Early October may be too late in the season to expect a visit from your neighborhood ice cream man, but it was the perfect time for us to sit down with the creative team behind Image Comics’ “Ice Cream Man” at this year’s NYCC. Creators W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Morazzo, and Chris O’Halloran sat down to talk about the series and the ice cream man who, unlike his rivals, delivers horror all year round. The team discussed the series’ reception, working as a team, what to expect going forward, and what other treasured profession they could seem themselves sullying in the future.
So how’s the con going for you so far guys, day two?
W. Maxwell Prince: It’s going pretty well, we had our signing today. It was pleasantly well attended. Really nice to get that validation that people are still digging the book.
Seven issues now, right? You’re putting those out in the world and how is it when you come to cons to finally kind of meet the people who are reading them, as opposed to the online reviewers and all that stuff? What is the experience meeting people who are actually reading it and enjoying your book?
Chris O’Halloran: It’s strange. Like I spend most of my time on my own working on other stuff, like I don’t really talk to people a lot about making it or the issue at all so talking to someone about the issue or something like, it’s kinda cool, you’re in that mode for like only the time you’re like working on it then it’s like it’s gone. Then you don’t think about it as intensely as when you were working on it and like months later hearing someone going oh no that sequence or something like that. It’s interesting kinda validating and kinda like, I don’t know it’s just cool.
WMP: This is probably true of all comics but I feel like our book in particular people tend to be fans of every facet of it so they like the writing they love the art. They love the color treatment so to have us all sit together and everyone be so kind of excited to see the whole team is really fun.
When we got the email that the whole creative team was going to attend, I was really excited because like you said this book works because at all levels of the book it’s well done. Writing, the art, especially the colors really sets the tone of it so well. It’s really cool to have the whole team on there. So for you guys seven issues in, how has the journey been through it as a team – – has it evolved, changed? How has your relationship been writing this story?
WMP: I think like any sort of creative team on comics people always say a collaborative medium we’ve really hit our stride now. It was actually pretty easy to start with my team and I worked together in the past and we had just started to really understand how to like. Not understand but started to really speak the same exact language and really start to make great stuff together and we, our other book has kind of ended at four issues.
Picking back up and working together we were just kind of ready to go and continue. And then Chris came on board and now we’re all kind of. You know it’s the language of “Ice Cream Man,” we’re all speaking it. Every time I feel like we’re putting an issue together, some of our issues are a little left of center so issue 6 was silent and heavy. Very different color treatments.
Issue 7 had these color pencil crayon drawings. Which is not easy to explain to like every artistic team. You basically as the person writing it say hey I have a weird idea how can we make this work visually? But the second that I present something like that it’s like we’re all working together and kind of seeing it the same way in our heads.
This is a book obviously titled “Ice Cream Man,” but it’s far from what this book is about and where really it goes. So what is the Con pitch for you guys when someone asks you what is this book?Continued below
WMP: It’s really hard for me I have a hard time explaining it to other people. Which is sad because I’m suppose to be the one that explains it to other people. I think the book is really it’s about suffering and not in like the strictly sad sense. But it’s about looking at the idea of suffering through these different lenses whether it’s sadness or pain or evil or privilege and good. This idea that there’s something inside you that is wrong basically. The Ice Cream Man sees that thing kind of just presses his thumb into it a little bit. But the most important part of every chapter are the short stories. These people know even with out the Ice Cream Man there’s something wrong. And he’s just kind of showing something that’s already there. But it’s like also really lame, oh our book is about suffering. Our book is really weird and the format of it I think allows us jump around from style to style and from genre to genre.
So the book in a weird sense is about suffering but it’s also about playing and freedom and stuff like that.
And I think what works so well, I mean in this very short time you become insanely invested in these characters. There have been issues where only half of it focuses on the characters because then you get kind of more with the Ice Cream Man but they still feel like the heart of the story. I think a lot of that is sold on the back of the art from you guys and really bringing that forward. For you guys how do you approach it? Do you guys consult on each story how you want it to look? The color palette really sets a good tone especially when you kind of go from A story to the B story where the Ice Cream Man comes in. There’s a lot of moving parts in it. How has this experiment been for you from the art side, both art and coloring?
Martin Morazzo: It’s been great. To me the fun part is creating characters. When I’m about to start working on a book. You do it once character is created and you do it once and then you’re done. And with Ice Cream Man it’s every month we have to create new characters and new places and sometimes all new directions. And even the Ice Cream Man mutates. So it’s been really fun and in terms of the story and the story telling of the layout. We tend to change with each chapter. To me it’s been really great. I hope we can do it for a long time.
And how is that for you as a colorist? I think a lot of times you go into a book and you kind of have a palette that you’re working with. It seems like you’re altering that quite a bit every issue.
CO: Yeah, exactly. In any other book. Because, there are chapters you are following up on the issue before hand or the next but we ask them to keep consistent. But with this I never ever look back at the previous issues to see what something looked like. So like, I am literally trying to do something that is different with every issue. Whether it’s like a small thing or a big thing like issue 6 has a thousand scripts. If you know what I mean? But I do try to like keep the tone of it different from issue to issue. They’re all based on the same kind of themes and stuff. It’s fun creatively because I don’t have to think about any of the other issues at all I can just create from scratch. Look for a vibe of what I’m thinking that day.
I think one of the exciting things about the book too has been is that every issue you guys throw in a little bit more of the lore behind Ice Cream Man. I don’t want to spoil too much, but seven issues in and you are introducing this other character in a counter position of the Ice Cream Man. How do you guys balance as a team this larger story, and still telling again these really heartfelt stories that are, sometimes really crushing and heart warming at the same time? How do you balance how much you want to give away but still letting in kind of this larger story within each issue?Continued below
WMP: You can see from the script stand point the short story, the small kind of focus on the new person always comes first. And I figure out the situation I want to talk about or an idea. Try to build that out through 22, 30 pages. Then afterwards is when my brain does the work. Well how does The Ice Cream Man fit into a situation like this? And what kind of way can he sort of push something in one direction or another?
As we started to write the book more and more, at the end of issue 4 we introduced this kind of counterpart, this foil to The Ice Cream Man. And I realized that he only appears for a panel or two. But he was instantly super compelling and suggested an entire history and world behind The Ice Cream Man. So with the second arc I felt just more energized to explore that for a couple more pages per issue. And then issue 7 telling a story about this small girl losing a friend and these parents who are trying to deal with a grieving young child. And all the sudden it occurred to me that, that drama could overlap with this kind of reveal the relationship between the Ice Cream Man and his cowboy counterpart Caleb.
So it’s a short story at first, Ice Cream Man thread second but as we go on. To be frank I don’t have every peace of the puzzle figured out in my own head. But as we’ve gone on I’ve felt more and more compelled to start to thread that together and put those pieces together. Not just for the reader but for myself so that I feel more confident writing it.
You talked about suffering being at the heart of the book, but also at some point it’s pretty fucking scary. It’s for sure a horror book in a sense. And I feel like along with comedy, horror is one of the hardest things to pull off in comics because the readers pretty much have all the control. Whereas in movies, books you can take that away from them. For you, especially as an artistic team, how do you kind of create the horror that you get in a lot of the book? How do you guys manage the horror in the book as well as these human stories?
MM: I try to, when the horror is happening, I try to go more to the extreme. In terms of the camera placement or the angles I try to add things. This last issue we tried to twist The Ice Cream Man. Make him more like a monster.
There’s like a lot darker lines under him.
MM: And there was something with the color that was great. With the greens. But you can speak about it.
CO: Yeah. A lot of those just create the moments and the moments are mostly there. But it’s just picking the work or the moments out. Giving out like a normal tone for the issue and then when the Ice Cream Man is there it’s like a lot more saturated and poppy colors. The green is associated better with Ice Cream Man. So if there’s something green in the scene it’s usually because he’s like around the corner or coming up or something. Then when he’s like there’s a lot of green one of those scary moments where there’s no background or there’s like a flash of green or something for example. Or issue 2 when he’s offering the bag of drugs to the character that’s in a green balloon That kind of stuff that happens throughout the pages.
WMP: I think actually one of the scariest, there’s nothing overtly scary about it but because of the color treatment one of the scariest scenes of the book is in issue 3. Our washed up musician here’s some music notes coming from his basement. And he goes down his basement stairs to this door at the bottom of the basement. He’ll eventually enter into this weird fantasy world. But the basement light hanging from the ceiling is emanating that green light. And knowing what we at that point knew about how Chris was gonna treat The Ice Cream Man’s kind of color motif or whatever. I thought that was actually pretty terrifying because it promised that something wrong was going to happen behind the door.Continued below
Do you guys have a favorite moment or story in the series so far?
WMP: My favorite moment of the series has not happened yet. We have issue 8 coming out Halloween.
That’s a good day for it.
WMP: And you were talking about how it’s sort of hard to do horror and comedy in comic form. And there’s a page in a diner that I think achieves both at the same time. It’s my favorite page I’ve ever written. It’s a really silly page. But there’s forks and some hands and that’s all I’m really willing to say about it. But that is my single favorite scene in the entire rough so far.
MM: My favorite issue I think it’s issue 6. It was more challenging to work on. It was kind of strange for me since there wasn’t going to be anymore balloons. I didn’t have to leave that neutral space where the balloons suppose to be placed. So I had to, I felt like I had to fill that whole space. It was kind of really strange and I love that.
It was fun to reread that one and go back and pick up on little things you guys did.
CO: I really liked the upcoming issue, issue 8. But I think that’s more to do with I’m more happy in my more recent work than my old work. The way me and my team work on this series. So it’s like a different technique going on than the latest issue. It really came out like 100% what I want of the latest issue. It’s kind of the one with most weirdest crap going on. Overall it’s just like something weird something weird.
You guys do a really good job at building up to these moments, I look forward to it. Last question, now that you guys have disgraced the name of ice cream men everywhere, is there any other careers you’d like to see take on?
WMP: The president. But we’ve already made a nightmare of that as well. There’s a carpenter coming up in issue 9. I feel like a carpenter has a lot of typical connotations but it’s also just like kind of salt of the earth kind of rugged job to have. And I feel like in issue 9 it takes on a new life. So yeah, carpenter I guess.
MM: Okay. I don’t know.
CO: Comic book artist.
MM: Yeah, that would be fun.