Although comics may seem like a realm of superheroes and mutants, magic has long cast its spell on the medium. From pulp legends like Mandrake the Magician to mid-century icons like DC’s Captain Marvel and Marvel’s Doctor Strange, magic is in comics’ blood. There have been magicians and sorcerers, warlocks and mages… and yes, more than a few witches.
Next up in California-based publisher Kickstart's growing line of titles is the slimline graphic novel Witch, following a teenage girl named Kylie that discovers she’s a witch – and one of the last of her kind. Aiding in the discovery of her hidden heritage is a black cat – traditional in witch lore, but different in that this little kitty is seven feet tall and named Ridley. Together, Kylie and Ridley try delve into the secret history of witches and the Old Ways while also trying to find her new family – witches – before a tyrannical breed of witchhunter snuffs them out for good.
Witch’s story comes out of the mind of two rising screenwriters named Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett. The duo has worked in Hollywood for years, and are currently writing for Steven Spielberg’s new series Terra Nova coming from Fox later this year. Kickstart editor Jimmy Palmiotti paired the comics’ newcomer with veteran artist Tony Shasteen to breathe life into their story, and the two comics-loving screenwriters have fallen in love with the comic-making process.
Newsarama: What can you tell us about Witch, guys?
Terry Matalas: Witch is a supernatural coming-of-age story. It touches on that awkward time in a lot of teenager's lives. That time when no matter what's going on, you feel like an outsider. No one understands you. Witch begins with a teenage girl dealing with a lot of those issues... and then discovers her whole life is not what she thought was. She's been hearing a voice in her head -- at times having full conversations with it. And one night she ends up in a dangerous part of the city, gets mugged and ends up summoning this voice into existence. Turns out the voice is in fact that of her Familiar -- which in witch lore is traditionally a black cat -- but in this case, is a seven foot demon-cat named Ridley that only she can see. And it follows her where ever she goes. So imagine having to deal with the torment of puberty, high school, over-bearing parents... and having a demon talking in your ear the whole time. Of course, this discovery thrusts her into an adventure and emotional journey that will ultimately define her as a hero.
Nrama: Can you tell us about the teenage girl at the center of this?
Travis Fickett: Her name is Kylie Woods. She’s been harboring this fear that she’s a nutjob – and that’s meant keeping people at arm’s length. That also means she’s developed a biting sarcasm as a defense mechanism.
Nrama: Tell us more about this cat familiar that Kylie has?
Fickett: Ridley's kinda like what would happen if you crossed the Cheshire Cat with Hannibal Lecter. He's a dangerous and powerful demon who has served at the side of witches for centuries. But in the old days, a witch was ready for their familiar – it was a tradition passed on from one generation to the next.
In Kylie's case, she's adopted... so she has no idea what's about to happen to her. Ridley could just be a form of schizophrenia. And unfortunately he can't just go away. Once you summon your Familiar, it's there for life. What's interesting about Ridley is he hasn't been at the side of a witch for some time. So the world has changed quite a bit.
Matalas: Now there's coffee... and he really likes that.
Nrama: Are these witch powers something Kylie inherits, or something she got just by chance?
Matalas: Well, without ruining too much for you, we can tell you that this is a whole new take on witch lore. There are no spells, no black pointy hats, no wands. Here, a witch's power come solely through control of their demon Familiar. Some Familiars are stronger, faster, smarter, bigger... and a few even fly.
Nrama: She can't be the only witch out there – can you tell us about the witching world she, and us readers, know nothing about?
Fickett: Witches have been hunted to an almost extinction by Hunters -- a war that's secretly raged on for centuries. Witch picks up basically AFTER the war is over. Both factions have been forced to return to the real world... no witches left to hunt, no hunters to kill. But Kylie is very significant to the possibility of things heating up again.
Nrama: Witches have been hunted throughout time – is our lead character hunted in Witch?
Matalas: Since she was born... although she doesn't know that yet.
Nrama: Speaking of hunting, I've hunted for other comics by yours but haven't found one. What can you tell us about yourselves?
Fickett: We're both avid comic readers -- and geeks to everything movie, television, anime, and books. At the moment we're writing on a TV show for May 2011 called Terra Nova on Twentieth Century Fox Television. It's science fiction adventure show being produced by Steven Spielberg and Peter Chernin.
Nrama: How'd you hook up with Kickstart Comics to do Witch with them?
Matalas: We met Jason and Samantha after pitching a feature film version of Voltron to them. What can we say? We also love giant robots.
Nrama: As first-time comics writers, you get to experience seeing your words drawn up and show up in your email box before anyone else sees it. Tony Shasteen is drawing Witch, so how has it been for you?
Ficket: Getting pages from Tony Shasteen has been one of the most creatively satisfying things to ever happen to us. When you write a movie or a television pilot, just because it may sell doesn't mean it will ever see the light of day. With comics, there's a sort of instant gratification of seeing your story come to life.
Matalas: Tony's art is simply incredible. His attention to detail and creature design are some of the best out there.
Fickett: We have his art hung all over our office. We're huge fans.Tune in tomorrow morning for an interview with Kickstart Editors Jimmy Palmiotti and Larry Young! More from Kickstart Day:
- KICKSTART DAY: Burn Notice Writer Gives The Gods a HEADACHE
- KICKSTART DAY: Screenwriting Team Help Forge BLACKSMITH
- KICKSTART DAY: Brothers Saving an ENDANGERED Space Hero