When "Haunt" was first announced, the idea of Todd McFarlane and Robert Kirkman working together on a brand new creator-owned project was enough to excite the vast majority of the comic book community, and the inclusion of Greg Capullo as layout artist and Ryan Ottley as the interior penciler only served to further the enthusiasm about their Image Comics title. But as of the sixth issue of "Haunt," the dream team will lose one member as Ottley has decided to leave the series. In his stead, Capullo will take over as the book's full-time artist. CBR News spoke with Ottley, Capullo, Kirkman and McFarlane to find out the details.
"Ryan got a little bogged down as he neared the work on issue #5 of 'Haunt,'" Kirkman explained to CBR. "It got to a point where doing the two books monthly was possible, but not necessarily beneficial to the enjoyment of his life. He had to work a little bit more than he cared to. He said that he had to leave one book, and 'Invincible' was the one he was doing the longest. He was really enjoying working on 'Haunt' with myself, Greg and Todd, and we were all sorry to see him go, but we certainly understand the need to squeeze as many minutes out of the day as possible."
"My main focus has always been 'Invincible,' so 'Haunt' was more of a side thing that turned into more work than I imagined," said Ottley. "I'll probably still do an occasional side project here and there, but to take on another ongoing is something I won't do again. I did 14 comics in 2009, and I need to keep it at around 10 to 12 a year in order to keep my sanity and keep the books looking as fresh as possible. Not that I think the issues I did look horribly bad or anything, because I did do my best on them, but being able to spend more time on each page and get proper rest would be nice."
The remaining creative team of "Haunt" is supportive of Ottley's decision, but they'll miss collaborating with the artist on the series nonetheless. "I'm going to miss his work," said McFarlane. "He said that from time to time, he might rear his head and be able to do something for us, like a cover. He even said he might take a stab at a couple of covers for 'Spawn,' and I'd like to see what that looks like. But it was just that monthly grind of two books - he's just being realistic about it."
"Ryan's a very good artist," said Capullo. "He has a very clean style. It was interesting to watch his handling of the stuff I gave him - different than what I would do, but cool just the same. The thing I'll miss the most [about him]? Him doing all the work!"
Sure enough, even as Ottley completes his work on "Haunt," Capullo is gearing up to become the book's new monthly artist, something that is very exciting for Kirkman. "Ryan and I have a shorthand. He gets what I do and understands what I mean when I'm vague. That's a good thing to have in a collaborator, and he completes me, and all that garbage, so I'll miss him on 'Haunt,'" said Kirkman. "But I'll still have him on 'Invincible,' and the opportunity to work with Greg Capullo is pretty enticing. That's a big deal. He hasn't done comics regularly in a while, so to be able to get him on 'Haunt' on a monthly basis is, quite frankly, shocking. I didn't know that he'd be willing to do it, so I'll take that any day of the week.
"I've been a huge fan of Greg's work for a long time," he continued. "I've been dying to see more work from him, so the fact that I'm going to be writing that work for him is pretty exciting. It's very much like starting a new book, even though I've already been working with the guy already, but my excitement level is about up there with starting a new series with a new collaborator. I'm pretty stoked."
For Capullo, it was never a matter of whether or not he'd work on a monthly book's interiors again, but a matter of which book he'd pencil. "Todd had originally wanted me to return to 'Spawn,'" Capullo explained. "I wasn't really looking forward to doing that for many reasons, but Todd is very dear to me, so I would do whatever he needed me to do. However, out of nowhere, he gave me a choice - 'Spawn' or 'Haunt.' 'Haunt,' please!"
McFarlane said that having Capullo take over for Ottley makes the artist's departure an easier pill to swallow for fans. "I think it makes the transition very easy, because the guy taking over the book has actually been involved since the beginning," he said. "Although it's a new penciler, by no means is it a new artist or new look to what you're used to on some of the visual aspects."
"There's not going to be much of a change, and that should reassure the people who have been enjoying the book thus far," Kirkman agreed. "Not a lot is going to change, simply because my scripts weren't going to Ryan; they were going to Greg on all of the other issues. Ryan would get them when he'd get Greg's breakdowns, but the first artist to touch it and get the scripts and work out all of the storytelling was Greg. I'm turning those scripts in to the same guy, and the same guy is laying out those pages, so as far as the book goes, there won't be much of a transition."
While there might not be much of a visual shift, McFarlane does see Capullo's new role as an opportunity to ratchet up the series' creep factor. "I know that our intent at the very beginning [of 'Haunt'] with Robert and I was to get out a very strong superhero book - not to make it too esoteric, which I know was one of Robert's concerns. We didn't want it to become a Vertigo type book, but we're hoping to find a little bit of a balance," he explained. "Batman falls into that, as a dark creature where his mere presence can scare you. So I talked to Greg, and one of the things we should play with visually is where [Haunt] stands in the room, and even when he's doing nothing, he's still kind of creepy, playing up the black and white contrast more. ... Eventually, I'd like it if the people of the 'Haunt' world realized that when Haunt is standing in your room, that's usually not a good thing. That's bad. The Grim Reaper has come."
Capullo begins his new role starting with "Haunt" #6, leaving fans with one more chance to see Ottley's work on the series in issue #5, his final installment. For Ottley's part, the thing he'll miss the most about working on "Haunt" is, ironically enough, working with the book's new monthly artist. "I am really going to miss working over Greg Capullo," he said. "The guy is a master storyteller and sets up some great compositions, but the thing I have the most fun with is his figure work. I'm amazed at the structure he quickly lays out for each figure, even the small background people. He has so much information of anatomy in those so few lines and he chooses them perfectly. The guy's got some serious skills from years of experience and hard work, and I try to siphon as much knowledge from his layouts as possible."
Indeed, Capullo has plenty of experience to draw from when he takes over from Ottley. But this is more than just a new role for Capullo - it's a return to form. "Greg's done stuff with me off and on, and we've been bonded at the hip forever, but he's aware that Greg Capullo is coming back to a monthly book," said McFarlane. "More than anything, [he's wondering] if he can deliver what people will expect from him on this book like they used to when he was on another regular book. Once he gets relaxed with that, and I think that will happen fairly quickly because he's so damn talented, then he'll get into the character specifically, what makes this guy better than any other comic book character out there. He'll zero in on it."
"It's been a really long time since I've done a monthly title," admitted Capullo. "My speed is way down, but that will come back. I just have to get my flow back. Laying out the book for Ryan and doing layouts for 'Spawn' has helped to get my mind back into storytelling.
"That said, I'm very eager to get back in the ring and show that I can still throw knockout punches," he added. "I'm ready to lace 'em up."
"Haunt" #5, Ryan Ottley's final issue as the book's full-time penciler, hits stores on February 10rd, 2010. Greg Capullo takes over as the new monthly artist starting with "Haunt" #6, a standalone issue.