This December BOOM! Studios releases an exciting new mini-series b>Hexed, written by horror sensation Michael Alan Nelson (Fall Of Cthulhu) with art by talented newcomer Emma Rios and colors by Cris Peter.
Given a chance to showcase an 8 page preview of the book, Newsarama asked former comic book journalist and current BOOM! Studios Editor-in-Chief Mark Waid to sit down with the Hexed creative team to discuss the book. This discussion follows.
Mark Waid (to writer Michael Alan Nelson): So, and I say this with admiration, what nightmarish place in your brain did this come from? How'd you go about creating Hexed?
Michael Alan Nelson: As a child, my mother would lock me in the tool shed whenever I got in trouble, so I had plenty of time to develop my imagination while sitting in the dark. I'm kidding, of course. My mother is a saint (hi mom!).
It's always difficult to pinpoint where my ideas come from or what seeds my imagination. I think part of it has to do with the fact that my internal voice suffers from a kind of Tourette's syndrome. But instead of blurting out profanities, my inner voice shouts out horrors. In any given situation, my mind automatically goes to the worst place it possibly can. It's not intentional, but it's something that just happens. I can't help it. It's like someone telling you to not think about the word alligator. Of course you're going to think about the word alligator. It can be a problem during social situations, but when I'm creating a story like Hexed, it actually helps quite a bit.
Waid: Where did you get the basic inspiration? How did you flesh out this idea into a series?
Nelson: It started when I was coming up with cover concepts for "The Gray Man" arc of Fall of Cthulhu. I had this idea of a girl sitting on the floor of a jail cell, drawing symbols in the dust. That image really stuck with me. I wanted to know more about that girl, what her story was. That's how Lucifer was born. But as Fall of Cthulhu progressed, it became clear that Lucifer was such a fantastic character, she needed her own story. But I just couldn't see being able to do that while still keeping her in the same Lovecraftian universe of Fall. Lucifer's world is different. Yes, it's dark, but there's also beauty and, believe it or not, a chance for a happy ending every once in a while. I wanted to see what it was like to tell a story with just a glimmer of hope, no matter how faint.
Waid: Is Luci based on anyone? An amalgam of anyone? As a man, do you find it daunting to write a female-lead character?
Nelson: She's definitely a mix of personalities of people close to me. Her snark, her wit, her intelligence, and her occasional sense of child-like joy are all elements that I pull from friends of mine, each with their own unique flavor that mixes well together. But her temptation to throw the "f--- it" switch from time to time comes from me. That, and her fondness of saccharine J-Pop.
Do I find writing a female lead daunting? Well, I didn't until now. Thanks, Mark. Thanks a lot.
Seriously though, it is something that I am conscious of, but I try not to think about it too much. I just try to focus on the things about her character that are universal and hope that she comes across as sincere.
Waid (to artist Emma Rios): Tell readers a little bit about yourself--what your art background is, who your influences are?
Emma Rios: Well, I´ve been drawing and writing comics for a while -- indie magazines, books, self publishing... all that stuff. I was mixing comics and illustration work with other projects because in Spain, the comic´s industry is not developed enough that an artist can make a living from it. I haven´t studied art. In fact, I´m an architect, but I fell totally in love with comics a long time ago and became self-taught, somehow. As you can imagine, after 5 or 6 years working as an architect, drawing comics as a professional right now is like a dream come true.
I have a lot of influences in my work because I like to read a lot. European, manga, American... I really would like it if little pieces of each one could be found in each page I draw. I´m not talking about mimicry, I´m talking about the fluidity of narration manga has, the strength and expressiveness from American comics, and the clarity of location from Europeans, for example. Okay, talking like this can make those concepts a bit trivial, but I´d really like to execute that some day. I´m a perfectionist to the point of insanity and I really enjoy thinking about these kinds of things.
Besides, there are a lot of artists and writers I really admire: Kirby, Moebius, Blain, John Buscema, Das Pastoras, Dave Gibbons, Frank Quitely, Paul Pope, Urasawa, Tezuka, Hiroaki Samura etc., etc... I´d be here till tomorrow writing names I really love.
Waid: I'm really blown away by the way Luci is presented, especially how she seems to move on the page. How did you go about developing your feel for this character?
Rios: I´m not sure. I think my style just fits fine with this kind of character. What is very important for me is trying to make her almost real, believable. Her movements are nothing out of the ordinary on purpose; I try to make them cool but normal at the same time. I think that sometimes you can develop a sexier and more sensual character this way, rather than having her posing all the time. Who knows, maybe that I´m female has something to do with this.
Waid: Nelson's stuff can be pretty trippy, but you seemed to gel nicely with his sinister ideas. How do you go about the process of translating his words into the visuals on the page?
Rios: Michael and I are at the same level here. I love to draw violence, blood, guts... disgusting stuff. I enjoy that so, so much because I try to also make it beautiful. Well, okay, I sound like a psycho, but I´m not. What I mean is that one of the most interesting things of drawing/writing a comic book is to make the reader feel something. If we can make them shocked with violence here, at least a little, that will be fine. This could be one of the most interesting points of Hexed, the mixing between the supposed innocence of Luci´s appearance and those extra-violent or disgusting moments.
Waid: How much of your own interpretation do you add to Nelson's descriptions?
Rios: Michael´s scripts are so, so clear and I´m very comfortable with them. It is so easy for me to interpret what he thinks, at least this is what I believe, haha... you should ask him this same question. I always try to give all my best when preparing atmospheres. I think that is one of the most difficult things to get and one of the most important for me. I don´t really know exactly what Michael thinks about the way I solve them but I can tell you one thing: He makes me enjoy drawing.
Waid (to colorist Cris Peter): What about you, Cris? What have you been doing that brought you to Hexed?
Cris Peter: I was working on a few issues for DC when Matt Gagnon (Managing Editor at BOOM! Studios) got in touch with me to do some issues of Zombie Tales. The artists at BOOM! are always great talents so I accepted it and started working on some one-shots, that was when Matt decided to invite me to do Hexed.
Waid:: How has it been returning to BOOM! for another project?
Peter: Absolutely great! It's always nice to work with BOOM!. Everybody is super nice and I always have freedom to do what color style I think is best for the story and art. They really respect the color job and listen to my suggestions.
Waid: I love, love, love what you're doing on this book. What did you like about Hexed in particular that drew you to it?
When Matt offered me this project he showed me some drawings from Emma and I was absolutely amazed! Her art was so awesome I had to color it, you know? For me, it's really important that the line art does something for me, inspires me, and Emma's art does that. Then when he told me Michael Alan Nelson wrote the project, it was final, I had to do it.
Waid (to Peter): What sort of atmosphere were you trying to capture with your colors?
Peter: I really do my best to do a creepy and dark ambiance for the moments of tension. Everybody thinks of horror as stories that must have a lot of black and gray, but you can also establish tension with saturated colors, and strong, vibrant lights. Also, I wanted to do a "beautiful" horror (I know that sounds funny, but it is true), as Emma's art is very delicate I felt the need to use some lights that may feel a little "angelic" for the violent scenes, which makes it scary, but pretty -- at least that was my plan.
And, of course, with a team of two women (Emma and me) telling a story about another woman (Luci), I had to put a feminine touch. Yeah, I know, Cris Peter sounds like a guy's name, but it's Cris from Cristiane. (for the people that called me 'he' over the years, don't feel bad, it was a terrible choice for an artistic name).
Waid (back to Nelson): First issue's amazing. What else is coming up for Luci and her world?
Nelson: By the end of this arc, Lucifer has ended up on the radar of some pretty unsavory characters, one of whom we meet briefly in the last couple of pages. As Lucifer searches for a way to remove her hex, this mysterious character will prove to be a formidable obstacle.
Hexed #1 features two variant covers by Emma Rios and Joe Pekar, with Diamond Order Codes of OCT083924 and OCT083925 respectively.
Mark Waid, former columnist for the Manchester High School Communiqué and broadcast newsman for WVCW radio, would be majoring in journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University as you read this, if the year were 1980.