Interview with Drew Edwards – Writer of Lucy Chaplin: Science Starlet
Since Lucy Chaplin comes from Halloween Man can you first give a little background to him and his comic for folks who are new to your works?
Halloween Man(aka Solomon Hitch) is best described as the weird adventures of a zombie superhero and his sexy mad scientist girlfriend. They’ve battled everything from space dwarves, the Loch Ness monster, the Headless Horseman, vegan vampires, and even the Invisible Man. We have a lot of fun making it and I think that translates onto the page.
The comic has existed for nearly two decades in a number of different formats. It began as a web comic and it’s currently an ongoing series on ComiXology, with various annuals and crossovers tied into it. The Lucy Chaplin Science Starlet Special is our first real spin-off title, so it’s an experiment in expanding the universe.
It’s my understanding that Lucy has gone through some changes over the years. Is there a story behind that?
So, Dr. Lucy Chaplin is the beauty to Solomon’s beast. She is beautiful, rich, and stylish. She’s also a super-intelligent,badass, 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. Though it’s almost like I retroactively corrected my own misstep. When I originally envisioned Lucy, I pictured a buxom, plus-sized woman dressed in 1950’s pin-up style.
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 with a fuller figure. 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.
Fast forward a decade later and we were around the point when DC has released their New 52 reboot. I took note that both Power Girl and Amanda Waller had 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 the sand. So,I assembled a team of artists and together we redesigned Lucy from the ground up. I also rethought 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. 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.
You seem to show your influences proudly in your comics. Do you mind going through some of your bigger influences (and a few more obscure we may be missing) and how do they inform your comic.
I take influence from a lot of different places. I love monster and horror films from just about any era, with a particular fondness for both the classic Universal monster movies and the 80’s era films from my childhood. Though I don’t think that is likely to stun people, as my comic is littered with references to those movies.
In terms of comic books, I typically go back to silver age comics. Those are among some of the earliest comics I was introduced to, through finding hardbound editions at my public library as a child. I always found the kind of free-wheeling, anything goes, weirdness of those comics extremely inspiring.
I’m a big fan of punk rock and mid-century rock ‘n’ roll. I’ve always tried to channel that rebellious, rock ‘n’ roll attitude into whatever I’m doing with these characters. I think rock music and indie comics kind of go hand in hand, because when they’re at their best, they are both outsider art.
What would surprise most people, I think is my love of old comedy films. When I was a teenager I was obsessed with the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope, Abbott and Costello, that kind of thing. I think next to Stan Lee, those old movies probably have more influence on my dialogue than just about anything else.
Other influences are writers like genre icons Clive Baker and Stephen King or less obvious choices like Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman. I also really love a good mystery, ranging anywhere from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Dashiell Hammett. I love Kinky Friedman’s self aggrandizing mystery novels that feature the author as the main character. I also love how Friedman gives his dialogue that special Texas spice, something I’ve tried to copy many times over the years.
I think I have a much broader pilate than people might initially expect. People tend to think I’m just a “horror guy” and to a degree, I guess that’s true. But I really do take influence from a lot of different places.
What are some of your goals with your comics (beyond entertainment)? The Lucy Special deals with a plot that touches on some current events where some males wish to see women’s roles revert to an earlier time. What other topics do you plan to touch on?
The funny thing about the Lucy one-shot, is that a lot of people assume it was written in reaction to the 2016 election. I actually wrote the initial draft a year or so prior simply because Meninist groups were starting to crop up in the news a lot. The script evolved as it went into the production phase, but that was the seed of the idea.
If Halloween Man has one ongoing theme, it’s that it is okay to be different. That there is all kinds of ways to find your place in the world. That’s become a very topical discussion as of late and if my…somewhat silly…comic adds to that discussion, I feel very positive about that.
I love satire and I love science fiction that speaks to topics that are going on in our society. Without giving to much away, I am going to tackle some more topics along these lines. I just need to make sure I’m handling it with enough intelligence and good humor.
Along these same lines, the other thing about the Lucy Special that I put a lot of thought and effort into is how I assembled the creative team. First off, I made very sure I had women on board. I’d feel like a fool if I was producing a comic that dives into women’s issues and had an all male creative team.
But I also wanted to have people from different walks of life and different world views. I wanted women of color and queer women working alongside a mature libertarian from rural Texas and a fiesty Canadian. Because I like people and I do ultimately believe that we are more alike than we’re not alike. And that no matter how different we all are, we can come together and make something awesome, like this comic book. So, I wanted the creative team to reflected that belief. This is food for thought I hope.
Naturally, it is totally okay if you want to read this comic as simply “good guys vs. bad guys.” It can be enjoyed on a purely visceral level. But I really do hope it does make some people think.
As far as other topics, I mostly make this comic to be fun. But lately there has been a good number of topics I’ve wanted to tackle ranging from gun violence, hate groups, and sexism in the workplace. It’s just a matter of finding ways to speak on these issues that is both sensitive to the topic at hand and also feels like it fits within the universe I’ve created. I love satire and I love topical sci-fi and horror. The itch is there, so I just need to find the right way to scratch it. I would never want to trivialize any of these topics.
You have done a lot with the Halloween Man universe. Do you have any plans to do other works outside of that?
I’d love to branch out and I’ve had a few projects on the back burner for several years. Including a rip-roaring monster movie throwback series that I’ve been planning with my old editor Russell Hillman. Halloween Man and it’s related spin-offs just seem to eat up a lot of my time. Running Halloween Man is like a full-time job and at times, it can be exhausting. But that doesn’t mean the ambition is not there.
Hell, I’d love to write for Marvel and DC at some point even. My deep affection for the Fantastic Four is pretty well known, so whenever Dan Slott moves on…Marvel…give me a ring. I think Halloween Man serves as a pretty good “audition tape” for writing several mainstream characters actually.
What are some current comics and other pop culture media you are enjoying at the moment.
I just finished and really enjoyed a comic called Coady and the Creepies by Liz Prince and Amanda Kirk. It’s about three sisters who are in a touring horrorpunk band, one of which also happens to be a ghost. Not only is it heartfelt, but as someone who has lived inside a tour van for several weeks, I found there to be a lot of truth in it’s humor about the life of a touring band. Plus, anything that combines my three passions of monsters, punk rock, and comic books is pitch perfect in my book.
On the more mainstream end, I’ve been digging the Marvel Two-in-One series that has been coming out. As a fan of the Fantastic Four, I’m starved for just about anything with the characters in it. But this spin-off title has really done the legacy of the FF justice, with it’s cosmic storyline about hoping from one reality to the next. I can’t wait for each new issue.
If you could work with any creator living or dead, who would it be and what sort of project would it be?
I love both Jack Kirby and Jack Cole, so I think they would be amazing to work with. In more recent history, I think Darwyn Cooke would have done an amazing run on Halloween Man.
Among the living? Well, I hate to keep harping on this, but if my old collaborator Nicola Scott had the time and I had an in, I think we’d kill on Fantastic Four. I also had a really great pitch for the Inferior Five that I worked on with Jason Henderson and Terry Parr, that I still think would be great fun to do at some point.
In the horror realm, one of my dream projects is an idea I have for a mini-series titled “the Last Days of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre” which is about an elderly Leatherface. I am picturing someone like Neil Vokes, who really hammers home the spookiness I’d be going for. I’m sitting on the pitch, because I honestly have no idea holds the rights to do Chainsaw comics anymore. (If you do have them, reach out to me.)
Thankfully, I’m in a position were I have worked with a lot of people like Nicola or David Baldeon, who have gone on to be industry rock stars. In fact, I have a project coming out in just a few months that is going to have a really awesome Chandra Free cover. Halloween Man has had some really awesome art over the years. I am truly blessed in that department.
Do you have any advice for new creators who hope to make their own comics?
Not to be disheartened by how hard it’s going to be. In some ways, it’s never been easier to publisher and produce your own comic. The technological and creative revolution kicked off in the late 90’s/early 00’s with web-comics has continued on with digital platforms like ComiXology and DriveThruComics. But it’s still a lot of hard work getting everything together and putting it out. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of all the different indie comics out there. You need to be tough and be ready to bootstrap your way up top. That takes a lot of time and there are going to be days you hate doing it. Power through those days. It’s worth it.
Is there anything you’d like to add that we didn’t cover here?
Yes! While putting out the Lucy Special is the end of a long process of nearly two years worth of work, I’m always moving onto the next thing. It’s going to be an exciting few months for Halloween Man. Not only do we have the long awaited conclusion to the American Nightmare storyline in issue 16, but we’re going to begin crowdfunding for what we’re calling “the Bat City Special” very soon. That is going to focus exclusively on many of the talented folks who live within my home city of Austin Texas. Keep your eyes glued to both my Facebook group at Halloweenman.com and my comixology page below for more details.
The world’s smartest woman takes on her toughest foes yet, as the radical terrorist group known only as the Sons of Samson unleash a fiendish plot against women everywhere! Also, venture into Lucy’s lab and see some of her favorite adventures! Both of these ALL-NEW comics, plus a special cosplay photo shoot!
So, join your favorite brawny, brainy, BBW bad ass and get some IQ with your T&A today!