When vampires kill Geppetto, what better way for a wooden puppet like Pinocchio to kill the undead than to tell lies, snap off his nose, and use it as a stake?
In last year's graphic novel Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer, Dusty Higgins and Van Jensen introduced the story of how the beloved puppet named Pinocchio becomes an ass-kicking hunter of bloodsucking vampires. Part dark humor/part folktale, the comic from SLG Publishing is filled with tons of action — but also a surprising level of heart and depth, garnering it a loyal fan following.Later this month, Volume 2 of Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer will be released, introducing the hero to new readers while continuing some elements of the last volume. This time around, the graphic novel is called Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater, because Pinocchio is working with an army of puppet warriors to defeat the undead hoards.
Newsarama talked with Jensen and Higgins to find out more about Volume 2 and how fans can enter a contest by designing their own vampire-slaying puppet.Newsarama: Van, for folks that haven't checked out the first volume, what's the premise behind Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer?
Van Jensen: The basic idea people can probably glean from the title: Pinocchio lies, his nose grows out, and he snaps it off as a handy stake to kill the undead. But we worked really hard to give the series a real story, and to do so we based it largely on the original Carlo Collodi Pinocchio fairy tale. It's a lot darker and funnier than the Disney version. Basically, we imagined what would've happened if, instead of becoming a real boy, Pinocchio was forced to fight vampires after they showed up and killed Geppetto.Nrama: Who are the main characters of the comic?
Jensen: Pinocchio of course is at the center of everything. He's sort of a bratty kid who's forced to take on a lot of responsibility all at once. In the first book, he teams up with the ghost cricket (killed by Pinocchio in the original story), the fairy and the carpenter Cherry. In Volume 2, we bring back most of that main team, as well as Carlotta, a girl whom Pinocchio falls for. And, of course, we introduce the surviving members of the Great Puppet Theater!Dusty Higgins: Two characters Van didn't mention but I like to think are also integral to the comic are the Cat and Fox. They're those bad guys that always seems to slink away, and while they're not main characters — we do tend to focus on the good guys — they do appear in both volumes.
Nrama: Does this volume pick up where the last one left off? Or is it a new situation?
Jensen: Volume 2 jumps forward about a year or so. Pinocchio now is hunting the vampires across Italy, and beyond, so the physical scope of the story is much more expansive than in the first book. There are quite a few people — and puppets — on the hunt for Pinocchio as well. Beyond the new settings and characters, this volume also delves deeper into the mystery around Pinocchio's origin.Nrama: Could someone read Volume 2 without having read volume 1?
Jensen: When we did the first book, we realized most readers wouldn't be familiar with Collodi's Pinocchio, so we included a quick summary of that story. We sort of did the same thing with this book, albeit in slightly different form, to recap the first Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer.
Higgins: You could read Volume 2 without reading Volume 1. But should you? I say "no."Nrama: Who are some of the new characters showing up in volume 2?
Higgins: The main new characters featured are the remaining members of The Great Puppet Theater, brave Harlequin, the intellectual Columbina (it is Columbina, not Columbia), silent warrior Punchinello, the dramatic Isabella, love-sick Flavio, and the braggart Il Capitano. While on their adventures they also meet a silly drunk Baldo, a mysterious gypsy woman, a rough and rugged sailor Christo, and two vampire pirates I like to call Sullivan and Gilbert, who sadly meet their demise after only 3 pages (they never had official names, but as many vampires as I had to draw for this book, occasionally I'd name one or two, it helped me connect better with them artistically...)Nrama: Why do you think this comic has gotten such a loyal fan following? What makes it stand out? What makes it different?
Jensen: I think the initial thing is that it's clever and sort of obvious. Every review mentions it as a "why didn't I think of that?" type of idea. Of course Pinocchio makes the perfect vampire slayer! So I think that attitude helped build up an initial buzz. What's been really rewarding is that, since the first book came out, most of the response has mentioned that the book offers a lot more depth of plot and emotion than what people expect. Also, I think it doesn't hurt that Dusty's a great artist.Higgins: Like Van said, the title immediately lets you know what you're getting into, and it's funny and so obvious. But it's not just a one-joke story, Van's crafted a solid story here out of what most people would've just made a big joke out of. Sure we poke fun of ourselves and vampires and puppets, but underneath all of that we've built a foundation of a character that's searching to find his purpose in life while questioning his direction.
Nrama: What's the artistic style of the comic? Is it changing at all for Volume 2?Higgins: I didn’t set out for any particular style for the comic. I wanted to do something that would be received well in black and white since we knew pretty early on that the book would not be in color. Not to mention if this thing was in color I'd probably still be working on Volume 1. I have so many artists whom I admire but whose styles look nothing alike that I think my style is more a mashup of different artists. A lot of people have compared it to Mignola, who is definitely an artist I like, but my style has also been inspired by Ben Caldwell, Alfredo Alcala, John Buscema, and Mike Krahulik just to name a few.
One of my favorite things to do was to change my style for certain parts of the story. For example, the flashbacks are done like woodcuts, which I thought was a terrific way to show the how a wooden puppet might recall his past. I've also "leveled up" as an artist throughout the story and tried to slowly allow those changes to drift into the linework. On the one hand you don't want to drastically change the look and feel of the work, but on the other hand you'd like it to look as good as it possibly can, so there's a balance there. I like to think that as Pinocchio's character grows we the reader see the story in a different perspective. But really that's just some B.S. to make me feel better about making little changes in my own personal style.Nrama: What's this contest you're running?
Jensen: Readers can design their own vampire-slaying puppet for the chance to win some serious swag. We just decided to extend the contest deadline to this Friday, Oct. 15. For those interested, all they have to do is make or draw their own vampire-slaying puppet and send an image to firstname.lastname@example.org.Nrama: Anything else you want to tell Newsarama readers about Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer?
Jensen: Even though Volume 2 hasn't come out yet, we're already hard at work on the third book. For those who want to follow along or share their thoughts, we have a Facebook page and are on Twitter under @p_vampireslayer.