Some kids love their stuffed animals. Some are crazy about their action figures or dolls that mimic the latest hit movie. But then there are other kids, like Sam, who just can't get enough of shape-changing, fang-bearing, scary monsters.
Cycle through and enlarge at right to read the story's first six pages.
Dear Dracula is an all-ages book that follows the story of the horror-character-obsessed Sam as he decides to write a letter to Dracula, much like kids write a letter to Santa. Written by Joshua Williamson, writer of the Desperado series Necessary Evil, the story follows what happens when young Sam asks Dracula to make him a vampire for Halloween.
Scheduled for release in September, just before the Halloween buying season, the book will be an 8-inch by 8-inch hardcover and will launch Shadowline/Image's new Silverline Books imprint for kids.
Newsarama talked to Williamson and artist Vincent Navarrete about the book and why a hardcover comic for kids makes sense in today's market.
Newsarama: Let's start with the story in Dear Dracula. Where did you come up with the idea of a little boy writing to Dracula?
Joshua Williamson: I had wanted to do a comic with Dracula for a long time, but I also wanted to do an all-ages book. The first thing that really popped into my head was the title, Dear Dracula, and I just went from there. Ideas were flowing. Once I started talking to Vinny about it, the story really took shape and came together.
NRAMA: What's the premise of the book? Give us the set-up or general story idea...
JW: A young boy, named Sam, who loves scary movies, writes to Dracula at Halloween, instead of Santa at Christmas, requesting that Dracula make him a real vampire for Halloween. Dracula accepts the invitation, taking the boy on an exploration of the night and what it means to be a vampire.
NRAMA: It sounds like it begins as a story of innocence. Will we see Sam grow up a little in this book?
JW: Without giving too much away, it's actually more about retaining your kid-like innocence while you’re still a kid. I think too many kids are too quick to grow up and be someone or something else, and really they should just enjoy being a kid and all the fun that comes with it.
NRAMA: Is Sam based on someone you know? Or is it part you?
JW: Some of Sam is kind of based on me. I was kind of a weird little kid. Into stuff that other kids weren't into. Also, there was a little kid, maybe 10, who would come into a comic book store I worked at years ago, and every week he would come in with his grandma or parents and would buy a horror movie toy; whether it was Jason, Freddy, or something classic like the Wolf-man, he wanted horror. His parents said that he just loved scary movies. If they took him to see a Pixar kids movie, he'd fall asleep, but if it was a horror movie, he'd be at the edge of his seat the whole time. The other guys and I at the comic book store used to joke that the little kid would grow up to be some great horror movie director or writer or he'd be a serial killer. [laughs]
NRAMA: What age group are you trying to reach? And why go after that audience?
JW: It is aimed for younger kids but we really tried to make it as close to truly all-ages as we could, something that anyone can read and enjoy. For me personally, I’ve always wanted to do an all-ages book, this is just the first one that I’ve been able to get out there.
Back a few years ago, at the San Diego Comic-Con, I had a booth where I was selling my self-published small press stuff, when a little girl came up to our table with her Dad. She couldn’t have been older than eight. She wanted to buy some of my comics. Her dad said this was her first time at a comic convention and that he gave her five bucks to spend on whatever she wanted, and she liked the art on the covers of some of my books and wanted to spend her money there. These would be her first comics ever. It was awesome. But I couldn’t let her do it. I knew my comics had cuss words in them and I couldn’t let her get them. I told her dad and pointed them in the direction of some all-ages books.
Afterward, I thought to myself, "I blew it, that was my chance to help a kid read, to begin their journey into comics, and I blew it." That was when I decided to do all-ages books. I wanted my contribution to be more than just a point in a direction. It may not be the only genre I write, but I found I had a passion for it and wanted to do more all-ages. It was an important audience that needed good books to be geared at them.
I think Dear Dracula is perfect for this audience and market, we worked really hard for it to be something that kids would like, adults would like, and adults would enjoy reading to their kids.
NRAMA: How is it different writing for all ages?
JW: At first I thought it would be a challenge, but in a way it was very liberating. It wasn’t that much different from writing a regular comic; it felt very natural and fun. The only thing that was tough was making sure it wasn’t dumbed-down. I didn’t want to patronize kids who might be reading it. I think that’s the mistake some all-ages books make, and I really wanted to avoid that. Also, there were rules I made for myself to follow when writing it, but honestly Vinny, the artist, was a big help. He kind of reined me in a few times. Our rule was if we both liked something in the book, and he showed it to his 5-year-old niece and she liked it, then we were gold.
NRAMA: Vinny, how did you approach the art on this comic?
Vinny Navarrete: Well, the same way I approach any project I work on; it all starts within the depths of my sketchbook. I began doodling Sam and Dracula....and knew that once solid, funny, colorful looks for these two characters were ready to go, then the rest of the look for the book would start to cook. Liked the rhyming there, didn't ya?
NRAMA: Did you change up your style because of the more innocent and childlike nature of the story?
VN: No, not a whole lot. I just tried to make things look funny and colorful. And I think that's my kind of style.
NRAMA: Without giving away any spoilers, what types of characters might we see you draw in this comic?
VN: Well, the story revolves around the meeting between Sam and Dracula, so there is a lot of those two. I've also drawn Sam's Dear Old Granny, Dracula's right hand man, Renfield. And a scaredy-cat of a mailman named Lester.
NRAMA: Josh, why the decision to go hardcover on this book?
JW: Since we knew we were doing an all-ages book that was geared in a way to the younger audience, we started looking at that market, and most of the kid’s books in bookstores were all hardcovers. However, when we pitched it to Shadowline we didn’t say we wanted a hardcover, as we were worried it would scare them away. But when we got the email from Jim Valentino saying he wanted to do the book, and HE wanted it to be a hardcover, we were really happy. Jim came at us with that, plus a bunch of other ideas, little things that just made the whole thing perfect.
NRAMA: Anything else you want to tell people about Dear Dracula?
JW: It’s the launch book for Shadowline/Image's new all-ages line of books called Silverline Books. Which is a great honor for us. Silverline has some sweet all-ages stuff coming out later this year that is amazing.
Right now is a great time for all-ages books. There are a lot of books coming out in this genre that are outstanding. The Marvel Adventures books and DC's Tiny Titans. It's really a terrific market and I think Dear Dracula fits right in. We’ve been showing previews of the book at cons and the reception was been awesome. Vinny and I are floored by how much people have told us they're looking forward to it.