Waking Up From the Dream Project: NIGHTWORLD Rises at Last?

I spoke with Adam McGovern at Baltimore Comic Con last weekend about his new Kickstarter project, which he describes as “meta schlock inspired by Kirby classics and Mario Bava monster movies”. That alone was enough to pique my interest. He’s been working towards the project since 2005 with long-term dedication, and the genesis of the comic is a fascinating insight into the rocky road a strong idea can take before it surfaces in desired form for those dedicated enough keep ahold of the reigns. McGovern and Paolo Leandri collaborated on two issues of the comic early on, then went on a long hiatus, always intending to return to it. For both, it was still a “living comic” even as other projects took them on professional detours.

McGovern and Leandri first collaborated on the Ignatz Award-nominated Dr. Id: Psychologist of the Supernatural in 2006, and seeing some sample pages from Leandri featuring a “vampire guy” who lived in a castle with his “zombified wife” left McGovern feeling “haunted”. By the fourth issue of the comic, he and Leandri were co-creating, going back and forth in a modified Marvel method. McGovern comments that this method appeals to him because “If you’re not surprised” by what you’re creating, “you shouldn’t keep doing it”. It’s important, he says, to “keep yourself out of your comfort zone”.

Their Kickstarter (which includes special Bleeding Cool incentives) aims to produce the first four issues of a “self-contained miniseries” in print and they’re keeping their options open in terms of seeking a publisher for distribution should they succeed. McGovern writes for Bleeding Cool about his long journey and the pursuit of he and Leandri’s “Dream Project”.

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 Adam McGovern writes;

(A scary story seeks a Kickstarter happily-ever-after)

NIGHTWORLD possessed me nine years ago. I was writing for the Jack Kirby Collector tribute-zine when Paolo Leandri of Città di Castello, Italy sent me some samples of mutant-Kirby comic stories he had done for skate-punk and rock rags in his native country, plus some other concept pages.

We ended up collaborating on the idea I brought him for the self-help sorcerer, Dr. Id, Psychologist of the Supernatural, but one strip in Paolo’s original pile kept speaking to me. It was a haunting five-page short about this weird kabuki-lucha-looking bat-human, bizarre yet tragically dignified, and his ghostly lover, each pacing a sad decrepit castle. I had told Paolo that if he ever wanted to try an American adaptation I thought this romantic tragedy could be a hit in the States.

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In the meantime, we finished a one-shot’s worth of Dr. Id, nominated as Outstanding Comic of 2006 in the Ignatz Awards, and two stories of the six-part graphic novel The Urban Legend of Idoru Jones (which eventually ended up on HiLoBrow.com with more to come eventually — it’s set in the future, so that will still be there).

Then NIGHTWORLD overpowered us — I asked Paolo for a rough English translation for me to adjust into American vernacular and transposed poetry (I would later work this way on 50-plus issues of nine comics for Italy’s GG Studio with co-writer Andrea Plazzi and numerous original scripters and artists, from 2010-12). In the grand tradition of our shared idol Jack Kirby, who if you pointed out that a thumb was on the wrong side of Galactus’ hand in one panel, would fix the problem by drawing you a new four-page foldout, Paolo assured me he could do much better than he had before, and soon I had 20 new pages of the extended NIGHTWORLD epic.

I gave the series its gothic-themepark name, and christened most of the characters, surprising Paolo by asking that our vampiric lead, Plenilunio, keep his Italian name — leaving it in struck me like a revelatory dubbing error in one of the overseas monster-movies of my youth, and the name had a lovely lilt and an evocative explanation (it’s a word for the night of a full moon in Italian).

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Plenilunio is a man who gambled with fearsome forces which he thought would unlock a certain secret of the universe (and of the human heart, even more mysterious to him); his entranced lover Lidia is in a sleepwalking state we suspect has some connection to his occult explorations. He strikes a bargain with a corporatized, sci-fi-ish variant on medieval hell called The Empyre, for the powers to find a mystic artifact he believes will awaken Lidia. This transforms him into the apparition we see, but his plan is complicated by some competing demons, the teen-from-hell Hotspot and the formidable warrior-queen Hellena, who (unlike the principled Plenilunio) work for the Empyre’s roguish Underboss but may have secret rebellious intentions of their own. Among the way outsize humor and tragic horror collide along with driven demons and nightmare creatures. While Plenilunio & Lidia’s fragile love hangs in the balance. And is complicated by an implicit romantic triangle between them and Plenilunio’s long-suffering neighbor Ludmilla, put in harm’s way along with her grumbly Grandpa Lowe by the demons’ conflict. In a book like this we could have gone for a love pentagram, but we’re passing the savings on to you, the discerning reader, in a compact four-issue introductory miniseries.

But those four issues ran into complications of their own. Publishers emerged and disappeared. A three-year detour as my own parents’ full-time caregiver interceded. Discouragement and competing projects refocused Paolo’s attention and vast creative energies for a few years. Ideas and resolutions for stories came and went like dreams.

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But the dream was one we couldn’t ever really waken from until we knew that it walked freely. NIGHTWORLD took on more flesh as we lived through its necessary stages. The first issue was done “Marvel style,” with Paolo fully drawing it for my overlain interpretations in the text; as we proceeded, the story treatments got more and more like full-script, with whole sections written out…and sometimes whole scenes surprisingly redrawn, to keep my off my toes and keep the storytelling as unpredictable to us as it should be for the reader.

A new publisher surfaced and we think we’ll be able to speak its name soon. A cycle of high hopes and towering challenges has proved the immortality of our cast. And now that I’ve gotten over the fact that this spooky book won’t see the light of day within the only year I’ll ever live that has a “I3” in it, I’m ready to look for good omens.

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The NIGHTWORLD Kickstarter launched on September 6 and runs through October 7. We expect the book to debut in spring 2014. Someone may pay to release it, but we have to pay to make it happen (finishing the coloring, by bestselling artist Dom Regan of ONE TRICK RIP-OFF and SUPERBOY, and finalizing other design and production matters). And we won’t make it happen alone. That’s where the legions, living and otherwise, reading this come in.

Click to the NIGHTWORLD Kickstarter to learn even more and see further artwork and sample pages. The highest donor within the weekend this article first appears can get a full comic or prose short-story edited by me for free, and anyone who donates through Bleeding Cool will receive a special digital booklet of exclusive preliminary sketches, the original Italian-language prototype story, script outtakes, etc. to compare the finished comic to once it comes out.

So join us in releasing the kind of manic and meaningful comic you might not have thought was possible, and bringing a sweet nightmare to life.