With issue #16 just released, the Halloween Man comic series has seen its characters, stories and fandom grow over the years. To celebrate the release, we talked with comic creator Drew Edwards from Sugar Skull Media to learn more about the series and what’s next.
Horror Geek Life: Hi Drew, thanks for talking with us. Let’s start from the beginning, who are some of your earliest influences within comics and horror?
Drew Edwards: I grew up in a very small town in rural Texas. Because of this, my earliest exposure to comics was a bit unusual. Our local library had these big, hard bound books filled with golden and silver age comics. So, the first comics I read were things like the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four or even weirder stuff like the Human Bomb. EC horror and sci-fi comics as well. I didn’t really get into modern comics until our local Wal-Mart started carrying DC, Marvel, and later Image Comics.
I think this is a big reason why my comics are written the way they are. Those older comics were strange, crude, and even a bit risque. I loved reading them but they also made me feel a bit uncomfortable. This left a lasting impact on my writing style. I’m always chasing after the weirdness of those old comics and trying to bring into the modern world.
I go back even further with horror and monsters. I think being a kid during the 1980’s was one of the best time to foster horror fandom. The VHS boom had brought many classic films to the shelves and, because of that, the first horror movies were classic black & white monster movies. In fact, one of my first memories is watching Them with my father. When I got a bit older, I got into the horror movies of the day. I loved both equally. While other kids were pretending to be Han Solo, my heroes were Jason Voorhees and Larry Talbot. I still love monsters. I think once you become a “monster kid” you never really grow out of it.
Horror Geek Life: I think most of our readers can identify with that. How did the actual idea for Halloween Man come about?
Drew Edwards: As with most things in the creative process, it’s hard to nail down to any single thing. It’s lots of little things combining into one. However, the genesis of Halloween Man grew initially out of my love of classic monster movies. You look at movies like King Kong or Creature from the Black Lagoon and the monster really just wants to be loved. But he always ends up getting killed by the end of the film. I wanted to see a story where the monster got the girl and was the hero.
I blended it in with my love of those old, weird comic books I discovered as as kid. For years when describing the comic at cons, I always pitched at as “Fantastic Four meets the Addams Family.” My favorite superhero is Ben Grimm, the Thing…who looks like a monster. Halloween Man…Solomon is just that idea taken to it’s logical extreme, a literal monster who has to eat people and struggle with that.
Lucy is, of course, very much grown out of the super-science adventurism of Reed Richards and Doc Savage. But also from the free wheeling mad scientists in old Frankenstein films and the specter smashing heroes in my all-time favorite movie Ghostbusters.
The name “Halloween Man” came from me racking my brain for a name for my new character. I was barely out of school and a punk rocker, so I was just driving around Dallas listening a Misfits CD on repeat. Specifically the song “Halloween.” By the tenth time, I was like “Halloween…Man.” Seemed like a great name for a superhero.
Now as I said, I’ve always loved monsters. All kinds of monsters too. Everything from Godzilla to Leatherface. As a child, I think there is just that primal attraction to monsters, because they get to break the rules in ways kids wish they could. But as an adult, I think my relationship with monsters changed quite a bit.
When I was in my early 20s, I was involved in a car accident that killed my twin brother. This personal tragedy affected my mental health for years to come and in some ways continues to do so on a daily basis. My psychological scars are very deep. It’s painful to even think about, even after all of these years.
I was already starting to develop the comic when the accident happened. But this changed the tone a lot. The survivor’s guilt I felt was so overwhelming. I felt as ugly as Halloween Man is. I felt like a monster. I felt weird, ugly, and broken. So, the character and I took on this symbiosis. Honestly, we’ve become kind of tangled up in ways I don’t always feel comfortable with. Often at cons, fans will actually call me “Halloween Man” and that always gives me a chill up my spine. I completely get it though. And writing this comic has been a wonderful coping mechanism. If I’m being completely frank, this is the true origin of Halloween Man. So I guess in some ways you can nail it down to one thing in the end.
Horror Geek Life: After meeting you at a horror convention and following on social media, it’s easy to see that Halloween Man is personal for you, but obviously it goes deeper than expected. I’m sure you’ve formed bonds with the characters. How have they evolved over series?
Drew Edwards: Halloween Man is Solomon Hitch. He’s just your basic, flesh-eating monster with a heart of gold. He was killed by a vampire on Halloween night but resurrected using the force of a monster movie marathon. Now he’s back with the power of the horror movie sequel, which makes him tougher to kill than Jason Voorhees. He wants to smash evil, fight monsters, and maybe save his own soul.
Solomon started out having a rather limited emotional range. He was more cartoonish, almost like a character from The Tick. As I’ve grown and experienced things, I’ve been able to channel that into Solomon. Writing him has been therapeutic for me in ways I can’t even begin to describe.
Solomon continues to hold my attention because he never gives up. He takes all the crap the world can throw at him and he doesn’t quit. He has probably the most thankless job in the universe when you think about it. I’ve often described him as the super heroic equivalent of a garbageman. Because he deals with all of the stuff the other heroes of his world would rather not even think about.
Dr. Lucy Chaplin is the beauty to Solomon’s beast. She is beautiful, rich, and stylish. She’s also a super intelligent bad ass and a superhero in her own right. Lucy is the most popular character in the comic. She also is probably the one that has changed the most. Although it’s almost like retroactively correcting my own misstep. When I originally envisioned Lucy, I pictured a buxom, plus-sized woman in 1950’s pin-up dress. This idea kind of got lost through dealing with the various artists over the years. I’d always try to slip it into my notes to artists, asking them to draw her curvier. But they’d normally just draw her with a bigger bust-line and that was about it. I don’t really blame the artists however. I blame myself. It was something that frustrated me a bit, but at that tender age, I lacked the confidence to stand up for my original concept.
So, over a decade later, we were around the point when DC has last their New 52 reboot. And I noticed that both Power Girl and Amanda Waller have been redesigned as your typically waifish comic book heroines. It got me thinking about the sort of uniformity in appearance that most comic book superheroines have. That was my line in sand.
I was going to redesign Lucy from the ground up and rethink her character as a sort of ass-kicking, sexually assertive, feminist Doc Savage. I worked with several different artists on the new version of the character. Terry Parr and Sergio Calvet, both of whom have a long history with Halloween Man. Also, Paul Tuma who is a great pin-up artist who specializes in plus-sized women.
This change came in the second story arc of the relaunched Halloween Man ongoing. It’s entitled “Eye of the Beholder.” The story deals with a former friend of Lucy’s from her college days. You learn more about Lucy and her days as a student. We also dealt with body image issues in a way that seemed to resonate with many fans.
The result was the biggest success we’ve had with Halloween Man since our crossover with Hack/Slash. Fans loved the new Lucy! The level of media attention was really gratifying as well. /the rest of our cast is rounded out by Morlack, a bath robe wearing reprobate necromancer, Man-Goat, the well meaning latherio son of the god Pan, Nickodemis Mousefriend, a scholarly expert on the occult, and Bella, a transgendered half-demon assassin for hire.
If you like your comics quirky, I think you’ll find a lot to like here. Outside of the obvious appeal of “Hey, monsters!” the comic has been noted for its heart and off-beat sense of humor. It’s a horror story, a superhero story, a love story, and a comedy all at once. I have a lot of love for the misfits of our world, these characters are sort of my love letter to them.
Horror Geek Life: What has been your favorite experience since launching Halloween Man?
Drew Edwards: I don’t think I can nail it down to any one moment because there have been so many good ones. My favorite thing about doing the comic has been the friendships I’ve created. One of the cool things about creating comics is how collaborative it is. You really get to know your creative team. For example Russell Hillman, who was the editor on the comic for many years, has been become a close friend despite living in England. He even stood with me at my wedding. That guy is like a brother to me. He’s now visited me in the states several times and I’ve been to England to visit him.
Also my relationships with the various artists. I’ve loved seeing Nicola Scott grow into an industry star then come back to do our 15th anniversary cover a few years back. Or Sergio Calvet, who probably has drawn more Halloween Man than anyone else and helped develop the characters over the course of a decade. Those kinds of things are deeply meaningful and part of why you keep doing it.
Horror Geek Life: Does that mean that more Halloween Man stories are in the works?
Drew Edwards: There is always more Halloween Man in the works. By the time this interview comes out, we’ll have issue 16 of our ongoing ComiXology series online. That is part of our “American Nightmare” storyline which centers on a Satanic Cult’s attempt to control the Texas gubernatorial election. It also has a giant robot, if cults aren’t your idea of a good time. I mean, who doesn’t love giant robots?
And, of course, we’re looking towards to the long awaited wide release of the “Lucy Chaplin: Science Starlet” special, which is planned for a Feb 14th release. The growing legion of Lucy fans will no doubt get a kick out of that one. The artist on that is Mr. Evan Quiring and he just knocked out of the park. The majors need to snatch that guy up stat. He’s a beast on pencils.
Horror Geek Life: Do you eventually want to venture into new comic lines?
Drew Edwards: I’d love to write for Marvel or DC one day. For some reason, my rep as a DIY, punk rock kind of guy has people thinking that I am not interested in that type of thing. But hell, I think Halloween Man works as 17 year long audition for writing, and a pretty good one at that. I’d also love to get my hands on Ghost Rider at some point.
It also always surprises people to learn that I’m a reasonably big Superman fan and that I have fairly strong feelings on how his supporting cast should be portrayed. There’s something about “straight arrow” heroes like Superman and Captain America that has always appealed to me actually. There is this perception because I beat the drum for indie comics so loudly that I hate mainstream stuff but nothing could be further from the truth.
Of course, I also think there is great spin-off potential in my Halloween Man universe. I guess that’s kind of egotistical to say, but I really feel passionate about these characters and the world they live in. I would like to do more with the Lucy character as a solo heroine, but I also think both Man-Goat and Bella could carry their own books. We also just introduced a new character in the fore mentioned “American Nightmare” storyline. A heavily body modified and tattooed Christian warrior woman named Shark! If readers take a liking to her, I would like to bring her back as a short of female answer to Peter Cushing’s swashbuckling take on Van Helsing. There hasn’t been a traditional “Occult hero” in comics for a long time and I think Shark could fit that role nicely.
Horror Geek Life: Lastly, are there any comic series that you think are a bit underrated that deserve some attention?
Drew Edwards: Off the top of my head, I really enjoy Kaijumax, Dept. of Monsterology, and my good buddy Terry Parr’s comic Aerobicide. I think there are tons of indies and self-published comics that slip under the radar of most fans. I think many fans should broaden their horizons and get out of the safe waters of Marvel, DC, and Image. There is a whole world of comics worth checking out.
As I always say, with many of the books…every fan counts. We really need the support. So if you decide to check out Halloween Man based off this interview, please don’t stop there. Continuing exploring indie comics.