I LUV HALLOWEEN
This week on Manga Island, we radio out to Ben Roman, artist for the twisted dark comedy "I Luv Halloween." The Halloween season begins a bit early here on the Island as Ben brings us the first in a series of communications to Manga Island from Original English Language (OEL) creators far and wide. Along with the interview I've included my own mini review of "I Luv Halloween" and it's darkly comedic whimsy. So, sit back and enjoy the new face and features here on the Island.
To start out... How much do you Luv Halloween?
Hmmm…a lot! I guess….that didn't sound convincing enough. How about… I can't live without Halloween! I think about it every hour on the hour!
So, if I am correct, the idea of the kids was yours and Keith Giffen came aboard to write the story? How was that adjustment? What was the team dynamic like?
I originally shopped a simpler version of the book around, but when Keith came on board he really brought the characters to life. Majority of the time Keith would tell me an idea and I would think to myself, "Good gawd! No way can we pull that off." Keith is insane. No really! I mean it! He's crazy (laughs).
How has it been working with Tokyopop, you stated out with our original editor on "Psy-Comm" as well, correct?
Tokyopop has been great; I've been left alone to just work. I can't really say I have any complaints since I barely speak to anyone over there. I used to work with Mark Paniccia on the book before moving on to Marvel. He originally got everything rolling for us, Mark's great.
Despite its kind of whimsical art style, "I Luv Halloween" is pretty hardcore. Did Tokyopop ever ask you to rein anything in?
Tokyopop has been pretty hands off. I was never told to pull back or tone down anything. For God's sakes, I have an old lady's intestines spilled out on the floor and a little girl planting a flag in her stomach!
Now that you are working on your "I Luv Halloween" volume 2, is there anything you learned from the first book that affects how you approach volume 2? Any comics or movies you've been reading/watching lately that have influenced you?
I'm a workaholic so nothing has changed much. Of course you are always your worst critic so I just try and drawn better Halloween kids this time around (laughs). While working I just leave my TV on MSN or CNN. I'm a news junkie. I need to know if a panda bear attacked a midget in Asia while I'm drawing at any moment in the day. As far as books, it's taking me forever to read the giant bible size "Bone" book. Me luvs "Bone!"
How do you feel about being "OEL manga?" There is a lot of debate about what is and isn't "manga." How does "I Luv Halloween" and your own style fit into this new format and terminology?
Whenever I read an article or forum thread with the debate on what's "Manga" or "OEL," I can't help but roll my eyes. I don't understand why people get so worked up over coined terms like "OEL" or "Manga." Who cares? It's comics. It looks like a comic and reads like a comic. It's a comic book. Just enjoy it.
What do you think about the OEL manga genre in general? Do you have any favorites of your own?
Truthfully, I haven't had the chance to sit down and read anything. I'm always chained to my desk working, so I never have time. But I think it's great for any creator to be able to express him or herself regardless of what genre.
Your style and the content of "I Luv Halloween" are inevitably going to be compared to what Slave Labor Graphics is doing. What differentiates "I Luv Halloween" and how do you handle the comparisons?
It's interesting how much this question comes up. People's first reaction is to lump "I Luv Halloween" with either Roman Dirge's "Lenore" or Jhonen Vasquez's "Johnny the Homicidal Maniac." I think those guys are great, but I don't think the same comparison would be made if the book wasn't in grayscale or had a Halloween setting. If I was to draw the same way, but the subject matter is about super heroes, would there be comparison? Hmm…dunno. I guess people will have to judge it for themselves. It doesn't bother me, I'm happy with the work. There's always going to be critics.
The book does seem like it would appeal to the older "goth" teens. Have you been accused, for better or worse, of going for that style? Any chance we'll be seeing "I Luv Halloween" merchandise in Hot Topic?
Well, I've always drawn this way, so I'm sure I'll be accused of trying to capitalize on the already over saturated "goth" market. But that was not my intention when working on this book or for that matter anything else I draw be it for work or recreational. As for Merch in Hot Topic, I'm just jazzed I have some cool promo pins Tokyopop gave me at San Diego last summer (laughs).
I understand that "I Luv Halloween" is your first published work. Did you have any formal art training or is it something you've just done?
Yeah, "I Luv Halloween" is the first published work of mine and I have no formal training. Having no life really helps you hone your craft.
Any other projects that you are working on at this time?
I'm not currently working on anything besides Volume 02, but I have a book called "The Lonely Tombstone" by Steve & Nikki Niles coming out in November through Image Comics and I'm working on a one shot called "The Cryptics" with Steve Niles down the pipe.
Coming out so close to Halloween, given the characters and subject matter of "I Luv Halloween," do you think you'll be avoiding kids in weird costumes or joining in the fun?
After drawing so many damn kids I think I'll be avoiding them like the plague! I hate dem kids!
Any closing notes on "I Luv Halloween," where you want to take it and where you want to go in your own career?
More ILH of course!!!! Keith has joked about what to do with the third volume, but I think it will wrap up on three and I guess I'll see what's out there. I'd love to explore other ideas I have in the future and hopefully have just as much fun as I'm having right now.
"I Luv Halloween" is a very twisted tale of a group of young Trick or Treaters and their quest for Halloween candy, zombie slaves and molars. Ben Roman teams up with famous author (and possibly infamous now that "I Luv Halloween" is out) Keith Giffen and spills blood, guts and chocolate all over the OEL manga scene. Although Giffen's "Justice League" run is one of the prized possessions in my comic collection, I haven't always agreed with his re-writes on "Battle Royale" (although I do understand why he makes some of the choices he does). In "I Luv Halloween," Tokyopop has given him free reign to go as far as he wants with the premise (and he takes it and runs... with scissors!).
I have to admit that when I heard early reports of how dark and over the top "I Luv Halloween" was, I wasn't quite prepared for exactly how insane it would be. Ben Roman's dark fairy-tale like art compliments Giffen's writing in a way that seems incongruous at first, but it works. The main characters of the book are definitely the kids everyone's parents warned them about. They curse, fight, leer at girls, and even commit murder and possibly some necromancy as well. All in the space of one Halloween night. This is not "The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown"; it is more like a holiday special viewed through a warped funhouse mirror. As Ben mentioned in his interview, you won't see a network holiday special with a little girl planting a conquering flag atop the guts of a bedridden lady, but "I Luv Halloween" has all that and more.
All that being said, I actually dig the book. It's not my regular manga style of choice, but it was a welcome diversion and an interesting tale to get in the creepy holiday mood. It is definitely one of quirkier entries in Tokyopop's OEL lineup, but it also shows their commitment to bringing original stories and art to bookstores everywhere. I don't know many mainstream publishers that would bring this kind of dark tale to the shelves of major bookstores, but it was there in my local big chain along with all of the other comics from Tokyopop, Seven Seas, Del Rey, Viz, and the rest. If you are not easily offended and want to read a truly adult dark comedy, "I Luv Halloween" is just what you are looking for. Personally, I have a train wreck fascination with where the Giffen, Roman, and the"ILH" kids will go in volume 2. So get your costumes ready and bring your masks, Halloween is just getting started on Manga Island.
I Luv Halloween
Volume 1 (of 3 l)
Rating: OT (older teen 16+ due to violence, profanity, sexual content and dark and twisted stuff not for kiddies!)
Links of interest:
Tony Salvaggio has been a fan of anime and manga from an early age. He has been an animator in the video games industry and is currently co-writing an original graphic novel for Tokyopop, PSY-COMM. He regularly hosts anime and Japanese related shows in Austin and his passion for all things anime and manga related is only excelled by his quest to become King of the Monsters.