Action Lab marketing/promotions guru Jamal Igle asked me to write a few words about how Ghoul Scouts happened. The fine folks at SpartanTown, First Comics News, and An Englishman in San Diego have been kind enough to run an excerpt of the essay I sent Jamal.
Here’s the essay in its entirety:
Ghoul Scouts development began back in 2007, in an email exchange with a friend discussing our weekends. She did normal things like spending time with friends and playing video games. For me, any time that wasn’t devoted to having fun with my son, Chance, was focused solely on making comics. As many comics folk will tell you, making comics can be an all-consuming pastime that leaves little room for other interests.
Her: I LOVE that you related being able to play “Dead Rising” to being more “well-rounded.”
Me: Zombie killing is a skill that creates well-rounded people. Everyone knows that. It’s in Chance’s Cub Scout manual, page 147. He can earn a zombie-killing badge and everything.
And it snowballed from there.
I was most excited about having a comic I made that I could share with my son. He was 7 years old when the above discussion took place. This would be the perfect book to read with him!
The original title of the series was Zomboy Scouts, and it featured a group of boys trying to get home from a scouting campout during a zombie outbreak. At the conclusion of the adventure, the boys would realize that there was something strange about their town and that they were the only line of defense against the weirdness. The second volume would introduce an all-girls rival group called the Ghoul Scouts, and we’d have two companion series: one starring four boys and one starring four girls.
I had so much worked out in my head: a series, a spin-off, a couple of cool titles and a number of plots, but I didn’t have an artist. I write and draw comics, but, as an artist, it’s important to understand when your style is appropriate, and when it is not. I can occasionally work in a cartoony style, but there’s a lot of struggle to get the artwork looking consistent and polished. I needed to find someone who could breathe life into these characters. Finding the right artist for a project can be a time-consuming process. Believe me, I know.
Enter Mark Stegbauer. Mark has spent years inking superhero and adventure comics, and he does it well. However, Mark is a crazy-talented cartoonist, as well. After seeing his creator-owned title Doctor Goyle, which he writes and draws, I knew his style was perfect for Ghoul Scouts.
In 2014—seven years after starting to play with the idea of scouts versus zombies—Mark and I started work together on the Zomboy Scouts pitch. Early in the process, I started sharing pitch text and story beats with Chris Murrin, whose editorial insights have been invaluable to my Athena Voltaire work. Chris loved the premise and characters, but wasn’t crazy about the title.
After living with it for years, I wasn’t about to change the title, just because Chris couldn’t see the brilliance of it. Nope. I was digging my heels in on this one.
The next morning, though, I realized that Chris was right. The title Zomboy Scouts made it seem like our heroes would only be fighting zombies, but our plans for upcoming stories have them encountering all sorts of monsters! Ghoul Scouts worked better, and combining the boys and girls into one group from the outset made for a much stronger story and cast.
Ding ding ding! Both Chris and Mark loved this change, and we were off and running. All we needed now was someone to color the book.
Choosing a color artist for a comic sounds easy, but is an incredibly difficult proposition. Comic book coloring, in effect, marries the sensibilities of two separate artists into a single visual style. We were fortunate that my old friend and collaborator Jason Millet was available and enthusiastic about the project. Better still, the entire team was delighted with how Mark’s and Jason’s approaches meshed. We also lucked out when the indefatigable Drew Browne came aboard as a color assistant/flatter.
Eight-and-a-half years have passed since that initial email. My son is no longer in Cub Scouts—he’s 15! I never got to read Zomboy Scouts to him, but he’s excited to read Ghoul Scouts himself. He knows which elements of the kids are based on him, and he can spot the inside jokes I’ve peppered throughout the series just for him.
I’m even more excited now—excited that kids everywhere will soon be able to meet this team of intrepid scouts and join them on their journey. I’m eager to share all the wonders of the series and its environs with them: from the town of Full Moon Hollow, to the woods outside town throughout Hemlock County, to the mysteries surrounding Wolfsbane Cemetery.
Grab your sleeping bag and come join us, won’t you?