Fresh off saving Christmas in his debut one-shot, twisted cartoon creation Archibald is back to do the same for the day of chocolate bunnies and colored eggs, in "Archibald Saves Easter" this April from Shadowline. Archibald's creator, artist Grant Bond, and his collaborator, "Edgar Allen Poo" writer Dwight MacPhearson, spoke with CBR news about the peculiar little aardvark and their work on the project.
The anarchic "Archibald" story is one of not just humor, but also tragedy, mystery, and violence, told in a moody black-and-white style with blood-red flourishes, a la "Grendel." Archibald himself is an aardvark actor – drawn to resemble a kind of early American animation character circa 1930 – whose life was destroyed when his brother was brutally murdered. Driven insane, Archibald left the cartoon city of Tinsel Town for five years before returning to have revenge on his brother's killer.
"Archibald is an early creation of mine," Grant Bond told CBR News. "When I say early, I mean early too. I think I was originally about ten-years-old when I first doodled him. [The idea] came from my parents having the television be my babysitter as a child. My mom caught me drawing on the floorboards so she threw a drawing pad at me. He is a play on early animation icons like Fritz the Cat and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Archibald, however, is a schizophrenic drunkard with a murderous disposition."
Added Macphearson, "Archibald is the cartoon version of Edward Norton in 'Fight Club' or Norman Bates in 'Psycho.' Beneath a seemingly innocuous appearance is an insensate murdering beast. Kind of like me in the mornings before coffee."
As the title clearly states, Archibald saves Easter, but the comic book is more than just that. Said Bond, "This delves into a world that exists inside animation itself during the Fleischer Inkwell Studio years and beyond. Black and White is becoming obsolete and color is starting to creep into this rundown city. Most of them there don't like it. Some of them will kill to stop it."
There are also two short features that go along with the main story, both written by MacPherson. "One of my shorts, penciled by the great Phil Hester, is basically an advertisement for an old-timey... product. It's a fun little strip that ends with a bang. Literally. The second short, illustrated by Chris Grine of 'Chickenhare' fame, tells a version of how the Easter Bunny quit his life and became a homeless hobo. It's really a lot of fun and Chris really nailed it!"
This is the second Archibald one-shot, and there's a reason why its creators chose to go with the one-shot format again. "The idea was to create an old-timey-feeling comic filled with short stories, one-page gags and even activities the reader can do," Bond explained. "To be honest, I originally didn't think this book would do well. It sold over twice as many as I predicted for the first issue. I would love a chance to do an ongoing with Archibald. He is like a stepchild to me in many ways. If the readers keep coming, it will be in the future."
"Plus, the one-shot format allows both Dwight and I to pursue other avenues.
MacPhearson talked a little about where those other avenues are leading. "Unfortunately, this will be the last Archibald book that I will be working on with Grant," said the writer. "I have several other projects in production that I would like to work on and get out there to the public. Archibald's a fantastic character, but I'll be stepping aside to let Grant continue his exploration of Archibald's wacky world. As you'll see from this issue, which Grant wrote aside from my contribution of the one-pagers, he is perfectly capable!""
Despite MacPhearson's impending departure from the project, he was instrumental in bringing Archibald to the page. "Dwight originally contacted me to make several hundred ads and banners for his various comics," said Bond. "He eventually informed me that [Shadowline publisher] Jim Valentino was a big fan of my work and he would be interested in publishing something from me. I thought I would put that to the test, so I pulled Archibald out of my file cabinet. Looking back, I think Dwight could have been exaggerating things a bit just to get me to do a comic with him!"
"I'll never tell," MacPhearson laughed.
While the "Archibald" books are decidedly difficult to categorize, the creators see a wide variety among the audience. "Honestly, it seems to be very broad," Bond said. "It is close to being the kind of book I dreamed of having when I was a kid. Not that I would want a kid to read this. Plus, I have heard positive feedback from everyone, young and old alike."
"Yeah, I totally agree," MacPhearson added. "Our target audience would be teens through adults, much the same as 'Sin City' or '100 Bullets.' Yes, we deal with some themes that are adult in nature, but there is also a dark comedy that runs through the books. If you compare the books to cartoons, they would be more comparable to what you would find in the 'Adult Swim' line-up, but not much heavier than 'The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.'"
Now that he's saved Christmas and Easter, what's next for Archibald? "We had tentative plans for a Halloween issue," Bond said. "So much will depend on Shadowline, who has been a very gracious host, and the support of the fans."
In the meantime, neither creator is remaining idle. "I have something big," teased Bond. "They haven't made an announcement yet so I am keeping quiet. I will post updates at www.grantbond.com if anyone wants to check them out there."
"I'm currently working with artist Avery Butterworth on the follow-up to the highly successful 'The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo: Volume 1" for Shadowline," said MacPhearson, "and a graphic novel for Viper Comics entitled 'Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits.' Fans will get a special sneak peek of 'Kid Houdini' in the Viper Comics Free Comic Book Day offering, so please pick it up on that special day of days.
"I also have several other projects in production, but nothing I can discuss at this time," MacPhearson added. "Suffice it to say that 2008 will be a very productive year for me."
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