It's hard enough being a cop in New York City as it is, with the constant struggle against the forces of terror, not to mention your everyday petty crime. However, it's even harder to imagine how the never ending battle to serve and protect would be waged if a city much like New York was plagued by vampires, werewolves, zombies and other creatures from the depth of the horror genre. That combination would produce the self-published Tales from the Cornerstone, written and illustrated by Andrew Charipar, a Jacksonville, FL based creator. With the first collection of Tales from the Cornerstone due this summer. CBR News spoke with Charipar about the upcoming collection and learned more about the series itself.
In a broad scope, 'Tales from the Cornerstone' is about Cornerstone City, a 'New York'-sized city filled with normal folks going about their normal everyday lives, Charipar told CBR News. Cornerstone City is also inhabited by vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, warlocks and all sorts of arcane creatures. These 'monsters' are so common that everyone thinks life in Cornerstone is 'normal.'
The focus of the first trade collection is a Special Situation Police Task Force assigned to handle all 'special' cases involving vampires, werewolves, witches etc. A Task Force made up of vampires, werewolves and more.
The first trade paperback collection introduces readers to Cornerstone City and its unique status quo, while also spotlighting three very different lead characters. Charipar explained, The first is Detective Ricky 17. He's a huge black 'Frankenstein'-type monster that was built from the spare body parts of the dead. He's incredibly strong, intelligent and brave. He's the leader of the Task Force.
Next up is Ricky 17's partner, Cortez. Cortez is a smooth talking, crude, sexist pig who also happens to be a werewolf. A werewolf with white hair. He's a dedicated police officer who's always in control of his 'other self.' Well, almost always.
Last but not least is Amanda 'Andi' Wright, Public Relations Officer for the Task Force. Andi is the cute, sassy, read-head witch of the group.
There is one other major character that doesn't show up till issue five. She is a vampire police officer named Venus. Venus is the perfect counter-point to Cortez since Vampires and werewolves never get along. Sparks will fly when Venus shows up.
The concept came to Charipar during a long road trip back from a comic convention in 1994. Driving through Atlanta, I asked myself, 'wouldn't it be interesting to live in a city where vampires, werewolves and witches walked the city streets and everyone living there thought it was normal? What kind of social structure would there be? What kind of laws would have to be made in this kind of city?'
Horror has seen a resurgence in comic books over the last few years, from 30 Days Of Night to The Walking Dead, which certainly makes the market ripe for Cornerstone, but it also means Charipar is presenting some familiar elements to readers. With all the horror monsters popping up in comics, Charipar manages to differentiate himself by delivering a twist on the old. One of the things I decided when I started creating the 'universe' my characters lived in was to turn all the 'normal' rules for vampires, werewolves and zombies etc. upside down. I've twisted and turned what everyone knows to be true about these creatures and have made my own versions of them. For example, the bite of some vampires has almost no effect on a human. They can't be killed in sunlight and blood is like alcohol to them.
I've recently started a strip on my web-site called the Cornerstone Bible that goes into detail about the different creatures in Cornerstone and I'm having a ball finding new twists for all of them.
Pitting these monsters against their own in the Task Force, Charipar opened up the possibility for some resonant social commentary in Cornerstone and explained how he's taking advantage. One of the things I decided to explore in Cornerstone was the distinct differences in social structures between the different monster groups. For example, vampire society is simple. You are either an elite Pure Blood vampire, born into a life of wealth and status, or you are a Turned Vampire, formerly a human, and lower in status than dirt.
Werewolves, on the other hand, are pack creatures. Usually seen in family groups, much like human street gangs. And Zombies are nothing more than hired muscle with no other purpose than disposable, temporary labor.
The vampires, zombies and werewolves in the Task Force are 'outcast' in a way. They don't follow the accepted lifestyles of other creatures and instead work with and for others, especially 'normals.'
In such a new and open world, Charipar has endless storytelling opportunities and revealed that it took him a little while to realize how many stories could be told in Cornerstone City. This particular story is set for three trades but I have hundreds of different stories I could tell about the people and creatures living in Cornerstone City, he said. Originally, the title of the comic was 'The Midnight Shift' and focused only on the Task Force, but as I started writing the stories I realized that all my characters had a past and everyone had a story to tell. Every character that shows up, even if it's for only one or two panels, has a story. And some are very, very interesting.
For example, in the original script, the character of Andi was just another police officer who simply shows up in the first issue, introduces a main character and then was gone. I gave her a line in the story that made me laugh and her character began to grow. I liked her so much that she got a promotion to Public Relations Officer and became a vital story point through out the whole first trade.
The ideas for characters are almost endless with Cornerstone and these first stories are just the beginning.
It's also the beginning of Charipar rising up to a self imposed challenge, that of creating Cornerstone from top to bottom all by himself. Ever since high school, I've wanted to write and illustrate my own comic books. I was part of a small group of guys who loved comics and wanted nothing more than to create them. When I started 'Cornerstone,' I wanted to prove to myself I could write, pencil, ink and letter the entire story myself. I don't know if my indie book will have any impact on the world of comics but I have lots of stories to tell and comics are my favorite way of doing that. This is the kind of stories I enjoy and I hope other will enjoy it, too.
One challenge that the multi-faceted creator knows all too well is that of promotion. Without a major publisher behind him, Charipar has been promoting Cornerstone every chance he's got, from online work to appearing at major conventions. I created my website and send people there for information and sneak peeks every chance I get. I met the Comic Geek Speak Podcast guys and have done art for their site and other stuff. I truly enjoy their show and help them out whenever I can. Just last month, I attended the NY Comic Can and they were gracious enough to let me sit at their table and in exchange I did free sketches for any one who asked. I truly enjoy drawing and would do it for free all the time, if I could. The friends I have made so far have been great beyond words. I met several really great indie publishers in NY, including Rich Bernatovech of 'Sentinels' fame, and look forward working with some of them in the future. I hope to make a strong push for attention with my book very soon.
If horror's your thing, or you just want a fun tale of the supernatural, Charipar implores readers to check out Tales from the Cornerstone. Some of my favorite comics and influences include 'Sin City,' 'Astro City' and 'Fables.' I like to tell stories that people who like mature, character driven tales set in incredible cities would like to read. 'Tales from the Cornerstone' is the kind of comic I love to read. It's a look at an incredible world of monsters that live right next door.
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