In this interview series, I speak with other comic creators to learn about their work! Here, I speak with Rich Clabaugh of The Graveyard Gang.
Travis Blair: Hi, Rich! I like to read The Graveyard Gang with the theme music playing in another tab. Of course, it should also be read from the beginning. Do you have any other recommendations for those getting into your comic?
Rich Clabaugh: That’s a great idea to listen to the theme music while reading! Yes reading Issue #1 is always a good place to start since it is the Gang’s ‘origin’. But THE GRAVEYARD GANG is a comic book (which I release online too) so each issue, so far, is a self-contained story. If you buy print (or pdf) copies the inside front cover gives you a quick rundown of who’s part of the my gang of rascals, which is a quick way to learn about them if you happened to read an issue other than #1. Online I have a CAST button which will bring you to all my characters with the Gang on top. I recommend my comic to horror fans of all-ages and fans of humorous adventure as well!
Travis: I like the cast! That’s a good place to start. Did you decide to make a comic that migrated online, or did you decide to do an online comic in a more traditional format? And is the cast currently aware of what happened in previous comics, or are the comics independent of each other?
Rich: I’ve always been a huge comic book and comic strip fan, and I’ve always wanted to make my own. I treat my comic as a ‘comic book’ which I distribute online and in print. That’s why my stories are broken up into easy-to-digest issues.
I’m so glad you like my gang of rascals! I worked long and hard developing each one into a distinct character and there is much more to learn about each one.
Lope the wolf kid, is the leader of the Gang and a Mexican orphan adopted by a reclusive Doctor. He’s the ‘Pinocchio’ of my comic. A boy cursed with ‘wolfiness’ who just really wants to be a normal kid. But he’s nosy about trouble and is very brave.
Sneezer, is my chubby kid who, well, always has a runny nose and sneezes often. He’s a bit more timid than the rest but finds strength and courage through his friends. He’s an orphan as well but he has an older sister that takes care of him.
Marcie is the only girl member but she’s the last thing from a damsel in distress. She’s the biggest and strongest member of the Gang and the boys think twice about crossing her. She’s from an Irish family and has 3 brothers. Her Dad is a police officer so she’s a do-gooder because of that.
Presto is my smart spectacled kid. He uses his head and the Gang counts on him for that. He loves the occult and magic, hence his nickname. There’s much more coming up about him!
Buster, is the short, loud, foulmouthed troublemaker. He gives everyone a hard time and he’s very sensitive about his height so he’ll punch anyone who comments about it. He gets into trouble all the time even though the Gang tries to keep him out of trouble! He’s Italian and his folks run the best bakery in town.
The Graveyard Gang was actually part of the supporting cast of the original star of my comic, this character you’ll get to finally meet in Issue #5!
Although each issue is a standalone story, there’s a big overall story which you’ll find clues about as we go. I have a 5 ‘season’ plan with each ‘season being 12 issues long. This first season I’m using as a springboard for the whole series, introducing readers to the Gang, their supporting cast, and the spooky town of Ghostport Massachusetts.
Travis: And now The Graveyard Gang has their own supporting cast! How did you decide on the look of them and the the rest of the comic? It has a youthful spookiness that fits the story. What iterations brought you to what we see now?
Rich: Yes, they will have a huge supporting cast! I think having a great supporting cast is very important for an ongoing story’s success, in comics and TV shows as well. Think about the rotating supporting cast in Kirby and Lee’s Fantastic Four run or in Joss Whedon’s Buffy and Angel series.
Your main characters need others to play off of and certain supporting characters can be useful to tell certain types of stories. Take Sea Captain Squallus (from issue #2) for instance, he’s a great addition to any story I might want to tell that will involve the ocean.
I want to tell all kinds of stories with the Gang and the way I developed them and the supporting cast give me options. There are so many cast combinations I could do for any given story.
I worked a long time developing the look for my comic book (since the early 90s). I did originally have it be a more darker series when I had my original series star but now that I see how younger readers have grabbed onto my comic I have to balance the frights with laughs more. It still will get dark at times (maybe Harry Potter levels?) but that’s why my art is intentionally more colorful and cartoony to offset the horror.
Travis: I’m glad to hear so much is going into the development! With all that goes into story and characters, do you have any method of keeping it all together? Does any type of storyboarding integrate with the visuals, or are they independent in the planning process?
Rich: Mostly it’s all in my noggin! I do layout each issue in thumbnails first, then create the actual pages (in Adobe Illustrator) where I write the script and make the word balloons. One of the benefits of being a sole creator is that you can make adjustments to the art and story as you go, if you think of a better angle to draw or some better dialogue.
I do need to write down lines of dialogue for upcoming comics that pop into my head at odd times. I think I forgot some really cool bits! I did just come up with the last page of Issue 12, so I sketched that out for future reference!
Travis: I imagined one of those rooms you see in a crime show, only yours would be plastered with colorful images of tentacles and werewolves. Finding out this is instead in your head has me curious, Rich! So Adobe Illustrator is what you use to make the comic. Anything else? Aside from the present, let’s talk about what else you used to make comics – way back in the 90’s!
Rich: Well someday I hope to have my own studio/office but for now my computer is set up in the corner of my bedroom, not much space to spread out!
I still draw my comic with tradition pencil and paper, then I scan that all so I can ink and color in Illustrator. I use this software at my day job so it works well for me.
Way back in the olden days I still drew in pencil but inked traditionally.
Travis: You’re dabbling with the digital form in other ways, with eBooks. Would you ever take it even further, and add sound effects? Just think – you could swipe the page, and hear, “NAA-BATHA-RAMA-SOOM!!”
Rich: HA! Yeah that would be cool! I’m finding as I go to more Cons that kids really like my comic so I’d like to do more directed at that audience. Does that mean less of a web presence? Maybe make an app so kids can find me that way? I wish I was a better business/marketing manager! Of course my long range goal would be to have it successful enough that I could do it full time, I have so many ideas I want to do!
Travis: I could see your comics converted to an app that would essentially be an eBook with overarching music and pages that could be tapped to hear sounds. Rich, thanks for letting me learn more about The Graveyard Gang! I look forward to seeing where your ideas take you.
Rich: Thanks for interviewing my Travis, it was fun! Stay ‘tooned’ for more Graveyard Gang coming soon!