“We take a look at these mythical icons when the public image is off and there’s no little ones to impress.” Writer Dave Dellecese goes off duty with Santa and the Easter Bunny at Holidaze
Ever wonder what characters like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy get up to for the other 364 days of the year? Well according to writer Dave Dellecese and artist Andrew Cieslinski, they all hang out in a bar called Holidaze, which is like a combination of Cheers and Animal House! We step over the body of a drunken elf, order some beers from the tooth fairy and pull up a seat at the bar with Dave and Andrew to find out more.
The idea of a bar for ‘mythical’ characters sounds like a real ‘3 in the morning’ kind of moment of inspiration. Would that be fair or was there a more sedate explanation behind the inspiration for Holidaze?
DD: Believe it or not, it came about in the middle of the day! About 13 or 14 years ago, in fact. Holidaze was originally going to be a short film when I was studying screenwriting and filmmaking back in college. I was in New England driving in the car with a friend and frequent collaborator on film projects back then, watching snow fall around, and I just said “I want to make a Christmas Special. But it’s a comedy. For adults. Santa and Cupid, and the Easter Bunny and everybody hanging out at a bar when they’re not working.” The short film never came to fruition, but the basic idea for what it was supposed to be became the first issue of Holidaze more than a dozen years later.
How did you decide which characters to include in your motley crew – was it your favourites, or those you thought you could tell interesting stories? Or just those who are out of copyright and so legal fair game!
DD: I think, it’s always a mixture of who is pertinent to that particular story and what that story calls for, and then who Andrew is in the mood to draw also hanging around the bar. We started out with the very basic core group that was in the original short story back from years past – Santa, Cupid, Paddy, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. As time went on and stories called for it, new characters and cast members would pop up and add to our ever-growing roster. One of the best examples of that, I think is Dr. Headless Horseman. We never had him in mind when we started out, and when I wrote the Issue 3 story of Dracula in therapy, it was just written as a therapist. Andrew’s the one who came up with the brilliant idea to have the Headless Horseman be his psychiatrist. Now, we look at him like our Frasier Crane and can’t wait to use him again.
If you could have any character from comics or fiction to turn up in Holidaze for a guest appearance, who would you pick and why?
BB: I can’t speak for Andrew on this one, as I’m sure we’d have very different responses. But for me, it would definitely be Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. They are one of my favorite on-screen duos, and their “Road” movies are just as funny today as I’m sure they were back when they were first made. I absolutely love them. So, back in mind I’ve always had a secret wish to do some type of “Road to Holidaze” story, where Bob and Bing find themselves at Holidaze amid another famous road trip, bantering with each other and the clientele, cracking jokes, a hare brained scheme, the works!
You don’t seem to worry about going for a slightly adult tone for it, how important was it for you to fill the book with sleazy tooth fairies and the odd bit of adult humour? Was that a necessity if you were going to set it in a bar, or was it all about the juxtaposition of these squeaky clean characters having a slightly sordid life when they aren’t ‘on duty’?
DD: I think if Holidaze were given a movie rating, it’d likely be PG-13. When we’re a kid, we looked at many adults – be they parents, a teacher, a celebrity, an official – as these pure, perfect people. Only when we get older do we start to separate the image from the person and realize they’re all just real people like us. They have flaws, they have good days, they have bad days. They have virtues, but they have vices. So this takes that view and focuses it on these mythical icons that we’ve become so familiar with in pop culture and takes a look at them when the public image is off and there’s no little ones to impress.
Tell us how you and artist Andrew Cieslinski met up and is Holidaze a partnership or are you the driving force? What are your respective backgrounds in comics?
DD: We shared many mutual friends. One day I was having coffee with one of those mutual friends. At the time, I was working as a TV journalist and news anchor, and when you work in news, you tend to deal with a lot of bad stories day in and day out. Crimes, deaths, tragedies, assaults – all the stuff that just wears on you. I was really, really looking for some type of outlet for myself for a bit of escapist writing outside of the news and all those types of stories. Our mutual friend suggested I meet with Andrew, an incredibly talented artist, and see if we could collaborate on something. So I contacted Andrew, we grabbed coffee, and we just talked about ideas back and forth. It was a terribly rainy afternoon and we were sitting at a table under a canopy outside a cafe. None of the ideas were hitting the mark. A lot was just a lot of the same we’ve seen before. So, for whatever reason, I pulled that old short film idea, Holidaze, out of the back of my head and Andrew really dug it. And away we went.
It’s definitely a true partnership. I handle the bulk of the writing and production/promotional side of things while he tackles all the labor intensive (and time intensive) illustrating, coloring and lettering. As for the creative process, as the stories have gone on, I think we’ve really found a balance. Andrew likes to push the envelope sometimes, and I have a tendency to stay in my safe zone. Together, we tend to meet in the middle.
We’ve both been readers of comics since we were kids, but this is our first published foray into comics, actually.
You’ve done a few parodies in the last few issues (Walking Dead, Odd Couple etc.) did you plan stories around those ideas or did they evolve out of other ideas?
DD: The only one planned around another franchise (loosely) was Issue #4 – “The Walking Drunk.” The title came to Andrew while he was at the gym and he texted it to me, asking me to see what I could come up with. I had a title and knew he wanted to draw zombies. So, the idea formed around that.
Issue #5 – “The Odd Couple” – was just a story about two friends trying to live together and the difficulties that came with it. The title only came in the end, when it seemed only fitting to call it that. It wasn’t based on the film or television show, but it shares a common theme.
You’ve released the book via ComiXology Submit, how did you find that process and how has having a digital release helped you spread the word about Holidaze?
DD: I can’t say enough nice things about the folks at ComiXology Submit. They have been so kind and so helpful, and best of all – so available if you need to ask them anything. They’re really terrific.
The nice thing about digital distribution is that you can reach a wider audience almost immediately. If someone wants to buy a comic, they can do so digitally at any time. The store is always open, so to speak. If someone hears about your book on social media, they can immediately follow a link to comiXology, buy an issue and dig in.
One of the wonderful things, to me, about comics, about TV, movies, etc. is that there are so many choices today. You aren’t limited to what’s on the spinner rack at the magazine kiosk anymore or what’s on television. We have the internet, we have Netflix, etc. The comics I read or the TV shows I like may not be the same thing someone else likes. And that’s great, because through that, and artists creating things in any medium that they enjoy, gives everyone such a wide variety to choose from. Having something like the plethora of independent books and creative teams at your fingertips like comiXology does is a great example of that.
Obviously, paper comics are still incredibly popular, and we have print versions of Holidaze issues available with us when we do conventions or store signings, things like that. But for a small-time independent creator, digital distribution has opened up an entirely new world of possibility in getting your work into someone’s hands in ways I could’ve never dreamed of as a kid.
DD: Holidaze will certainly go on. There’s many more stories to tell in that bar and with those characters, without a doubt. And while Andrew and I are both full steam ahead on the issues to come, I know that be it as a team or individually, there’s a lot of other projects we’d one day like to do. Personally, (in a contrast to Holidaze, I know), I’ve got quite a few family-friendly stories I’d like to tackle one day. But, if an editor comes calling, we’re at the ready.
Holidaze #5 is out this week and issues #1-4 are available from ComiXology starting at £0.69/$0.99