A cartoon property that has lived through the decades, Casper has now found a home at American Mythology as the publisher has solicited Casper The Friendly Ghost (978-1-945205-09-5, $19.99) in the Diamond Book Distributors October Sales Kit.
For those who grew up on early morning cartoons before you could see them on your iPhone, Casper was one of those shows that you didn’t want to miss for anything. Feel-good stories that were warm, full of heart, and whimsical are now back in this ongoing series written by Mike Wolfer and S.A. Check, and in this exclusive interview, both men weigh in on how they brought back the little ghost that’s larger than life, and twice as cute.
Casper The Friendly Ghost (978-1-945205-09-5, $19.99) is set to release November 2017.
Vince Brusio: So as you both have been tapped to bring an all-ages Casper book to the market, what’s your personal connection to the friendly ghost? What are your childhood memories of those classic cartoons? Were you also squeezing them in before that daily morning trip to the school bus?
Mike Wolfer: As a kid, I always enjoyed Hot Stuff more than any of the other classic Harvey characters, but just in comics form- He’s one of the few Harvey characters who never appeared in the early TV cartoons, much to my disappointment. I was always the shy, quiet type, the kind of kid who got pushed around and just wanted to be left alone. I suppose I was drawn to Hot Stuff because I wanted to be like him — a little guy who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, and a hothead who stands up for himself no matter the size of the bully picking on him. Despite the fact that he’s just a little demon in a diaper, he’s a scrappy little guy who doesn’t take any crap from anyone as he stumbles upon adventure after adventure, which usually occurs while he’s minding his own business. Naturally, when American Mythology told me that they had obtained the license for “Casper the Friendly Ghost,” my first response was, “Please tell me that it includes Hot Stuff!”
S.A. Check: It’s all about those Saturday mornings. Those few hours every week when it was kind of a universal rule that kids ruled the remote, even if it was only three or four channels back then. Casper was always in that mix. I think there’s a window in all of our lives that a character like Casper plays a part in our childhood. Cartoons weren’t available 24/7, so you had to grab them when you could. What was great about Casper is that each episode was entirely self-contained. You didn’t need to know any back story. There were no epic twelve-part Casper sagas, just great storytelling meant solely to entertain. Cutting edge is great and there are some awesome comics and cartoons out there for kids today to consume, but it’s nice to offer an alternative. Something to take solely on the face value of having fun.
Vince Brusio: Old school fans will, of course, look to relive memories of yesterday when they see a new Casper book at the comic shop. Tell us: how did you approach writing this title to maintain a classic Harvey-style story so that nostalgia buffs are rewarded? Were artists John Gallagher, Bill Galvan, and Diego Jourdan essential in this heavy lifting?
S.A. Check: Right from the start, American Mythology was clear with how they wanted to approach the book, and that was to stay true to form. There really hasn’t been a true classic take on Casper in comics since, I believe, the eighties, and we definitely went with the “if it ain’t broken” ideology with the comics. When I went back and revisited some of the classic comics, and even more so, the classic cartoons, I was really taken back with the subtle beauty of them. There were no shortcuts taken on the animation, fully rendered backgrounds, and seamless storytelling. We’re trying to catch some of that same magic to keep classic fans happy, but bring in the next generation of readers. Our artists on Casper are consummate professionals. They know these characters inside and out, and just like the nuances in storytelling that can make all the difference for fans, the art on such beloved titles is downright crucial. I worked with John and Bill on The Three Stooges and Pink Panther previously, and knew they would elevate any story that they worked on to a whole new level. Bill and I discussed our story for the first issue, and I think our styles — my writing and his art — complement each other well, and we’re proud of the final product. I’ve seen Diego’s work for the upcoming issue, and fans, both old and new, will love what he’s bringing.
Mike Wolfer: My approach to writing Hot Stuff is the same as my approach to The Land That Time Forgot. Both franchises are still around after decades and decades for a reason: The formula works, so don’t mess with it. I’m all for innovation, but not with someone else’s property. In my view, you can be innovative with the stories, but the characters themselves and their core personalities and values should remain untouched. With that in mind, my Hot Stuff stories take place in a nebulous time; they’re not in the past (1950s) or present (21st century), they’re set in whatever year it is in the Enchanted Forest, the fantasy world where Hot Stuff lives. There is some modern technology there, but not decade-specific, so my stories could be read either in the 1960s or today. And they can be read in another 50 years and no one will say, “Oh, boy, look at that outdated technology. ‘Cell phones? Haha! Remember those?’” Really, my number one priority with Hot Stuff is, “Make it silly.” You can’t go wrong there!
Vince Brusio: Were any previous stories from the cartoons, comics, or long-playing records examined for possible inclusion of future storylines?
Mike Wolfer: The first thing that I did when I accepted the writing assignment was go online and order a bunch of Hot Stuff comics from the '50s, '60s, and '70s. I didn’t want my writing to be based on my recollections of the characters — I wanted to be as loyal to the source material as possible, and to replicate the original feel of those classics. I was really pleasantly surprised by them, too. I figured that after 40 years, those “kids” comics might be tough to get through, considering my grown-up, mature tastes. But they were incredibly fun to read, and I picked up a bunch of small personality tidbits and story devices that I didn’t remember, or was unaware of when I was a regular reader back in the mid-1960s. Needless to say, I’m placing another order for back issues, because I’m hooked all over again.
S.A. Check: I don’t know that any specific stories will resurface in the new comics, but we’re definitely taking inspiration from where the characters have been as we look ahead to their future.
Vince Brusio: What supporting characters will be brought into the book? Will these characters be all the old school familiar faces?
Mike Wolfer: Hot Stuff had a few supporting characters that made occasional appearances, but they were very minor. The stories mostly focused on Hot Stuff himself, and only once in a while did we see his extended family, but I do make small references to those characters. One major character who we will see is Wendy, the Good Little Witch, who appears in my story “She Scares Me Not,” in Casper the Friendly Ghost #2. There’s another major face in that story as well, but we don’t want to give everything away!
S.A. Check: American Mythology has a full roster of Casper’s friends to bring back to fans. Besides Hot Stuff and Wendy, fans can expect to see the Ghostly Trio, Spooky, and Nightmare making appearances in future books in all their original glory! These are the characters we love, and it’s the classic rendition we want to bring back to fans. It’s the same approach American Mythology has taken with other comics – staying true to the content and renditions that made the characters such cultural icons in the first place. The response we’ve received from fans has been extremely positive, so I think we’re doing something right.
Vince Brusio: What is it about Casper that you think will appeal to today’s younger readers? And what messages do you want him to champion for young kids who have their own phones and grew up with the Internet?
S.A. Check: Casper is a very pure character, and at his heart, he just wants to be a part of something larger, to be accepted. I think the concept of inclusion is probably more relevant in today’s society than it has ever been. He’s the outsider, looking for his place in the world, sometimes a world that can seem pretty scary, even to a ghost. What kid can’t relate to that? I think one thing Casper shows is that the same problems that kids have faced for the last seventy plus years are still pretty much the same, just packaged with a prettier bow. Peer pressure, insecurity, finding your own path, are difficulties we have all faced, and knowing that you’re not alone in that can help reassure younger readers. It’s much harder for kids to separate and escape from those pressures in today’s digital world, being a click away from it all on social media. Those tiny moments of escapism that comics provide, allow young readers to take a break from the fast-paced world we live in and just enjoy the adventures of a certain friendly ghost and a few of his friends. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll find something in those pages they can relate to and bring a smile to their face.
Mike Wolfer: That’s a tough one to answer, with regard to Hot Stuff. He’s not like Casper, whose agenda is to be kind and friendly to everyone. Hot Stuff is more of a rogue, whose goal in life seems to be to take as many naps as possible and eat as many of his favorite berries as he can. But if there’s a positive message that we can get from him, it would be to stand your ground and stick up for yourself. And take as many naps and eat as many berries as you can!
Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.