BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
If you're in the mood for some comedy stylings of little monsters then Joey Weiser has just what the doctor Frankenstein ordered in the pages of his Late-Night Gang mini comics. The series features Henry of the Black Lagood, Victor Vampire and Andrew, Son of Frankenstein, among other monstrous 'tweens. "They're a group of friends who, like most monsters, come out late at night!" Weiser's been working on the characters since he was a student at the Savannah College of Art & Design in 2004. He's just trying to make good comics. "The stories I tell and the jokes I throw in there are what I think people will enjoy from these characters. Honestly, the fact that they are monsters is just a backdrop to tell funny stories with charming characters."

THE PULSE: When I hear "Late-Night Gang," I'm thinking Leno, Kimmel, Letterman ... but that's not who the stars of your comic are, right?

JOEY WEISER:
Nope, not at all! The stars are monster children who originally appeared in my short story collection, Tales of Unusual Circumstance. The main three are Henry of the Black Lagoon, Victor Vampire, and Andrew, Son of Frankenstein! They are a group of friends who, like most monsters, come out late at night!

THE PULSE: What inspired you to do this, because I kind of get a Little Gloomy/Patrick the Wolf Boy vibe from this .... Are you aware of either of those series? Did either play a part in your work with the Late-Night Gang?

WEISER:
Well, the original story I did with these characters was quite a few years ago, back when I was at the Savannah College of Art & Design, for an anthology about monsters that our class was putting together. The characters all seemed to have nice chemistry, and I always kept them in the back of my mind as something that I’d like to revisit some day.

I’ve never read Little Gloomy, but I do like Patrick the Wolf Boy. Dave Roman actually told me that it looked “Very COWA!” which I suppose isn’t too far of a stretch. Classic movie monsters and the work of Akira Toriyama are two of my great loves, so COWA! was pretty much a perfect book for me.



THE PULSE: How'd you come up with the way you wanted these little monsters to behave and act? What made you decide on the specific "kids" you spotlighted?

WEISER:
It all came from sketching the characters. I started drawing all the little kid versions of classic monsters that I could think of, and these guys came out on top.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon has always been one of my favorite monsters, because his design is just so great. So, Henry naturally became sort of a “basic protagonist” character, who mainly reacts to the world around him, and has a basic sense of right and wrong.

Victor came from a funny little drawing I did of a perturbed, triangular-headed vampire. His design makes me chuckle, and he has a short temper, so it’s fun to make him mad.

Lastly, Andrew came from the basic aspects of Frankenstein’s monster. This monster is typically tall and strong. I decided to keep him tall, but made him skinny and awkward. From this came a very unsure kid, who pretty much does what people tell him, and is a big worrier.


THE PULSE: So for those who have seen the kids of Universal type monsters before, what do you think you're doing here that's different from the rest?

WEISER:
My personal point of view, the storytelling choices that I make, and my cartooning style are hopefully things that will make The Late-Night Gang stand out. The stories I tell and the jokes I throw in there are what I think people will enjoy from these characters. Honestly, the fact that they are monsters is just a backdrop to tell funny stories with charming characters. The stories in The Late-Night Gang could be told with normal, human kid characters. The fact that they are monsters just makes it a little more fun!


THE PULSE: Getting humor just right is tough. I think it's one of the hardest genres to create in. Where do you draw your humor inspiration from?

WEISER:
It is tough, and it’s not something that can be easily broken down and understood very easily. I try not to over-analyze it, and just write whatever I’d like to draw and read, and the result is typically humor and all-ages material. I suppose this comes from reading the comics section of the newspaper and watching Nicktoons every day as a kid. That had a huge impact on me, and my decision to become a cartoonist.

I think the comic strips that influenced my humor style most were Calvin & Hobbes, Peanuts, and Bloom County. And then in my high school and college years the works of Jeff Smith, Akira Toriyama, and Evan Dorkin probably all shaped the humor-side of my brain pretty heavily.

THE PULSE: Are there any stand-up comics or comedians who influence your work?

WEISER:
You know, I’d never really thought about it! I do enjoy stand-up comedy, like Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan, David Cross, and those guys, but I don’t think it really influences my work. I really like sketch-comedy shows like Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, and Upright Citizen’s Brigade, and I could see how these programs’ sense of the bizarre and unexplained has influenced my work. Sometimes I like a premise that doesn’t really make logical sense, or elements to a story that are comically unexpected.

THE PULSE: Well in a comic book you expect that, especially one featuring little monsters! Were you a fan of The Monster Squad when you were younger?

WEISER:
You know, I had never heard of it until about a year ago! Haven’t seen it yet, but it sounds up my alley. Believe me, it’s on my Netflix!



THE PULSE: Yeah, I think you'll like it! So what's the set up of the Late-Night Gang? Is this one big story or a series of shorts? How did you decide?

WEISER:
It is three short stories, each focusing on one of the main characters. The longest story, “Bad Apple,” was the first one I wrote, and originally it was just starring a regular human kid. But I wanted something else to make the story a little more fun, and then it hit me to put Henry in there, and make it take place at night, after all the monsters come out. After that, the idea of creating two more back-up stories with Victor and Andrew came very naturally. I was excited, because I wasn’t going to have anything new out this year, besides a few anthology contributions, and so having a nice solid concept for a new mini-comic was great.


THE PULSE: Is this the first mini-comic featuring these characters or have you released others?

WEISER:
The characters from The Late-Night Gang originally appeared in one of my first mini-comics, Tales of Unusual Circumstance #1 back in 2004. Last year I published a collection of short stories from mini-comics, anthologies, and 48 pages of new material called Tales of Unusual Circumstance where that story remains in print.

This is The Gang’s first solo issue, but I may return to them again. It’s too early to say for sure, but ideas have been running through my head about more adventures, and possibly even a graphic novel for these guys eventually. That’s one off the cool things about this mini-comic, is it’s giving me a chance to play around a little before I commit to anything big. For instance, there is this Cyclops hobo from “Bad Apple” who was originally just supposed to be appear in this one short story. But I had so much fun with him that I may want to keep him around for future LNG stories!


THE PULSE: How often does that happen with you -- creating a one-off character then using him for more than you intended?

WEISER:
That happens from time to time. When you do lots of short stories, like I do, you end up creating a lot of new characters, and sometimes they just latch on to your mind stronger than you expected. Also appearing in Tales of Unusual Circumstance are these Pig & Crocodile characters. I originally drew them to appear in only two strips – The basic premise is that the Pig is in love with the Crocodile, who ultimately just wants to have Pig for dinner. It was a pretty basic Warner Bros/Krazy Kat type concept, but I had a lot of fun with them, and there ended up being enough material with them created over the years to become one of the main recurring characters in the Tales book.

Another good example of this happening is the sewer dragon, Ferdinand from my first graphic novel, The Ride Home. He was originally just to be one of several encounters along this journey that Nodo, the main character, travels. However, I liked him so much that I wrote a scene for him to come back in the end and he wound up being an integral part of the story!


THE PULSE: What is this Fluke con you're attending this weekend?


WEISER:
FLUKE is a mini-comics festival that is held every year in Athens, Georgia. It is a small affair, held in the upstairs of a bar, first-come first-serve table arrangements, etc, but it is a really great show. It has a very dense cluster of talented folks who attend regularly from this area like Robert Newsome, Patrick Dean, Eleanor Davis, Drew Weing, Chris Schweizer, J Chris Campbell, Wide Awake Press, and Top Shelf.

Also, in recent years it has been getting a larger and larger attendance from students and alumni from the Savannah College of Art & Design. This makes for a small show with a HUGE percentage of top-quality work. The focus is on mini-comics, but people bring all sorts of hand-made and DIY products, as well as any traditionally printed books that they may also have. I did the poster this year, and contributed to the anthology, which has been assembled by Wide Awake Press.

The Late Night Gang is making its debut at FLUKE, and I will also have it at Heroes Con and SPX, which I plan on attending this year.

THE PULSE: What's your day job? Most mini comics creators don't get rich off of those ...

WEISER:
Good question! I used to work for a print-on-demand publishing company, but I recently married and moved to Athens, so I am back on the job hunt again! I do some freelance comics and illustration work as well. My wife, Michele Chidester, and I just finished coloring an all-ages graphic novel titled The Secret Science Alliance by Eleanor Davis. That book will be published late this year or early next year by Bloomsbury Publishing.


THE PULSE: When you're not making comics or coloring comics, what do you do in your free time?


WEISER:
Free time? I watch movies with my wife and read a lot. And, like I said, we’ve just recently moved to Athens, so we spend a lot of time with friends here and exploring our new town and trying to get everything settled here for our new life.


THE PULSE: If someone wanted to get a copy of your book but wasn't going to FLUKE, how can interested readers get their own copies of The Late-Night Gang?

WEISER:
The Late-Night Gang is available for purchase directly through me here: http://tragic-planet.com/store.html . You can purchase my two books, The Ride Home and Tales of Unusual Circumstance from me as well, and after FLUKE, I may have some posters available for sale. I am not going to be soliciting LNG through Diamond, so most likely the only way of getting it will be from me directly, either via mail order or by seeing me at a convention.