The following is an interview with writer Marco Lopez and artist Rachel Distler regarding the recent release of their graphic novel, The Nightcrawlers, through ABLAZE Publishing. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Lopez and Distler about their shared experience in bring the story to life – first through Kickstarter and now with ABLAZE, what they are excited for readers to experience with the new edition, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of The Nightcrawlers! Having successfully funded through a Zoop crowdfunding campaign in 2021, what will readers have in store with the new release?
Rachel Distler: Hey, Barbra – thank you so much for your congratulations; it still feels pretty unreal to me that it’s finally going to be out on shelves and out to the wider world after all this time. We’ve worked really hard on book one, and it sets up two groups of the Nightcrawlers: an earlier group of kids in the past, and the kids from today. For today’s Nightcrawlers, we’ve got Frannie and her dog Cassie, Calvin, Mika, Bruno, and Alana, a group of kids who seek out the mystery of the monsters who left them invariably orphaned and in the care of Mr. William Jones – old Hollywood star, owner of the orphanage, and a guy with many secrets in his own right. One night, they’re approached by Victor, a classmate who thinks his parents may be werewolves, and it’s up to them to get to the bottom of this dangerous mystery, but find themselves thwarted by a monster hunter named Greta – who has her own ties to the Nightcrawlers of yesterday. This first book gives you an adventure and mystery to jump into action with, but leaves you with the start of a wider view of the wild ride Marco and I want to take you on, with a lovable cast delving into topics such as monsters and myths, friendship, and family.
Marco Lopez: Rachel did a great job explaining what’s in store for the readers. All I can add is this truly is the comic book you always wanted as a child. A great adventure series that isn’t afraid to admit to children that the world can be a terrible place, but when you work together, anything is possible, and you can do the impossible.
BD: In looking back at the development and creation of the project, what can you share with us about your creative process in working with one another that really made this story unique?
ML: Rachel is a fantastic creative partner. Her art was always the only choice for this book. We went through so many ups and downs in getting this book out there. Interested publishers, publishers that passed, interested publishers that then passed. This industry, like any creative field, can be brutal. So, it’s always best to work with someone that is ride or die. That wants to bring the idea you have in your head to life as much as you do. Also, Rachel and I are in the same age group, so we grew up on all the greats. So many of the all-ages classics I use as references she automatically gets. She shared the same enthusiasm in wanting to release an all-ages graphic novel series that is fun and wears its heart on its sleeve.
RD: The shared vision between Marco and I, I think, has to be the most unique part of the creative process among all the creative processes I’ve experienced with the many writers I’ve worked with at this point – which is to bring exciting, creepy, action-packed stories with utter sincerity to kids, and really talk about both the monsters and myths we loved when we were kids, with respect to the friendships and self-discovery that makes the kidlit genre truly special. I have worked with a fair few audiences in mind among plenty of genres, and while there is no shortage of kidlit books on the shelves out there, it can be a challenge to find a writer who I think really is writing for the kids in mind. I love drawing for older audiences as much as the next artist, but I think it’s really special when you find someone who is crafting something that isn’t just great for all-ages, but something for kids specifically to have and have their own space.
BD: What makes ABLAZE the perfect home for this story?
ML: Because I am a huge fan of European comics, I love the format they release their comics in and how much love they have for the comic medium and the art of storytelling. And ABLAZE puts out a lot of fantastic European books. I always wanted to be a part of that industry, and in a way, now I am. Plus, Rich and everyone at ABLAZE have just been amazing in how they championed us as creators and how they’ve championed this book. I can’t wait to work on the next volume with Rachel and ABLAZE. And who knows, maybe even something else with ABLAZE that has nothing to do with the Nightcrawlers. 😉
RD: Well, for one, ABLAZE’s books are just very beautiful, LOL. I mean it! They have so many excellent artists that span an impressive range of genres, and my brain melts sometimes seeing my name alongside people like Maria Llovet and Felix Delep. And now they have a manga line, they’re doing a book on Lovecraft’s Unknown Kadath (a personal favorite that I think is criminally underrated), and brought over Trese, which I simply can’t ignore as a Filipino-American. That kind of publishing range makes me feel very comfortable to have ABLAZE as a home for The Nightcrawlers, a story that we hope to bring to as many people as possible, and that The Nightcrawlers has been chosen to help represent an arm of their books to young readers shows the amount of faith they’ve put in us. Rich Young and ABLAZE have treated us very well, and frankly, I feel quite blessed.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that The Nightcrawlers’ story has connected with and impacted readers?
ML: One of the things that has stood out to readers is how the comic deals with unresolved trauma. I always like to try and touch on something. Even with a comic like this, that’s a fun supernatural adventure story, but I like to do it in a way where I’m not standing on a soap box and preaching to the reader. When you tell a story that way, it has a deeper impact, and it looks like people are recognizing that and loving it.
RD: It’s still very early to tell, as the book has just been released, but what I can say that, even while I was still drawing the pages for the book, I’d receive messages on social media about how much they really love the work on the book I would post – and I didn’t even think I was sharing all that much, when all was said and done! There was a lot of encouraging stuff about how excited they were to pick up a copy for a nephew or a niece, and, of course, there was the work I was doing for a particular backer tier on Zoop, to draw in a family member into the pages, and how quickly those not only filled up, but also how they all purchased the original page to boot as a gift, typically to a child in the family. It became pretty clear that many people who backed The Nightcrawlers were comics fans who wanted to share that love with the newer members of the family, and passing down that passion is exactly the kind of love we want to leave with readers.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
ML: I have a couple of work-for-hire projects. The first one is called Slashers Inc. The first issue came out last month. It’s a three-issue action horror mini-series from Chido Comics. You can’t get it from their online store, https://chidocomics.bigcartel.com/products
It’s a wild ride.
The second project drops in January of next year from Sumerian Comics with Massive Publishing, and it’s in Diamond Previews. It’s an adventure spy series called Ozuna Bori 787.
I think a lot of people are going to really dig Ozuna. Besides those projects, I have some other comics written by me that will drop in the summer and fall of 2024, but I can’t talk about them right now.
RD: There’s mostly a few things under wraps for now, but two things I can highlight as of this moment will be an upcoming Kickstarter campaign early next year with Dauntless Publishing’s Marcus Jimenez and writer Brent Fisher for an action/fantasy book, The Unbroken, as well as a book already funded and underway with Wells Thompson, which is a sapphic fantasy/romance/adventure called The Catskin and The Rose. Although that campaign has already long passed, you can actually still grab a copy for yourself on Backerkit, along with a whole host of goodies that we got to make thanks to hitting hard into the stretch goals! Aside from that, considering that The Nightcrawlers is a Book One at the moment, it’s really a whole series that is being set up, and in order for us to complete that, you gotta read the book! So, otherwise, I’d love to say, “Nightcrawlers Book Two”… but we’re going to need folks to snap up book one first!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The Nightcrawlers and your other work?
ML: You can, of course, check out the publisher of The Nightcrawlers, ABLAZE’s website: https://www.ablaze.net/
Now, I’m not a social media kind of dude, but you can find me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/travisdearly), Twitter (https://twitter.com/atomicrexent), and check out my Carrd page (https://mlopez.carrd.co/) that has a list of my past and current work.
RD: You’ll catch me yammering away on The Nightcrawlers and other projects the most often on Twitter (@redtiebear), as well as rejuvenating my blog when I can on my own portfolio site (redtiebear.com). Aside from that, you can always check out places like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book and comic retailers local to you for your own copy of The Nightcrawlers, as well as things like The Color of Always and Sharp Wit and the Company of Women with A Wave Blue World.