We’ve been covering the goings-on of indie publisher So What Press? at The Beat for a number of years, so it’s exciting to see this Brooklyn-based press take a big leap to the majors. In late April So What Press? co-founder Dave Kelly announced that he’d joined forces with another punctuation-marked publisher from Brooklyn: It’s Alive!. Together they inked a deal that will allow So What’s flagship title Tales of the Night Watchman to hit the direct market this fall through Diamond Distribution.

The deal means So What? Press will function as an imprint of It’s Alive!, which itself was once an imprint of IDW before parting ways last year to become its own independent publisher.  The partnership will release several comics this fall which include a two-part mini-series, “The Final Kill”, and a crossover one-shot with Dean Haspiel‘s Line Webtoon / Image Comics property, The Red Hook, titled: “The Untold Legend of Luna”.

“The Final Kill”is written by Kelly, who co-created the series (and So What Press?) with artist Lara Antal. Kelly is joined by Haspiel as co-writer on “The Untold Legend of Luna,” which he told The Beat is the first official crossover between The Red Hook and a non-New Brooklyn character. Brooklyn-based illustrator Tim Hamilton is providing covers for “The Final Kill”, with Haspiel drafting the cover for “The Untold Legend of Luna.” Line art for all the issues comes from Brett Hobson, who is no stranger to the Tales of the Night Watchman series.

What does this expansion mean for the New York centered tales of the Night Watchman and his monster-battling baristas? How does Haspiel feel about his creation crossing the borders of New Brooklyn to step into the Night Watchman universe, and what was it like for Hobson and Kelly to bring The Red Hook to life? The Beat spoke with all three creatives to find out.

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Part of the adventure of being a fan

Kelly says he has high hopes that wider distribution will expand the fan-base of the series. “I also want stores to trust in it,” he adds, explaining that he has confidence “that a series built on word-of-mouth and hustle can continue to grow” in a direct market environment. Citing Michel Fiffe‘s Copra making the jump to Image as an example, Kelly recalls that when he was a kid reading comics, he never started a series from the beginning. “That was part of the adventure of being a fan,” he says, “coming in at the middle and working your way back while also moving forward.”

Hobson harbors similar ambitions that expanded readership will result from the direct market deal, noting that interacting with readers at cons is a huge motivator for him. “Every interaction with a fan who liked my work gave me fuel to keep going,” he explains.  “Anything that will increase the frequency of those interactions sounds good to me.”

It’s a comic book tradition for universes to crossover

For his part, Haspiel is well-acquainted with word of mouth, hustle, and building a fan-base through con appearances. He’s taken his Billy Dogma character from indie publishing to webcomics and back again, for example, in a series that spans decades.  His recent work developing The Red Hook took him back to the online format, debuting on the Webtoon digital comic platform in 2017. The series was collected in  graphic novel format in The Red Hook, Vol. 1: New Brooklyn for Image the following year. Now the titular hero is stretching his reach outside of the New Brooklyn universe to encounter the Night Watchman.

“It’s a comic book tradition for universes to crossover, like Marvel & DC, Archie and The Punisher, etc.,” says Haspiel. “I was motivated to dip my toes in other creative spaces and I thought it would be cool to see what happens when The Red Hook and The Night Watchman confront a shared conflict.” Haspiel ties his inspiration in creating the New Brooklyn universe to “a long tradition of comic book creators spawning Brooklyn-based superheroes, starting with Joe Simon and Jack Kirby‘s Captain America.”

He credits his work relationships, formed while sharing studio space in the Gowanus area, with expanding his vision for the Brooklyn superhero universe to include The Purple Heart (co-created by Vito Delsante), Aquaria (co-created by Adam McGovern), and The Brooklynite, co-created with “the late/great Seth Kushner,” who died in 2015. “Sharing a studio with other writers and artists has yielded other New Brooklyn ideas,” some of which, Haspiel explains, are still in development.

Tales of the Night Watchman Red Hook Crossover cover by Dean Haspiel
Tales of the Night Watchman Red Hook Crossover cover by Dean Haspiel

What Brooklyn can do

Haspiel says he’s “never ignored the potential of what Brooklyn can do,” and that was certainly how it played out according to Kelly. He says the crossover was Haspiel’s idea, formed when Kelly and Hobson visited his Gowanus studio. “We were talking with Dean about his New Brooklyn universe,” Kelly says, “and he just kind of threw out, ‘Oh, you know what? We should do a crossover.’ And then he looked at Brett and said, ‘And he should draw it.'” Kelly didn’t hesitate, and says he and Haspiel began talking storylines immediately .”We met for Indian food one day, and he told me he wanted three things: Coney Island, to burn the patriarchy, and go-karts.”
Though the pair ending up nixing the go-karts, Kelly’s work with Haspiel was hands on. “We passed notes back and forth every step of the way,” Kelly remembers. “One thing I like about Dean is that he likes to talk on the phone, which makes things a lot smoother. ” He also points to their understanding of each other’s characters and worlds as a factor in making their collaboration a successful one.

For Haspiel, it was “the challenge of clashing and mashing sensibilities” that lured him to work with Kelly. “We have different approaches to storytelling and character motivations and how to pace a scene. I think it was a good learning experience.” It was easier, he told The Beat, to let Kelly take the lead on co-writing due to his ongoing work on both The Red Hook season 3 and Starcross, his latest series for Webtoon.

Luckily for Kelly, Haspiel says he enjoyed Kelly’s take on some of The Red Hook’s dialogue, and claims he made him “funnier than I’m used to.” Haspiel saw Kelly’s approach in general to be “more light-hearted” in contrast to what he calls his “sentimental absurdity,” and sees the crime/horror genre as the guiding thread that connected their work on the one-shot.

It always feels a little weird but cool

“The Untold Legend of Luna” puts Haspiel’s character under the pen of Hobson. How did Haspiel feel about another artist interpreting his character? He says that though there have been “a few interpretations” from other artists of The Red Hook in the New Brooklyn comics at this point, “it always feels a little weird but cool.” In terms of Hobson’s line art specifically, Haspiel is effusive. “Frankly, it’s an honor,” he says. “Brett Hobson has a unique way of rendering, somewhat akin to Baker Street & B.P.R.D. artist Guy Davis, only with more cross-hatching.”

Haspiel says he reviewed the layouts Hobson drew, but was less hands-on than with his co-writing duties, careful to avoid micro-managing the process. The only strong note he passed along was the need to animate The Red Hook’s ears.  “When you only have rectangle cut outs on a red mask to show when you’re beleaguered or surprised,” Haspiel says, “it’s helpful for the ears to evoke other emotions.

We have big plans

In terms of the “The Final Kill” mini-series, whose two issues were written by Kelly and drawn by Hobson, the So What Press? co-founder assures readers that the title doesn’t indicate an end to the adventures of The Night Watchman.

“I wanted to create a good jumping on point with this story, and I think we’ve accomplished that,” Kelly says. “It begins with a prologue about a monster in an alley that eats this guy on his way to a date.” Featuring a “woman on the run who’s being chased by a flesh-eating god named Zahal,” he hints that the “final kill” actually refers to her lineage. “I plant a lot of seeds in this story for where I want the series to go,” he said, “we have big plans.”

You can check out Tim Hamilton’s covers below.

Tales of the Night Watchman by Tim Hamilton
Tales of the Night Watchman by Tim Hamilton
Tales of the Night Watchman by Tim Hamilton
Tales of the Night Watchman by Tim Hamilton

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