You might not know the characters Lucy Chaplin or the Halloween Man now but that is all going to change very soon. With the release of Drew Edwards‘ new series HALLOWEEN MAN: BAT CITY  SPECIAL via IndieGoGo, readers who were originally introduced in a web comic format will get the chance to explore their quirky, comedic, and down right dark world. The BAT CITY SPECIAL tells the story of both the Halloween Man and Lucy Chaplin as they fight various aliens and monsters as well as delve deep into their own trauma’s through fun short stories. 

ComicsVerse (CV): Before we get into your work, how did you enter into the world of writing and creating comics?

Drew Edwards (DE): I grew up in a very small Texas town by a lake called Possum Kingdom. My earliest exposure to comics was through hard bound copies of vintage comics available at the local library. Something that still informs my taste in comics.

I’ve been creating comics since I was a kid. My earliest attempts at creating comics were written and inked by me and drawn by my twin. Most of these crude attempts were comics starring movie monsters. Stuff like “Dracula vs. Jason Voorhees” and “the Great Godzilla” are sadly lost to time and likely my parents’ paper shredder. Regardless, I’ve always knew I wanted to be involved with the comic book industry.

I created Halloween Man initially as a character for small comic company in Dallas. However, about a year into development, I was involved in a car accident that killed my twin brother. My mind was shattered by the guilt and the loss. The comic took on a new dimension. It became very personal. It was my therapy. My reason to get out of bed. So, I struck out on my own and launched Halloween Man as a web comic and later, a small press comic book.  In a very real way, this comic saved my life. I don’t think I would have made it through my 20’s without Halloween Man.

CV: Your characters and stories seem to pull a lot from the pulp fiction of the past. What was your inspiration for Halloween Man and Lucy Chaplin?

DE: Solomon/Halloween Man is pulled mostly from my love of old monster movies. Stuff like King Kong or the Universal Frankenstein films, where the monster is a bit of anti-hero. The best monsters are typically tragic figures and Solomon is sort of tragicomic. His personality is drawn on from gruff but sensitive comic book characters like the DOOM PATORL’s Robotman and Ben Grimm from the FANTASTIC FOUR.  Although, I feel like Halloween Man has more of an edge on him, because he’s really not “safe” in the strictest sense. He wants to be a good guy, but ultimately, this is someone who is capable of eating people and all that goes with that. He seems really sweet until he chews off a bad guy’s nose or something.

While Solomon comes from horror and monsters, Lucy comes from science fiction and pulp heroes like Doc Savage. She’s from that long tradition of polymath genius heroes who have mastered dozens of skills and whose greatest weapon is their  intellect. Her gadgets and weapons are all things that would seem familiar to fans of vintage sci-fi, but with a goth spin on them. Such as her coffin-shaped rocket pack for example.  

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CV: In HALLOWEEN MAN: BAT CITY SPECIAL, you have a great story where Lucy and the Halloween Man work together What made you decide to make them  partners in love as well as monster fighting?

DE: Too many comic books put the significant other in the role of victim. They’re basically just there to be attacked or kidnapped. I’ve never cared for that trope, despite my affections for classic comics. I think a coupling where nether people take on the role of alpha or beta is far more interesting. Plus, if either character IS put in danger, if both characters are formidable, it makes that danger seem more exciting doesn’t it? I’d sure like to think so.

CV: A lot of these stories are shorter and more self-contained. Do you have a larger narrative plan for them going down the line? And if so, what kind of story do you want to tell?

DE: The stories are self contained for the most part, because I believe as an indie comic, it’s important for every story to be new reader friendly. Making the stories shorter helps give people a nice little snapshot of the characters.

There is a larger plan for where Halloween Man is going. All of these seemingly unrelated pieces are going to come together in a surprising way.  

As far as what kind of story it is, I suppose at its core it’s a love story.  The story of Solomon and Lucy. And about how love can make you be better than you are. I also think one of the key messages of my work is that it’s okay to be different. That you can be greatly damaged by the world and still do good things.

CV: Lucy is at once femme fatale and sexy pin up. What was the design process like that lead to this look?

DE: The road to the modern version of Lucy is a long one. When I created the character, I envisioned her as a plus-sized woman who dressed in a sort of punk/goth/rockabilly style. Sort of Reed Richards in an alt-pinup model’s body. Retro and glamorous but with an edge to it.

Over the years, I could almost never get artists to draw her as full-figured. I don’t really blame them. In my 20’s I lacked the follow through to really push for my vision. So, around the time that DC did their New-52 reboot, I noticed they had taken Amanda Waller and made her a typically thin comic book heroine. This was kind of my line in the sand. I did a story line called “Eye of the Beholder” in which Lucy was reborn in as plus-sized, pro-sex, feminist ass-kicker. It was an overnight success and the fans loved her all the more. It’s now kind of difficult to imagine the character any other way.

At the risk of having to turn in my “feminist in good standing” card there is a degree of male gazeiness there, if I’m being completely honest. She is kind of my ideal woman and my fantasy girl has curves to spare. Though, our female readers seem to love her just as much as the fellas do. I think the image of sexy and athletic plus-sized woman is still so rare, that something resonates there. There have been full-figured characters before in comics, of course, but mostly they are either joke characters or they are completely desexualised. So, Lucy stands out.

Recently, my wife Jamie, who is both an activist and a musician in an all-female band called Danger*Cakes, has been kind enough to embody Lucy at cons. The reactions were so good, that we did a cosplay photo shoot in the recent Lucy special. Jamie is an stunning and brainy woman in her own right, and certainly a big influence on Lucy.  

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Image Courtesy of John Gholson.

CV: In the BAT CITY SPECIAL, you get into the dark side of Halloween Man. How do you view his struggle?

DE: The story you’re referring too is entitled “Tthe Inhuman Condition,” and it was written at the request of the artist, Dan Price. Dan is a guy who is mostly known for doing humor comics, and he wanted to do something more horror and noir influenced. I think it came together wonderfully, and it’s a great showcase for Solomon as a solo character, because we mostly see him with Lucy. And it’s really easy to forget that Solomon’s dark side is…well…very dark.

On a surface level, Solomon’s struggle is one of being a predator with a conscience. He eats other monsters to survive. If he didn’t eat them, he’d have to eat people. This is something that weighs heavily on him. The added layer of his horrid appearance means he doesn’t fit in with humans, but his diet will keep him from ever fitting in with other monsters. So he doesn’t really belong anywhere. Which is of course mirrored in his asymmetrical deformities.

Inwardly, this is someone who does not like themself very much and despite being told that he can be good and that he deserves love, doesn’t really feel like he deserves anything. But of course, he still wants things. He still cares. He is still capable of love and compassion.

This was always me as a writer, writing about being mentally ill. About my survivor’s guilt. About living with a dissociative disorder. Because I felt ugly. I felt like a killer. There was a time in my 20’s, where I could barely stand the sight of myself in the mirror because I felt responsible for the death of my twin. That really drove Solomon’s inner turmoil as a character. He’s very much a reflection of my inner demons.

CV: I love that while the subject matter of your stories can be quite dark, the story itself is light and fun. A good example of this is “Chubacabra vs Mangoat.” Where did you come up with the idea for this battle?

DE: It was a natural match-up. I love cryptozoology and monsters. Plus, the artist, Joey Muerto, requested something with a cool looking beast of some kind. Think of it as Man-Goat striking a blow for goats everywhere!

CV: Also, how did you come up with the idea of the quippy Man-Goat character specifically? He’s so unique and different from anything else I’ve ever seen.

DE: Man-Goat is also very loosely based on a character from a friend’s superhero RPG I was involved with. It was a character created by my friend Malcolm Harris called Goat Guy, who was simply more like a goat version of Spider-Man. I bought the rights to the character, but once I got into the writing process, a whole new character started to evolve from it. Basically, only the goat theme was kept. Also, whereas Goat Guy was a outright buffoon, this new character was more of a goofy but ultimately capable hero in the vein of Captain Jack Harkness from DOTOR WHO.

I named this new character Man-Goat, because I wanted something that sounded like a Bronze Age era Marvel hero. I also made him the son of Pan because I like Greek and Roman mythology. That also lended him to being a pansexual lothario type, which contrasted nicely with the monogamous, hetro relationship of Lucy and Solomon.  

I think it’s always good to have a character that’s kind of braggart but deep down has a good heart. The idea of a demi-god who is also flawed is of course keeping with his greco-roman origins. But we play him for laughs more often than not. Solomon is so dour, it’s nice to have someone who actually enjoys having supernatural powers. Man-Goat is a character I’d like to explore more in the future actually. He has hidden depths.

CV: Your characters are extremely smart and quick witted. Why did you want to create these clever characters who are always calling out how ridiculous the situation they are in is?

DE: I’m a silver age buff, specifically the Lee/Kirby era of Fantastic Four. In those comics, the Thing was always making self aware statements, pointing out the absurdities of their lives as superheroes. I thought that was great, because it serves to defuse the cynical among us. It’s difficult to make fun of of a genre if the characters within the story are already doing it for you.

The truth of the matter of is that I love the weird and absurd. I’d almost rather play it totally straight faced. But I think with the way readers are these days,  the best defense is a good offense. And that offense comes in the form of quips. It’s very tough to poke fun at something that is already poking fun at itself.

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CV: What are your favorite comics to read in your down time and how do they influence you in your own stories?

DE: I read a pretty solid mix of mainstream and indie. Right now I’ve been enjoying EDISON REX, which is the story of a Lex Luthor-type supervillain, who is trying to turn over a new leaf. I love it’s use of gonzo Silver Age style tropes and how they’re getting turned on their head.

Also, I recently discovered COADY AND THE CREEPYS, which is the story of three sisters in a touring horrorpunk band. One of which is an actual ghost. With it’s combo of punk rock and monsters, it charmed me to my bones.

In terms of mainstream comics, I keep finding myself going back, too. Well, I can’t say this enough, but I LOVE the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four! It is probably my single biggest influence in terms of creating comics. I’m also profoundly influenced by the Morrison run on DOOM PATROL. The original run of THE TICK is also a big influence on me. I loved the weirdness of THE TICK universe and always wondered what it would be like if it took itself just slightly more seriously. So, a lot of the Halloween Man characters are rooted in that.

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Image Courtesy of Shane Campos.

CV: Lucy and Halloween Man remind me of a lot of other science fiction or supernatural TV shows like BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and SUPERNATURAL. Why do you think that these stories are best told by the comic book medium?

DE: First off, I am a big fan of both of those shows, but I think comics can always afford to be a little more daring than television. Despite the upswing of superheroes in pop culture, comic books are still seen somewhat as a “junk medium.” You’ll notice when films and TV adapt comics, they tend to file off the rough edges. But I think it’s in those rough edges that comics become something special. Because no one is looking, we can be weirder, darker, kinkier, and funnier. The more I see movies try to co-opt our quirky-cool, the weirder I’m going to go with my stories. I’ll be like “eat my dust, Hollywood” and leave them in my rear view. And I sincerely hope that other creators see these words and follow my example. As comic book creators, we should always push ourselves to be the tough act to follow.

CV: I understand that you hail from Austin, which has a burgeoning art scene. How does the artistic culture of Austin fuel you work?

DE: I’m a born and raised Texas boy, I’m told my voice as a writer has a certain “Texas” quality, whatever that might mean. Texas is kind of mythic, in both positive and negative ways. I don’t really think you can live here without drawing that into you.  

I’ve lived in Austin for just under a decade and I love this city. Aside from a wonderfully supportive local comics scene, I’m also involved with the local music scene. I’ve worked as a booker and promoter of punk and rockabilly shows under the banner of “Halloween Man Productions.” Halloween Man already has a kind of rock ‘n’ roll attitude to it. So I feel like Austin fits Halloween Man like a glove.

CV: I am curious about how the combination of stories you tell in BAT CITY came into being. What was process like to create a book such these short and sweet stories?

DE: There is a yearly mini-con here in Austin called Nerd Cave, and it’s one of favorite cons I do all year. It’s totally made up of local creators, many of which do underground comics. There’s this great sense of community and comradery there. It’s tough to beat that.

One year after Nerd Cave, my wife, very wisely, said that doing an Austin themed Halloween Man special might be a lot of fun. Halloween Man has been such a global operation over the years. I’ve worked with artists from as far away as Australia for example. The idea of diving into that local talent pool as rich and diverse as the one here in Austin was just too tempting. Plus, many of the people involved have gone on to be good friends of mine.  

The structure of the stories, including the length, was tailored to the request of each artist. I didn’t come into this with any scripts written. I spoke with each artist and asked them what kind of things they’d like in their story. Which characters they’d like to draw. That kind of thing. I think the end results are both entertaining and eclectic.

CV: I noticed, and enjoyed, the large diversity in art styles that are put on display in BAT CITY. Why did you decide to utilize different styles for each short story?

DE: The different art styles are at the very root of what this special is about. Austin is rightfully known for being a music city, so sometimes our wealth of underground comic artists get ignored in the wake of that. But there is a lot of talented people here and I wanted to shine some light on that. This special is meant to showcase those different styles and really give people a taste of what’s going on in Austin. The comic book industry has its roots in New York City. Recently movies have pushed the biz to the west coast. I’m wanting to crow a little bit and say “hey, we get up there with the big boys and put out a great looking book.” Because it has that Austin flavor, this doesn’t look like any other book out there. It’s going to be quirky, it’s going to be rock ‘n’ roll, and dare I say, it’s going to have that Texas twang to it.

CV: Your story, “The Doctor is In,” is a lovely introduction to the mind of the Halloween Man. How do you see this dive into his psyche developing in coming issues or books?

DE: This was a very personal story to me. I live with a mental illness and in many ways Solomon’s struggle has always been a metaphor for my own struggles. So, therapy has been a part of my life since my 20’s. Halloween Man has endured the ultimate trauma through his death and rebirth. It’s only logical that he’d need to seek professional help. This is something I intend to revisit, because I think this

Let me be clear, by putting my own superhero into therapy, I am actively seeking to destigmatize it. It’s not a sign of weakness or a failing on your part to need to talk to someone. It’s actually a little strange to me that this issue isn’t dealt with more often in comics. It seems like the only people in therapy are the villains and even then, it’s forced on them by a revolving door correctional facility, like Arkham Asylum. Characters with superhuman and supernatural powers endure trauma that most people couldn’t even fathom. So, why not explore that?

I made Solomon’s  psychologist a member of the Van Helsing family to keep it rooted in horror tropes. Dracula is my all-time favorite book, so it’s fun to bring aspects of it into my universe. At the request of artist John Gholson, we based his appearance on Edward Van Sloan, who played Professor Van Helsing in the classic Universal Dracula. Though my long term goal is to make him a character that stands on his own two feet.

CV: Where can we learn more about the BAT CITY special?

DE: Right now the best places to learn about the Special is the Halloween Man Facebook group or of course our IndieGoGo page. We’re really in need of your support. If you love indie comics and like things a little quirky, please help us by becoming a backer. Every dollar counts, every “share” counts, and every fan counts! Thanks you!

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