Heading ‘Over The Garden Wall’ With Jim Campbell [Interview]
Boom Studios‘ comic adaptions of Cartoon Network shows such as Adventure Time and Steven Universe, published through their KaBoom imprint, has resulted in some of the best all-ages comics in recent memory. Hot on the heels of a successful miniseries, this week sees the release of a brand new Over The Garden Wall ongoing series that delves into and fleshes out the world of the show.
The new series is split into two, with Jim Campbell — who served as a storyboard artist on the cartoon — contributing to the ongoing adventures of Greg and his frog Jason Funderburker, while Amalia Levari and Cara McGee uncover the story of Anna, The Woodsman’s Daughter from the show. We caught up with Campbell to chat about adapting the series from animation to comics, the freedom the medium grants, and splitting up the brothers. Plus, Boom has provided us with an exclusive preview of Levari and McGee’s story in Over The Garden Wall #1
ComicsAlliance: What are the biggest differences between writing for animation and writing for cartoons?
Jim Campbell: On the Over the Garden Wall animated series my job as a storyboard artist had me sort of filling in the blanks in a very rough script. The basic plot points were all there already written by Pat McHale and the other writers on the show. So, my job was really to fill in the blanks and try and come up with funny dialogue and action.
The first several comics we’ve done so far were almost completely scripted by Pat, so I was a little more limited. The action was mostly already divided into plans and the dialogue was all written. But on this new issue and series, I got to come up with everything from the beginning. But much like the TV show, we’ve had a couple punching-up rounds. Which is to say, Danielle Burgos and Pat McHale have suggested gags, dialogue, and plot twists to help the story along. I’m doing a lot more of the work now, but I’m still getting by with help from my friends.
CA: You also did storyboards for the animated series, how much crossover in skill-set is there between laying out storyboards and laying out comics pages?
JC: I’d say it’s very similar. I actually learned some things about camera motion and angles between cuts that I am using now in the comics. It helped me to be more critical of the staging in some of my panels. On a comic page you can do more experimental things but I feel like it’s good to have that frame of reference as a starting point — to know the rules so you can break them.
CA: Your own style of cartooning is noticeably different from the art style of the television show, were you encouraged to make it your own, as it were?
JC: Pat McHale has been very encouraging of me stretching out in my own way, but I try to keep some consistency. I try to keep the main characters mostly on model and follow some of the vague style rules of the show. But of course my lifework will just end up going of those rails sometimes and I let it. On some level, I am really just incapable of totally mimicking someone else’s style. Anyway, I feel like comics look best when an artist has that freedom to be themselves. I’d rather look at drawings that are unique expressions of the person doing them than something that perfectly mimics another artist or studio style.
CA: How closely do you work with Cartoon Network and Patrick McHale on the series? Is there a certain level of trust that comes with working on the show?
JC: Pat is still very much involved. He gave me the reigns to write for these issues, but I consult him to nail down some of the mythology and key elements. I know he put a lot of himself into the show and I don’t want to stray too far from the thing he feels are right for these characters. He’s been really supportive in that regard, and, as I said before, he’s even been helping punch up some dialogue and gags.
CA: Your story in Over The Garden Wall #1 is a Greg solo story. Why lead off with that, rather than a more traditional adventure with his older brother Wirt?
JC: Previous issues took place between episodes of the show, so it made sense that Wirt and Greg were still lost together in the Unknown and a lot had yet to be resolved. The TV show was a very contained story, and we wanted to explore something a little bit new without negating the original show. Even though Greg was a main character in the show, Wirt was really the center of focus and the Unknown reflects a lot about him. We thought it would be fun to focus on Greg and his very different outlook… to start with anyway.
CA: Will there be a Wirt solo adventure? Do you have plans to spotlight any other characters from the show?
JC: It’s still up in the air right now, but I am certain we will be seeing more of Wirt down the road.
CA: Is there an continuing story with your half of the ongoing series, or will they be one-off adventures highlighting new places in the world of Over The Garden Wall?
JC: Right now there is a definite story arch over the first several issues. That’s the basic format I’m following for my half of the book: contained episodic stories with an overarching bigger story. And those bigger stories may overlap. Sorta like the original show. It’ll be fun.
Over The Garden Wall #1 is out today and is available digitally and in comic stores. Check out an exclusive preview of Amalia Levari and Cara McGee’s story below.