Zac Gorman Expands The World Of ‘Costume Quest’ With ‘Invasion Of The Candy Snatchers’ Graphic Novel [Interview]
Over the past few years Zac Gorman has made a name for himself paying tribute to his favorite video games with his comic Magical Game Time. This October the cartoonist will be spreading that same magic into his first graphic novel, Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers, a companion narrative to Double Fine's 2010 Costume Quest RPG. While Costume Quest followed a human kid and their friends as they battled candy-stealing monsters called Grubbins to recover their kidnapped sibling from another dimension, Invasion of the Candy Snatchers will flip the script and see what the non-evil Grubbin Klem got up to that Halloween. CA got in touch with Gorman to learn more about his first official video game project and how he's taken to working on his first longer form comic.
ComicsAlliance: You posted your first Costume Quest Magical Game Time comic back in October of 2012 and since then it's become one of your most liked posts on Tumblr. Is that what got the ball rolling between you, Double Fine and Oni Press? How did this book come together exactly?
Zac Gorman: I’ve met some of the Double Fine folks before at PAX since I’m usually there selling my merch with Fangamer—who not only carries my stuff but some of Double Fine’s as well—so I guess we had some mutual connections. But at the end of the day, yeah, I think it really was just the Costume Quest comic. It made a circuit around the Double Fine office back in the day and that’s kinda where this whole thing started.
CA: Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers is set to give CQ fans a look at a completely unexplored side of the first game by following Klem the Grubbin, who is a candy-loving outcast among his more kid-snatching focused kind. What was your inspiration for Klem and his story?
ZG: I wanted to tell a story from the other side of the fence. The series pretty thoroughly examines the human side of things, so I wanted to try something different. I thought it’d be fun to see Halloween from an outsider’s perspective. Initially, I wrote this really long convoluted plot which delved a bit more into the everyday life of the Repugians [the monsters] and their relationship with Halloween but I had to condense it down into something I could finish in a realistic amount of time.
CA: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers is set for release in October around the same time the Costume Quest 2 game arrives. Have you had a chance to play the new game yet as part of your research for the comic?
ZG: I haven’t. Actually, I’m not even sure if it’s far enough along to play yet. I definitely will when it comes out though! I’m a huge fan of the series which is why I’d love to sneak something I created for the comic into the game even if it’s just a throwaway piece of dialog…but Gabe knows that [Gabe Miller, project lead on Costume Quest 2].
CA: It seems kind of wild that it's already been four years since the first Costume Quest was released. Have you kept up with playing it and/or its more winter-y "Grubbins on Ice" DLC every year?
ZG: I did replay it around Halloween the year after it came out. And I just replayed it again when I started working on the book. Halloween games -- not just horror games, but actual Halloween games -- are kind of a rare thing, so it’s nice to have something to play around the holiday to get pumped. I think I’ve only played through Grubbins on Ice once to the best of my recollection.
CA: As I've gotten further and further into my 20s, I've found I have less and less time to enjoy video games the way I used to (an unopened PS4 has been collecting dust next to my TV since November). What's your relationship with your consoles like these day? Do you still get to play games as much as you'd like?
ZG: The good news is you’re not missing a whole lot yet by leaving your PS4 in its box. However, Child of Light comes out at the end of the month so you should probably try your best to get it open by then. I still do play games but it kinda comes in waves. You’d think that the busier I am, the less I play, however a lot of times the opposite tends to be true. Over the last month and a half working on the book I’ve actually been playing more games than I have in a long time. Stress release, I guess.
CA: You've been drawing comics for years, but Invastion of the Candy Snatchers is your first longer form graphic novel. How do you like working on a more sustained narrative compared to shorter form stories?
ZG: I started doing comic strips back in maybe 2007 or 2008 and honestly I’ve never really done more than a single page strip. I’ve drawn a few short stories, maybe 5-10 pages but probably no more than I could count on my fingers. Honestly, I’ve always been intimidated by longer narratives. Once I broke down and actually committed to doing a book though I’ve really fallen in love with the process. I’m already writing my next two books, so I think I’m going to keep doing this as long as somebody wants to publish what I’m turning out.
CA: Licensed projects usually demand a certain level of stylistic continuity between the source material and the comic. How much freedom have you had in terms of injecting your own style into the CQ universe while retaining its designs.
ZG: Actually, it’s amazing how much Double Fine trusted me with this. They basically let me do whatever I want. I think I’d roughed out the entire book before they’d even seen a single character design. It’s been a wonderfully casual yet supportive working relationship with them.
CA: Now that you've had the chance to tell a comic story within the world of a video game you were already a fan of, are there any other games you'd like to take a crack at?
ZG: Oddly enough, I never really thought about this. Usually with my fan comics it’s always about paying tribute to a game rather than telling an original story in that world. I guess it’d come down to who has the coolest world to play with. Maybe something set in the Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest universes because they’ve got such a fun history and great monster designs.
CA: Earlier this year you posted a personal essay on your blog that addressed how you've evolved past a version of the "Do what you love" philosophy. Have you experienced a better work/life balance since posting your essay?
ZG: Yeah, I think so. I had a really mixed up attitude about work throughout a lot of my life and I think a lot of my bad tendencies were exacerbated by the little bit of success I found working as a self-employed artist. Since then, I’ve started to develop better habits and a healthier attitude towards work. I’ve found that separating my identity and sense of self-worth from the work I create has allowed me to take more chances and perhaps somewhat ironically, dedicate myself to work even more because I can approach it with a sense of objectivity that makes the process far more enjoyable.
CA: What other projects are you working on right now that we should keep an eye out for?
ZG: I’m just now dipping my toe into two new books. One is a short, about 20-30 pages in length for Retrofit that should be out later this year. The other is a more ambitious project of around 100 pages or so in length which I hope to finish sometime this fall. There should also be a couple cartoons I’ve worked on coming out over the next year or so which I’m really excited for and a smattering of little side projects here and there. Other than that, I’m just continuing to post video game comics all over the internet whenever I possibly can.