Next week, October 17, the first issue of my first creator-owned comic (my very own IP!) “Where the Witches Lurk” will be released digitally via Keyleaf Comics. I couldn’t be more proud of the first issue and the work being done on the next issues down the pipeline. As a writer, it’s gratifying to know that my work is being interpreted in the best way possible by people who “get” what they’re reading, and as a creator I can’t say enough how humbled I am to see various parties support the work and give 110% to make the best book possible.
Over the next few days, I want to take you through the process of WTWL, and what it took to get this book together and out to the world. Keep an eye peeled for visual tidbits and sneak peeks, and I hope you plan to purchase and read the PDF next week! (only for $0.99 through Keyleaf Comics in their store).
Where did this story come from?
Almost two years ago, a fellow writer and I were talking about possibly teaming up for an anthology to pitch to publisher Semantink (now Keyleaf). The idea was to have a bunch of writers create one-off stories that could be thematically linked yet each of a different world, hire a bunch of artists, and have Semantink publish a single volume. Without knowing if the project was a go, I went ahead and wrote a 23-page comic book script about a witch in a suburban home who meets her match in a pair of young girls.
The anthology never came to be, and I let the story sit — until the following Summer (2011) in which I was finally able to sit with Ben Glibert, Publisher at Semantink. I pitched him the first story arc, and then two more (18 issues total) and while we agreed that 18 was too strong of a commitment for the publisher, the first six had a solid ending and would work with their needs.
As I refined the scripts for issues 1 – 6, Ben and I individually set out to find an artist. One thing Ben’s great about is collaborating greatly to find the right artist for each story, but at the same time, I agreed to do the heavy search.
At about this time, my brother, Mark, was starring in a web series called Super Knocked Up by Jeff Burns. The series was a success, and they even had a comic book tie-in released at the tail end of the first season. The artist for this comic caught my eye, and through Jeff and my brother I was able to contact Donny Gandakusuma and get him on board to do the art for WTWL.
(More on Donny in a later post).
So, that’s the business side of the creation of WTWL, what about the creative?
Well, when I was a kid living in Colonie, NY (it’s technically Albany but it’s a town…nevermind) we lived in a suburban neighborhood, complete with basketball hoops at the bottom of every other driveway, a cul-de-sac in which we could “safely” kick a ball back and forth, and lawns from which we could collect acorns during the day and toss them at bats who flew overhead at sunset (true). Summers were muggy and hot, Winters were cold and annoying, and there were just enough houses to ensure that, as a kid, you couldn’t possibly know the names, let alone faces, of all of your neighbors.
Neighbors like the witch lady who lived three houses down, in the old brown house with white shutters.
When I say brown, I mean the house was painted the dirty brown of mulch, not the light brown of dust. We saw her once in a while, usually exiting the passenger side of her car with the help of a tall, thin man we assumed was her son. Ever see the Tom Hanks classic The ‘Burbs? This lady was like that eerie neighbor: no presence at neighborhood functions, no kids in school, just…old and there.
Occasionally we’d see her walking around the block, pale and wrinkled, scraggy hair barely to her neck and flowery blouses that looked thinner than tracing paper, designs like couches from the ’60s. One afternoon, just before dinner, I was resting after a heated game of basketball with my brother and our other neighbor, Dave. Witch Lady comes walking around the corner, and we get quiet, avoiding eye contact. She slows, says something that is supposedly a funny thing for grown-ups to say to kids (I don’t remember the details) and cackles while giving Dave’s knee a smack with her hand.
She walks away, and we watch as blood trickles down Dave’s knee.
He’s fine, I guess, never cursed or enchanted. I mean, we’re friends on Facebook so I can only assume he’s OK. But that was our closest encounter with her. We never went into her yard to get a ball that had wandered, and on the single Halloween visit to her door she handed out boxes of stale Good & Plenty — a candy which I refuse to eat to this day.
Anyhow, she inspired the idea of suburban witches in the US. How would witches adapt over time, on a new continent, and in an updated society? I suppose Buffy the Vampire Slayer did a great thing for storytelling with the infusion of older monsters and folklore in a modern setting, but I wanted to isolate that world, make it a bit more dramatic and even turn it into a crime story, a mystery, whenever possible.
The concept for WTWL revolves around the small town of Haslow Falls. A mysterious, fedora-wearing man named Gregory and his two daughters, Tina and Gina pose as a simple family, new to town, but their presence is anything but coincidence as dark forces are at work to overtake the citizens, namely the children, of Haslow Falls. The police are clueless, although one officer, LaMontagne, refuses to discount the existence of magic and curses as the cause of everything dark.
To say more might give away too many twists and turns, but needless to say yes, I do address the history of Witches in America in a (hopefully) unique way, one that I think you’ll enjoy.
Tomorrow I want to give you a greater look at Donny as an artist and talk about our working relationship. Check out a piece of his original character concept art below for Gregory and the girls, and an evil Witch.
Thanks for reading!