Earlier this week, Clover Press launched a Kickstarter campaign for The Golem of Venice Beach, a new graphic novel from writer Chanan Beizer and artists including primary illustrator Vanessa Cardinali and guest-artists Stephen Bissette, Michael Allred, Jae Lee, Nick Pitarra, Paul Pope, and Bill Sienkiewicz. The book follows a centuries-old golem as he becomes embroiled in a gang war in Southern California.
Beizer’s script for the graphic novel started out as a screenplay, which won the ScreenCraft Cinematic Book contest for graphic novels in 2018. The Beat chatted with Beizer and Cardinali during the crucial first three days of the Kickstarter campaign about how the screenplay became a graphic novel, their collaboration on the book, and the history of the golem. Check that out, along with artwork by Cardinali, Bissette, and Allred below.
Joe Grunenwald: Chanan, you’ve been working on this graphic novel for years. What about this story made it one you felt compelled to tell?
Chanan Beizer: I was seduced by the magic of Venice Beach. It’s such a fascinating place – shadowy and forbidding by night yet sunny and euphoric by day. Living there for a few years after I moved from New York I wanted the neighborhood to be an integral “character” in a story. I was always enamored of folklore and legends and I really like placing characters in non-traditional settings. So a mythical being like a golem living in Venice Beach seemed like the perfect way to go.
Grunenwald: This is your first graphic novel. What about the comics medium made it ideal for telling this story?
Beizer: I’ve always been a huge comic book fan and an avid collector. I grew up practically worshiping such iconic artists as John Buscema, John Byrne, and George Perez. After moving to Venice Beach I was also thoroughly enjoying Frank Miller’s Sin City, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, and Paul Chadwick’s Concrete. When the screenplay I was writing about a golem living in modern day Venice Beach wasn’t clicking, I started thinking about turning it into a graphic novel. I thought the contrasting visuals from night to day would look phenomenal in comic book form and it seemed like a much more likely project I could finish on my own than a film.
Grunenwald: The lore around golems is vast and can be interpreted in a number of ways. How much research, if any, did you do into golems? What do they represent in your mind, and why did you want to tell a story with one at the center?
Beizer: I can’t say when I first heard the legend of the Golem of Prague. It was just something I knew, growing up in a Jewish household and going to a Jewish elementary school. I’d seen a few interpretations in comics, films, and even TV shows. I wanted to be true to the classic story so I did research into Judah Loew ben Bezalel, known as the Maharal. He was a real person and the chief rabbi of Prague in 1580 when it’s said he created the Golem using his mastery of the mystic study of Kabbalah. To me, the Golem represents an uncontrollable power unleashed on humanity. It was made to defend people from mob violence but it couldn’t be restrained so it had to be stopped by its own creator. It’s a singular example of “The Law of Unintended Consequences.” That’s a lesson we need to learn again and again.
Grunenwald: Vanessa, how did you get involved with this project? What about the story appeals to you as a storyteller?
Vanessa Cardinali: I was contacted by Chris Stevens, the book’s editor, who saw my post on a facebook group where I was looking for a new project.
It was very interesting to tackle illustrating Venice Beach, and try to create a contrast, also visual, between the sunny and positive scenes of the day, and the darker and more dramatic ones of the night.
Grunenwald: You’ve worked on a monthly series with Slumber, but like Chanan this is your first graphic novel as well. How does working on The Golem of Venice Beach compare to working on a story told in 22-page increments?
Cardinali: I’ve actually worked on many other graphic novels for the European market, so I’m quite comfortable with 100+ page stories. On the other hand the 22-page monthly series, like Slumber, were a challenge!
Grunenwald: What’ve you both enjoyed about working with each other on this project?
Beizer: I love, love, love the way that Vanessa expresses her artistic imagery in panel creation and color choice. She has a unique way of conveying not only action but also character details. And then to view how the panels combine to make a page literally spring to life is very exciting. It’s a cinematic view that I personally adore and appreciate.
Cardinali: Chanan is an enthusiast! For him it was very important that the vibe of Venice Beach was fully felt, and this was very interesting—it had never happened to me to treat the environment as if it were another character in the story!