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Kickstarted: Amy Reeder & Brandon Montclare’s ‘Halloween Eve’

I like Kickstarter a lot. It’s an efficient way to directly connect with artists while also making sure that a project that interests you gets funded. There are still a few hitches that need to be worked out, but my experience with Kickstarter has been largely positive. I’ve backed eleven projects across a variety of genres, and the results have been solid, for the most part. Over the coming weeks, I’m going to take a close look at some of them, examining the positive and negative aspects of each campaign. Today, I’m looking at “HALLOWEEN EVE comic book”, Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder’s Halloween-themed one-shot comic.

Why this Project?

I found out about this project the same way a lot of people did, I imagine. I saw the episode of Grace Randolph’s Between the Pages that featured Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare. I wasn’t as familiar with Montclare as I was with Reeder, but they delivered a pretty good pitch.

I’ve seen Reeder’s art here and there, but never on a series that I was particularly into. But she has a very clean and attractive style that sits just to the side of mainstream comics. It reminds me of a cross between classic anime and a more realistic take on superheroes, a take that features a diversity of body types and focus on facial expressions and body language instead of big, Kirby-style action. It’s hard to pin down in a way that I’m used to being able to pin art styles down, but Reeder’s art is good, and I wanted to finally experience that firsthand.

The Kickstarter for Halloween Eve gave me a good excuse. It’s a creator-owned comic, which is cool, but it’s also a one-shot. It’s a chance for Reeder and Montclare to really strut their stuff, and I’m really, really down with that situation. Backing the project took no thought at all. Why not, right?

The Campaign

Reeder and Montclare ran a pretty solid campaign. They asked for $10,000 and got $21,372. I think that’s a testament to their perseverance and hustle. They have a product and it found an enthusiastic audience, which is very cool. They also engaged that audience in a big way, which is I think the first step to keeping an audience around for future projects.

The rewards are well-organized and attractive. The first hundred people to pledge ten bucks got a signed and numbered copy of the comic in addition to a greeting card from the creators. The awards increased the more you pledged, but remained focused around Halloween Eve. Some tiers offered the script and layouts, others three copies of the comic, and still others offered a variety of sketches or portfolio reviews. I would’ve liked to see a digital-only tier (if you let me bid five or ten bucks and get a free digital comic on its own, I’m definitely there), but there may have been logistical issues preventing that.

It was easy to figure out what you want and what you need to spend to get it, and the prices felt reasonable. Ten bucks is a lot for a single floppy comic, but when you take into account that you’re helping someone get their book produced, printed, and shipped, it becomes more reasonable as a one-time expenditure.

They did a good job of keeping their backers interested and informed once the project succeeded, too. They kept everyone updated on the status of their rewards, and even went so far as to discuss the paper stock, and shipping issues with their backers. The highlight was probably the Read Alongs that Montclare and Reeder did a few times, where they took a look at a few different comics — Felipe Smith’s sublime Peepo Choo, Adrian Alphona & Brian K Vaughan’s Runaways, Sean Murphy & Grant Morrison’s Joe the Barbarian, and Robbie Morrison & Frank Quitely’s Shimura — in a podcast for their backers.

It’s cool to see project founders staying engaged and maintaining a relationship with their backers. It isn’t required, obviously, but it’s a nice way to reward their backers beyond the rewards they offered.

The Final Product

A couple weeks ago, I received my copy of Halloween Eve in the mail. It was well-packed, and their attention to detail in printing worked out for the best. The comic feels like it has slightly thicker pages than most floppies, and the interiors are glossy, rather than matte. It’s just a normal sized comic, but it feels thicker, you know? It doesn’t matter in the long run, but it’s nice to hold something that feels substantial.

Halloween Eve is the story of Eve, a clerk at a costume shop, on the night before Halloween. She’s a grump, not into the spirit of the holiday at all, and so… she must be taught a lesson. No, I’m kidding. It’s not that kind of story, not really. But she is going to experience Halloween in a new way, and Halloween Eve shows us what happens when she’s put through that wringer.

I’m glad this was my first real exposure to Reeder’s art. She’s ferociously talented, and I liked seeing her transition from normal life, or as normal as things get in a costume shop, to a straight up fantasy land. She uses a lot of interesting storytelling techniques, from inset panels to using panel shapes to guide your eye. There’s a bit early on that I liked a lot, where she breaks down the work day for this Halloween shop in a nine-panel grid, with each panel being a discrete encounter and Eve’s in the same basic position in each vertical row.

Reeder’s work with facial expressions is great, too, on par with the other artists who excel at that stuff, like Kevin Maguire or Eduardo Risso. I think my favorite spread in the book is when Eve is trying on costumes after everyone has left. It’s all facial acting, from side-eyes to muttering under your own breath while talking aloud to yourself to being ultra stubborn to vamping in a mirror to the surprised face that comes with realizing that a ghost just talked to you while you were trying on clothes.

Montclare’s contributions are pretty good, too. Halloween Eve is a familiar story. Think of it like The Wizard of Oz crossed with A Christmas Carol. It’s predictable, but being surprised by the plot isn’t the point here. You’re reading Halloween Eve to see how Eve reacts to things.

You know how the book is going to end from the second page of the story, and that’s okay. Montclare does a good job of painting a full picture of the cast in a very small amount of real estate. Eve is prickly and tired of Halloween, but not a horrible person. She’s just fed up. She doesn’t get it. Her co-workers do, but they can’t convince her. The characters are quick sketches, types we’ve seen before, which lets us fill in the blanks. This isn’t to say that they are stereotypes, exactly — it’s more that they’re just familiar.

Halloween Eve is good, though slight on a certain level, as holiday stories usually are. But it’s good in a way that makes me look forward to seeing what these two cook up next. They work well together, and Montclare’s dialogue-powered plotting works well with Reeder’s facility with depicting genuine acting. Even if it’s just a series of one-shots — Valentine’s Eve would be fun with this cast, even if it isn’t an actual holiday — I’m interested.

You can pick up Halloween Eve at your local comic shop or online. It’s a cute story, and one that’s well worth checking out.

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