Chanan Beizer’s debut graphic novel The Golem of Venice Beach is being crowdfunded now on Kickstarter. For the project, he teamed up with several artists, including Vanesa Cardinali (Image Comics’ Slumber), Jae Lee and Bill Sienkiewicz (who also draws the book’s cover).
The book tells the story of the golem who was created in 16th Century Europe living a lonely existence in contemporary California. It’s an old story that continues to have resonance, and Beizer was kind enough to answer a few questions about the comic, his collaborators and why the story has stayed with him after all this time.
When did you first encounter the story of the golem, and what about it has stayed with you for all these years?
I can’t exactly pinpoint when I first became aware of the golem story, but I’m sure it was when I was a kid, either in my Jewish elementary school or the classes I had at my Jewish summer camp (yes, I had schoolwork at camp). I know for a fact that I read a comic book with a golem when I was young because I still have that very comic. It’s stuck with me over the years because on the surface, it’s cool to think that a protector like a golem can be created. What kid wouldn’t want a nearly indestructible bodyguard at his beck and call? But as an adult, I realized that the important lesson to be learned from the story of the Golem is that you should be careful what you wish for. The fact that according to the legend, the Golem became a berserker, totally out of control, and had to be “deactivated” by its creator is a sobering one.
This is an idea you’ve been working on for years. How it has changed in that time, and what did you learn about how to write comics?
What’s changed over the years is really getting to know the characters. I’ve been living with them for a long time and I’ve come to understand them and their motivations in a much deeper way than I did at the beginning of the process. That in turn has led me to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in writing for comics is to conform to the art. I have definitely changed dialogue so it would better suit the art on the page. Sometimes it was because I didn’t want a balloon to cover up the image, other times it was because the flow of the panels required it.
A story like this, which has flashbacks and chapters set in different periods, lends itself to different artists, but talk about approaching artists and envisioning how their work could be a part of this story and would work together.
Since day one I’ve always wanted three different artists for the three time periods of the story. I knew that I wanted black and white to represent the Medieval pages. I was originally thinking of sepia for the World War II period. And of course Venice Beach had to be like stepping out into the Land of Oz – you’re not in Kansas anymore. In terms of how the three artists’ contributions would work in one cohesive story, I just had to cross my fingers and hope. I didn’t see why there would be an obstacle to that. Through the use of a few comic book tricks, such as page turns and locator captions, I was just hoping it would work out. And in my honest opinion, I think it did.
Tell me about working with Vanessa Cardinali and what she brings to the book.
Vanessa brings a vivaciousness and exuberance to the pages that take place in present-day Venice Beach. Her energy and style perfectly matches the vibe. I especially adore her color palette which at first may seem a bit strange, but a yellow sky makes kind of sense in a place like Venice. That’s just one example, of course. I pretty much went with her color scheme in the nearly 120 pages that she created.
The book is also very much about Venice Beach. What does the city mean to you?
It actually reminds me of home. That would be New York City. I know, I know, there’s no beach, or seagulls, or palm trees in Manhattan. But people do walk around and congregate in Venice Beach just like they do in New York. On a hot summer day, any local from Venice would be completely at ease hanging out in Washington Square Park. I guess Venice Beach is a little slice of home to me.
That cover. I have nothing more to say but wow. But I suppose that “Wow” is just what you get when Bill Sienkiewicz draws your cover.
You said it. A cover is obviously very important because it’s the first thing you see. I think that Bill really captured the essence of the three eras in which the story unfolds into a single beautiful tapestry. I had listed some themes I thought should be represented on the cover. Bill took that and experimented a bit here and there. And some things he just incorporated from his own imagination, like his version of the Vitruvian Man, which I think fits perfectly. Like most things it was a process and I’m completely enamored with the result.
Find out more about The Golem of Venice Beach on Kickstarter.