Today at Image Expo, several new books were announced. Among them is Steven T. Seagle's CAMP MIDNIGHT. As you're probably aware, Steven, with Man of Action, has worked on several all-age projects such as Ben 10 and Generator Rex. At Image Expo, he mentioned he didn't really have any all-age comics he suggest to fans of his Man of Action work.
With CAMP MIDNIGHT, that's about to change. We talked to Steven about this new graphic novel.
COMIC VINE: What’s your quick sales pitch for CAMP MIDNIGHT?
STEVEN T. SEAGLE: Parent-ping-ponged Skye is sent to camp for the summer by her dad and his new wife. Not wanting to in any way please her “step monster,” Skye is dead-set on not fitting in – which isn’t a problem because she inadvertently winds up at Camp Midnight, where everyone—with the exception of fellow camper and fast-friend Mia—is a full-fledged monster. Skye then has to find a way to fit in until she can find a way to get out!
CV: What age group is the book geared towards?
SS: Well, certainly anyone can read and enjoy the book – so I encourage everyone who likes discovering great new cartoonists to give it a look. But if we’re talking hard-core demographics, CAMP MIDNIGHT is a good fit for readers that liked Raina Telgemeier’s SMILE series of books. I think it’s also a good fit for people like me who remember camp as a scary place you thought was full of monsters.
CV: Where did the idea of summer camps for monsters come about?
SS: I was asked a few years ago to a pitch for a line of original graphic novels – Y/A, predominately female readers – and this is what flew into my head – a story about feeling like an outsider and trying to fit in. After I got done writing up my treatment for CAMP MIDNIGHT, Ben 10 was breaking out as a hit and I decided I didn’t want to hand this new project over to a big publisher where I’d lose all my rights. So, I sat on it until I could make it myself. That turned out to be a great decision because I can’t imagine doing this book with anyone other than Jason Katzenstein who I didn’t know at the time. Actually, in a weird twist, it turns out I had met Jason when he was still in high school – years prior – at a performance of my play NWC. Neither of us realized that we’d met long ago until we were already working on the book!
CV: Did you spend summers at actual camps when you were a kid?
SS: I only went to camp once. It was a Colorado school-based program that lasted a week called – I think – “High Trails.” I wonder if they still call it “High Trails” now that pot has been legalized in Colorado? It was a big camp in the Rocky Mountains. It was a traditional camp experience – hiking, cooking over a fire, lake swims, making candles by hand, sports, mess hall, crafts, cabins with too many rambunctious kids, stall showers with fungal colonies growing unchecked, and counselors who were a year and a half older than the kids. The main thing I remember about it all was that I ran smack into the side of the wooden bunk beds in my cabin and broke my nose.
CV: What sort of “monsters” can we expect? Will there be all sorts of sizes and varieties?
SS: There are a lot of different kinds of monsters at Camp Midnight, but the second-most feared kind of monster is “The Human.” To find out what the most feared kind of monster is, you have to read the book! The thing about this camp, though, is that these monster kid campers all have to spend most of the year hiding their “monster” selves in society. Camp Midnight is the one place they get to live as they actually are without fear of being persecuted. This makes it tricky if you happen to be the only human girl and everyone is waiting on you to show your “other” self – especially the wolf-boy of your dreams.
CV: Is there any particular reason you decided to release this in its entirety as a graphic novel versus individual issues first?
SS: It was written as a complete book – one story and then it’s over – so it made sense to release it that way as well. It’s always weird to do that, though. Jason and I spent 18 months working on this and then it will all come out in one day.
CV:How did you meet up with Jason Adam Katzenstein since this is his graphic novel debut?
SS: I was introduced to Jason by our mutual friend, Daryl Sabara – who many may know as the “kid” in the Spy Kids movies or from his recent harrowing performance in Steven Soderbergh’s production of The Library at the Public Theater in NYC. But I know Daryl from being the voice of Rex on our Man of Action show Generator Rex for Cartoon Network. I have a creative group that meets once a week for a work day. Everybody just works on their own new stuff all day at a Korean Spa in LA, and Daryl brought Jason one week. Jason just sat in the café and drew all day. I went over to see what he was working on and was blown away. After a couple of weeks, we hatched a plan to do 7 pages of CAMP MIDNIGHT every week until the book was done. And we did just that. Even when Jason moved to New York halfway through the book, we kept at it – like clockwork – 7 pages a week – and we finished about a month ago.
CV: What’s your favorite thing about working on this book?
SS: My favorite thing – aside from getting to finally see this story after so many years of thinking about it – is working with Jason. He’s wildly talented, and he’s also young enough that he’s got that “first big comic project” energy about him. He has been indefatigable on this thing – drawing, redrawing, learning to color, learning to letter, relearning to letter, coloring, lettering, making his own font, relettering again! He’s a machine! A talented, thinking, feeling, machine who also plays in a band and regularly sells cartoons to The New Yorker and Newsweek.
My second favorite thing is that after creating things like Ben 10 and Big Hero 6 I’m always asked by parents which of my comics their kids can read. I usually have to respond that my cartoons are for kids, but my graphic novels aren’t. So I’m super excited to finally have Camp Midnight which I can point to without reservation and say “This is good for you or your kids!”
My last favorite thing is that I love the characters. I like how plucky Skye is. I like her friend Mia who has some big stuff she’s trying to get over. And I like the kids and counselors of Camp Midnight. Even though they’re all monsters, I think I relate to them more than I ever did to the kids at my camp.
CAMP MIDNIGHT is a 256-page graphic novel and will be on sale October 2015.