As a child very few sounds are as sweet to the ear as the cheerful music played from the local ice cream man as he makes his way around your neighborhood. The thoughts of the delicious cold euphoria runs through their young happy heads. They run outside to flag down the large white truck and order their tasty treat. This is and was a dream of many children and my self included. The creative team of W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Morazzo, and Chris O’Halloran look to turn that dream into a nightmare with their new Image Comics series, “Ice Cream Man.”
The series is a “genre-defying comic book….featuring disparate “one-shot” tales of sorrow, wonder, and redemption. ” Every issue is a different story with different characters but at the center of it “is the Ice Cream Man—a weaver of stories, a purveyor of sweet treats.” To learn more about the series and the ice cream man himself I was able to speak with the creative team behind the book. They discussed the single issue story format, crafting horror in comics, and why they decided to ruin one of childhood’s more beloved heroes. Issue one debuted this month and readers can find issue two in stores and online the 21st of February.
Popular culture and to a less extent John Wayne Gacy(OK maybe more) have ruined clowns for everyone. Why now ruin ice cream men? Why the anti-ice cream man agenda and how did it develop into this series?
W. Maxwell Prince: I’m actually very pro-Ice-Cream-Man. If I had my druthers, there’d be a van on every corner. As for the series: I knew I wanted to do weird one shots, and for some reason all of the stories I was trying to tell started to coalesce around this singular figure. One might say he snuck his way into my head, like muzak in a grocery store.
Martin Morazzo: Ice Cream Men are part of the US modern folklore! Taking this strong icon,related to childhood and innocence, and twisting it into something evil, produces a powerful reaction!
Chris O’Halloran: They were always a bit “off” where I grew up. Turning up in the dead of winter, never seeming to have much stock. Like I saw mentioned in a couple of reviews actually, I think some of them were possibly selling drugs on the side. So they’re not all as innocent as the music would have you believe.
How as a team how have you approached achieving the tone and type of horror you want in this series?
WMP: I defer to the artists here. For my part, I keep trying to write sad stories, but they wind up turning out horrific in some way. I suspect there’s maybe some overlap between things that are depressing and things that are discomfiting.
MM: Everything starts with Will! Then, Chris and I add to his first idea. There’s not been much back and forth — it’s like we all understood what we wanted to do, and what the story needed, from the beginning!
COH: It’s interesting for me as I’m taking each issue as its own tale (which they are) and trying to create a vibe or palette that suits that specific story. It’s a somewhat unique opportunity to do something a little different with the colors each issue on a series.
With the format of the series you have one issue to write characters that quickly engage the readers. How do you go about creating and designing characters who work in a one issue story format?
WMP: I do my best to breathe a little life into characters through language. By which I mean that it’s via speech patterns and dialogue that I’m able to (hopefully) paint a compassionate picture of a person in a small amount of space. I think this is probably most successfully achieved in Issue 2, wherein Karen’s addled patois allows you, I think, to sort of zoom into her brain for 20 pages or so.
MM: As a comic book artist, one of the aspects I enjoy the most is character designs! Usually this is only done when starting a project, but with Ice Cream Man we do it every issue! Since the characters appear in only one issue, we rely on stereotypes, so the reader can recognize them fast, where it’s kids who live on their own, young adults surrendered to drugs, or old frustrated musicians. They have to be easily engaging!Continued below
The first issue had a great twilight zone/tales from the crypt feel especially with the twisty nature of the story. What is the key to a good twist? Has this format put you in a story telling setting where you are having to create stories around that?
WMP: I’m not too married to the twist, but a reversal can be a very useful storytelling technique when employed correctly. I think a good one has to take the reader from a place of comfort or predictably, spin them around a few times, and then send them off in a different direction with a blindfold on.
What have you done as a team for world building the series? The first issue contained a venomous spider, werewolf and the Ice Cream Man. Are there rules to the world you have established and what can exist it and it how things can look?
WMP: There are no rules in this dairy-laden land of strange. For the first 4 issues, we’re in the suburbs of St. Generous, where everyone is suffering in their own special way. The Ice Cream man tunes into each of these people like an FM radio station.
COH: I’ve a few small color rules that I won’t get into fully, but green is used to signify the weird and magical elements a little bit throughout for example (that’s not new, you’ll see that used in film/animation/comics since before time). So the Ice Cream Man’s eyes are green and things to do with him or the strange.
MM: No rules! Things go fast, just one issue, anything could happen!
Does this format give you all as creators room to experiment with your own abilities and roles in the creation of each issue?
WMP: Yes! The goal is stretch what a single-issue comic can do, and hopefully approach storytelling from some unfamiliar angles. It’s the only way to not get bored with your own work.
MM: Yes, each issue has its own tone. I try not to change the visuals too much, trying to respect the look and feel of the book, though definitely every chapter has a narrative different from each other.
COH: Yes, i’m trying to implement one new technique or something different each issue.
How did you settle on the look of the book? For an issue focused on very dark subject matter it’s very bright throughout.
MM: The idea was to play with opposites! We wanted everything to look nice and joyful, with a feeling that something’s off underneath it all! A great example of that is the cover, where everything is nice and lovely, but if you keep looking at it, you’ll feel something’s wrong with that guy and all those smiling kids!
COH: I’m not sure what I was working on right before issue 1, but it must have been very muted and desaturated because I needed to go the opposite with the palette for sanity’s sake. Not only that but the title immediately suggested all those bright pop wrappers of different ice creams to me and got the cogs working in my head. Issue 1 ended up being mostly set at a kind of twilight time which was just something I ran with after the very first panel.
While the story in every issue will differ, will there be a bigger story and cohesion to the series? In issue one the ice cream man had a very involved role in how the story played out as well as some ambiguity to who/what he is.
WMP: The glue of the series — apart from the Ice Cream Man himself — is a pervasive feeling of dread or unease. My hope is that each issue stands on its own, bound together by this feeling that’s in the back of all our throats.
I loved as the issue progressed and the story got more intense the angles and proportions in panels contorted and and stretched especially anytime they were in the woods. Was this a conscience decision in creating the art for the issue?
MM: Yes, definitely! The idea was for everything to go crazy after Jialeou and Briggs find Byron’s parents –using extreme angles, especially when Rupert is on camera.Continued below
The first issue did not shy away from showing some level of unsettling images. Have you guys established a line for the series yet?
WMP: Things only get worse from here.
MM: I’m laughing at Will’s answer! I agree with him! I’m working on #4 and I have to tell you there are some strange things I have to draw I thought I’d never draw!
What is the creative process like for you as a team? For a series that is changing stories each issue is there a lot of collaboration happening across the board when it comes to the story telling?
WMP: Though we’re trying to tell complicated stories, I think our process is pretty simple: I write and include a lot of notes; Martín draws and often designs characters right onto the page; Chris takes it all and infuses it with rainbow juice.
The title of the series, “Ice Cream Man” instantly lends itself to a plethora of puns for reviewers to use. Have any stood out or what would you use as one to describe the book?
WMP: I’ve seen a sprinkling of puns here and there. And I get it: that impulse can be hard to shake. But all’s fair game on the rocky road to witty wordplay.
When do you eat the gumball eyes? Do you take them out right away, eat them as you come across them or save them for last? What does that say about you as a human being?
WMP: You eat them last, unless you’re some kind of monster or barbarian.
COH: I’m not sure these made it to Irish stores… I’m a little disturbed at the idea of eating a ninja turtles eyes now.
MM: Oh, I’ve never had one of those, you can’t find them in Argentina! But I guess I’d take the eyes first, and then eat the ice cream!