Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare have worked together since 2008's Madame Xanadu at Vertigo, where he was the editor and she was the artist. Since then, Reeder gained further recognition as rotating artist with J.H. Williams III on The New 52's Batwoman (which she left under vague circumstances earlier this year), and Montclare has written Marvel titles Chaos War: Chaos King and Fear Itself: Fearsome Four.Now they're together again as writer and artist on Halloween Eve, a Kickstarter-funded one-shot about a young woman named Eve who works at a costume store where the merchandise starts to, troublingly enough, come to life. It's scheduled for release, fittingly, in October from an as-yet unnamed publisher, and Newsarama talked with Reeder and Montclare about making their creator-owned debut, why Halloween is fertile ground for comic book stories, and what might be next for both of them. Newsarama: Amy, Brandon, what can you say about how the genesis of your collaboration? I know you worked together at Vertigo a few years back on Madame Xanadu, but when did you get started working on comics together?
Brandon Montclare: On comics in general? That would have been TokyoPop's Rising Stars of Manga vol. 4 — sure to be a rare find for Amy Reeder completionists! I had finished an internship there and was working in editorial, mostly on submissions from new talent. Amy had a short story that stood out — it had a lot of storytelling maturity. Her TokyoPop work kept her on my radar when I moved to DC, and Madame Xanadu was very much centered on getting her a showcase for those amazing talents.
And we've since become friends. When Amy wanted to do smaller project where she'd have all the creative control she wanted, we thought up Halloween Eve. I hope this is another showcase for her stuff, frankly: it's her pencils, inks, colors, and letters—but more than that, it's something she's put her heart into as well. It's great. It really shows.
Amy Reeder: Good times! Yeah, I haven't had the struggle into comics that most artists have had, and that's largely to do with Brandon. Everywhere he worked, he would vouch for me and try to get me work. And after Xanadu, I still went to him for advice about art and my career. It's very nice to have someone like that around, because being a freelance comics artist can be really daunting. You have to make so many huge choices, and it's not even just your job on the line… it's your dream. That's a lot of pressure!
Nrama: Here's a question you probably saw coming — what inspired you both to tell a Halloween story? How much special significance does the holiday have for you?
Montclare: Is there really any question that Halloween is the best holiday? It's certainly the most fertile for comics, visually.A lot of things went into the decision to do a Halloween comic. The biggest was simply the strength of the story. We also wanted to push ourselves to have something out by NYCC in October; and every year it's something the readers can revisit on Halloween. I also liked the idea of doing a different kind of comic about characters in costumes. Superhero stuff mostly takes for granted that the heroes will dress up and have identity issues. Halloween Eve allows something more grounded, but also allows for the fantastic.
Reeder: The best part about a Halloween story for me is that I am very influenced by fashion and clothing. I sew clothes and knit, and have done extensive research on things like historical clothing, so when clothing is the main subject of a story, I get a lot of ideas. But yeah, Halloween's pretty awesome in general.
Nrama: Halloween Eve looks to be a fairly lighthearted affair that doesn't take itself overly seriously — how would you describe the tone of the story?
Reeder: It's definitely a story that's meant to be “fun.” There's a running theme about being true to yourself and not putting up a wall… it's still grounded in something that matters. I think I am probably naturally a little lighthearted with my work… and I'm sure Brandon wrote this, taking that into consideration.
Montclare: I think a lot of people make light of feelings that are more serious beneath the surface. Again, it's a way of deflecting self-reflection. So that's the genesis of Halloween Eve's tone. It's not heavy — but it's honest. And it certainly will have its peaks of both horror and humor as the story unfolds.
Nrama: What can you share about Eve, and her qualities as a main character? She seems pretty down on Halloween for someone who works at a Halloween store.
Reeder: I see Eve as someone whose biggest fear is vulnerability. And by dressing up, you are on display for others. For some reason it breaks the ice… and breaking the ice means you are suddenly supposed to be open to others. For some people, that's a big step!But here's the problem: deep down, she really wants to open up, and let loose, and dress up.
Montclare: Eve thinks she'd probably like Halloween if she didn't work in that store. She's surrounded by the costumes and trick-or-treat bags all year, so the holiday has lost its luster. But her problems run deeper than she realizes. Like a lot of young people, she is afraid to face herself and doesn't even know it. She's lacks the self-awareness, ragging on people for playing dress up while being oblivious to the fact that she wears a mask every day of the year.
Nrama: Speaking of Halloween stores, they've always seemed like very curious places to me, especially the seasonal ones that just show up and disappear after a few weeks (I think H&R Block is the only other operation to share that characteristic). What struck you about the places that prompted you to tell a story set there? And are either of you drawing upon personal experiences in retail (of any kind) for the story?
Reeder: I've worked in retail a couple times… but now that I think about it, the two stories I've written and published (one was that Rising Stars contest entry Brandon mentioned and the other was Fool's Gold, both for Tokyopop) both heavily featured clothing stores. And in Fools' Gold, the main character worked at a costume shop and would design costumes and clothing for the store and for herself.
Montclare: I worked in a comics shop for a long time. So I'm pulling on some experience when I write the general interactions and various attitudes of the employees. But I am, literally, very close to Halloween stores — I live across the street from a giant one! It's open all year: a real, live place where every day is Halloween. And when it's not the season, it's kind of… well… dead. You walk past it and see all these rubber faces: zombie and werewolf and monsters masks staring at you. It's like they're waiting for something to happen.
Nrama: You both have experience at mainstream companies, and obviously the debate between work-for-hire and creator-owned is strong right now. Why was now the right time for a creator-owned project? And what might fans of your past work recognize in Halloween Eve?
Reeder: I'd been wanting to go the creator-owned route for some time, but as I said before, these decisions are huge and pretty daunting. Recently I realized "want" was becoming "need" — like I honestly feel like this was the only choice I could make. Not because I can't find work… luckily that's still around. But I really needed to do something independent where the goal was not building a name or getting a raise… the goal was just to be happy, where drawing becomes such a rush I can't stop doing it if I tried.I've been amused at the similarities I've found between Halloween Eve and Fool's Gold — as I said earlier, Fool's Gold (which is sadly out of print) heavily featured a costume shop and there was an entire chapter about Halloween, not to mention the main character was so often in half-costume. She was also really stubborn, like Eve. Aside from Fool's Gold, I think readers will recognize things I've always put emphasis on — interesting clothing, fleshed-out characters, and a lot of excitement on the page.
Montclare: Moving into creator-owned stuff should be the endgame of every creator. It used to be: Miller, Morrison, Mignola, MacFarlane, Millar — those are just some of the “M's” who sharpened their skills and carved out and audience working on superhero work-for-hire, and then graduated to creator-owned stuff. Now the market seems backwards: you prove you can sell a comic you've created from whole cloth, and then you leave your creation to go work on Spider-Man. I hope that doesn't come across harsh — I don't mean it to be critical; I just think it's curious. But things are changing back: it's hard not to notice the big names taking a break from DC and Marvel.
Nrama: The book has been funded through Kickstarter, and has already met and exceded its $10,000 goal. How has the reception compared to your expectations? And since the book will be distributed by a publisher in October and the goal has been met, why should readers consider donating?Montclare: We set a goal that we thought we could make; it hit the goal sooner than we anticipated which is great. And any expectations you might have never can measure up to actually receiving the support. It's almost indescribably encouraging when fans back you on a creator-owned project. More than the money, Kickstarter has shown that people want the story. I think you should pledge only if they find value in the rewards — that makes it win/win. We tried to offer a variety of cool stuff for different kinds of fans. There's a lot of ways to support Halloween Eve without Kickstarter as well: talk about it online and at your comics shop; or buy the regular version of the comic in stores this October. Just get excited for it—and that will help!
Reeder: We are so glad we already met our goal! People are really helping to make this possible. As Brandon said, we tried not to ask for too much. Our goal covers around half of what we're investing, so I promise the extra will be going to a good place. What I'm really excited about with Kickstarter is how well it spreads the word. Thanks to everyone who's been supportive of it and told their friends!Batwoman cover
by Amy Reeder.Nrama: What's next for you both after this? More comics together? Any chance of further work at Marvel or DC, or is the focus squarely on creator-owned?
Montclare: Right now my total focus is on Halloween Eve. As a former editor, I touched all aspects of publishing: production, marketing, publicity, etc. When you're doing your own thing on a creator-owned book, you're ultimately responsible for everything. It's a ton of work — but it's your baby so you want to do it.A project spinning out of the Halloween Eve Kickstarter is a behind-the-scenes book: something that shares and organizes my script, Amy's layouts, and other production materials. It gives fans or aspiring creators and “insider's” view. We've had almost as many preorders for it as we did the regular comic! So Amy and I decided to make it special — rather than piles of photocopies it will be organized into a book. Designing that and filling it with material—as well as looking into printing options — has been a totally new experience.
Reeder: I have not ironed out any future plans right now. Very excited about and focused on Halloween Eve! After that, there are a lot of possibilities to consider. Those include Marvel and DC — I still have a good relationship with DC — as well as other publishers… or I may be able to continue to do more creator-owned work. There's a lot to consider, but whatever I do, I will have to make sure it's creatively fulfilling, and that the company and people I work with are pretty jazzed about having me.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!