Boxing And Getting Older: An Interview With ‘Night Of The Belfry’ Creator, Xavier Saxon

by Rachel Bellwoar

From The Huntchback of Notre Dame, to Hitchock’s Vertigo, bell towers have been the setting for many iconic pop culture moments but, as far as I know, they’ve never been the site of a boxing match to the death. If James has his way, though, that’s exactly what will happen in Xavier Saxon’s debut graphic novel, Night of the Belfry. Saxon discusses James’ motivations and more in the following email interview.

Rachel Bellwoar: As an entry point into the story, what made you want to open with James being mugged on the subway?

Xavier Saxon: I think that was just a simple situation I could place him in that would very clearly establish
where he is at the beginning of the story. He has this idea of himself as a grizzled, tough guy, but
when placed in a situation where he could be in actual danger he has to sort of own up to who he
really is. Being struck by reality in that way provides a believable catalyst for his actions from
that point on.

Bellwoar: Between writing, drawing, and coloring, was there a part of the process of making Night of the Belfry that you enjoyed the most?

Saxon: Doing the pencils was the most fun for me. Writing and laying out the page compositions is
really the most creative part of the process, but it’s just too difficult for me to find much
enjoyment in. It demands absolute focus in a way that penciling the pages doesn’t. But doing the
pencils still requires enough creativity that I don’t get too bored, I get to make lots of decisions
about things like facial expressions and body language at that stage.

Bellwoar: Was there ever any talk about designing Night of the Belfry as a series, or was it always intended as a graphic novel?

Saxon: It was always going to be a single graphic novel. The story has a few points where I probably
could have separated it into parts in a way that felt natural, but it reads much better all at once.
Having it as a graphic novel also granted more freedom in pacing the book; I didn’t have to
worry about having a satisfying arc every 20-or-so pages.

Bellwoar: James’ fantasies are often indistinguishable from reality, so it’s easy to be lulled into thinking one thing’s happening only to realize it’s not. Did you ever consider tipping readers off to the truth, or was having reality and fantasy be indistinguishable the goal?

Saxon: There are moments where his fantasies are more obvious, but having something on the page that
isn’t real, but feels real, can be a useful device. For specific scenes the goal can definitely be to
trick the readers, but I tried to be careful with it. I didn’t want any sort of fake-out to end up
feeling cheap.

Bellwoar: Night of the Belfry is first and foremost James’ story, but were there any secondary characters you wished you could showcase more?

Saxon: If I was going to make the comic over again, I would feature Emily a bit more. She’s the character who is most affected by James’ actions, so it would have been interesting to explore her point-of-view more often. Many readers may also relate to her character more so than James, so, in retrospect, I would have liked to offer more of her personality to latch onto.

Bellwoar: James’ years as a boxer are very important to him, but what made you decide to have him also be a mailman?

Saxon: His specific job was fairly inconsequential, but I wanted to give off the impression that James had a fulfilling life and career. He isn’t filled with regret about not taking his recreational boxing to the next level, or about living a relatively mundane life. His actions in the book come from a fear of getting old, something most people will go through regardless of the life they lived.

Bellwoar: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Xavier!

Night of the Belfry goes on sale Tuesday October 18th from Comixology.

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