Adventures With The Afterlife: Joey Weiser Talks About Ghost Hog

by Hannah Means Shannon

You may have noticed the delightful Ghost Hog offering on Free Comic Book Day this past weekend from Oni Press. Following only a few days later, the publisher is releasing Joey Weiser’s (Mermin) complete graphic novel following the post-death adventures of Truff, a young boar, who is driven by anger against the hunters who killed her. Truff is, however, new to the afterlife, and needs the help of two forest spirits, Claude and Stanley, to learn the ropes. There are animal villagers, local demons, and Truff’s own desire for revenge to contend with in this new book.

Eisner-nominated comic creator Joey Weiser joins us today to talk about Ghost Hog.

Hannah Means-Shannon: What experiences as a reader or viewer of culture do you think shaped your view of storytelling?

Joey Weiser: As a kid, I always loved comic strips for their fun characters and jokes, and from an early age I thought those were the kinds of comics I wanted to create. I was also an ​X-Men​ reader, but that seemed separate to me, and when I drew comics they never seemed to fit that world. Finding Jeff Smith’s ​BONE​ and eventually other independent comics and manga showed me that there was a way to blend these two types of art & storytelling together – the gags and fun, cartoon-y characters, but with a strong narrative to follow.

HMS: What makes art funny or emotionally engaging to you?

JW: It all goes back to the characters for me. If I can’t connect with the characters from their acting and dialogue, I can’t connect to the story. This isn’t a hard rule for me or anything, but I tend to prefer these types of comics over those that are narration-driven, or are too abstract. I love to see the characters come to life in front of me.

HMS: Is it easier or harder to work with non-human characters as a storyteller?

JW: I just think it’s more fun! My non-human characters are still pretty anthropomorphized, so it pretty much just comes down to my love of monsters and creatures. In ​GhostHog,​ I’ve almost entirely eliminated humans from the book!

HMS: So there’s something fairly ridiculous about the idea of a “ghost hog”, which might be present in the choice of the word “hog” rather than “boar” in the title, but there are also ideas of the supernatural and revenge, which are more serious themes. What do you think, as humans we are most afraid of regarding death and revenge, and how do you think we should address those things?

JW: This is a heavy question! When I settled on doing a story about a ghost, I knew I’d have to at least address the issue that our main character is dead. There’s a range of material about ghosts out there…On one end of the spectrum there’s ​Casper the Friendly Ghost,​ which basically does not address death, and then on the other end there are stories that are tragic and/or scary like so many horror stories, right? So, my challenge to myself was to keep the story in a similar fun spirit to my previous work, like ​Mermin​, but not totally disregard the darker ideas that come with ghosts.

I think everyone’s feelings about death and that kind of thing is very personal, so what I mostly did in the book was raise questions, and not necessarily come down on them one way or the other. I want to give readers something to think about rather than tell them what to think.

HMS: What has been one of your favorite character moments to draw so far?

JW: I like drawing scenes or character moments that make me laugh as I’m drawing them. I still get a chuckle whenever I think about Claude being thrown through the air and then pridefully boasting that he’s “very hurlable.”

HMS: What kinds of colors do you like to work with? How do they meet your mood and tone goals in the comic?

JW: I like bright colors and I love pastels. I like the bright blue of Truff’s ghost form a lot, as well as the teal of the ocean that shows up throughout ​Mermin​. I think the colors help bring my comics to life and contribute to the fun atmosphere that I want to give them. When I want a spookier tone, I set the scene at night or put it in a dark place where there will be more shadows thrown on the characters and environments. We don’t see a lot of blue sky in ​Ghost Hog​. Even if some scenes take place during the day, we only see the sky at dusk or dawn, and during the midday hours, our characters are deep in the woods or in caves underground.

HMS: What do you hope readers will remember/keep in mind after reading Ghost Hog?

JW: I hope that readers will love the characters, enjoy following their escapades, and feel for them as they confront some tough moments in their lives…or afterlife, as the case may be!

Thanks to Joey Weiser for taking part in our interview!

Check out Ghost Hog when it arrives in comic shops this Wednesday, May 8th!

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