This article is available to read on ComiConverse
Kevin Joseph is the author of the comics Tart and Underwars. His current project, The Poodles of Potter’s Peak, is an early childhood comic with art by Jessi Sheron of The Sea in You and The Evil Queen. Here, our own Carly Berkowitz chats with both Joseph and Sheron about what brought about this collaboration, and why poodles in particular.
As an experienced comic writer, Kevin Joseph knows how to tell a story. His two current projects, Tart and Underwars, are the stories of a time traveling demon-slayer and a highly intelligent monkey in a pair of human underoos respectively.
His newest project, however, is something entirely different. Teaming up with artist Jessi Sheron, he has created a comic aimed at young children called The Poodles of Potter’s Peak.
“The first time I wrote this comic it was a short story,” said Joseph. “My daughter was about four years old at the time and I wanted to write a short story for her so I wrote a very, very, very silly type of a story.”
This silly story focuses on six retired show poodles, two of which are based on Joseph’s actual family dogs. The poodles are the pets of the kindly Ms. Esther Mange, who goes out for ingredients leaving them the only ones to defend her recipes from the conniving Leo Snyder who tries to break in and steal them.
The comic came about mainly from Joseph’s desire to create an early-ages comic book, and to work with Sheron specifically.
“I had seen her work and I never thought we’d work together because she writes her own stuff, but I loved her Evil Queen and when I saw her book with the bunnies, I just went ‘oh my gosh she’s perfect,'” explained Joseph.
When Sheron tweeted about needing a new project and wanting to collaborate, Joseph jumped on the opportunity.
“I wanted to make certain that I was the absolute first person to jump ashore just in case she got deluged, I wanted to be in front of the pack,” Joseph said.
“I’m always doing multiple projects at the same time, I have multiple clients that I work with,” Sheron, who is a professional illustrator, explained. “I had a good gap and Kevin was really nice and I liked the project so I was like ‘let’s do it!’ and it worked out pretty well.”
Once the team up was set, the two creators set about choosing the right story and bringing it to life. According to Joseph, the goal was to make a comic for children eight and under specifically.
“We didn’t go for an all ages book, we went for a kids book,” said Joseph. “I dedicate it to my daughter of course, because it’s my one book that’s appropriate, but I also dedicate it to any child that this is their first ever comic book.”
As a comic creator and fan herself, Sheron shared the sentiment.
“I’m excited for that,” Sheron said. “I like the idea of being a kid’s first comic book. Get ’em young!”
As an early childhood comic, The Poodles of Potter’s Peak is not designed for your average comic reader. The story is fluffy and cute with art to match – aimed to catch the eye of children. However, it is meant to be an introductory comic, bringing children into the world of panels and pages to instill a love of the format early.
Of course, the pitch changes a little depending on the age of the prospective reader.
“If I’m talking to the adults I say it’s home alone with six adorable retired show poodles instead of one homicidal boy, and that usually gets a very nice reaction,” explained Joseph. “If it’s a little kid I say to them that there are six poodles at home and a meanie comes up to steal a brownie recipe… I point to him [Leo] and say, you can tell he’s a bad guy, look at that villainous mustache!”
The character design for the comic was a collaboration between the two creators, but according to Joseph, the designs for everything came easily to Sheron, from the humans to the poodles themselves – even the ones based off of Joseph’s real dogs.
“The main thing I was worried about was Monty and Whitey because I wanted them to at least have the spirit of photos,” said Sheron.
She also stressed the desire to give each dog an individual personality at first glance.
“I wanted to make sure that they all had pretty unique silhouettes,” explained Sheron. “One thing I remember that I learned about when I was drawing early on, was that a common mistake that illustrators make is that they’ll Huey, Dewey, and Louie things a little too much so I wanted people to – at a glance – be like ‘that’s them’ and ‘that’s what their personality is like.'”
Sheron’s goal was very similar for the human characters as well – even stating that the design for Esther Mange took cues from the pastel hued house she lived in.
“I wanted her to look really sweet so that was my main thought when I was drawing her – a very sweet, lovely person that you just knew from looking at her that she was a kind person that you’d want to be around,” Sheron said. “I wanted her to look like someone who was really good to hug.”
Even the villainous Leo Snyder was carefully crafted to look as if he suited his roll.
“Leo, we really talked about making him a cartoon-y villain,” said Joseph. “Top hats, a monocle, a mustache, and when I think she sent the photo of the bowler hat we went, ‘you know what? that is so wonderful with the mustache’ and that was it.”
“Leo is so fun to draw,” added Sheron, laughing a bit. “I felt a real connection with Leo.”
The two briefly discussed a possibly sequel comic starring the mustachioed villain, but to date there are no set plans.
The Poodles of Potter’s Peak is ending it’s kickstarter campaign for printing on Sunday, July 24th, and after that Joseph plans to approach Diamond Comic Distributors as well as Comixology, along with selling the finished comics at conventions and other venues to share his work with children everywhere.
“I just want people to realize how much fun it is to sit and read to your kid this particular comic,” said Joseph.
Sheron seconded his sentiment, also expressing the fun of the project.
“I had such a fun time drawing it so I really hope that the fun comes across in the art,” said Sheron.