One of the most legendary living comic book artists, Stephen R. Bissette is one of the talented people contributing mesmerizing work to Chanan Beizer's graphic novel The Golem of Venice Beach, which is now available to support via a Kickstarter campaign through Clover Press!

We had the pleasure of catching up with Bissette and editor Chris Stevens in a new Q&A feature to discuss Bissette's stunning phantasmagoria for The Golem of Venice Beach, and Bissette also reflected on his teaching career at the Center for Cartoon Studies and his seminal work on the legendary Saga of Swamp Thing.

Below, you can check out the Q&A with Bissette and Stevens as well as artwork from The Golem of Venice Beach, and to learn more about the new graphic novel, visit Kickstarter!

Thank you for taking the time to answer questions for us, Stephen, and congratulations on your artwork in The Golem of Venice Beach! How did you initially get involved with this new graphic novel written by Chanan Beizer?

Stephen R. Bissette: Chris Stevens invited my involvement, and it was an interesting concept, the deal was attractive, and since I was easing myself out of teaching at the Center for Cartoon Studies (I retired in the summer of 2020, made my retirement plans in 2019, before the pandemic), I thought I might be able to make the time to do a couple of pages. I was also anxious about my drawing chops, and wanted to limber up a bit for a more demanding collaborative project now in the works.

Chris Stevens: Steve is the greatest living horror comics artist, a foundational creator of modern comics and driver of their decades’ long journey from disposable children’s fodder to a full-fledged art form. When I read the script for THE GOLEM OF VENICE BEACH, Steve was the first person I knew I needed to be in the book. We had a good experience together on LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM, to which Steve contributed a glorious TYRANT/nemo mashup, and had stayed in touch a bit. I knew he wasn’t necessarily looking to be active in comics, but luckily he saw that we were building something unique and decided to join in. The results are pure Bissette!

What was it about The Golem of Venice Beach that excited you and made you want to be a part of this project and create your first interior comic book artwork in more than 20 years?

Chris Stevens: For me, if you’re making a book that’s involved with horror or the supernatural, Steve is the mountain you have to climb. He's the greatest living horror artist and a professor of things that go bump in the night, and without him GOLEM would have not been complete. I am so grateful he trusted in what we were doing, saw its merits, and decided, after too long away, to jump back into doing comics pages.

Stephen R. Bissette: Chris invited me to play in his and Chanan's sandbox, and I had my reasons for saying, "Sure, I'll give it a go." I should also note that actually, it's not the "first interior comic book artwork in more than 20 years" that I've done. Chris Duffy coaxed me into working with Derek Drymon on three stories that were published in Spongebob Comics, and I also contributed to Chris Duffy's WWI hardcover anthology Above the Dreamless Dead (2014, Macmillan), specifically my interpretation of a Rudyard Kipling poem. In the 15+ years I was part of the Center for Cartoon Studies, I contributed comic narratives and artwork to various anthology projects students and alumni would invite me to be part of, including collaborative works (my favorite was an alien abduction story with and for Sean Morgan) and an ambitious solo piece for Cayetano "Cat" Garza's anthology Secrets & Lies. The "Tyrant® Dreams" piece I originally did for Sundays #1, which Chris Stevens included in the Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream first printing, was among those CCS community contributions I'd cooked up and completed on my drawing board.

But I get it: with the exception of the Spongebob Comics stories, that wasn't work particularly visible to the American comics mainstream, which I'd happily retired from in 1999.

What can you tell readers about the phantasmagoria that you created for The Golem of Venice Beach? Did you have a lot of creative freedom to create what you had in mind for this graphic novel?

Stephen R. Bissette: I wasn't sure what Chanan and Chris might be looking for from me. I've contributed to a few of these kind of round-robin, multiple-creator projects in the past as a writer (Species: Human Race, scripting for pal and artist extraordinaire Mark Nelson) as well as artist, and it's always a curious process. I'm never sure what's expected of or from me, or how my idiosyncratic approach to the comic page will or won't fit into the tapestry: crazy threads, if you will. I always hope to get under the skin, into the bone, into the marrow of the primal components of a project or character, however limited my respective contribution might be, so I emailed a number of concepts rooted in the classical Golem texts, proposing a few conceptual springboards, and they came back to me with something else. Ultimately, we settled on what I ran with, extrapolating on a sensual delirium between Chanan's male and female characters, exploring the "little deaths" of orgasm and sleep, if you will. They trusted me enough to let me expand the canvas from one to two pages, with clear instructions on the beginning and concluding imagery necessary to fold this visual meditation into their overall narrative.

Chris Stevens: Steve and I kicked around an idea or two that didn’t quite land, and he knew he had the freedom to do just about anything he wanted. When one page turned into two, it sent ripples of joy through not just myself and Chanan, but the other artists as well. We call it a phantasmagoria and that’s exactly what it is—a master diving into the deep end of a personal moment between characters and creating a tone poem that deepens characterizations and delivers chills. What a thrill to see new Stephen R. Bissette sequentials!

Stephen R. Bissette: Unlike past experiments with this kind of crazy-quilt I usually found profoundly unsatisfying, Chanan and Chris gave me ample room to play, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the sequence blossomed, congealed, and cohered, and ended up pretty pleased with how it worked out. I hadn't really worked in this kind of wash and tone painted style since my 1980s stories for Scholastic Magazines (Weird Worlds) and Marvel (Bizarre Adventures, Epic Illustrated). I am eager as anyone to read the completed work, however. I've no idea if I succeeded or failed, though Chanan and Chris said they were pleased, so I reckon it all flows.

Have you been reading any comic books lately that you would recommend to our readers?

Stephen R. Bissette: For 15 years, without fail, the best comics I read were the original stories, graphic novels, and anthologies the students and alumni of the Center for Cartoon Studies created. But as of the summer of 2020, that access is no longer in reach, no longer part of my reading. I'm pretty much an opportunivore when it comes to comics and graphic novels, but recent favorites include the three issues of Dwellings by Jay Stephens, which I absolutely love; Colleen Doran's exquisite graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman's short story "Chivalry"; and I've been rereading Michael DeForge's near-complete works (I'm sure I've missed something), which takes me places precious few comics can or have. I've also been revisiting Sam Glanzman Silver Age war comics for Charlton and Dell, and rereading my collection of 1949–1954 Pre-Code non-EC horror comic books, which is pretty extensive, often clumsy, crude, and cruel, but all entertaining as hell. I snapped up all of 'em I could back in the 1980s, right around the time Alan Moore, John Totleben, Rick Veitch and I lost the Comics Code on Saga of the Swamp Thing, and I hadn't reread these since I last binged on 'em 20 years ago. I'm also blown away by the new work Rick Veitch has been self-publishing via his Sun Comics imprint, from the self-standing graphic novels to his continuations of Rarebit Fiends and Kid MaxiMortal.

Decades after its initial release, Saga of the Swamp Thing remains one of the most beloved comic book runs of all time. Looking back, what do you remember the most fondly about working on that series?

Stephen R. Bissette: Those were hard times, personally. My first wife and I had our two children—home-births, both, our daughter in 1983 and our son in 1985—in those critical years, so a lot of my "looking back" involves sleepless nights at the drawing board and snagging naps in the daytime with the kids when they were little. The creativity was flowing, but even with my doing a monthly comic and my first wife Marlene working her day job at a residential school for autistic children, we were eking out a poverty-level existence while raising two kids; it was a constant struggle. Working on a monthly comic book is a relentless grind under the best of circumstances, and I was a constant headache for my editors Len Wein and Karen Berger. Still, I and we did deliver the absolute best work possible on every page, for every issue. That collaborative work has stood the test of time thus far, hasn't it? I wrote a lengthy text essay for the first volume of the Absolute Swamp Thing and I'll refer you to that for a proper answer.

What advice would you give to aspiring comic book artists who are just getting started?

Stephen R. Bissette: As I used to tell my students at the Center for Cartoon Studies, if you've got to make comics, then make comics. Don't talk about making comics, make comics. Some of us need a communal environment to get our sealegs: I don't think I would have really made a go of it if I hadn't been lucky enough to attend the Joe Kubert School (I was part of the pioneer class, 1976–1978), and I think CCS offers a comparable bedrock two-year program and bedrock. But it isn't for everyone.

Then again, that question puts me in the position of the innkeeper in the old Hammer Films Dracula movies: I have to warn you, "Don't go to Castle Dracula," though I know you're going to go to Castle Dracula anyway. Well, OK, then, so, make sure you've packed a vial of holy water, a few crucifixes, some solid sharpened stakes, and a sturdy hammer. Understand it's dangerous and could prove fatal, but if you must pursue the path, you must: arm yourself, do your best, stay true to your path, but look out for the bloodsuckers. They'll exsanguinate you if they can.

Chris Stevens: The field has changed and is changing so rapidly that to me, as a guy who is always dealing with and looking for artists, the key thing for aspirants is this–always do your best. Every panel, every page, every project. You can’t afford to do less.

In addition to The Golem of Venice Beach, do you have any other projects—comic books or otherwise—coming up that you can tease for our readers?

Stephen R. Bissette: I've been writing more than drawing the past few years; that was something I could juggle with teaching. As an author, I have a number of recent books in print that I'm quite proud of (Cryptid Cinema, the Midnight Movie Monograph for Electric Dreamhouse on David Cronenberg's The Brood, collaborative fiction with novelists Stephen Volk, Mark Morris, Tim Lebbon, and Christopher Golden on Studio of Screams), and more in the works out later this and next year. Cryptid Cinema: The Boggy Creek Bequest is currently in production with designer Tim Paxton, and I contributed an essay to editors Chris Kelso and David Leo Rice's Children of the New Flesh: The Early Work and Pervasive Influence of David Cronenberg that'll be out this summer. I've been contributing bonus feature "lectures," booklet materials, and commentary tracks to recent Blu-ray releases like Ilya Muromets (for Deaf Crocodile/Vinegar Syndrome), The Return of Count Yorga (for Arrow Films), Night of the Demon (the 1981, not the 1957, film, for Severin), Monster from Green Hell (Film Detective), Fritz the Cat (with G. Michael Dobbs, for Scorpion/Kino Lorber), and others, including some handsome boxed sets (Weird Wisconsin, Cold War Creatures, etc.). I know my film writing and the blu-ray work isn't of much interest to most of the comics folks out there, however personally rewarding it is for me.

That duly noted, I've also done a fair amount of non-fiction writing about comics, including an extensive, definitive text piece that'll be part of the forthcoming The Lonely War of Capt. Willy Schultz collected edition from It's Alive! and Dark Horse later this year.

My artwork is another matter. I hope to get out a couple more monster sketchbooks with designer Mark Masztal to follow up Thoughtful Creatures and Brooding Creatures, which we managed to get into print last year. There's a lot of eye candy in those! I painted the original cover art for 101's UK blu-ray release of The Last Broadcast, which as close as I'll ever get to doing movie poster art in my lifetime. That was something I painted after completing the two painted black-and-white pages for the Golem project, and was another stage in making sure I still had some juice in my painted color efforts.

The major comics project on my boards for the foreseeable future is a collaborative graphic novel John Jennings and Nalo Hopkinson invited to be part of, Night Comes Walking. Nalo just announced the project in Locus, so I reckon it's OK to mention it here. John and I became fast friends upon our first meeting, and three summers back John and Nalo rang me up and asked if I'd be willing to work with them on this period (early 1950s) horror noir, which we're doing for Abrams. John and I have jammed on a few art pieces together, evolving my "analog" pencils (I don't work digitally, by choice) and John's incredible inking and coloring skills (working digitally) into images unlike either of us would ever do on our lonesome, and Nalo is a magnificent writer working in what for her is a fresh medium of expression. The chemistry feels right and ripe. It'll be a couple few years of really hard work, I'm wary of saying too much about it; I'll leave it for Nalo and John to talk about.

For me, The Golem of Venice Beach pages, The Last Broadcast Blu-ray cover art, John Jennings and I jamming on the cover of the sketchbook Brooding Creatures—they were all warm-ups for what we're doing together for Night Comes Walking. 


Below, we have the official press release and a look at Bissette's mesmerizing phantasmagoria (as well as creations by other artists), and to learn more about The Golem of Venice Beach, visit Kickstarter!

Press Release: (June 6, 2022) - Superstar artists Michael Allred, Stephen R. Bissette, Jae Lee, Nick Pitarra, Paul Pope, and Bill Sienkiewicz and legendary letterer Clem Robins are teaming up with rising star artist Vanessa Cardinali and debut comic book writer Chanan Beizer to create an all-new graphic novel, The Golem of Venice Beach. This 152-page epic story about the adventures of a 400-year-old Golem spans from 16th century Europe, to the horrors of World War II, to modern day Venice Beach, where the Golem has become entangled in a war between a gang and the police. Both a riveting narrative and a celebration of Southern California, The Golem of Venice Beach is now on Kickstarter, featuring a wrap-around cover by Sienkiewicz.

In 2018, Chanan Beizer’s script for The Golem of Venice Beach won the very first ScreenCraft Cinematic Book contest for graphic novels. For the past three years, Beizer has been working with Eisner-Award winning editor Chris Stevens (Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream) to bring the story of the Golem to life with a dream team of artistic collaborators, including five Eisner-award winning illustrators (Allred, Bissette, Lee, Pope, and Sienkiewicz), as well as Nick Pitarra (co-creator of The Manhattan Projects), and the main artist, Vanessa Cardinali, a brilliant Italian artist who is currently making waves with Image Comics’ Slumber.

The Golem of Venice Beach features:

  • A wrap-around cover and a seven-page prologue by artist Bill Sienkiewicz (Moon Knight) that showcases the Golem’s creation in the year 1580.

  • A 10-page flashback sequence by Jae Lee (The Inhumans) and colorist June Chung that depicts how the Golem was resurrected during World War Two.

  • A 2-page spread and map of Venice Beach that captures everything weird and wonderful about the bohemian spirit that permeates the neighborhood by Michael Allred and colorist Laura Allred (Madman).

  • An eerie phantasmagoria by Stephen R. Bissette (Saga of the Swamp Thing).

  • A 2 page-splash page by Nick Pitarra (the creator of the highly anticipated Ax-Wielder Jon) that features every single person who is on panel in the book in one huge, cinematic crowd shot.

  • A stunning 2-page portrait, featuring the iconic Santa Monica Pier by Paul Pope (Battling Boy) and colorist Lovern Kindzierski.

  • Over 100 pages of gorgeous art by the book’s main artist, Vanessa Cardinali.

"As a writer I know that story is important, but in comics if the art isn’t working, the story really doesn’t matter,” said writer Chanan Beizer. “It’s been truly thrilling to witness the artistic interpretation of my words. Every artist involved has left a lasting imprint on The Golem of Venice Beach. They’ve elevated the story beyond what I could ever describe on a two-dimensional piece of paper. That is what art should do.”

In The Golem of Venice Beach, Adam is a Golem, a creature of vengeance and destruction, of violence and death. He was created 400 years ago, a world away in Eastern Europe, but today he lives in Southern California. Adam spends his days adrift on the sunny boardwalks of Venice Beach, pining for release from his lonely existence. His only hope is the clueless Jake Loeb, the sole remaining heir of the Golem's creator. But when Jake becomes involved with a mysterious tattooed woman and a drug-dealing death worship cult, things get complicated and dangerous for Adam. Golems are not meant to walk the Earth forever. Can Adam make a difference? Can he find peace in the California sun? And can a monster have a soul?

“When Chris asked me to draw this story, the first thing that interested me was the presence of a fantastic component,” said artist Vanessa Cardinali. “Creating 'not real' characters or worlds like the Golem continues to be one of the parts of this job that I enjoy the most! It was also very interesting to work on a story specifically set in Venice Beach: I've seen so many of those photos that I feel like I've been there now! In addition, the opportunity to work with the long list of comic superstars involved was truly unmissable."

Notable pledge tiers for The Golem of Venice Beach include early bird pricing specials, Kickstarter exclusive prints by all the artists, and a limited-edition deluxe Sienkiewicz variant hardcover. For updates, follow Clover Press on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. To support the campaign, visit Kickstarter:


Chanan Beizer has had a varied career including computer programming, film-making, and TV sports production. In 2018, Chanan’s script for The Golem of Venice Beach won the very first ScreenCraft Cinematic Book contest for graphic novels. For the past three years, Chanan has been working with Eisner-Award winning editor, Chris Stevens (Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream) to assemble a dream team of artistic collaborators to bring the story of the Golem to life.


About Clover Press: About Clover Press: Headed by IDW co-founders Ted Adams and Robbie Robbins, along with Matt Ruzicka and Hank Kanalz, Clover Press publishes a wide variety of collected and original content ranging from re-mastered reprints of Terry and the Pirates, horror graphic novels, and high-quality art books. Clover Press is working with a wide variety of creators including Kevin Eastman, Richard Bennett, Craig & Clizia Yoe, Dean Mulaney, Steve Niles, Gabriel Rodriguez, Ruben Bolling, Matt Bors, Timothy Truman, Ricardo Delgado, Ray Troll, Stewart Kenneth Moore, Aron Wiesenfeld, and more.

Artwork by Stephen R. Bissette:

Artwork by Stephen R. Bissette:

Artwork by Vanessa Cardinali:

Artwork by Paul Pope and Lovern Kindzierski:

Artwork by Michael Allred and Laura Allred:

Cover Art by Bill Sienkiewicz:

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.