I hate to use a cliche, but some ideas really do kind of fit together like chocolate and peanut butter, don’t they?  Pinocchio and Vampires seems like something that should have been brought up years ago.  But then again, if it had, we might not have had the awesome upcoming graphic novel Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer to look forward to!

The creators of the upcoming graphic novel sat with us to have a little chat about what we can expect from this project.  We talk about the original Pinocchio tale by Carlo Collodi, vampires killing Gepetto, and they answer the question … does it hurt Pinocchio to break off his own nose?

Click the image below to check out the interview!

Click here for our awesome interview!

So how did you guys get together to come up with the idea of something as cool as Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer?  It seems like such an obvious idea, but at the same time, it’s pretty darn unique.

Dusty Higgins: Coming up with the concept of Pinocchio as a vampire slayer was an unusually methodical process, and I still remember it clearly. I’d seen one of the Shrek movies, and really liked the way they’d treated the Pinocchio character and his character kept circling around in the back of my mind. I made a sketch of Pinocchio writing graffiti on a wall and being caught by the police. He had lied and his nose had grown out and stabbed the officer surprising both of them. Bad taste? Probably. But I think that drawing created the link to me thinking that this nose was a weapon and in the right situation could be used to fight evil. Once you think about it, the concept is really obvious. I was surprised to find that nobody had attempted what we’ve done. Pleasantly surprised, because that meant that I could actually see how far I could take the concept.

I knew Van from work, and more importantly knew he was interested in writing comics and I felt like I should get someone else to write this. I called him up, I might’ve showed him some sketches I’d been doing. He pretty much immediately said yes. He has really went beyond my expectations creating a story out of what essentially started as just a simple joke about Pinocchio’s wooden nose and vampires.

So is this more of an alternative Pinocchio story?  Or more of a follow-up to the Carlo Collodi fairy tale – in that, is the tale we’ve come to know referenced in the book or play into the events of the book?

Preview art for Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer (click to enlarge)

VJ: Our starting point was the Collodi fairy tale, and a good bit of what exists in our book comes directly from the fairy tale. People will probably think we’ve twisted the story into something dark, but really the original one is much more weird and twisted than what the Disney movie has led people to expect. That said, Collodi didn’t include vampires, and the fairy tale does end with Pinocchio becoming a real boy. So we had to be a little revisionist, but for the most part I think our tale does a good job of staying true to the character and tone of the fairy tale.

DH: This is more of a follow-up to the Carlo Collodi fairy tale. We both read the original (or translations of the original) story, and I was surprised at how different it is from the Pinocchio I knew, which was the Disney movie. The original story is way darker (at one point Pinocchio is hanged and left to die), and that really made it easier to transition the characters from the original story into ours. Collodi’s story was dark but still had a lot of humor in it, that’s basically what we were going for anyway.

What made you decide on Pinocchio as the star of your comic?  Are you a fan of the original story, or is more of a “learn more about the character as you researched” kind of thing?

VJ: This really goes back to Dusty’s first sketch. It was always going to be about Pinocchio. The trick was in taking a wooden character (pardon the pun) and instilling in him a personality and pathos, and to give him a credible journey. A lot of the burden rested on Dusty to make the artwork compelling, and he did that in spades.

DH: I’d have to say that the idea of Pinocchio as a vampire slayer came first, the story just kind of got built up around him. I’d never read the original story until after I’d created the concept, but like so many things, the book is way better to me than the movie. We ended up drawing more influence from the original story than I’d originally intended. I remember the first time I really sat down and read the story, knowing where we wanted to take it, and thinking we’ve gotta use this character and tie these things together. It felt like I’d stumbled upon buried treasure.

Well, tell us about Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer.  Why is Pinocchio so angry?

Art from Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer
Art from Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer

VJ: Who can blame him? Vampires have come into his town and killed Geppetto, and to make matters worse the townspeople view Pinocchio as an outcast and don’t listen to his warnings about the vampires. He feels like everything he knows is being ripped away from him, and his only option is to be just as ruthless as those he’s fighting.

DH: The story follows on one of those “what if Pinocchio didn’t get to live happily ever after,” ideas. Vampires kill Pinocchio’s father Geppetto and then Pinocchio starts quoting Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride on anything with fangs. And it turns out Pinocchio’s built for it. He has no blood to take and stakes grow from his nose. Really, he’s like a vampire’s worst nightmare.

Does it hurt him to keep breaking off his nose?

VJ: It’s kind of like Wolverine popping his claws, I think. Sure, it hurts. But it’s a necessity, and so Pinocchio just ignores the pain.

DH:  It probably stings a little at first but it goes away pretty quickly.

How did you work together on this book?  Was it more of a collaborative process?  How long did it take, roughly, to put it together?

VJ: We worked together really closely on it, which I think is key to how it turned out. We spent several weeks at the start just bouncing ideas off each other, pushing the story in new directions and expanding the scope. I think writing the script only took me about three weeks (I write pretty fast), but then we kept tweaking little things as Dusty got into the art.

Ready to kick ass and chew bubble gum...and he's all out of gum!

DH: I think we must’ve really started working on the writing part of the book June 2008 and I finished the art, aside from some minor edits, at the end of May 2009.  Van did most of the writing although we went through several edits, and there’s some stuff I wrote in there. Van definitely deserves the credit for the story. I work full-time and do freelance on the side, and had a lot of work in the latter half of 2008 (also got married) so it wasn’t until around February of this year that I was able to kick the book into high gear. I averaged about a page a day, 7 pages a week from February until June.  It took me about 2-3 hours per page, so I was basically going to work, coming home, working, and then going to sleep. My wife was surprisingly okay with this, and we’re still married nearly one year later. I got lucky.

So…is Pinocchio: Werewolf Slayer far off?  Are there plans to continue the series, or is this more of a stand-alone graphic novel?

DH: I’d be lying if Pinocchio fighting werewolves hadn’t crossed my mind. After all it’s the next logical phase. This story stands on its own, but Van and I have a rough outline for what amounts to a trilogy. I think we’ll get to those stories eventually, just because I really want to tell them regardless of whether or not people want to read them (but I do hope people want to read them). How soon we’re able to get to them depends on a lot of different things happening.

In the newest Previews, SLG is really working on promoting the book.  How does that feel for you, as independent creators?  Did SLG seek you out, or did you submit the project to them?

VJ: SLG is doing an amazing job of promoting the book, which is great for us, of course. This being our first book, I don’t think either of us knew what to expect.

DH: I was really taken aback. It was unexpected, but awesome. Early on when we were working on the book we made a list of publishers we liked and were prepared to send proposals to. As soon as SLG’s name came up I told Van I thought they’d be a perfect match for the story we wanted to tell. When I think back to it, I knew about the company, but it was more a gut feeling than anything. I’m glad things worked out the way they have.

When can our readers get their hands on the book?

VJ: September. Not sure on the specific date yet, though we may have early copies at some conventions.

Are you guys horror fans?

Some early sketches.

VJ: It depends. I don’t like the horror that is most popular now, which I feel relies too heavily on gore and not enough on atmosphere and tension. Joe Hill is writing some good stuff for IDW, and Dark Horse puts out quality horror comics.

DH: I’m a pretty big fan of anything with zombies in it. At work I’m actually the “go-to” guy with zombie questions. On occasion I do actually get a zombie related question. I think it has something to do with my occasional “you must be prepared” speech, or my annual zombie themed Christmas desk decorations (last year was zombie nutcrackers). I still haven’t won the company decorating contest… but one day.

What are you reading now?

VJ: I’m rereading From Hell, the new Muppet Show series from Boom! Studios, Kevin Cannon’s Far Arden and then the new translation of Camus’ The Stranger.

DH: I’ve been trying to get through the last book of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I think the fourth one was my favorite and since then I have this feeling I’m not going to like the ending. On the comics front I’m a big fan of anything Conan, Walking Dead (favorite zombie story), Buffy Season 8 (Had never watched an episode of Buffy all the way through until after I started drawing the book), Chumble Spuzz (another SLG book), and call me a big nerd but I’m really digging the World of Warcraft comic series. Just picked up Barrack the Barbarian and it’s everything I’d hoped it’d be.

More specifically for Dustin, and jumping ahead a bit, I noticed the “Liberty” art on your blog. Seems like a pretty interesting project.  Anything you can tell us about it?

From Dusty Higgins' upcoming Liberty project.

DH: It’s an idea I’ve had a lot longer than Pinocchio, and I’ve started on it several times and stopped when I realized I wasn’t quite prepared to do what I wanted to do with it. I think every creator has their “baby” project and this is mine, so I’ve got this crazy idea that it has to be perfect. I’m not prepared to give too much away just yet but if you know what I like (see reading list above) you can probably make a pretty good guess as to what it’s about. Female protagonist (Liberty), fantasy comic, lots of fighting and there will be undead. I know, I know, everybody’s got undead in their comics nowadays.

Are you attending any upcoming conventions?  Where can fans meet you?

VJ: It’s looking like Baltimore Comic-Con in October might be it for this year, but probably quite a few next year.

DH: Right now it’s hard to say. I live in the middle of Arkansas which isn’t anywhere close to any of the major conventions. I’ll definitely be doing some signings at some of the bigger cities around the state when the book’s out. Van and I have discussed DragonCon this year, but I still can’t say for sure. I do think I’ll be able to make it to the Chicago Comic Con in April next year. It’s likely something I’ll update on my blog when I know for certain.

Thanks to Van Jensen and Dusty Higgins for spending some time with us.  Pick up Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer when it comes out this September!

For more info on Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer, check out the following links!