With 2007's "The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo," Dwight MacPherson saw his and Thomas Boatwright's popular webcomic collected by Shadowline and Image Comics and published to great critical and popular acclaim, with several award nominations including the Harveys and Britain's Eagle. This bodes well for the continuing adventures of Poo, and with the release of "The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo: Book 2" this August, MacPherson brings his diminutive hero to new territory with a new artist, Avery Butterworth. Dwight MacPherson and Butterworth sat down with CBR News to talk about the past, present and possible future of the embodiment of an unquiet mind.
The story of Edgar Allan Poo is rooted in historical fact in that it begins with the death of Edgar Allan Poe's wife, Virginia, in 1847. From there, however, the concept ventures into the fantastic. "Poe is haunted by his wife who blames him for her death," said MacPherson, "so he prays that he will never dream again. God answers by separating his imagination from him--in the form of Edgar Allan Poo."
"Separated from his 'father,'" MacPherson continued, "Poo sets out on a quest through the brilliant poet's dreamscape to be reunited with [Poe.] Of course, given the fact that Poe was fascinated with mythology, this dangerous dream world--called Terra Somnium--is filled with every form of mythological god and creature. Some wish to destroy him, others to help him."
The first volume chronicles the separation of Poe and Poo and the first leg of Poo's journey through the dangerous dream world of Terra Somnium. "With the assistance of his guide, Irving Rat and new friend Terence Crab, Poo battles gods and nightmare creatures on his way to the legendary temple of the Maghi: the only place where he can return to the waking world, and thus reunite with his father," the writer explained.
MacPherson describes Poo's companion, Irving, as an amalgam of the American author Washington Irving, Virgil from "The Divine Comedy," and E.B. White's classic characters Templeton (from "Charlotte's Web") and Stuart Little. Said MacPherson, "Brave and resourceful, Irving will sacrifice is life--if need be--to see Poo safely delivered to the Maghi."
While Poo's driving ambition is to be reunited with his Poe, readers will find it's not such a simple goal to accomplish. "The evil ruler of the land of Terra Somnium still retains the ghost of Virginia--Poo's 'mother'--in his impenetrable castle," the writer said. "In book two, Poo realizes that he must free his mother before he can return from the land of dreams -- a seemingly impossible task."
"The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo: Book 2" chronicles Poo, Irving and Terence's attempt to free Virginia from the clutches of the Nightmare King, but the villain won't give her up without a fight. "Mustering his armies of darkness, the Nightmare King sends his forces to capture Edgar Allan Poo," MacPherson revealed. "What results is an all-out war between the Nightmare King and his myriad forces against the Maghi and their allies, with the fate of Poo, Poe and Virginia hanging in the balance."
Clearly, the second Edgar Allan Poo adventure is a bit darker than the first. "I like to refer it as the 'Two Towers' of the Poo saga," MacPherson said, referencing the ominous second volume of the "Lord of the Rings" series. "In the first book, readers were introduced to the world of Terra Somnium and the nature of Poo and Irving. In the second volume--with war approachingï¿½"the tone of the book takes a dark turn. Not too dark, mind you. I still want readers of all ages to enjoy it, but it is definitely darker than the first book."
Added Avery Butterworth, "I think this story has a more epic scale than the first book. With the art, I had to find my own voice with the visual language without straying too far from the feel of the first book."
While Butterworth has taken over the art chores for the second volume of "Edgar Allan Poo," he is no stranger to the project. "As we were putting together the first volume, Thomas Boatwright asked for a colorist's assistance to complete the book," MacPherson explained. "Avery and I have been close friends for about five years, so I asked him if he's like to lend a hand. We've wanted to work together for some time, so Avery jumped at the chance and really saved the project from running past the deadline. With the departure of Thomas Boatwright after the first volume, Avery seemed the obvious choice to replace him. Avery's done illustrations for [gaming publisher] White Wolf and 'Heavy Metal,' so he was the obvious choice, given my decision to give 'Book 2' a darker tone. And what a brilliant choice Avery was! Not only did he complete 96 moody, brilliant pages, but his work ethic isimpeccable. He cranked out the pages like a machine!"
"Dwight promised me nachos," Butterworth remarked, "so I said I would do it."
While the mere fact of a second volume of Edgar Allan Poo speaks to the success of the project, MacPherson has found the reaction from readers to be "nothing short of mind-boggling." "In addition to being nominated for an Eagle and Harvey Award, it's readily apparent that fans of every age are readingï¿½"and enjoying--Edgar Allan Poo," said the writer. "If you add the countless emails, PMs and compliments we've received at cons, it's obvious that readers of all ages are enthralled with the concept, art and story of Edgar Allan Poo.
"I had the pleasure of meeting a family at Adventure Con this year. A mother and her two daughters were all three relating how much they enjoyed the first book. It seems the mother bought the book for herself, read it, and enjoyed it so much she passed it on to her teen daughter. The teen enjoyed it so much that she read it to her younger sister. It was so cool to hear the three of them speaking about the book with such enthusiasm!"
"There have been several instances similar to this, but it still warms my heart to see so many people enjoying a little fairytale I wrote for my children to encourage them to read the classics. I'm very humbled and amazed by the book's acceptance by readers of all ages."
"Edgar Allan Poo" is written as a fairy tale for his children, but the book was inspired by James Russell Lowell's decidedly adult "A Fable For Critics." In the classic satirical poem, Poe was described as "Three-fifths of him genius and two-fifths sheer fudge." "After reading this description, I came to the conclusion that the 'sheer fudge' of the man was his imagination," MacPherson said. "It was his imagination that made him a genius. If that imagination were removed, would we even have the masterful works of Edgar Allan Poe?"
MacPherson has plans to continue Poo's surreal adventures. "It will be up to readers if we see a future Edgar Allan Poo adventures," he reminded. "The way the second book ends, the story could end there and I don't think anyone would be disappointed. I definitely have a third story in mind, though."
If there's any reason to continue the series, it is surely evident in this observation from MacPherson: "It has been my pleasure to see small children and adults who say they 'love Poo.'"
"The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo: Book 2" comes out August 20 from Shadowline and Image Comics.
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