With their story of Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer, artist Dusty Higgins and writer Van Jensen have won loyal readers over by utilizing the classic tale of the small puppet to portray his revenge on a horde of bloodsucking vampires.
This month, the 250-page Volume 3 of the series, titled Of Wood and Blood is being released digitally, along with the first two volumes on ComiXology, introducing a new audience to the story already beloved by its fans.
While it may be enough to simply have the imagery of a puppet battling vampires by telling lies, breaking off his growing nose and using the wooden stakes, Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer has surprised readers by offering a story that has much more heart and depth than the premise suggests.
And the basic concept has grown over the last two volumes into a huge mythology that introduced a surprising link between the hero and the vampires he hunts. With a cast that includes everyone from Pinocchio's cricket to his love interest, Carlotta, the book has included an endearing mixture of humor and horror as Pinocchio has grown up over the last two volumes.
Newsarama talked with Jensen to find out more about Volume 3 and the decision to release the book digitally months before it's going to be available in print.
Newsarama: Van, for people who may have never heard of the series before, how did the idea for this comic come about?
Van Jensen: The artist, Dusty Higgins, and I were working together at a newspaper several years back when Dusty did a quick sketch of Pinocchio stabbing a vampire. It was a year or more later — after I'd moved to Atlanta — that Dusty called me out of the blue and asked if wanted to make a book out of it. Of course, I said yes.
From there, it was just a matter of finding a way to expand that basic concept. Both Dusty and I were fans of the Carlo Collodi original Pinocchio, so we just based our story entirely on the amazing, silly, scary world Collodi had created.
Nrama: While fans are loving the evolution of the story, when you started the series, did you have a story in mind that would continue this long?
Van Jensen: For those who are reading close, there's one panel in the first book that hints at the entire story. It was something that came to me maybe about halfway through scripting the first volume. I had just kept wondering, "Where does Pinocchio come from?" and "Where do these vampires come from?" All at once, I had this revelation of a way to intertwine those things in a single narrative.
It seemed like a really fun idea to take this kind of inherently silly concept and spin it out into this big mythos. The only question was whether we'd have enough audience support to keep going. Luckily, the response has been amazing. So, truly, this is all thanks to our fans!
Nrama: For people who might not have heard of Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer, what's the series about?
Jensen: Simple explanation: Pinocchio lies, his nose grows out, he breaks it off and he has a perfect stake for shanking the undead.
But we've tried to build a real story behind this concept. Pinocchio is an immature puppet who suddenly sees his father, Geppetto, killed and is literally the only thing keeping the vampires from overrunning the world. So he really struggles with the responsibilities and expectations heaped on his shoulders. It's funny. It's scary. But it also has a lot of heart.
Nrama: What can you tell us about fans will see in Volume 3?
Jensen: PVS3 is the biggest story yet, topping out at about 250 pages. It's an epic conclusion that spans Eastern Europe and sees Pinocchio finally come face to face with the head of the vampire horde. Pinocchio is fighting to save his love, Carlotta, but he's also fighting to save humanity.Beyond that: Hot air balloons! Runaway carriages! Mountaintop battles! Ghost puppets! And the final revelation of Pinocchio's origin!
Nrama: What's your favorite scene in this volume?
Jensen: There's a scene at the end of the book that is the most ridiculously epic thing I've ever written. It's a total spoiler, so I won't go into details. But it's essentially a giant, bizarre battle royale. I think Dusty is probably sick of me by now, because I just give him ever more challenging stuff to draw. And this scene is definitely the craziest yet.
It's actually really hard for me to pick one, though. I look back at Volume 1 and Volume 2 now and see a lot of flaws. But I think Volume 3 is by far the best thing I've written. And Dusty is killing it on the art.
Nrama: What was behind the decision to go digital with the comic?
Jensen: There were two main factors. We wanted to support our publisher, SLG, in their digital initiative. And beyond that, we know fans have waited a long time for this story, so we wanted to find a way for them to get their hands on it sooner rather than later. I'm a big proponent of digital, so it's exciting for me to try it out.
Nrama: How is the title doing digitally? Do you feel like you're reaching a new audience?
Jensen: It's still a little early to tell. But we've had a ton of support online and particularly from the amazing folks at ComiXology. I do think that this is going to be a way to find new customers rather than cannibalizing from print customers.
Nrama: What do you think digital offers for creators who do indie press like this comic?
Jensen: Digital levels the playing field in a lot of ways. Having the money to cover print costs is the big barrier to entry for smaller guys in the market. If digital takes off, that barrier is gone.
That said, I think you still need to do all the same work as far as promoting your book and getting fans excited about it. You can't just put comics on the Internet and wait for the dollars to roll in, Underpants Gnomes-style.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans?
Jensen: Well, for those who prefer print, I'll ask for patience. We're looking at a July release for the complete Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer Volume 3 print edition.
Mostly, just thank you! It's because of our fans that Dusty and I got to tell this complete story. We owe everything to them. And they've been so amazingly supportive. By far, the thing I love the most about making comics is getting to talk to fans and seeing that some silly story I wrote has given them some degree of joy. There isn't a lot of money in comics, but it does have its rewards.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!