Interview: Steve Bryant & Mark Stegbauer on Action Lab’s Ghoul Scouts

Ghoul Scouts: Night of the Unliving Undead #1 cover by Mark Stegbauer

Ghoul Scouts: Night of the Unliving Undead #1 cover by Mark Stegbauer

Steve Bryant is best known as the creator of Athena Voltaire, featuring the pulp style adventures of an adventurous aviatrix. Artist Mark Stegbauer has worked on comics including Nova, The Flash, and The Badger. Now, they’re combining forces for Ghoul Scouts: Night of the Unliving Undead, an all ages adventure/supernatural series from Action Lab. Bryant and Stegbauer tell Westfield’s Roger Ash about the new series in this exclusive interview!

Westfield: Where did the idea of this series come from?

Steve Bryant: It started back in 2007. I was emailing a friend, catching up about our respective weekends. Back then, if I wasn’t having fun with my son, Chance, I was myopically focusing on comics—sometimes to the detriment of everything else. My friend had mentioned that she’d been playing Dead Rising and hanging out with her friends all weekend. I equated that to a balanced life, which amused her.

I responded with “Zombie killing is a skill that creates well-rounded people. Everyone knows that. It’s in Chance’s Cub Scout manual, page 147. He can earn a zombie-killing badge and everything.”

And it snowballed from there.

Westfield: How much world building did you do for the series?

Bryant: Lots! The Ghoul Scouts will face more than just zombies, and much of that comes from the nature of their hometown, Full Moon Hollow—known to tourists as “the Paranormal Capital of the World.”

There’s a whole backstory to Full Moon Hollow (located in scenic Hemlock County) that we’ll be delving into. Why does all his weird stuff keep happening? The adults ignore it, forget about it, or even go crazy from it…what’s happening here?

So, yeah, the kids will have plenty of mysteries to solve and supernatural secrets to uncover.

Ghoul Scouts: Night of the Unliving Undead #1 cover by Mike Norton.

Ghoul Scouts: Night of the Unliving Undead #1 cover by Mike Norton.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the story and the main characters we’ll meet?

Bryant: We play with some of the conventions of kid-lit, but try to mix it up a little. We have the Brain, the Jock, the “Bad” Kid, the Pop Culture Whiz, and the “Average” one. But each of the kids is more than just a label, and they learn that as the story plays out.

Westfield: While there are lots of frightening things in the story, it’s still very much an all ages book. Was that a challenge to pull off?

Bryant: I thought it would be a lot harder than it ended up being. It helped that the entire team was on the same page, in terms of the tone we wanted the book to have.

From his very first drawings, Mark nailed it. The book is spooky, but not scary or horrifying. Mark did a great job of making the monsters walk that fine line.

Mark Stegbauer: It was a bit difficult. Our key rule for the whole series was no gore. The creatures were very generic, and really cartoony. The animated movie Paranorman was a big influence on my take on the zoms. We could still make the scenes suspenseful, but not to the point of nightmare causing.

Bryant: And Jason Millet, who colored the book added the perfect amount of atmosphere.

From a writing standpoint, I had a few back-and-forths with our editor, Chris Murrin, discussing the level of scariness. Again, Chris grasped the tone immediately, and it was a fairly painless prospect.

The Ghoul Scouts in action.

The Ghoul Scouts in action.

Westfield: Something I liked about the story is the kids were still kids; they didn’t act like little adults. Was that something that was important for you to get across?

Stegbauer: Definitely. We wanted to show them as having some maturity since they were certainly dealing with some grown up issues in the story. But at the same time we needed to keep that childhood innocence about the world and the hope that things will always work out.

Bryant: It was very important that the kids seem like kids, and not miniature adults. They’re very smart, brave, and resourceful kids, but they’re still kids.

At its core, Ghoul Scouts is a coming of age story, like the Sandlot or Stand by Me—but with monsters. I think that maintaining that mindset—kids solving problems, and then add the monsters into the mix—really helped keep the kids grounded. Or at least as grounded as you can make a bunch of kids who set out to save their town from a zombie outbreak.

Meet the Ghoul Scouts.

Meet the Ghoul Scouts.

Westfield: What can you say about your collaboration?

Bryant: Fantastic. Mark is a great collaborator—he loves these characters as much as I do. He’s very story-conscious, and busts his hump to keep deadlines on track while still making the book look amazing.

Stegbauer: It’s pretty awesome. Steve is a fantastic storyteller, as anyone who has read his adventure comic Athena Voltaire knows. He really works hard to give me cool scripts to draw from, and he’s really open to ideas from me about page flow and character actions. He’s also a big help when I get stuck on a tough storytelling aspect.

Bryant: And it’s more than just us. Everyone working on Ghoul Scouts has contributed tirelessly to make this book the best we possibly can—from Mark and me, to Chris and Jason, to color assistant Drew Browne. It’s been a joy to collaborate with everyone.

And we’re fortunate to have a ton of amazing artists providing variant covers (most of which were inked by Mark and colored by Jason): Mike Norton, Sean Izaakse, Jamal Igle, Phil Hester, Brent Schoonover, and Axur Eneas.

Everyone involved made this a very special collaboration.

Ghoul Scouts: Night of the Unliving Undead #1 cover by Sean Izaakse

Ghoul Scouts: Night of the Unliving Undead #1 cover by Sean Izaakse

Westfield: If the miniseries does well, do you have more Ghoul Scouts stories you want to tell?

Stegbauer: Oh, yes. We have quite a few ideas for more. Some more developed than others, but there are plenty of spooky situations the kids can encounter.

Bryant: We loved doing the first arc, Night of the Unliving Undead, so much that we teased the next series at the end of issue 4! We’re just getting started.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Stegbauer: If you’re a big fan of Scooby-Doo, The Goonies, or Monster Squad, you’ll definitely like this book!!

Bryant: You can join the Ghoul Scouts fan page on Facebook here:

And you can follow Ghoul Scouts on Twitter here:


Ghoul Scouts: Night of the Unliving Undead #1

SPECIAL OFFER! If you pre-order Ghoul Scouts #1-4, you will receive a free super-limited bonus short story (prose with illustrations by Mark Stegbauer)! These 5.5 x 8.5 books will be signed by the entire Ghoul Scouts team!



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