BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
Betty didn't want to spend the summer in hicksville with her grandmother. Being on a farm was far from the fun and sun she imagined her vacation to hold. But, she soon discovers there's more to grandma's farm than meets the eye. A secret group of warriors, the Soul Chasers, team with Betty to help her fight the forces of darkness. Now, the girl who thought local bullies might be her biggest worry is dimension hopping to protect us all from those hell bent on making the dark land of dream our waking nightmare. Brian Babendererde
has crafted quite the thrilling tale with Soul Chaser Betty
. A collection of this series is set to hit stores next month, but we've got Babendererde here now for some answers on this imaginative saga. THE PULSE: Just who is Soul Chaser Betty? Just hearing the name reminds me of those evil folks trying to steal our immortal spirit ....
The Soul Chasers are a group of seven humans who enter permanent trances or comas in the real world in order to allow their soul to travel into the dimension of dreams. It’s here that they fight against the forces of the Weaver, an ancient evil who long ago was exiled to the dreamland. So long as the Soul Chaser’s continue to fight against the Weaver, he remains at bay and life goes on, even if the public at large has no clue about this hidden war.
By a twist of fate, a teenage tomboy named Betty becomes the first Soul Chaser who can travel between the real world and the land of dream any time she wants – but her new found powers could lead to the ultimate victory of the Weaver.THE PULSE: Who is Betty before she gets involved with necromancers and other chaotic creatures?
Betty is an average teenage girl growing up in the big city. As the story opens, Betty isn’t too happy. Her parents are entering into a nasty divorce, and they’ve sent her away to live with her Grandmother in the country, away from all of her friends. But Betty soon starts to make new friends – and not all of them are necessarily still alive and kicking…THE PULSE: One might imagine it's a truly life changing moment when a girl goes from being the new kid in town to a Buffy the Vampire slayer type. What is it about Betty that allows her to cope with these insane situations and not go over the edge?
Betty’s something of a headstrong tomboy, and her pint size stature definitely hides an inner resolve and confidence that most people seem to underestimate. At first, when things start to get strange, she thinks she’s maybe losing her grasp on reality. But she soon finds out that her Grandmother knows a thing or two about the supernatural as well, and Betty’s headstrong attitude often leads her to kick butt now and ask questions later when things start to go bump in the night.THE PULSE: Who is Rolf? How does he become such a boon companion to Betty?
Rolf is a Soul Chaser, and becomes Betty’s partner out of a need to survive against the forces of the Weaver. In turn, he very quickly becomes the teacher that Betty needs in order to learn just how her new powers work. Rolf’s a few years older and wiser than Betty, but he tends to be stuck in his ways, so brash young Betty has a few things to teach him as well.
Betty is also immediately drawn to Rolf – he’s confident, not too hard on the eyes and sticks up for her when the other Soul Chaser’s doubt her. Betty isn’t too shy about her feelings, and majorly flirts with Rolf, making the older warrior pretty damn embarrassed. But his lack of interest doesn’t seem to deter her. THE PULSE: How is this series different from a Buffy the Vampire Slayer or any other series where a person finds him or herself a "chosen one" to protect humanity? What makes Betty different from what has come before?
Betty and the rest of the Soul Chasers are not actually “Chosen Ones”, in the sense that they are not chosen to become warriors based on any innate ability or quality. They are average people who are given great power almost entirely at random by an ancient curse. How they choose to use it is up to them. If they can’t overcome their personal foibles, conflicts and shortcomings then mankind is ultimately doomed. In other words, if seven average men and women can’t work together and make sacrifices to save mankind, then perhaps mankind isn’t worth saving.
In fact, Betty is the least likely candidate to become a Soul Chaser, and it is this very weakness that leads to the increase of the Weaver’s power and the possible enslavement of all mankind under his dark rule.
One of the things I like about Betty is that she also isn’t the reluctant hero type. Most similar tales seem to wallow in the idea that the hero doesn’t want his or her responsibility, that it’s all a burden. Betty is a character who jumps right in, with confidence and nerve, even if her skills can’t always cash the checks her mouth writes…THE PULSE: Who or what influenced the creation of Soul Chaser Betty?
The story of Betty was heavily influenced by research into the mythologies of cultures from all across the world, including Judeo-Christian, Hindu, Norse, American Indian, Aztec and many more. The creatures, mythology and rules of Betty’s world come from a synthesis of the common elements from all of these beliefs. Readers who are paying attention will be able to find more information on any of the creatures and mythological characters in the story, and learn more about how they are all connected, which I find pretty cool.
Soul Chaser Betty also takes place in the mid-80s and so there are tons of references to shows, movies and comics throughout the story. In fact, Soul Chaser Betty was heavily influenced by things such as The Goonies, Stand By Me and other teen movies, but combined with the supernatural demon fighting and over the top action of Anime and Manga from that period.THE PULSE: What are the evils Betty faces here? How are they different from the typical bad guys?
Betty and her friends fight against the Weaver, who lives in the dreamland and therefore haunts the dreams of all mankind as a demonic boogey man. His true identity has remained hidden to all but the Soul Chasers for eons, but he has been known to different cultures by various other names throughout history.
However, the Weaver’s real strength comes from his demonic ally, known as the Archon Queen. Working together the Weaver is able to steal the souls of the dead and give them to the Archon Queen, who uses them to create powerful creatures called Geist Demons, serpent creatures who seek to mindlessly destroy everything in their path – starting the Soul Chasers.
While this alliance has helped the Weaver in his goal to return to Earth, the Archon Queen and her brood are pure chaos demons whose only goal is to destroy the order of creation. They can’t be reasoned with and they can’t be destroyed - only held at bay. Therefore, they make dangerous enemies, and potentially even more dangerous allies.THE PULSE: What are the challenges of bringing this story to life?
Soul Chaser Betty actually started life as a concept for a video game that was never developed, back around 2000. In case someone reading this was unaware, that’s the world I come from, designing computer and video games. The challenge of turning the concept into a comic was to forget about the structure the story might have taken in an interactive environment, and re-imagine the characters and stories for a linear comic book narrative.
The story and setting of Betty’s world changed quite dramatically as it was turned into a graphic novel. But the core dynamic between the two main characters and their struggle against the Weaver remained almost entirely intact.
In addition, the massive amount of research into mythology and religion from around the world was a very difficult and taxing job, but ultimately very rewarding. Because of that, the story has a very solid and fascinating foundation and setting to play with.THE PULSE: Why did this story begin life online?
Originally I had planned to publish Betty as individual print issues, and had even completed the contents of issue one back in 2001. But as they say, life happens and it just wasn’t in the cards at the time to continue working on the book and keep my “day job” designing games at the same time. It would be almost a year before I was able to balance the two, and I was able to go back and revamp the length of the series to be a shorter, tighter story. This time also allowed me to work more on the complex mythology of the series as well.
I decided to publish the story online as it was created simply because I had too many other things going on at once professionally. I just didn’t have the time to learn the ins and outs of the publishing business, while also working on games and writing and drawing a book.THE PULSE: What advantages did gaining an audience that way give you that traditional print might not have?
Publishing online is very unique, especially to someone like myself that is used to working on a game title for 16 to 24 months in secrecy and seclusion. Comparatively, publishing a comic online gives an author immediate feedback from his or her audience, and that can often shape the direction of a story. Soul Chaser Betty’s story was planned out from the beginning in broad treatment form, but as I interacted with readers online I began to adjust my scripts as I wrote them to reflect feedback – by adding more character moments to flesh out something fans had taken an interest in, or to add a nuance to the story that readers had wondered about.
Now, this kind of feedback goes on in print comics, but the delay between feedback and execution can be months. I was publishing Betty online in 12 page increments and getting immediate feedback as I working on the next installment. This dynamic give and take helped me to tell the story I wanted to, but to hone it based on the interests and feedback of readers around the globe.THE PULSE: How did you come up with the look for the series? What influenced you the most as you decided how to portray these characters?
From an art style, Betty is heavily influenced by Manga and Anime, two sources of inspiration that I grew up with, even back in the late seventies and the throughout the eighties. From Battle of the Planets to Voltron and Robotech, these early influences have left their mark on my art style, and I’ve continued to be fascinated with both Japanese and European comic art.
And because the story takes place in the “Awesome 1980’s”, I wanted the art style to look like a traditional black and white Manga. Because of that approach I avoided anything that might look overly digital, instead aiming at a crisp cartooning approach with a traditional “ZipTone” feel.THE PULSE: What's the best feedback you received about Soul Chaser Betty?
I think I always enjoy two things about the feedback I get from readers.
One, I like that people are often initially drawn to Betty because it has cute girls fighting monsters and lots of cool action, but then find that there’s a solid bit of world-building underneath it all. Many readers are pleasantly surprised at the depth behind the mythology and world of Betty, and they often tell me about other real mythological stories that tie into the Soul Chaser world.
Second, I have a lot of people just react to the characters. Betty and her friends, such as Tonya and Keith, are average teenagers on a summer vacation, and I think readers are happy to find that the story works on that level as well - things like first crushes, awkward moments and confrontations with bullies. I like that readers can identify with the characters, whether they themselves are that age, or because of the nostalgia that it brings back to older readers. Yes, they fight demons alongside more traditional heroic characters like Rolf, but readers seem to love it when the two worlds collide, I mean even Betty’s Grandmother gets in on the monster fighting action.THE PULSE: What's included in the first Soul Chaser Betty trade?
The trade paperback is 176 pages and contains the complete first adventure of Soul Chaser Betty – no cliff hangers here. In addition, I was able to go back into the original story and turn it into a sort of “director’s cut” by redrawing some of the early art, lengthening some chapters and adding entirely new scenes and pages to improve the flow of the story. There is also a lengthy sketch and pin-up gallery in the back of the book and an afterword that covers the history of the character, from the original concept to the publication of the graphic novel.THE PULSE: Is the series still being updated online?
Soul Chaser Betty has been on extended hiatus since the first storyline ended.
However, readers can always visit http://www.twilighttangents.com/betty
for a 32 page preview, reviews, character bios and information on how they can order a copy of the print book from their local comic shops. Small press books like Betty don’t usually get picked up by shops unless their customers ask for it, so I highly urge interested readers to ask their store to pick up a copy for them before February when the book hits retail shelves.
Check out page 319 in the December Diamond Previews under Twilight Tangents.com, or give them the Diamond order code DEC084285.
For readers outside North America, or for those who might want a signed copy, Soul Chaser Betty is available directly from the Twilight Tangents website.THE PULSE: What other projects are you working on?
Currently I’m working on a semi-secret project, a fantasy world and setting that I’m hoping to write something set within over the coming months. Compared to Betty, it’s an even more ambitious and detailed “epic fantasy” setting. Whether that turns into a new graphic novel, or something else entirely, is yet to be seen.
In the meantime, I’m also always updating my site, http://www.twilighttangents.com
, with new art, illustrations and sketches. Some of it is Betty related, but there’s also character designs from games I’ve worked on as well as stand alone illustrations and pin-ups! There’s always something new going up, so drop by and check it out.