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Staked Through the Heart and You're to Blame - An Interview with STEVE BRYANT & DON CARDENAS

It's a very exciting day at Comic Book Yeti as we welcome both Steve Bryant and Don Cardenas into the Yeti Cave to talk about Evie and the Helsings #1. We'll talk about musical influences, comic influences, Kickstarter rewards, the stuff they're into now, and Jimmy gets to tell Don again how much he loves his short comic "The Debt". This is a lot of fun.

 

COMIC BOOK YETI: Steve and Don, thank you so much for joining me in the Yeti Cave for another exciting edition of Cryptid-Bits, our short but tasty crowdfunding interview series. Your current project on Kickstarter is Evie and the Helsings, which runs until February 9th. Can you tell our readers what Evie and the Helsings is all about?


Evie and the Helsings #1 (cover A)

STEVE BRYANT: We’re glad to be here in the Yeti Cave—love what you’ve done with the place! That rug really ties the room together.


What’s Evie about? I’m just going to go with our elevator pitch here, “For centuries, the Van Helsing family has protected humanity from things that go bump in the night. The last protector has fallen, and the mantle goes to her one surviving heir. The problem is, Evie Van Helsing just wants to rock.”


DON CARDENAS: (Acquiescing to Steve’s solid pitch on this one).


CBY: Yeah, that is a solid pitch. I dig it. It’s clear there’s a strong musical connection since Evie just wants to rock. What are some of your musical influences, be it bands or songs, that have influenced Evie or that you listened to while writing or drawing? I really like when comics come with a playlist. What are some of the songs that would be on an Evie and the Helsings playlist?


DC: It’s more than just songs, we wanted to have the seedier vibe of late 80’s LA music but in the glow of our modern age. That said, from my end I gravitated towards bands with a bit of snarl and attitude but also had a strong melodic sense. Bands like the Runaways, Joan Jett, Halestorm, and Guns ‘n’ Roses. The playlist would/does have some great tracks like Mr. Brownstone, Apocalyptic, Queens of Noise, and Cherry Bomb.


Evie and the Helsings #1, cover B (by Steve Bryant and Jason Millet)

SB: Don is definitely more versed in metal than I am. I tend to lean more toward progressive hard rock like Rush, but I guess Queensryche would qualify as metal. And, while working on Evie, Chris Murrin, our editor, introduced me to Dream Theater. I cycled through a lot of those three bands during the first issue.


Other influences…in the mid–late 80s, I was in my early 20s, and spent a number of years playing in bands in the midwest. From a character point-of-view, lots of the interactions are rooted in memories of that period. And I was probably every one of the personalities we see in Evie and the Helsings at some point: the too serious one, the peacemaker, the dreamer, and the one getting bagged on because they may not be as prepared as they should be. All of that stuff goes into the comic.


Chris’s knowledge of both LA and hair metal was invaluable in setting the scene, too.


CBY: Scrolling through the Kickstarter campaign page, I think the retro homage cover is amazing. What are some of the other things you are excited to offer backers through the Kickstarter campaign?


DC: Any form of the book, first and foremost. Aside from that, doing the Mini Prints and stickers through the stretch goals are something I’m happy about, and I was floored that my commission tier was sold out so early because I’m really excited to work on those. Though, the top 2 things have to be collaborating with Steve on the Sketch covers offered in the Box Set tier and our 15k stretch goal of having an actual Evie and the Helsings song recorded for everyone to jam to.


SB: The variant covers are a lot of fun. We’d talked about bringing in other artists for variants, too. But because Don and I are both artists, we had various ideas that we each wanted to try, like the retro homage cover, and the virgin variant cover (which is an homage to Tim Bradstreet’s spectacular art for the first edition of White Wolf Game Studio’s Vampire: The Masquerade). In the end, we just did all the variants ourselves and had a blast with them.


The Blizzard of Evie box set is probably my favorite reward level, just because it’s got all of those cool variants in it.


Stretch goal items, too! Anything that adds value to what people have already pledged is really exciting, because you want to reward these people who took a leap of faith on you and your book.


CBY: Is there a comic (single issue, trade, or OGN) that made you feel the way you hope readers of Evie and the Helsings will feel after reading it?


SB: I love the way that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips manage to make the RECKLESS books feel very location and period-specific. It really draws you into that world. Or maybe that same sense of excitement that Jaime Hernandez brought to the early LOVE AND ROCKETS stories when Hopey was onstage with La Llorona.


DC: I hope our readers come away feeling like I felt after reading the first issues of great comics like TRVE KVLT, KILLCHELLA, METALSHARK BRO, and CRASH AND TROY. That they had a great time with the introduction and can’t wait to see the craziness that comes next.


CBY: Don, those are some of my favorite recent comics too. Plus, I love the Reckless series, Steve. What’s your comic creator origin stories, meaning when did you first get into comics and what was it that made you want to create comics? How did the two of you come together to create Evie and the Helsings?


DC: A long and winding road, but to make it as brief as possible, I grew up drawing and wanting to make comics. I fell out of love with comics in my midteens and found them again a decade later, then once I tried my had at a few short comics I realized this is for life and dived into my first mini series, PACKS OF THE LOWCOUNTRY. After that I recommitted to short stories and having known Steve for over a decade now, we have been looking to do something together for a little while. I remember distinctly I was in my car waiting and Steve messaged me on Twitter about the concept. A flurry of back and forth messages later we were rolling. It took a while to get issue one done and now that we have some amazing momentum and response, we are full steam ahead!


SB: Like Don, I wanted to make comics as a kid, and took a few detours away from that dream. By the early 90s, I was working as an artist in the TTRPG industry and really wanted to transition into drawing comics. It took me 10 years to finally make the leap, before Athena Voltaire launched as a webcomic in 2002.


Evie and the Helsings started off as Van Helsing with the logo mimicking the classic Van Halen logo and the lead character was originally Eddie Van Helsing. The concept cracked me up, but I put it aside because I thought it might be too dumb. And when Eddie Van Halen died, it seemed like it was in poor taste.


The idea kept gnawing at me and I kept thinking Don would be the ideal collaborator for it. I messaged him about it, but also mentioned my concerns about Eddie being in poor taste. Don suggested making the lead character a woman. I think Don threw out “Edie” as the name, and then he suggested “Evie,” we were off and running.


CBY: Don, I know you saw my tweet about your Off Into the Sunset story, “The Debt”, but it really is exceptional and packs so much story into a few pages. So many creators get their start creating short stories for anthologies and I wanted to ask both of you, what are the important factors to consider to craft a great short comic?


DC: Honestly your comments on it still ring in my ear and are deeply appreciated. Having worked with amazing writers like Philip Butehorn, Dalton Deschain, and Eric Palicki to name a few, I feel like I’ve had a crash course in expert short story crafting. The biggest thing I brought to "The Debt" and the other stories I’m currently writing, is serving the emotion of the story first.


To me, "The Debt" was about rage, fear, and mourning and I worked to make sure that every aspect served to support that. I connect most to works that excel in HOW they are about things, rather than WHAT they are about. So I would have to say please keep that in mind.


Evie and the Helsings #1, cover D (black-and-white virgin variant cover by Steve Bryant)

SB: Since I started off as an artist/writer on a webcomic, I didn’t spend much of my formative time on short stories. Even now, I’ve only done a handful of them—one for the Broken Frontier anthology, the stories in Athena Voltaire #9, and an autobio story about the time at SDCC that a guy was offended that Nazis were the main bad guys in Athena Voltaire.


CBY: Working with you two on Evie and the Helsings is colorist Jason Millet and editor Chris Murrin. What do they bring to the project that helps to elevate Evie?


SB: Most of the comics I’ve made have been collaborations with my friends. When I have something new brewing, I ask friends if they want to join in. It’s less of a business experience than it is a “Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show!” kind of thing. Because that’s how it often starts, I work with a lot of the same friends on a bunch of projects.


I’ve known Jason for 25+ years and he elevates everything he works on. He’s colored me on Athena Voltaire, Mark Stegbauer on our book, Ghoul Scouts, and now Don on Evie. Jason’s the top storyboard artist for movies and tv shows filming in Chicago, and he brings that storyboard sense of immediacy to how he renders comics coloring—it’s very painterly.


Chris is indispensable. He’s edited everything I’ve written for the last 10–15 years. He’s great at trimming down dialogue if there’s a more concise way to say it and so smart about script pacing. Best of all, he’s that second set of eyes that says stuff like, “Y’know, if you do this and this instead of that, you can show the reader instead of telling them. It’s stuff that, if I’m writing and drawing, I tend to do. But if I’m writing for another artist, I may forget. Chris is our secret weapon.


DC: While Chris has been pretty hands off with me, he’s still been a great pillar of support and common sense throughout the whole process. Jason…Jason rules. The coloring choices he makes are much smarter than what I would do and it makes the work and world sing better than I ever could have hoped.


CBY: Don, congratulations on 100 episodes of the Comics-Coffee-Metal podcast. Can you tell CBY readers about what you’ve enjoyed about hosting this podcast, anything surprising you learned, and some of the folks that you think made great guests?


DC: Thanks! First and foremost I’ve enjoyed getting to know my friends better and having a good amount of strangers become friends. I feel blessed to have the community around me that I have. The most surprising things I’ve learned are 1: Apparently people like my voice? Which is a lovely compliment to get but never would have expected. 2: That having a conversation with someone about the things they love and enjoy never gets old. I thought I’d be ending the show around now and it feels like I’m just getting started.


As for great guests, I can point to each episode and pick a moment where I think it was a great moment and experience, but if I had to pick the first ones that come to mind then the immense fun I had on both episodes with Brent Fisher and Michele Abounader. Seriously, if I had the time I’d try to convince them to do a second podcast with me. I also immediately think of Aubrey Sitterson, Kevin Mellon, Steenz, Sophie Campbell, and Markisan Naso. All convos I think about often for different reasons.


CBY: What are the comics, books, tv shows, and/or movies that have influenced Evie and the Helsings and what comics and shows are you currently enjoying?


SB: I feel like you can’t do a contemporary indie horror comic without acknowledging Tim Seeley’s work on Hack/Slash. That’s the standard bearer for me.


I’m also fascinated by TV shows that aren’t based on comics but definitely have comics in their DNA. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the obvious one. But if Buffy is the Claremont/Byrne X-Men, then Cobra Kai is the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans. Both Buffy and Cobra Kai exist in these stylized realities, whether it’s monsters terrorizing teenagers or karate tournaments being life and death events. That aesthetic is really appealing to me, and I hope that Evie has a similar kind of vibe.


As far as what I’m enjoying right now, everything that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips do is at the top of the list. I’m disappointed that they’re taking a break from Reckless, but really excited to see Night Fever. I love the world-building that Charlie Stickney and Conor Hughes are doing in White Ash. Tim Seeley and Jim Terry’s West of Sundown is excellent. For TV, we recently finished Kaleidoscope on Netflix, and just started Octavia Butler’s Kindred on FX/Hulu. And I’m counting the days until Justified: City Primeval starts.


DC: For me I was really drawn to my memories of 80’s horror movies mixed with the far too many episodes of Behind The Music that kinda drove me through the book. Instead of revisiting them I let my nostalgia be the guide. For comics, I’m really enjoying KNOW YOUR STATION, CRASH AND TROY, KILLCHELLA, BY THE HORNS, and Mike Norton sent me a pdf of his upcoming Graphic Novel THE ROCK GODS OF JACKSON TENNESSEE and I absolutely adore it. Mike is so dang good. For other media we just started The Last of Us and that’s been great, I really love Mythic Quest on Apple+ and Abbot Elementary on ABC. Also I though She-Hulk was a blast.


CBY: Yeah, I'm looking forward to new Justified as well. And She-Hulk was a blast. Definitely my favorite of the Marvel Disney+ shows. Any other projects you are working on or that are coming out soon CBY readers should check out?


DC: EVIE AND THE HELSINGS #2 OF COURSE! Haha. Also, I am the artist on another horror book called SPEND THE NIGHT, written by 80’s horror director Jackie Kong (Blood Diner). The first issue is available from Lunar Distribution and I’m knee deep in issue 2. There’s a few more projects floating around too with previous collaborators and I am also wrapping up my gig as colorist for DEPOWERED, a great series from Part-Time Comix.


After that there is always the podcast, occasional videos on my YouTube Channel, and a few music projects that will finally hit people’s ears later this year.


SB: I have a few things I’m messing around with, but nothing that’s close to ready. I’m kind of stuck in limbo with Athena Voltaire and Ghoul Scouts being tied up in the Action Lab class action lawsuit. So, for now, my focus is on Evie.


CBY: Where can folks find you online?


SB: My Twitter and my much-neglected Instagram are both @SteveBryantArt, and my website is SteveBryantComics.com


DC: Twitter and IG are both @doncardenasart, podcast is comicscoffeemetal.com, main website is doncardenasart.com, and YouTube is YouTube.com/comicscoffeemetal !


CBY: Thank you so much, Steve and Don, and good luck with the rest of the campaign!


DC: THANK YOU!


SB: Thanks very much!




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