HALLOWEEN MAN: HALLOWTIDE Interview with Drew Edwards
Halloween is the time for candy, trick or treaters, and Halloween Man! Lucky for us, there’s a whole new arc to the Halloween Man universe. HALLOWEEN MAN: HALLOWTIDE takes our favorite characters and drops them into the lore of Halloween. When a villain violently murders people, only one person can take the case. However, Halloween Man may have bitten off more than he can chew. Will this dastardly ne’er-do-well manage to outsmart Halloween Man and his lady love, Lucy?
ComicsVerse was lucky enough to catch up with series creator Drew Edwards. We talk Lucy, the origins of Halloween Man, and the folklore surrounding Halloween Man!
ComicsVerse (CV): To start off, what is HALLOWEEN MAN: HALLOWTIDE about?
Drew Edwards (DE): I suppose the simplest answer is that it’s Halloween Man vs. Spring-Heeled Jack, a legendary figure from British folklore. But there is much, MUCH more going on in this story than just that. This was my attempt to sort of ask myself what the ultimate Halloween Man story would be. To really get into the core of the character and what he’s about. So do to that, I knew I needed a character that could logically function as a twisted mirror version of Solomon and I knew I needed the Halloween season as a backdrop. Once I hit on the notion of Spring-Heeled Jack, fitting Jack into our established mythology proved to be a fun exercise.
The story also allowed me to dig deep into my influences. Hammer and Universal horror films and old Marvel comics naturally. I think people will see a lot of my GHOSTBUSTERS fandom in this. But also stuff like the HELLRAISER and RE-ANIMATOR films and the surrealist aspects of the Grant Morrison-era of DOOM PATROL. Honestly, being able to go surreal with it was super-freeing. The notion of Solomon having vivid hallucinations and seeing people’s spirit animals was fun for me as a writer and for the art team.
The more writery, navel gazing answer is this… it’s about the importance of Halloween and our relationship with aging and death. It’s no accident that I put this story out around my 40th birthday. It’s well known to anyone who’s followed my career that I’m a twin who lost my twin to a car accident when I was young. So, birthdays are always cause for reflection with me. This story allowed me to get some of that out of my system in a way.
CV: You really delve into Halloween as an event that is celebrated globally. You bring up a lot of history and where the holiday came from, it’s really impressive. How did you go about researching all of this?
DE: It will surprise no one that I am a bit of a Halloween enthusiast.
Halloween is to me a more important holiday than most people understand. It is celebrated across cultural, religious, and class divides. It’s the only real discussion we have as a culture about death and spirituality. And yet its whimsy allows it to be understood even by children. I dug deep to give it the importance I felt the subject deserved. I’ve studied up on the subject over the years. Most of my research was through books I was just able to take right off my own bookshelf at home. A few books which are wonderful that cover this subject Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween by David J. Skal, Halloween! by Silver Ravenwolf, and Trick Or Treat: A History of Halloween by Lisa Morton. All of which were very valuable in forming the of mythology in “Hallowtide.”
I think most people are aware of Halloween’s celtic roots and its ties to El Dias De Los Muertos. So, those had to be represented in the story. But I wanted to get a little beyond that. In many respects, Halloween is this melting pot of a holiday, because it’s all of these different things coming together to create this new thing. It’s both ancient and modern. So, all of that needed to be in there. That’s why we have everything from THE FEASTS OF ALL SAINTS to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW served up. I really wanted to hit on as many things as I could.
CV: Somewhere down the line in character development, Spring-Heeled Jack develops a blue flame breath. I noticed it wasn’t included in some of the sketches in the back. How did this idea come from?
DE: In English folklore, some of the more… odd… stories about Spring-Heeled Jack have him breathing fire, in many cases blue fire. Which has occult connections due to blue flame being called “devil’s fire.” In the story, we learn this fire is actually heat coming from all of the souls he’s consumed. It was just a nice visual addition to his design and I think one that made him seem more intimidating. We needed him to seem just a notch scarier than Halloween Man after all.
CV: I love the panel layouts of this arc. The pacing is great. One of my favorite panels is early on, where Halloween Man bursts into a party, but Rabbit-Head Lucy’s face is sort of breaking the borders. The pacing of the scene is matched with the panels pacing expertly. How did you and/or Lucho Inzunza decide how the panels will look on the page?
DE: I suggest stuff in the script, but that was mostly due to Luis, who is crazy inventive and will no doubt be an industry star in coming years. I’m also a fan of that panel.
CV: This arc came, what feels like, right off the heels of HALLOWEEN MAN: BAT CITY. How do you manage to balance all of this?
DE: Crowdfunding and then releasing BACT CITY SPECIAL into the wild was one of the most amazing, intense, and worthwhile things I’ve ever done. I really wanted to showcase the talented people I’ve come to know in Austin. So, to have accomplished that was wonderful and we’ve put together a really fun book that we’re all proud of. I hope everyone who reads it sees that pride in the book.
I think I was able to balance it all because starting with the Lucy Special, which was released in July, I basically launched into marathon mode. Every time promotion on one thing was starting to gear down, I knew I needed to hype myself up for the next thing. Just mentally amp myself up.
However, working on that and HALLOWTIDE back to back was very stressful in some ways. I’ve put together about 6 or 7 books this year. Each having to dovetail into each other. These three being the ones coming out the closest to one another to maximum seasonal interest in the character. So, long story, short…. I haven’t had a lot of free time this year. I was even working on comic book stuff when I went on vacation. In November, I’m going to take a few weeks off from comic books to play catch up on some of the other aspects of my life.
CV: Creatively, as a writer would you say BAT CITY SPECIAL and HALLOWTIDE are sister projects. If so, how did they tie into one another?
DE: Yes, although BAT CITY SPECIAL is very different because it’s done in an anthology format. But there are two stories in that comic that thematically tie into HALLOWTIDE. The Inhuman Condition and The Doctor will See You with art by Dan Price and John Gholson respectively are both about Solomon’s grief and trauma. HALLOWTIDE explores some of those same themes but through a longer narrative. I think all of those stories are very key to understanding who Halloween Man is.
CV: I don’t want to say a lot because I don’t want to give anything away, but Spring-Heeled Jack’s machine. Where did the idea for that come from?
DE: Ah, the not-so-glorious Glory Gateway. Jack kind of puts it all out there, it the initial idea comes from a Hand of Glory, which in necromancy is a candle made from a severed hand, often from executed people, and then used in occult rituals. This is just the logical extreme of that concept because I had to come up with the original reason Jack started murdering people.
This story is more of a horror tale than other Halloween Man stories and this was a fun bit of body horror, which of course also has call backs to the story of Frankenstein and even STARGATE oddly. I’m slightly proud that my art direction April told me she was grossed out while coloring that page. Totally what I was going for.
CV: At the end of this issue, we get some sketches of the characters. Your characters are always fully fleshed out and well-rounded, right down to their looks. What is character development like for you and your team?
DE: Well, with a character like Jack, who is based on a monster from an existing folklore, it’s always about getting something that feels like the “real version” while also being something that is unique to our Halloween Man universe. So, the first thing I did is give Luis a lot of artwork from penny dreadfuls to look at. But as I said, I also wanted him to be more imposing than Halloween Man. So we took from some modern horror characters as well. Strangely, both Jack Skellington and the Phantom of Paradise were ones we kept going back too. Jack’s original human form is based off of classic Hammer actor Ralph Bates.
Even though I am the writer on the series, I do take a very active hand in character design. Because I work with a lot of different, very talented, artists but since my voice is the one constant, I want to make sure that I’m sort of there through the whole process. Aside from providing descriptions of the character, I often provide references to other works of art or films. Sometimes I’ll even suggest mood music for characters.
CV: Lucy Chaplin is always fabulous. Her outfit in this issue was very steampunk aviator. Where do the ideas for her outfits come from?
DE: Much of Lucy’s clothing comes directly from my wife Jamie’s closest. She is a very stylish lady, who has worked as a plus-sized model and is a popular musician here in Austin. Jamie is very much an activist as well, so she’s a superhero in her own right. Her role as an editor on Halloween Man and having been known to cosplay Lucy at events, she has a vested interested in keeping Lucy looking good.
The aviator outfit is NOT one Jamie owns, but we wanted something a little more action-friendly while looking sexy and vintage. We didn’t want something that overly screamed “superhero” though. A more fitted version of a WWI era pilot’s uniform hit the right marks in terms of feeling “right.” It has a certain Doc Savage feel to it.
The key thing for Lucy is not only to keep her stylish and at times, functional, but also not to desexualise her. We’ve made an active choice to present an athletic and sexually assured character because plus-sized characters are often regulated to being frumpy villains or comedic sidekicks. On the page, she should have equal impact as Wonder Woman or Storm or any other mainstream heroine.
CV: Speaking of Lucy, she has kind of taken center stage in recent years. What should Lucy fans expect out of her in HALLOWTIDE?
DE: The emotional core of this story is more centered around Solomon than Lucy for sure. I think the seasonal nature of the story just lent itself more to that. Lucy’s also had a lot of showcase this last year, since we just have launched a spin-off with her. She also featured heavily in the BAT CITY SPECIAL. So, I did kind of want to spend a little more time with Solomon and see where he was at these days.
But I was very much aware that her fans would want to see her in action, so she does play a fairly central role in battling Spring-Heeled Jack. Her romantic, playful side is also front and center in the first issue. You also get to see more of her tender side and we really play up the idea of her as an inventor throughout the whole tale. So this was a chance to show some layers of the character. She’s certainly not sidelined. Solomon and Lucy are a power couple! If anything this story was a chance to see what their relationship meant to me at 40 versus who I was at 20.
CV: So, the “urban necromancer” Morlack plays a much bigger role in this story. Why did you decide to showcase him more this time around?
DE: Because this is meant as a jump-on point for new readers and a callback to Halloween Man’s origins, it made sense to have his creator there. We probably learn more about Morlack in this story than all of the previous Halloween Man stories combined actually.
Morlack is a toxic character in some respects because he’s a terrible mentor to Solomon. But he’s a lot of fun to write because he’s completely outside of normal societal rules. My parents raised me with a real emphasis on manners and it’s something that’s always stayed with me despite my attempts to rebel as a young man. But to get into Morlack’s head is to chuck that rule book into the trash and light it on fire. So I envy his abrasiveness on some level, but at the same time, he’s not happy. Because deep down, I don’t think guys like him are happy.
He’s always been a mysterious character who shows up and says outrageous things before setting our heroes on an adventure. I wanted to give people a glimpse beyond that. Also by tying him to Spring-Heeled Jack, we get to see him feel guilty and maybe show some humanity under all that bitter sarcasm.
CV: You’re a super busy guy. Are there other works you have that we should keep our eyes open for?
DE: Most directly, I’m excited about the BAT CITY SPECIAL signing on Halloween at Austin Books and Comics! Any ComicsVerse readers in Texas should come out and say “howdy!”
We’re of course always hard at work on new Halloween Man issues. In 2019 we’re looking at a SECOND Lucy special, this time with a heavy Russ Meyer influence, as Lucy takes on a biker gang made up of female werewolves. We’re also looking to do an “R-Rated” political Halloween Man special. We’d hope to get out in time for the mid-terms, but we needed to take some extra time with it. Still, I think it’s something that is going to push a lot of buttons and I look forward to finally releasing it.