it and like it, maybe laugh, maybe learn something and just have a good time!”
After building a name for herself as an artist on “Wonder Woman,” “Sandman” and several other Vertigo and indie titles, “Scary Godmother” was some of Thompson’s earliest material for kids. Since then, she has gone on to create the “Magic Trixie” trilogy, the “Sandman”-inspired “Little Endless Storybooks” and other stories geared towards younger readers. The shift, which is not definitive – “Beasts of Burden,” while visually cute, is not in the same vein – was initiated in part due to misperceptions of the comics medium. “Well, I’ve worked on so many comics like ‘Sandman’ and the ‘Invisibles’ and ‘Seekers: Into the Mystery’ that are for adult readers. And of course, that does not mean that they are graphic in nature, but their subject matter is definitely rated R,” Thompson explained. “But what I found was that when I would have friends over and show them the comics, they would hand it off to their kids! And when I’d say ‘Ooh! Hey, you shouldn’t let them look at that comic, there’s some more…mature themes in there…’ I’d get this response: ‘But it’s a comic. Comics are for kids.’ And then I’d have to filibuster for a while to explain why not all comics are for kids and how most comics are for teens and older. Which got me thinking about the types of comics that I first started reading when I started reading comics. Just cool, good stories, not something that would talk down to kids or pander to them. Nor were they stories that existed solely to sell toys or games. Fun stories or adventure stories that I would be able to enjoy now and then feel totally good about handing off to any of my nieces or godsons. And when I looked around, I found that there were very few that fit the bill.
“Plus, how are we going to cultivate new readers of comics if we don’t have material to introduce them to the format as they are exploring their reading options? So I wanted to create something that I would enjoy but also could be enjoyed by readers of all ages.”
Also on the all-ages front, Thompson has recently announced a new “Little Endless Storybook,” titled “Delirium’s Party,” which will be released by Vertigo in 2011. As to why she’s returning to the miniaturized “Sandman” characters now, Thompson said, “I’d always had two stories in mind when I was working on the original ‘Little Endless Storybook.’ I was trying to think of a third so I could have pitched three books and then have them collected into a larger volume! I finally got a green light on this [second] story – and I’m so happy that I get to do it. The decision to return to these characters is not entirely up to me. If only things were that simple – I would have three projects in the pipeline! Ha! It has to be okayed by the big bosses up at sparkling DC Comics towers!”
As Thompson mentioned earlier and as fans of the series will no doubt be aware, the source material of Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” would hardly seem a natural fit for kid-friendly fare, but this unexpected change of register may be part of what makes the “Little Endless” concept work so well. “The first story that I illustrated in ‘Sandman’ was titled ‘The Parliament of Rooks.’ It involved Cain and Abel and Eve telling Daniel, son of Lyta Hall, different stories after he wanders into the Dreaming. The final story was told by Abel and Neil [Gaiman] had asked for the characters of Death and Dream to be drawn in a really cutie pie style, perhaps like Sugar and Spike by Sheldon Mayer,” Thompson said of the spin-off’s origin. “I asked if he specifically wanted me to do that style or did he want something uber cute, because I knew a style that is the cutest of all!
“I mentioned that in Japanese comics they draw these chibi versions of characters. Kind of like ‘Hello Kitty,’ where the heads are enormous and the eyes are way down on the bottom of their faces. Neil told me to draw what I thought was the cutest. So I drew chibi versions of Dream and Death and Cain and Abel in that story. It got incredible fan reaction and it made me decide to draw the rest of the family that way as well,” she continued. “Then I painted a version of them and showed it to Neil, who loved it. He began taking copies of the painting with him to signings where fans could buy a copy and donate to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Well, I think there are thousands of copies of that original copy out there. Fans really loved the characters drawn this way. They asked me for sketches and products every time I was at a convention. And while I cannot mass produce products based on characters I do not own, I can most definitely create little stories to be published. And that is the long winded yet ‘short for Jill’ version of how the idea came about.
“Why does it work so well? Could it be that you enjoy seeing them as li’l babies because you know and love them so well as their adult versions and it’s funny to see them like that? I’m not sure, but it’s been a request for me to draw other characters and even real people in that style ever since I started drawing the Endless that way. Makes folks giggle, I guess. It just works.”
The new book will have some fun with the dynamics between the Endless characters. “‘Delirium’s Party’ is the story of what happens when Delirium realizes that she has never seen her sister Despair smile and what she does after that,” Thompson said. “Delirium is such a fun character to work with and Despair is such a great ‘straight man,’ more so than Dream and he’s such a good comedic foil being so proper and otherworldly…it just seemed natural to set them up in a situation where I could play them off each other.”