When you’re just getting started in comics, it can be hard to make your name. But for rising artist Vanessa Cardinali and debut writer Chanan Beizer, their early career prospects look exceedingly bright as they join forces with an all-star team of talent for a new comics project, The Golem of Venice Beach.
Alongside Cardinali and Beizer, the roster of talent includes Michael Allred, Jae Lee, Nick Pitarra, Stephen R. Bissette, and Bill Sienkiewicz, alongside editor Chris Stevens. The story itself comes from a Beizer’s 2018 script, which won 2018’s ScreenCraft Cinematic Book contest for graphic novels. That story follows the titular Golem, which makes its way from 16th Century Europe to California, where it becomes embroiled in bloody gang warfare.
The Golem of Venice Beach is currently being funded via Kickstarter (the campaign runs through early July). The book features 100 pages from Cardinali a prologue and wrap-around cover from Sienkiewicz, a world map from Michael and Laura Allred, and splash pages from Pitarra, among other artistic tidbits.
In the lead-up to the campaign, we touched based base with writer Beizer and editor Stevens. We discussed, via email, about the collaborative process, their favorite moments/panels, and the value of the Golem as storytelling device, among other topics.
If you’re interested in contributing to the Kickstarter, head here.
AIPT: What’s the elevator pitch for The Golem of Venice Beach?
Chanan Beizer: In Venice Beach, where the dangerous back-alley shadows by night contrast with the unrelenting heat of the California sun by day, a monster created to save lives must find his way in a world he never asked to be born into.
Chris Stevens: Chanan has crafted and set up such a finely tuned plot and we could talk about that, but I think, for a lot of comic fans, the elevator pitch is that a first time writer has paired with a rising star artist and some of the most acclaimed artists in the history of comics to create a moving and beautiful tribute to Southern California. It’s a gorgeous book full of memorable characters and dripping with environment.
AIPT: You’ve been at work on the book for the last few years. Has that length of time helped streamline things, or allow you to expand the book at all?
CS: I think the benefit of working as we have is that it allowed the artists, all busy creators who get pulled in a lot of directions daily, to deliver their very best work. When you get to work with Bill Sienkiewicz, Jae Lee, Paul Pope, Michael Allred, Nick Pitarra, a true rising star in Vanessa Cardinali and good lord, Stephen R. Bissette, I mean, good things come to those who wait and each artist truly delivered at their peak. What a thrill for a lover of comics, which is what I am at the end of the day. And so is Chanan, and we’ve had time to expound on that mutual love over untold hours on the phone and a couple of memorable meetings in the Bronx!
CB: In terms of the actual book, I’d say it helped streamline things. Especially how to get everything I wanted in there while also being very aware of page count.
Another point which was always on my mind was how to attract great artists to this project? I knew that was the key to having the potential for success. I was very lucky indeed those few years ago when I saw a post by Chris. I did my due diligence and discovered the plethora of amazing artists that he had worked with on the Kickstarter for Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream. I contacted Chris and believe me when I say I never would have been able to connect with the artists in my book without him.
AIPT: What’s it like working with some big comics names like Bill Sienkiewicz and Nick Pitarra? Does that “pressure” make you work that much harder?
CS: My mentor Bob Schreck told me once (and I think he got it from Archie Goodwin, who likely got it from someone older in his life): “work with the best and get out of the way.” I try to live by that. As far as pressure, yes, no one wants to let down Michael Allred or Jae Lee!
CB: The thing that blows me away is how an artist transforms the written word. For example, in some of the pages that Bill drew, I described a berserker rage consuming the Golem — classic Wolverine stuff with bodies torn apart, etc. Bill took a different approach and the result is more poetic and powerful, I’d say. It fit the totality of the pages much better. I’m in awe of all of the artists. Makes me wish I could draw but I wasn’t blessed with the talent.
AIPT: Do you have a favorite moment/panel/etc. from the book that says something significant about the story or its value?
CB: I lived in Venice Beach when I first moved to Los Angeles and I really wanted to ground my story in this very real neighborhood. There’s a particular page that my main artist, Vanessa Cardinali, drew that takes place at what’s known as the Graffiti Walls. I love what Vanessa did to blend the unique background with a quiet conversation between two people. I especially like the asymmetrical view in certain panels. It’s very cinematic, which I love.
CS: I love when the Golem is with Izzy and Sasha, two young girls who steal every page they’re on. I think that sort of character interplay speaks directly to the struggles at the heart of the story that the golem is wrestling with inside. I think their scenes together are soul-filled and, somehow, very realistic.
AIPT: Does the story of a Golem — that chosen protector type — seem especially relevant and prescient nowadays?
CB: So many books, films, and comics can trace their lineage to the Legend of the Golem — Frankenstein, the Terminator, the Incredible Hulk. The Golem is a creature created by man for protection but it ends up being uncontrollable. I think that can be applied to many things in today’s society. The law of unintended consequences is a powerful lesson to learn.
CS: An oppressed people conjuring up a protector is not only timeless, it’s more relevant on a broader scale than ever before. I think everyone, wherever they’re from or what beliefs they might hold, is innately sympathetic to the idea as we rocket through such uncertain times.
AIPT: Why should anyone contribute to Golem’s Kickstarter?
CB: What’s great about Kickstarter is that comic book fans don’t always have to turn to the big publishers to find something to enjoy. I know that backers of this particular graphic novel will love the world class art — legendary artists plus fabulous newcomers? Can’t get much better than that. And hopefully they’ll also like my contribution of the story.
CS: It’s a book you won’t find anywhere else made by folks who’ve filled the last several decades with beloved hits, written and created by an ambitious newcomer who gave his all to make the very best book possible. I think The Golem of Venice Beach is exactly the kind of project Kickstarter was created for.
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