Writer and illustrator Ted Naifeh introduced Courtney Crumrin and her world a decade ago. Since then, her adventures have been printed in a multitude of languages and made Naifeh a best-selling creator and multi-time Eisner and Harvey nominee. It's been five years since we have had a new Courtney Crumrin story, but this April, Naifeh along with colorist Warren Wucinich brings Courtney, Uncle Aloysius, and other night things to the public in full color in a new ongoing series.We talked to Naifeh about Courtney's run and what this new adventure holds for her. Oni Press supplied Newsarama with an exclusive look at the cover for the first issue, while Naifeh granted us to show some pages never seen anywhere else.
Newsarama: It's been ten years of Courtney Crumrin, did you ever think her story would span this long?
Ted Naifeh: When I first starting conceiving series like "Courtney", "Polly", How Loathsome, etc, I was shooting for closed story-arcs but open-ended concepts. Then I started realizing I was committing myself to potentially endless series. But even then, I didn't consider what that really meant, that Courtney or Polly could both potentially go on for decades. I now realize that these stories need an endgame at some point. A story really isn't truly a story until it reaches its climax and conclusion. But I'm not ready to take Courtney there quite yet. For now, I figured I should just devote myself exclusively to Courtney for a while, and built up momentum for the series.
Nrama: When we left off in Prince of Nowhere, Courtney and her Uncle Aloysius have a very tense relationship, where does this story take that?Naifeh: By the end of the last volume, Courtney's a changed person. Her whole personality was based on the fact that she's a kid who isn't protected or cared for properly. After realizing how far her uncle is willing to go for her, she begins to feel properly loved for the first time. So at some point I will have to complicate that. But for now, I want to get away from Aloysius for a bit and concentrate in Courtney herself, let her be a kid having kid-relevant adventures.
I think it's easy to get bogged down in world-building and exposition, and forget who the story is really about. Wizard politics can be fun, and make for an interesting background element, but Courtney is first and foremost a pre-teen going through the same crap that all pre-teens go through. And the best way to do that is put her with kids her own age and see what happens.
Nrama: Do we meet any new characters here?
Naifeh: We meet Holly, a girl with a very similar story to Courtney's, and basically the first human Courtney meets that she can relate to. But there's always a danger in meeting someone who seems a little too much like you. I don't want to give away too much, but anyone Courtney can relate to probably isn't exactly an angel.Nrama: Is it odd to see your work in full color? Tell us about the colorist you have on board.
Naifeh: What can I say? I love it. Warren work is daring, moody, atmospheric, exactly what I was looking for. I can't wait to see the responses.
It's always hard to take something that's wholly yours and let someone else put their stamp on it. Letting go of control of your baby can be excruciating. Every time, I have this obsessive voice shouting in my head, "that's not how I would have done it!" But I can't do everything. Besides, some of the best art in the world is collaborative, a mix of voices that are stronger together than separate.
Take the Beatles, for example. Or every great movie ever made. We like to say they're the director's vision, but really, they're huge collaborations between directors, writers, actors, even producers. You hear about Lennon and McCartney's tempestuous collaborations, but in the end, they were never as good without one another. So I've been learning how to put that obsessive voice in the background, and let a very talented colorist get on with his work, and express his vision.
Nrama: When we first met Courtney, she was inexperienced with magic. Where is she now in that aspect?
Naifeh: Even by Volume 2, Courtney had become more powerful than she herself realized. But I'm going to explore that more in the next story arc.
Nrama: Do you think your artistic style has evolved with your visuals in Courtney's world since you started?Naifeh: Oh yeah. I think all artists need to try to improve, or their work gets stale. I've been tinkering with my technique all along, and lately, I've been experimenting pretty aggressively with my line style. But I don't want Courtney's look to become unrecognizable. I'm not going to switch from my tighter, cleaner lines to rough, loose lines, like I used in Good Neighbors or How Loathsome. I just wanted to try a little more nouveau fluidity to break up the blocky jaggedness. Blame my exposure to French comics.
Nrama: I see that the Courtney volumes will be re-released in hardcover format. Tell us a bit about that.
Naifeh: Oh man, they're going to be so handsome. Oni's design guy, Keith Wood, has come up with a really lovely look for the new volumes. And I'm doing all new covers. Furthermore, they're going to be a little bigger, about 6x9 inches. I'm really excited to hold these new volumes in my hands.
Nrama: What is the status of the Courtney movie? What happened there?
Naifeh: I don't know, really. Every time I talk to Joe Nozemack and Eric Gitter at Closed on Mondays Entertainment [authors note: they were also one of the producers for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World], they say that exciting things are just around the corner. Last I heard, Guillermo Del Toro was interested in producing it, which would be a dream come true. But there's nothing definite at the moment. I suspect that the big push to re-release the books and put out new ones will result in some renewed interest. We'll have to see. I'm not holding my breath. I've seen people suffocate that way, creatively speaking.
Nrama: Is this the beginning of the end to Courtney and her world?
Naifeh: Not quite yet. Courtney has a few more stories in her before she wraps up. Ask me that question again when this story arc is done, and we'll see.