It's been a tough year for fans of Ted Naifeh's Courtney Crumrin saga as the last issue hit stands early this month, with emotions ranging from confusion to joy. It's been a long journey for both Courtney and her creator, Ted Naifeh, since we first laid eyes on the diminutive character with a flare for the supernatural back in 2002. Naifeh branched off more in recent years finding work at DC with a Batman short story and Ame-Comi: Duela Dent.Even though he has been busy with other projects such as his DC work, Good Neighbors, the Polly and the Pirates sequel, he always managed to return to Courtney's gothic world, even doing spin-off titles with a young Uncle Aloysius. With Courtney ending, at least for the foreseeable future, Newsarama sat down with Naifeh and talked about how he feels about it ending, how it was all planned, and what lies ahead down the road.
Newsarama: So, Ted, it's been a little over ten years since Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things was first published. Did you ever see it go on for so long?
Ted Naifeh: You know, I never really thought that far ahead. I didn't look past "Write a comic, get it published." If you'll remember, the original four issues were stand alone stories.
Nrama: Right. So was it the success of the first one that catapulted to where you are now?
Naifeh: It did do rather well, considering it was my first attempt at professional comic scripting. I wouldn't say it was a catapult, though. More like a slow, steady rise.
Nrama: Did you have the ending planned from the beginning?
Naifeh: Not until I finished the fourth volume. I was chatting with a friend about the story structure, and he made the wild claim that Courtney couldn't be finished until she faced off with Uncle Aloysius. I though, "That could never happen." Then I though, good God, he's right. It HAS to happen." And the end unfolded from that plot idea.
Nrama: So Courtney is done? Finished? No more?
Naifeh: You know, I'm gonna move on and do other things. I have other stories to tell outside the Courtney-verse. But who knows? If nothing really pans out... if I never get the same success... or if I feel drawn back to Courtney's world, I may take another trip there someday. It's not a completely closed door.
Nrama: More like it's closed, but definitely not locked?
Naifeh: Yes, exactly.
Nrama: When did you know you were ending it?
Naifeh: After the fourth volume, I realized I wanted to put a capper on it. I get tired of stories that keep going and going, and never get anywhere. It's like a promise that's never fulfilled. Stories need endings. Otherwise, they aren't really stories. Just pages.
Nrama: Does it feel surreal now that it has ended?
Naifeh: Actually, it feels natural.
I think about the Simpsons, which has been going on for 25 years. Homer is still in his late 30's. Lisa is 8, Bart is 10. Their stories are told. Yet the series keeps going on and on like a zombie that won't lie down and die. That feels forced and unnatural. The characters never change, grow, age. Courtney goes through a lot of changes, and by the end, she has changed fundamentally from the person in the first issue. If I kept going, it wouldn't be the same book. It wouldn't be about this little pint-sized nihilist with super-powers, because she cares now. If I'd tried to hang onto that original character, the stories wouldn't mean as much. It was time to end it.
Nrama: So instead of doing the usual of releasing an OGN, what made you go into an "ongoing" if it was to only last ten issues?
Naifeh: It had partly to do with committing to the series and the character in a way that the infrequently released collections didn't. I figured that if I committed to a monthly book, so would my readers. But mostly, it was about the shortcomings of the comics distribution system. Do we really want to get into that?
Nrama: Not this time around, thanks.
There's a scene where we meet Courtney's brother, Wilberforce. How long was that planned?
Naifeh: I didn't create him at the last minute. He was planned out since early in the series. Once I came upon the idea that Aloysius had a brother trapped in the Twilight Kingdom, the story unfolded inevitably.
Nrama: You hinted earlier in this volume that Courtney's magic came from her poetry and we finally saw that her unleash that. Why did you choose her poetry exactly?
Naifeh: I thought it was funny and poignant that a moody pre-teen girl's horrible moody poetry was the source of her magic power. I should have made more jokes about how bad it was. Maybe I'll slip them into the compiled volume.
Nrama: Is there anything you wished you had included or done along the way storywise?
Naifeh: I wanted a unicorn story in there somewhere. There's something about girls and unicorns that's deep and meaningful. Something about childhood. I wanted to touch on that, but I didn't have room. Kelly [Crumrin], who was a huge inspiration for the series, told me how much she fantasized about looking out the window of her car and seeing a unicorn galloping along beside it down the country lane. That made sense to me, though I can't really say why.
Nrama: Dreamworks optioned to make the film in 2007, whatever happened with that?
Naifeh: Nothing. It's Hollywood. Part of the business is to blow money on options and then do nothing with them. I guess it's the entertainment world's version of the trickle-down theory. Though it has a serious downside, which is that I've realized I've been editing my work to be ideas that would make good movies rather than ideas I like. That may be why Courtney was so successful, and ultimately sold to Hollywood. I didn't shape it to work as a movie. I need to think more like that going forward. Just pursue my favorite ideas, not just the ones I think Hollywood will like.
Nrama: The last ten issues will be released as two separate trades. Do the final volumes have names yet?
Naifeh: The fifth one will be "Courtney Crumrin and the Sorceress's Apprentice". Or possibly "Courtney Crumrin and the Witch Next Door". The last one will be "Courtney Crumrin and the Final Spell".
Nrama: So with Courtney put away, what other pokers do you have in the fire?
Naifeh: The next project is Princess Ugg. It's about a Barbarian Princess who has to go to princess finishing school, because she's looking for education.
Nrama: What has the feedback been so far on the finale?
Naifeh:Well, everyone loves the ending. But since no one was expecting it, I'm getting a lot of puzzled emails and tweets.
Nrama: Do you feel like you blindsided your fans?
Naifeh: Yeah, I might have done. I don't know how important that is in the final analysis. Right now, the small contingent that was following the monthly closely are confused. But in the end, when the final volume comes out, it won't matter that much.
Nrama: If you could tell your fans and supporters anything right now, what would it be?
Naifeh: Thanks for loving Courtney as much as I do. I hope the ending was satisfactory, and that a good ending makes up for her not being around anymore.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!