NYCC 2012 Interview: Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare on ‘Halloween Eve’

Debuting just before New York Comic Con, and a few short weeks from Halloween, Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare’s “Halloween Eve” is the little comic that could. It blasted past its Kickstarter goal, and now is hitting stands as the perfect treat (or trick) for comic book fans:

MTV Geek: This is pretty well trod territory at this point, but can you talk a bit about the genesis of Halloween Eve?

Amy Reeder: I was finishing up my contract at DC and needed a bit of a refresh. I loved drawing Madame Xanadu, the Supergirl covers, and Batwoman. They were great characters and great stories… but while there’s a ton of advantages working for a big corporation on established properties, it can be draining in other ways. So I was looking to do something creator-owned, where I didn’t have to answer to anyone. And while I’ve written my own stuff in the past, I wanted to work with a writer so we could share the load of self-publishing. And that’s where Brandon came in…

Brandon Montclare: At that point, Amy and I had decided to work together. We just had to find out what we wanted to do. I had the idea of Halloween Eve in my head. I thought it would work well as a short story. And most of all: I thought it would give Amy a lot of opportunities to draw things she was excited to draw. So together we fleshed out the skeleton of premise: a girl working in a costume shop where all the costumes come to life.

Geek: How has your collaboration grown and changed since working on House of Mystery?

Reeder: That HoM story was written by Matt Wagner (the Madame Xanadu writer). Brandon was the assistant editor on both. However, while Bob Schreck was the senior editor, I think it’s safe to say that Brandon did the most work with the artists (myself, Richard Friend on inks and Guy Major on colors). So of course it’s totally different now that he’s writing for me. But he’s still a comics person who thinks the pencils come first and foremost. We’ve become close friends since working on MX, so the dynamic is totally different.

Montclare: Some people avoid working with friends. I suppose it can get messy–but I think the advantages of a shared passion help a book. I think the most important thing you can do is care about your work and your collaborators. That sounds over-simplified, but it’s true. It’s easier to let go of things like writing demonstrative art direction if you realize that the artist is equally motivated to turn out her best work. And practically speaking: Halloween Eve was more than just a collaboration between creators–a lot of the writing and art were done while we were sitting in the same room; moreover, we were also both in on all the decisions from choosing the paper stock to financing the whole project to doing these interviews! We don’t always agree, but we’re on the same page: namely, to use all of our combined talents and efforts to create the best book possible.

Geek: There’s a question I’ve been seeing pop up a lot around Kickstarter projects: “Why did I give you all that money, if you just ended up at a publisher like Image?” For those who might ask that question, can you explain why it’s important, and how it works?

Montclare: it’s a question we’ve heard too. And it makes sense to ask that question–but I think there’s a lot of costs and responsibilities and other realities of which fans aren’t aware. And they shouldn’t be aware, because they’re not in the business of making comics. But at the same time, Amy & I were very conscious about setting the rewards at appropriate dollar levels–in short: to give Kickstarter supporters fair value for their pledges.

Reeder: Since Image is creator-owned, one of the things you don’t get is a page rate. And while they front the costs of solicitations, printing, distribution, and some design–their standard model doesn’t cover anything for creators. So in a day-to-day sense, I needed to generate enough money to pay the bills. I’m lucky enough to be able to get paid gigs from places like Marvel and DC, and I considered mixing creator-owned and work-for-hire… that would have meant Halloween Eve would come out in 2013 instead of 2012… and that would have still been cool. But Kickstarter is here now, so I wanted to see if there was enough interest from fans out there. That is, if enough people would support the creator-owned book, I could do it full time.

Montclare: That’s another great thing about Kickstarter. Without Kickstarter, we could have done Halloween Eve without getting paid and keep our fingers-crossed that people would like and buy it when it shipped. But with the crowd funding platform, we didn’t have to worry about those unknowns. We presented the story, our credentials as creators, some samples, and some offers to buy the books and merchandise. Because the Kickstarter response was so enthusiastic, it assured us that Halloween Eve was the right move.

Geek: Okay: what’s Halloween Eve about, you guys? I like to save the pertinent questions for third.

Montclare: I think this is the fourth question?! But on the surface it’s about a girl who enters an alternate reality and has an adventure therein. So it’s a lot like Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland and Labyrinth. And like those stories, there’s some doubt as to whether the underworld she enters is really real, or just a figment of her imagination.

Reeder: And we tried to give it some depth, but nothing too heavy handed because a) it’s a one shot and b) that can get tedious. But I love this book because it has a very true reflection about girls and their self-image. It’s mostly about growing up–letting go of pretenses and becoming a “real” person. So I think it’s a very real experience that she has, despite the fantasy trappings.

Geek: The setting seems pretty unique, and it comes out of your own experiences, right? Except for the costumes coming alive thing.

Montclare: I live across the street from Halloween Adventure in Greenwich Village. It’s a literally humongous costume shop. It’s also next to a gothic church. It’s an amazing visual–but it’s also a real obstacle: it cuts off 11th Street, so if I’m walking west toward Amy’s place, I need to cut through the actual store.

Reeder: It’s very cool. And Halloween is a big holiday in my neighborhood. I would hang out in Halloween Adventure to pick up some feelings and pay attention for reference–turns out a lot of the employees were comics fans. So I hope they get to read the book!

Geek: It almost seems like this book is a bit of “A Halloween Carol,” with our main character learning the true spirit of the holiday… Am I reading that wrong?

Montclare: you’re kinda right. But maybe also kinda wrong. It isn’t so much about the meaning behind Halloween as much as it’s the meaning behind masks and costumes and the fears they can either cover up or expose.

Geek: Why a one-shot? Everything seems to be geared towards ongoing series, mini-series, and OGNs… So was there any concern about just releasing a standalone comic book?

Montclare: Amy & I had the format locked up before we even had a story! There was definitely some thought, where we weighed the pro’s and con’s. One shots are unusual. Furthermore, holiday books are always hit or miss–and more often miss! But the numbers and buzz are now looking good on Halloween Eve. We haven’t had fan feedback left, but there’s been some talk about doing more. We’ll probably at least do an annual one-shot every Halloween–but maybe we’ll do more: a series or miniseries, as you mention. But first, the readers have to want it.

Reeder: my biggest goal was to have something out before the end of the year. And it’s a huge personal risk and investment. Back in June we had no idea if this would work, if we’d find a publisher, if we’d find an audience. So we planned on something short. And if it was something we also put our hearts into, we were confident it would be (at least) a moderate success. Brandon worked for DC and was a retailer before that. He has a lot of knowledge about what can work and how we could take the most advantages of the current opportunities in publishing.

Geek: All right guys: what was your most embarrassing Halloween costume ever?

Montclare: I really don’t dress up! Not since I was a little kid. So maybe every costume I’d find embarrassing? I think in that way there’s some of me in Eve.

Reeder: there’s too many to give a complete list: Garth from Wayne’s World? Or when I couldn’t pull of Supergirl right, so I just went for Superman?

Geek: Most awesome costume?

Reeder: those two I mentioned above!

Geek: Are you going to be giving out the comic at Halloween? Or doing any trick r’ treat events at comic book stores?

Reeder: I live in the West Village where there is a huge parade every Halloween. I’ve fantasized about handing out books there–but don’t want to get trampled. But while there’s nothing terribly offensive or violent in Halloween Eve–it’s geared to a slightly older, teens-and-up, audience. So I don’t know if it’s the right book to give Trick-or-Treaters. That being said, I like the idea of it being a “seasonal” item. The book has been a huge part of my life for the past 4 or 5 months. I do hope, however, that I get to bring it out every Halloween as I get older and and share it with fans and friends.

Montclare: And we should mention: on Halloween day, we’re doing a signing at Manhattan Comics & More on 23rd Street in NYC.

Geek: Any final thoughts on the book? Reasons fans should ditch the candy corns, and pick up Halloween Eve instead?

Reeder: it probably goes better with candy corn–so you can have it all!

Montclare: Well, hopefully it’s an awesome story with fantastic art. We think it is, but it’s biased. I’ve been a fan my whole life. I worked for years, full time, in a comic shop. I worked in publishing. So I know about buying comics from just about every angle. $4 is a lot of money to throw away, but it’s so little to pay for a comic you love. Especially one that’s good enough to make you re-read it again and again (or at least every Halloween)? Just like with Kickstarter, whatever publishing model a book follows: it only works if the readers support it. And unlike Marvel or DC, there’s not 50-75 years of history with Halloween Eve; nor is there huge corporations underwriting the book. So if you want to see more like it, go out and buy this one, talk about it, and enjoy it too!

Halloween Eve is currently on comic book stands from Image Comics!