When young blogger Charles Thompson moves into Echo City with his parents, he is more concerned with the city’s crime statistics than any monsters in the closet. He should have been more worried about having monsters in his closet.
Luckily, Echo City is home to Margo Maloo, a monster mediator who uses her expertise with trolls, ghosts and various other creatures to keep the peace between the monster and human residents of the city.
Welcome to the world of “The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo,” a webcomic by Drew Weing that launched in 2014. First Second Books is releasing a physical book version of the ongoing series, and Hero Complex readers are getting the first look at the cover.
The physical book version of “The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo” collects the first three chapters of the series and will be released Sept. 13.
Hero Complex caught up with Weing over email to discuss “Margo Maloo,” his love of monster stories and webcomics.
How would you describe Margo Maloo? What exactly does “monster mediator” mean?
Margo Maloo herself is this mysterious girl who mediates when there are problems between the kids and monsters of Echo City — when a kid finds a troll under their bed, she’s who they call. However, some of the kids who request her services are dismayed to find that she’ll just as easily take the monster’s side! What’s her story, and how did she embark on this line of work? We’re going to learn more about her as the story goes on. The series follows one particular new resident of the city — Charles Thompson — and his investigations into this world of monsters that no grown-up seems to believe in. He sort of finagles his way into being Margo’s Watson, so we see most of the story through his eyes.
Can you share your inspiration behind Charles? How did he come to be?
Charles is partly me at that age, and partly a lot of the other boys I knew — full of confident bluster, because they’re deeply insecure about their place in the world. He’s still trying on different roles to see how they fit, but he has a burning drive to figure out how the world works — I think every kid is an investigator and reporter of the world around them. And I wanted him to be a modern kid, who chronicles his life online. His life just happens to include the occasional ogre or ghost.
How much research goes into the monster lore of the series, and how much of it is mythology you’ve come up with on your own?
I spent a lot of my formative years sitting cross-legged in the library, reading books of monster folklore and the supernatural, and that definitely surfaces from time to time. I’ve even spent hours poring over that very same “Dictionary of Folklore, Myth and Legend” that I have Charles consulting in Chapter 2. I figure in the world of “Margo Maloo,” a lot of humanity’s traditional lore about monsters is going to be loosely based on fact, but distorted by misunderstandings and endless retelling. The monsters in Echo City might be from many different world cultures, but most of them are at least second generation at this point, so they’ve gotten a little more Americanized and have their own culture going on.
Of course! I loved movie monsters, but I was too scared to actually see the movies. So scared, in fact, that it made me nervous just to walk down the horror aisle of the video store. Those little orange hardback (Crestwood House) adaptations of classic monster flicks in my school library, those were as close as I could get. Books I could handle, and Mercer Mayer and Maurice Sendak‘s monstrous picture books are pretty seminal for me. And there have been a ton of great monster comics that have been influential on Margo: [Shigeru] Mizuki’s “Kitaro” stories, [Joann] Sfar’s “Little Vampire” and “Vampire Loves."
“Margo Maloo” started as a webcomic. Is there any difference between the Web version and the collected book?
There’s not a lot of difference, besides a tiny bit of grammatical editing. I’m pretty happy with the way First Second is putting the book together, it’s almost exactly what I had in mind when I started the webcomic!
What do you like about the webcomic format? And what do you think is the hardest part about maintaining a webcomic?
There are many webcomics that are dear to my heart, and I think one of the intrinsic things about that kind of serialization is living with the characters for so long. You can binge-read through a graphic novel series in just a couple of days and it’s like an intense, quasi-delirious thrill ride, but when you’re reading a serialized comic, it’s like getting a little check-in from a friend every day. The experiences are pretty different, but both interesting!
And of course the hardest thing is maintaining any kind of strict deadline — which I’ve always been an abysmal failure at, in all the years that I’ve been putting comics online. Comics are just so much work! But I do love all of the fun community aspects that can spring up around it.
This first “The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo” book definitely feels like just the beginning of Margo and Charles’ adventures. How many more “Margo Maloo” stories do you have planned?
One of the fun things about Margo Maloo is that she has just an infinite amount of monster misunderstandings in Echo City, which I’m sure is exhausting for her, but fun for me. So her caseload is pretty stacked, and I intend to chronicle as many of those as I can. Meanwhile, there are big things rumbling in the monster underground that can’t be ignored, and we’ll start to explore those in Book 2, hopefully!