Q&A: “COURTNEY CRUMRIN” Mastermind Ted NaifehBooks/Art/Culture,Features/Interviews,News Svetlana Fedotov
Ted Naifeh is the success story that many independent comic creators aim for. Creating original, fantastical works without compromising himself, he has risen to respectable ranks in the comic collective, free to unleash his unique monsters unchained to the word. Creator of POLLY AND THE PIRATES, PRINCESS UGG, and COURTNEY CRUMRIN, he has proven himself not only as a popular voice for all-ages work but that weird kids are the best kind of kids. Naifeh recently sat down with FANGORIA and explained what drives him to continue drawing spooky little creatures.
FANGORIA: First off, how do I pronounce your last name? Inquiring minds need to know.
TED NAIFEH: It’s pronounced Nay-fee, no one ever gets it right. It’s Lebanese.
FANGORIA: With COURTNEY CRUMRIN recently ending, what made you decide to continue exploring the Crumrin universe with TALES OF A WARLOCK?
NAIFEH: Well, the books are all reprints of older volumes I did years ago. With Courtney’s uncle Aloysius, I had this idea of a doing a tie-in special about him because everyone loves the character. I decided to explore what he was like when he was young and he became this sad, lonely, old fellow. It was delightful good fun. So I developed the story that ended up coming out in two parts and put together in the final volume. It ended up the last volume because there was nowhere else to put it.
FANGORIA: Speaking of COURTNEY CRUMRIN, will we be seeing the pint-sized witch again?
NAIFEH: I may revisit it eventually but the point of doing this repackaging, including the newer volumes five and six and collecting the whole thing, was to make it one complete work that ultimately ends and ending things. They define what the story would say. Like, if you don’t have an ending, you don’t really have a story, which is why I ended it.
Take THE X-FILES, for example. They didn’t know where they were going and they didn’t really have an end, so there was no truth out there. They were promising this answer but to provide that ultimate answer would be to wrap up the story and they didn’t want to wrap up the story so they didn’t provide the answer. Ultimately, the story had no meaning and became this permanently unfulfilled promise.
I feel like with COURTNEY, I got to this point where I reached volume 5 and I realized that I had to write the ending of the series. I had to ask myself, “What is the question this story is asking and what answer do I want?” The question of the story finally was “Will this incredibly lonely girl make a connection and find love and acceptance and family and let go of her bitterness?”
FANGORIA: With works such as COURTNEY CRUMRIN, PRINCESS UGG, and POLLY AND THE PIRATES, you seem to lean towards young female leads as the stars of your work. Is there a reason for the theme?
NAIFEH: Honestly, I have no idea. Writing about women just keeps popping up in my head. But, maybe it’s the wrong kind of question. Why shouldn’t I be writing about women? Why should I, as a man, only be writing about men? Why is it okay for JK Rowling to be writing about HARRY POTTER but not for me to be writing about COURTNEY CRUMRIN or POLLY AND THE PIRATES? Joss Whedon, when he gets asked why he writes strong female characters, says because you have to ask that question.
FANGORIA: Also, a lot of your works are all-ages. Do you ever plan on doing an older audience work?
NAIFEH: I have a deep connection with books for kids, especially books that speak in that language. I think they speak to a deep, primal foundation of who we are. And really, do we ever really live high school, for example? Part of the architecture of who we are and the building of other things on top comes from that. I look at it like world politics being played out in the school yard. So, to me, doing stories about childhood is about doing stories about the deepest part of what makes us human.
FANGORIA: You have both illustrated and written your own works as well as contributed art to other comics. Have you ever thought of writing but having someone else illustrate your words?
NAIFEH: I don’t love drawing others people stories. I mean, I like them if I really like the story but there’s always some part of you that wants to change the story. I had that with the second chapter of POLLY AND THE PIRATES. I wrote it and I had Robbi Rodriguez draw it and like, I shouldn’t be complaining about Robbi Rodriguez drawing my book but some part of me was wishing I had done it because I would’ve done it differently. Of course, there is a lot of stuff he put into it that I wouldn’t have thought of. His page layout, his page design is much more dynamic than mine and he brings this wonderful uniqueness that I can’t touch.
It’s nice to have a different voice to the book but I think that the next time I do a project with another artist, we will build it together. Of course, the problem is I keep trying that and I can’t help but think what these characters look like so what it comes down to is that writing and art go hand in hand. When you write a comic book, the writing and the art are doing the same thing, they are telling a story and it’s really hard to give up half of that to another person.
FANGORIA: You’ve been doing Gothic and dark fantasy for a long time. What is it about the genre that attracts you?
NAIFEH: I wouldn’t say attracted but more of when I put pen to paper, I just can’t help myself. For example, I thought POLLY AND THE PIRATES was a bright and sunny book but when I got it back from the publishers, it was more gloomy and foggy. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. I like shadows. I wouldn’t say it’s a choice, more of an instinct.
FANGORIA: Anything new we can look forward too?
NAIFEH: I have a number of projects in the pipeline but none that I have settled on yet. Classified information.