Comic books are prone to talking animal tales, but nothing like this: what if animals had human intelligence and speech and literally ran wild? That's where a father-daughter duo of a bloodhound and a young girl come in.
DC Comics Bombshells writer Marguerite Bennet has brought her second creator-owned series Animosity to the upstart Aftershock Comics. Paired with up-and-coming artist Rafael de Latorre, Bennett is turning the anthromorphic fiction trope on its head - by going in its head.
With Animosity scheduled to debut August 3, Newsarama spoke with Bennett about this "adults only" talking animal book, the inspiration for it all, and making Aftershock her home for creator-owned work.
Newsarama: Marguerite, I’m curious what brought you to Aftershock Comics? Obviously, this isn’t your first time working with them, having one other series that you’ve recently launched there. But as a newer publisher, what made working with them a “must have” experience for you?
Marguerite Bennett: For starters, thank you so much for your interest in the story! Aftershock has genuinely made me happiest of any company I’ve ever worked with. They greenlit a story that no one else would have ever touched—InSexts. This is a saga about a pair of Victorian lesbians going on a body horror revenge killing spree, and the content as well as my fairly clean superhero reputation, meant that my passion project was left without a home. Animosity was greenlit in much the same way—the high concept of “talking animals” could’ve been redundant in another environment, but they heard my take and my tone and my aim in the story, and said, “We have to have this.”
Aftershock was willing to take risks on stories creators were passionate about, including those with strange or even shocking premises. I felt truly unfettered in storytelling, and every editorial direction Mike Marts ever gave was only to the good of the story. They’ve offered me creative freedom and encouragement like I’ve never experienced, and consistently express through treatment, compensation, and consultation how much they value having me at their company. Working with them—particularly with Mike Marts as my editor—has been a godsend. I’m very happy.
Nrama: Now, this will be your second creator-owned book, with your first being InSexts, with Ariela Kristantina. Can you talk a little about how you and Rafael de Latorre came together to work on Animosity? What would you say it is about his style that you think readers will really enjoy that perhaps they haven’t seen elsewhere?
Bennett: Mike Marts put us together during C2E2 this year! We knew given the sheer number of critters in this book, we would need a collaborator who was wily, creative and multi-talented. Thank God for Rafael. He can draw all these different animals with all these different expressions and nail the horribly comedy or wonderful tragedy of a situation in the small details. He’s a delight, especially given that the good Lord gave me no shortage of creative ambition. I should be deservedly shot for some of the things I ask him to draw. He’s brilliant and you’re going to love his art.
It’s a madhouse of a story, but Rafael will give you moments of utter kindness, gentleness, and goodness to root for.
Nrama: Up to this point, you’ve been busy writing series like DC Comics Bombshells, Marvel’s Angela: Queen of Hel, and Dynamite’s Red Sonja along with InSexts at Aftershock. However, Animosity seems to have an entirely different vibe to it, skewing perhaps a bit more 'Young Adult.' What led you down this path?
Bennett: Actually, for all that Animosity has talking animals featured, it is definitely a mature title, ha! ha!. (Please do not give it to your children. There will be much crying and terrible questions. Oh, God, the most terrible questions.)
Nrama: Do tell!
Bennett: Animosity begins when one day, for no reason, animals suddenly gain human thought and human speech. This includes animals whose mouths, tongues, teeth, vocal chords should not be able to form words—they speak anyway. Is it God? Science? Magic? Aliens? No one knows. Hens murder their rooster; pets tell owners of cheating spouses; the orca at Sea World declares his undying passion for his trainer. Pandas commit mass suicide in horror at their own absurd existence.
In the midst of all this chaos is a little girl and her dog—a bloodhound, who adores his girl beyond anything that has ever been or ever will be. He went from being her puppy, ignorant and protected, to gaining a knowledge and sentience beyond hers in maturity and intellect. He knows, too, that his life expectancy is far shorter than her own. He went from being her child to being her father. Now, he has a ticking clock to get her to safety before he dies and leaves her alone in this savage, new world.
Nrama: Looking at the solicits, the details are kept pretty minimal: We’re looking at a world that suddenly sees its animal inhabitants anthropomorphize, and they’re none too happy with their human neighbors. What spurred your interests in creating and exploring a world like this?
Bennett: In the end, I wanted to write a story about fatherhood, about the horror and tenderness of being unprepared to take care of the thing you love, and being unprepared to lose it, even when you know that this is the thing that will save it. I wanted a world of monstrous black comedy and a streak of emotional sincerity that almost hurts to look at, because that’s what love is.
Nrama: As you mentioned, the story will focus on how “a dog and his girl are trying to get away” from their home in New York City and seek help from one person who can save her. What or who exactly are they running from?
Bennett: Everyone, really. It’s a free for all. The population is absolutely exploding, there are mass famines, technology is down, and there are very few alliances. This is not “all humans vs all animals”—there is no solidarity even among the different species. The world is individual in the extreme. Some people want the bloodhound’s daughter for the preservation of the species, some want to keep her to replace loved ones, some want to eat her, while some want to use her for labor (human technology is not exactly hoof-friendly). It’s a dangerous world, and they are looking for a safe haven, rumored to be on the West Coast. She believes in the basic goodness of all things, and he most aggressively does not.
Nrama: Circling back to our first question, I’m curious about what informed the development of your characters. I noticed you make use of the “post-apocalyptic dog” trope – where the world is coming to an end, but man’s best friend is there to help pull his master – or in this case, mistress – out from the depths of isolation and despair. It’s something Lord Byron illustrated in his poem, “Darkness,” and seen in more contemporary iterations with I Am Legend. I’m curious what books, movies, or other outside sources do you see informing your writing of this story?
Bennett: Frankly, the outside sources were the emotions that I feel all parents go through as they come to terms with their own mortality and duties in relation to the creation or adoption of their children. Animosity is a lot more about the emotional struggles of our girl and her bloodhound than about the insane premise and external world (and oh, God on high, the world is so ridiculously, bloodily, hilariously insane).
Nrama: So, instead of the owner-pet dynamic, you see these two characters in a more parental light, which drives them onward.
Bennett: In this case, for our bloodhound, our dynamic is more that his girl sustains him rather than that he sustains her. In this hell, she is the reason he keeps going, the reason he believes absolutely in the existence and necessity of a better future. He lies to her outrageously about the goodness of the world, even as he kills others to protect her. He never wants her to become like him, and struggles with how to make her strong enough to survive while not letting this world destroy her.
Simultaneously, she is growing, changing, and interacting with the world in ways he can’t predict or protect her from. She knows his obsessive anxiety, and so, wants to grow stronger without needing him to teach her the brutal lessons she has to learn. She wants to spare him as much as he wants to spare her. She wants him to be happy, but his happiness is her safety, and her safety means that she must make it to a place where he cannot follow.