It’s Halloween, and you know what that means—time to gather around and trade scary stories! A treat of a graphic novel released this year, That Night, a Monster, is perfect for the occasion. You know that feeling after watching a scary movie where everything feels haunted? Even the tree right outside your window? That’s what Tommy, the little boy who went to wake up his parents on a Saturday morning, felt when his mom turned into a fern! Of course, she did not really turn into a fern, but rather had a bad hair day that got out of control.
That Night, a Monster is a graphic novel that plays with our worst fears, but in a light-hearted way that makes you turn around and appreciate what you have. Plus, the illustrations are so silly and relatable at the same time that they remind us that our fears can be the scariest thing of all!
We had the wonderful opportunity to chat with Marzena Sowa and Berenika Kotomycka, the Polish artists behind the graphic novel. That Night, a Monster was originally published in Polish and re-released with an English translation by Uncivilized Books. We hope you enjoy learning about their inspiration behind the book and their advice for young artists.
If you dig our interview, don’t forget to check out our giveaway of the graphic novel via Instagram! Have a happy, spooky Halloween.
Marzena Sowa is an internationally renowned Polish graphic novelist. Her best known work Marzi—a memoir of Communist Poland through the eyes of a child—has been translated into several languages. She loves dictionaries and cheesecake, hates spiders, and is crazy skateboarder (even if she is not very good!). Marzena lives in Brussels.
Berenika Koâomycka is a cartoonist, sculptor, illustrator, and recipient of the Grand Prix at the odz International Comics Festival. She's also the author of Tiny Fox & Big Boar series of comics for kids. She lives in Warsaw, Poland.
1. What was your inspiration for That Night a Monster?
Berenika: This was my first comic book for kids. I built a model of Thomas’ parents' room for this project in order to get into this story as much as possible. Playing with the light and taking pictures of such a model is very inspiring and sometimes the effect may surprise you. Sometimes your imagination is not flexible enough to find solutions completely out of your head, sometimes you need help. I really loved watching concept artworks of artists such as Eyvind Earle, Walt Peregoy, or John Hubley and many others. Watching the achievements of those fantastic artists helps me grow.
Marzena: With That Night a Monster, I wanted to dive into a child's imagination: how it can deform and transform reality, and how it can be rich and wild without borders. I also wanted the story to be a little funny and not too scary.
2. What was your favorite children's book growing up?
Berenika: I was totally devoted to children's poems written by our Polish poet Jan Brzechwa. I knew them by heart and kept images from these books, some of which I still have at home. I loved the illustrations from these fairy-tales and sometimes when I was a kid I fantasized and finished the stories myself. Polish illustrations from the 50's were amazing. Besides, I'm still a huge Moons fan to this day.
Marzena: I grew up on Andersen's stories, Grimm brothers', and of course Polish and Eastern European tales and poems. My favorite was Baba Yaga, and it still is. I am fascinated by this witch who scares generations of kids, and each time I go to the forest, I ask myself if she was ever there. And obviously Tove Jansson's Moomins.
3. What advice do you have for aspiring comic book writers and artists?
Berenika: Watch the world around you, take notes, and sketch, because human memory is unreliable. Above all, be honest and be humble. We are not the center of the universe and we can learn a lot of good things from others, so let's try to listen to them and not pretend that we know everything.
Marzena: Like our [character of That Night a Monster] Tommy, be curious without borders. Explore everything. Go where you never go. Surprises are around the corner. You don't have to go far to find them.
Thanks for reading, don’t forget to check out our giveaway of the That Night a Monster via Instagram! Have a happy, spooky Halloween.