*An Interview With Erik Evensen of “Beast of Wolfe’s Bay” Can Be Found Below This Review!
(Evensen Creative, 2013)
Review & Interview by Brad Gischia
Creator/Writer/Artist: Erik Evensen
Letters: Matt Talbot
Color Assists: Jeff Fugelsang
Greetings from the Wasteland!
I’ve often been frustrated when I see a film and love it only to find out that it is a remake of an older, usually much better, film. One of the questions I’ve been wrestling with this summer movie season is weather or not to see any of the sequels that have come out. It seems like every movie this summer has a number in the title, the second or third or, God help us, the sixth in a series, and it makes me not want to see anything. Is it possible to come up with a fresh take on an old idea?
So then I was given The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay, and I decided that yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. (Soon to be remade under the title “A Christmas Letter” starring that pale girl from Twilight and whoever she’s currently dating).
Erik Evensen is a graphic designer, illustrator, and sometime teacher. Here he exposes his creative roots. He has taken the ancient tale of Beowulf and re-interpreted it, set it in northern Minnesota, and taken readers on an enjoyable ride through the woods. Even with the recent adaptations, Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead and the Antonio Banderas film The 13th Warrior, Evensen has managed to spin the tale so it feels new, a tough go with a tale that has been dated between the 8th and 11th century. Despite that, reading it and looking at the illustrations felt like taking a walk through my hometown.
The story centers on Brian Wegman, a paleo-anthropology (study of ancient people) grad student who is having trouble finding time, or more likely, the passion, to finish his degree. The sheriff in his hometown, Gary Roth, calls him in to consultant on a case. Also in the mix is Roth’s daughter, a mythology and folklore professor named Winifred. We learn later that Brian and “Freddie” are old friends, and they become a Mulder and Scully-type team as the story progresses.
The crime they are called in to investigate? The double-murder of two college students. The culprit? Sheriff Roth doesn’t know for sure, but there are large footprints around the scene of the crime that make him think it’s not a normal human.
Evensen weaves the Beowulf tale skillfully through Wolfe’s Bay, and if you are familiar with the epic you will see the similarities. If not I’ll leave the ending a surprise. There is a nice build-up of feuding personalities inside of the larger story. The author has an obvious love of science fiction, noted by his numerous references to Dr. Who, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Star Trek, and Army of Darkness. He builds the mystery and suspense of the piece in such a way that you forget that you know the Beowulf story, and think that this is the story of Wolfe’s Bay instead.
Don’t forget that this is a graphic novel, so writing is just half the battle. Mr. Evensen has also drawn the whole book, and done so with an attention and skill that shows his graphic background. The layouts are good and make it easy to follow the dialogue.
What we have here is a quality book, a fantastic blending of the ancient and the new, and proof that old stories can be re-imagined in a way that make them fresh for a new audience. (Okay. I’ll see Wolverine for sure. But I draw the line at Grown Ups 2).
Interview with Erik Evensen, creator of “The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay” Graphic Novel:
I was fortunate enough to be able to interview the creator of The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay, Erik Evensen. Beast is Erik’s second graphic novel, and I was anxious to pick his brain on self-publishing, comic books, and, of course, Bigfoot. (For clarity of speaker I have italicized Mr. Evensen’s answers.)
-I understand that along with all of the writing and illustrations, you also self-published The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay.
Yes I did! I self-published my first graphic novel, “Gods of Asgard” (http://www.godsofasgard.com/), and it’s really the only way I know how to do things.
-Did you shop it around to publishers or go straight to self-publishing?
I sent it to a couple of publishers, but nobody bit. For instance, I knew it was a tough sell for Image out of the gate because they had just launched Hoax Hunters when I was in the final stages of production. Image doesn’t like to publish books that have competing themes, even if they’re fundamentally different. But I planned to self-publish all along.
-What were the biggest roadblocks you encountered in self-publishing?
I hit a few snags in the production stage more than anything. The first snag was when I was invited to spend a year teaching as a visiting faculty member at my alma mater. I’ve been trying to break into academia full-time for years, so this wasn’t the kind of opportunity I could turn down (although I got a few notes telling me I should have prioritized the book). So that added a bit of a delay to the project. The second snag was, one day while I was at this job, I was robbed. It didn’t devastate my life, but I had several possessions stolen, including my primary computer and some portable storage. Because of that, I lost a lot of the really recent work on the book. Basically, all the layered color files and letter files. So that added a couple more months onto the production. I still finished it within the school year, but at the cost of my already affected sleep schedule and personal life.
-What was easier than you thought it would be?
To be honest, the process of getting distribution through Diamond (the direct market distributor) is famously tricky for indie comics folks. But since I had a previous graphic novel distributed through them, that part went pretty slick and easy for me.
-If you had the opportunity to have the book picked up by a bigger company, would you do it?
There are definitely a few places I would say yes to.
-Is this the first book you’ve Kickstarted? How did that process work? Would you do it again?
Yes, it was. The process is fairly straightforward: have an idea, start it, pitch it to Kickstarter, and then use Kickstarter to pitch it to the public. However, I have to add that as I started writing and drawing the book, I studied Kickstarter like I was writing a thesis on it. I did that for a good half a year before I even launched my campaign. Once you’ve watched even a dozen videos, you get a really low tolerance for unclear or inaccessible pitches, which really helped me shape my own campaign. What people DON’T tell you about Kickstarter is how the reward fulfillment part is a HUGE pain. It’s really a perfect storm of paperwork, administration, shipping, and other clerical headaches. Nonetheless, it was insanely rewarding and I would do it again, for sure.
-Do you feel that self-published comics have a proper stage in today’s market, if so, where?
Well, they’re really kicking some butt on Kickstarter, for one. And they’re doing okay digitally. I think the current digital boom will yield positive growth for indie books. The flipside of this, of course, is that there’s a lot of “white noise” out there with indie comics right now. Personally, I like the tactile of experience of holding and reading a print comic, but that area of the market is a notoriously big ocean to cross. Your ship really needs to be sea-worthy and carefully constructed, and… somehow this turned into a metaphor I know nothing about.
-Have you ever considered trying an on-going series?
At this point, only if someone else wrote it. I’ve never really had anyone who wanted to collaborate with me in that way. Which is, in fact, why I started writing my own stuff in the first place: out of necessity. But I don’t think I could sustain my own ongoing series without some sort of creative partner.
-What comics are you reading?
I bounce around, but right now I’m all about non-superhero books, plus Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run. I’m catching up on Fables and Sandman, neither of which I ever read in their entirety. Revival and Saga, like everyone else. I’m digging Erik Burnham’s Ghostbusters book, because I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan and he really captures the right vibe to tie the movies to the animated series from the ’80s. Plus Hoax Hunters, Mind the Gap, and I liked Luther Strode well enough, but the ultra-violence became too much for me to handle. That doesn’t make it a bad book, however. I have several more on my to-do list, but I tend to be a trade reader more than a monthly reader, so I’m not what you would call current on anything.
-Who are your favorite comic artists/writers?
The big names? Robert Kirkman. Brian K. Vaughan. Brian Bendis. Matt Fraction. And of course, Neil Gaiman. For artists, Charlie Adlard, Ryan Ottley, Mike Oeming, Mike Mignola, Stuart Immonen, Terry and Rachel Dodson. Sean Murphy’s finishes blow my mind, and I hope he finds a major series to land on soon.
-Do you find yourself drawn more to the art or the writing in a comic?
Well, bad art can make a good story tough to get through, but I think it’s harder for good art to elevate a bad script. For that reason, I’m more of a follower of writers.
-What self-published author/illustrator, other than yourself, should we be looking out for?
Michael Moreci is an insanely prolific writer and I’m sure he will be doing bigger and bigger things, and more of them, very soon.
On “The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay”:
-Do you base your characters on people you know?
Not in the way you’d expect! Brian is a part of me—he’s the self-conscious, Charlie Brown self that we all have, but I seem to pay attention to more than others. Winifred is also a part of me, in that she’s unabashed with her fandom and eager to reframe every question. She also shares her curly brown hair and a bit of her fashion sense with my wife. Deputy Coroner Humphries accidentally came out looking a bit like a grad school friend of mine, but as I was writing him, I started to imagine Wil Wheaton in the role, who is great at playing snotty jerks.
-You tease a second installment of Beast, what are the chances of a Brian and Freddie reunion?
There is a chance, but it may take a while… I’ve got a concept and the beginnings of a script, but I currently have neither the twists nor the turns planned out.
-Was Grendel’s “mother” based on a specific person? (You don’t have to answer this one:)
Not really, but she kind of makes you think of an alternate-universe axe-crazy version of Jane Goodall, wouldn’t you say?
-Brian and Freddie definitely evoke a Mulder/Scully relationship, who do you feel you relate better to, Mulder or Scully?
Definitely Mulder. As a designer, I’m professionally trained to listen to people and use my intuition to solve creative problems. I lean on my intuition perhaps a little too much, and I do have a crackpot conspiracy theorist living inside me that I try to keep suppressed. I think most of us New Hampshirites have that, though. It might even be in the state constitution.
And, last but not least, on Bigfoot:
-Is there a Bigfoot or not? Does the possibility still exist in a world where reality film crews are crawling through the woods following “scientists” with cameras?
As an academic in the fine arts, I can categorically tell you that I have no idea. But it makes for pretty sweet television.
-According to the FAQ on the Beast site, this story is about “a bunch of scientists trying to find Bigfoot”. Have you ever, and do you, participate in Bigfoot hunts?
Not yet, although a friend and I looked into it. But it was going to cost a lot of money. And if the results were going to be that we would hang out in the woods, drink beer, and not discover Bigfoot, it seemed more sensible to stay home and do it for free. And do it indoors, where there are fewer mosquitoes and more television.
-Have you found anything?
I grew up in a 200 year old house in Lovecraft Country that creaked and moaned at night, I grew up reading Hans Holzer and attending lectures by parapsychologists. And my dad had the Time Life: Mysteries of the Unknown series. So I was primed and ready, but have never seen anything awesome like that. Just normal stuff.
-Are there any other “monsters” that you’d like to go on a search for?
Not really. But my wife has suggested if she saw a Sasquatch and I didn’t, I’d never let her hear the end of it. And she’s 100% right.
-Do you have another project in the works? What is it and when can we expect it?
My current big project is that I’ll be starting a teaching job at a new university this fall. I have some scripts in progress and hope to have another graphic novel’s artwork started by Christmas. Which project surfaces first, however, remains to be seen…
I’d like to give my sincere thanks to Erik Evensen for taking the time to answer these questions, and best of luck with the books. If you’d like check out The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay or any of Erik’s other work, check the links below.
To learn more about this graphic novel go to http://www.wolfesbay.com
To learn more about Erik Evensen go to http://www.erik–evensen.com
Follow Brad Gischia on Twitter: @comicwasteland