Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom
Eric Wight has become a fan-favorite for his comics and animation work, including the “Atomic County” art on The O.C., the unproduced Buffy the Vampire Slayer cartoon, The Escapist and My Dead Girlfriend. His latest project is the all-ages text-and-prose graphic novel Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom, the tale of an imaginative kid versus a very
dirty room. The tale combines illustrated prose sections for Frankie’s
“regular” life with graphic novel sequences depicting his outrageous
fantasies. We talked with Wight about his new book, which is in stores now, and got an update on My Dead Girlfriend.
Newsarama: Eric, tell our readers about Frankie and his family.
Eric Wight: Frankie Pickle is a typical kid with an
anything-but-typical imagination. Sometimes, it leads him on
adventures. More often, it gets him into trouble. His two best friends
are his dog, Argyle, and his schoolmate Kenny, an African American boy
who only speaks through music.
Frankie is bookended by two
sisters. Piper is the older, wiser, and sporty one; Lucy is the
younger, cuter and more drool-y one. Dad loves to bake, often
experimenting on the rest of the family with his confectionary
concoctions. And Mom, like so many moms, makes keeping the household
running like a well-oiled machine seem effortless, even if it’s not.
Frankie Pickle, page 3
NRAMA: How did this project come about?
EW: Frankie was an idea that I had originally created to be an
animated series, but after I found out that a) the interested network
wanted to steer the project into a very different creative direction
and b) said network expected me to write, design and storyboard the
pilot for free before they would even option it, I decided to pull it off the table, and tucked it away for safe keeping.
Fast forward to a few years later. My Dead Girlfriend
took off like a rocket, but exploded upon reentry. As heartbreaking as
that experience was, it helped me discover a newfound passion for
writing. I decided to take things a step further and try my hand at
I knew that I could never turn my back on comics, so I started to play
around with the idea of creating books that were hybrids, utilizing
prose and sequential art to tell one cohesive story. I dusted off my
bible for Frankie, and realized that it was just the right fit for a
hybrid: the parts about reality could be prose, and his fantasies could
So I took that bible, repackaged it as a chapter book series for young
readers, and with the help of my agent Steve Malk, I found an
incredible home for it at Simon & Schuster.
Frankie Pickle, page 4
NRAMA: What was your major inspiration for Frankie's world?
EW: Frankie began as a reflection on my own childhood. So many
of my fondest memories of being a kid were playing with my friends and
the adventures we would create inspired by our action figures, comic
books, and favorite Saturday morning cartoons. I was also a constant
daydreamer, which occasionally got me into trouble like Frankie.
Now that I have kids of my own, I pull so much inspiration from
watching how they play and process the world around them. The innocent,
unfiltered perceptiveness of a child is astounding. Somewhere along the
way, I realized that I didn’t want to just tell stories that kids might
find entertaining. I wanted to recapture the excitement and wonder of
childhood for myself through Frankie’s eyes.
NRAMA: What was your favorite fantasy sequence to draw?
EW: The scenes with Frankie’s superhero persona Wonder Pickle
were a blast, and obviously pay a very loving tribute to my love of
superhero comics. But what gets me excited most is drawing a subject
I’ve never tackled before.
The best part about the series for me is that anything is possible.
Frankie could be a jungle explorer one minute, and a surgeon the next.
Until I write that script, I really have no idea what might be waiting
for me around the corner. Even at the outline stage, so many little
adventures pop up out of nowhere. I guess it depends on what I want to
play with at that moment. I’m constantly searching for new avenues for
Frankie’s imagination to delve into.
Frankie Pickle, page 5
NRAMA: What's the challenge in doing an all-ages/younger readers story?
EW: The potential of Frankie becoming a role model for kids
weighs heavily on my creative choices. As much as I strive for the
series to be funny and action-packed, I also want there to be an
underlying message that drives the story.
The challenge with that is finding a way to convey your message without
beating your reader over the head with it. You just have to trust that
it’s there, and let it breathe a few layers beneath the surface. Maybe
some kids will pick it up on the first reading, maybe some will
discover it on the third or fourth. And if they never catch it at all,
that’s okay, too. But at least I know it’s there.
NRAMA: Also, what are the challenges in working with prose?
EW: Writing prose is by far the toughest thing I’ve ever done
creatively. There were so many times when I first began writing that I
would bang my head against my desk out of frustration, knowing that I
could draw what I saw in my mind a lot faster than finding words to
I had to keep reminding myself that I’ve been
drawing since before I could speak, and have only been writing for a
few months. It was going to take some time for those muscles to catch
up. Sometimes when I get stuck, I draw little thumbnails, like visual
outlines, which helped tremendously to map out my writing.
NRAMA: Why do you feel younger-reader-oriented comics are important to the industry?
EW: For the industry to grow, we obviously need readers. And you
won’t have readers if kids aren’t interested. Ask any teacher or
librarian, and they’ll tell you that boys in particular are tough to
get excited about books. Not all, of course. I was a voracious reader
as a kid. But so many would much rather be playing video games or
outside with their friends. It also doesn’t help that learning
disabilities are becoming more prevalent, and attention spans are
shrinking smaller and smaller.
Frankie Pickle, page 6
But I’m a firm believer that the earlier you can engage children in
reading, the more likely they will become readers for life. Comics are
a wonderful resource to do that with. Younger readers who may not have
the skills or attention span to read a 200-page book build confidence
by completing an entire graphic novel. Plus, the art gives visual cues
to help them figure out words they may be challenged by.
The age range of comics is also more encompassing. A kid who is
struggling with reading might be embarrassed to be seen reading a
picture book, but give them a graphic novel ,and now they are at the
same level as their friends.
NRAMA: What will Frankie face in future books?
EW: The next volume is called Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000, which is the Pinewood Derby meets Speed Racer. After that is Frankie Pickle and the Multiplying Menace, which can only be described as math meets Lord of the Rings. I have over a dozen volumes planned, with 2-3 books coming out a year.
NRAMA: Any update on My Dead Girlfriend, or any other projects you want to discuss?
EW: My Dead Girlfriend
is, sadly, as dead as its title. I got as far as the script for #2 and
outline for #3, when everything imploded. I’ve tried repeatedly to get
my rights back, but for now my creation is being held hostage.
In addition to the Fankie Pickle series, I’m also writing and illustrating a middle grade fantasy series for Simon & Schuster, the first of which is Kookleberry and the Sword of Fools. It’s also a hybrid, although the graphic novel elements are utilized differently.
Kookleberry about a boy minstrel who, after losing his mentor discovers an illustrated tome called The Scarlet Hood
(think Jack Kirby drawing the Book of Kells), and goes on a quest to
figure out his purpose. Contained within the novel is the actual comic
that Kookleberry discovers, allowing readers to experience it with him
as it guides him on his journey.
NRAMA: Anything else you'd like to talk about?
Frankie Pickle, page 7
EW: May 3rd marked the kickoff of my book tour for Frankie
Pickle at my local children’s bookstore, Booktenders Secret Garden in
For the official release on May 5th I was in my hometown Bethlehem, PA
to the Moravian Bookshop. Then TCAF on May 9-10th. I’ve created a
gallery exhibit that doubles as a life-sized Look & Find of the
Closet of Doom that kids can explore to win prizes.
From there I’m going to Boston, a few stops in New Hampshire and
Vermont, and then back to Massachusetts May 16th where I will be at the
Eric Carle Museum teaching a Comics for Kids workshop.
Then I will be at to Jim Hanley’s Universe on May 20th to do a signing with Chris Giarrusso (Mini Marvels, the new G-Man collection from Image), Jacob Chabot (Mighty Skullboy Army), and Andres Vera Martinez (Babe Ruth). Should be an awesome time.
There are still a bunch of signing events to be determined, so to keep
up with all of the details of Frankie’s happenings you can either visit
frankiepickle.com or his Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/reqs.php#/pa...le/68855129288