|You know that scene in Pleasantville where Bill, the
puppy-dog-eyed soda-shop owner, wistfully explains to David that
the one part of each year he looks forward to is the bit where he
gets to decorate the front window of the shop for Christmas?
I have my shop window as well: the special banners that
appear every year on Hallowe'en, Christmas, and Valentine's Day.
I do so look forward to creating these banners, on which I
often lavish an unnecessarily huge amount of care. Though I
don't really believe in going back and hashing over past plotlines
and/or psychoanalysing myself in comments posted beneath every
comic, I am not averse to indulging in a bit of musing over these
banners and what I might have been thinking when I created
All the banners are collected on the Miscellaneous page. This page, on the other hand, is devoted exclusively to Hallowe'en. Below please find the Hallowe'en banners thus far, as well as my comments on them.
Go to 2006 banner image description
2006 Banner Image Description: The title, "West of Bathurst," is made of bright red blood. Barbara stands on one side of the banner and stares across the bloody letters at Marie, Rahim, and Casey.
This was my first "special" banner ever. As such, it contains a certain...lack of creativity. I do quite like the way the letters are apparently so saturated with blood that they seem about to melt into puddles of gore. Any moment now, a woman will scream, and something will pop out of the bathtub.
Go to 2007 banner image description
2007 Banner Image Description: The title, "West of Bathurst," is on a gravestone in a graveyard. The characters are the Scooby gang, with Casey as Fred, Marie as Velma, Barbara as Daphne, and Rahim as Shaggy. Scooby is also peeking into the frame.
This is still one of my favourites. It is a truth universally acknowledged that when you have a blond(e), a brunette, and a redhead all together in the same comic, you will not have a hard time finding properties to parody, and Casey, Barbara, and Marie really do fit the Freddy/Daphne/Velma bill, with Rahim tagging along as a rather reluctant Shaggy. This comic took me a while to put together, but I got to play around with gradients and make gentle fun of Scooby-Doo, so that was a win-win right there. This was before I discovered how to create little globes of radiance around light sources, a skill I will make use of below.
Go to 2008 banner image description
2008 Banner Image Description: The title, "West of Bathurst," is slightly creepy. I'm not sure how else to descrbe it. Marie is gazing pensively at a jack o'lantern as Barbara prepares to pounce on her from behind.
Marie and Casey were at odds when this banner appeared, so I decided that he wouldn't feature in it. I believe I had this idea late and instituted it out of desperation, but I quite like the way it turned out. It may or may not be apparent by this point, but Barbara is kind of my hero. I approve of the way she is always sneaking up on people. Also, there's something about drawing the split second before everything descends into screaming horror and possibly ends in a smashed pumpkin and some well-aimed punches that appeals to me.
Go to 2009 banner image description
2009 Banner Image Description: In a reasonable approximation of the font used on the covers of the Twilight books, we have the words "west of bathurst: repudiating sparkly vampires since 2006." Bella and Edward from the Twilight books and movies are pouting off on the lefthand side of the banner. On the righthand side is a vampire-killing mob, including Marie (with a stake), Barbara (with a torch), Baldwin (with a crucifix), Rahim (with nothing), Frankie (with a crossbow), Wendy (with a bottle of holy water), Casey (glancing at Steve and Kenneth), Steve (with a sword), and Kenneth (with a handgun).
I have made no secret of my feelings about the Twilight series. I think possibly one of the movies had come out relatively recently when I went to draw this banner, and it seemed quite natural to mock sparkly vampires and everything they stood for. If I were to do it again, I would find some way of making the red lettering easier to read. However, I do approve of Barbara's torch. I frequently have problems drawing fire. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.
Go to 2010 banner image description
2010 Banner Image Description: Marie stands in a dark space, holding a single candle. It illuminates her and the words "West of Bathurst by Kari Maaren." Off at the edge of the light, we see Casey, who is fading into the darkness.
This banner came out a couple of months after Casey's disappearance. I could have left him out of the banner again, but I preferred to include a ghostly, mysterious Casey barely illuminated by a single candle. If you don't count the background of the Scooby-Doo banner, this was possibly the first WoB strip, panel, or banner in which I bothered with even rudimentary shading. I did learn some things while working out the effects of the light source. Oh...and I created a light globe for the first time ever. This may be the spookiest of the WoB banners thus far.
Go to 2011 banner image description
2011 Banner Image Description: The words "West of Bathurst" appear in the font used for the title of the Doctor Who television series. The characters are standing in a dark space. Casey is dressed as the Eleventh Doctor, Marie as River Song, Barbara as Amy Pond, and Rahim as Rory Williams. Casey is pointing his sonic screwdriver at a glowing lightbulb. On the other side of the panel, a Weeping Angel is also pointing at the lightbulb. Everybody panic.
Considering Marie's recent obsession with Doctor Who, as well as the fact that many of my readers had theorised that Casey was a Time Lord, 2011's banner seemed inevitable. It also echoed the comics, in which Casey and Marie were attending the Davies Hallowe'en party as the Doctor and River Song. Barbara's red hair made her a natural Amy, and Rahim's cynicism and job as a nurse propelled him into the role of Rory. As far as I'm concerned, the most nightmare-inducing monsters Doctor Who has ever produced are the Weeping Angels, and the most nightmare-inducing moment in any Weeping Angel episode is the one just before the light goes out. I fiddled around quite a lot with the shading in this banner because it simply looked better when I did. This banner may just tie the 2010 banner on the spookymeter...for viewers of the show, at least. It also ties the Scooby-Doo banner for pop-culture referencing. If you click on it, you can see a bigger version.
Go to 2012 banner image description
2012 Banner Image Description: This one's a play on The Nightmare Before Christmas. We see "Kari Maaren's West of Bathurst" in the Nightmare Before Christmas font, plus an image of Marie sitting on an improbably curly cliff in front of an enormous moon.
I'm not sure how it took me so long to do a header based on The Nightmare Before Christmas, but ah well: I got to it eventually. Marie is usually just about as confused as Jack Skellington, though she's probably less in danger of kidnapping Santa Claus and inadvertently terrorising all the children in the world. Then again, who can tell?
Go to 2013 banner image description
2013 Banner Image Description: This is another banner that is mostly darkness. The words "West of Bathurst" (in dark red font) loom out of the inky blackness. After a few seconds, Casey appears, sporting an evil smile and holding a ball of flame between his hands.
Hey...I do not miss out on opportunities to make Casey look creepy. Here he is at his creepiest. Keep staring at the banner; he will appear.