Leading into San Diego Comic-Con, TOKYOPOP announced that the publisher will be premiering the first graphic novel of animator and illustrator Eric Wight's "My Dead Girlfriend" in time for Valentine’s Day 2007. Wight's impressive design resume offers a convincing argument for being excited about this upcoming title. In addition to contributions to animated works such Superman, Batman Beyond and Beavis and Butthead Do America, Wight's illustration has been seen as the comic book art of the OC and the Blue Twister episode of Six Feet Under. AICN's Whedon fans should note that Wight was art director on the stalled animated Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. He's agreed to answer a few of AICN's questions about the upcoming "My Dead Girlfriend".
Can you describe your upcoming work in "My Dead Girlfriend?"
It’s about a boy named Finney who lives in a world of horrors—literally. His family are ghosts, his classmates are monsters, and he's the most normal kid in town—which makes him a complete outcast. Then along comes Jenny, who’s smart, beautiful and totally into Finney. The only problem is she's kind of dead. So the focus of the series is how far Finney is willing to go to be with the girl of his dreams, and whether even Death can stand in his way.
There are definitely many layers to the story. It’s a romantic comedy with a "goth" edge to it. There’s actually a fair amount of action and suspense.
SG: What sort of audiences would you expect the work to appeal to most?
EW: I think it will appeal to anyone who ever made to feel like being different was a burden rather than a gift. Tonally, it’s similar to "Buffy." I’m exercising a lot of my own experiences on the page, much like Joss did with his own high school demons. Not that I’m Finney, but I can certainly relate to those same feelings of being awkward or misunderstood.
For a lot of those same reasons, I think fans of "The O.C." will enjoy "My Dead Girlfriend" as well. While my manga deals with the complications of relationships and angsty drama, there is also a certain amount of self-awareness that adds lightness to the situations. And I can promise more than one round of testosterone-induced fisticuffs.
SG: ...How have you managed to achieve this flexibility?
EW: As an animator, you have to be a chameleon and draw in someone else’s style all the time. With every new project I develop, I work really hard to find that specific voice so that everything doesn’t look the same. Sometimes for just one project, a producer might want to see three or four different styles, so you constantly have to reinvent yourself. Whether it’s realistic or cartoony all depends on the tone of the project.
SG: How was the look for "My Dead Girlfriend" developed?
EW: I knew I wanted my drawing to be fun and light to offset some of the darkness of the subject matter. I tried to infuse my animated style with a little bit of a manga flair. I chose to ink it with a brush the way I would my realistic superhero work to be able to use black as dramatically as possible -- much like a film noir. So the final product is very much a hybrid of all the styles I like to draw in. The characters themselves definitely have a Goth flair to them, with some preppy touches. I spent a lot of time designing the look for each character, designing outfits that suited their personality.
SG: In "My Dead Girlfriend," how did you work out the manner in which you’d visually tell the story? Is it influenced by animated work? If so, how did you translate that to sequential art?
EW: There is definitely an East meets West approach to my storytelling in this book. Because of the smaller pages, I wanted to try and keep my panel count down to 3-4 per page. Some of the little story touches I’m using implement techniques inspired by the Japanese, as well as some of my indie favorites like Chris Ware and Dan Clouse. But I try to move the camera around as cinematically as possible. I’m hoping by combining all of these elements, readers are going to be in for something they haven’t really seen before.
SG: Has your work been influenced by Japanese anime or manga? If so, in what way, and works of anime/manga?
EW: I think they have definitely made an impact, especially manga. I knew when I set out to make this book, I wasn’t just creating a graphic novel. I wanted to make something that honored the tradition of manga. So I’ve been devouring as much manga as possible to better understand that approach to storytelling. Some of the manga artists that I draw inspiration from are Osamu Tezuka, Range Murata, Ken Akamatsu, Kenichi Sonoda, and MiKyung Kim. As far as anime goes, anything by Miyazaki is a bottomless well of knowledge.
SG: "My Dead Girlfriend’s" heart/skull is really clever and eye catching. What was the process for developing that sort of icon/logo design? How much does branding and merchandising factor in?
EW: I originally designed the heart to be a teaser image for the book. I had this idea for a logo that was Goth meets Hello Kitty, and that heart/skull logo was the final product. Branding is important to me, because I want to create instant recognition and design apparel and accessories that don’t look like they just have the characters slapped on them. To walk into a store like Hot Topic, and not only be able to buy the book, but also find the outfits that the characters themselves might wear.
SG:In creating "My Dead Girlfriend" have you had the chance to try anything new that has really excited you?
EW: First and foremost, I’m writing and drawing my own characters for the first time. That’s completely Mecca to me. I can’t hide behind someone else’s creation, so that’s both exciting and daunting. I’ve really experimented and pushed myself with the overall style, trying to blend my comic book and animation backgrounds. My hope is to create a manga that shatters your expectations at every turn. I guess we’ll find out if I was successful this Valentine’s Day.