This week, Image Comics/Shadowline's long-running Rat Queens title begins a new chapter in life in #26 - and that chapter is written, drawn and colored by someone new as well.
The new creative team of writer Ryan Ferrier, artist Priscilla Petraites, and colorist Marcos Lesko are teaming up to fight dragons, monsters, and wizards as only the Rat Queens characters can.
So what's in this new chapter? Well, the fantastical city of Palisade is pretty grim - a new king is in charge, and with it come shackles for many of its residents - including the sisterhood fans have come to love over the past six years.
Newsarama spoke with Ferrier about his plans for Rat Queens' Hannah, Betty, Dee, Braga, and the newest addition, Maddie.
Newsarama: Ryan, so you're taking the reins of Rat Queens from Kurt Wiebe with this new arc. How did this all go down?
Ryan Ferrier: Kurtis and I have been good friends for years now. We're even in a band together, along with Tyler Jenkins. Nonetheless, I was equal parts surprised and flattered when he mentioned the idea of doing something in the Rat Queens universe with me. I'd also been lettering the book for a while now, so the familiarity and pride for the book have been there. It came up in casual conversation here and there during our band rehearsals, and eventually, he made the decision to push it all forward with a new creative team, something that must've been so huge for him, though I don't want to speak for him at all. As I said, it was flattering and I'm honored to have been chosen; I absolutely adore working on this comic, and making Kurtis and the fans happy is my goal. Keeping the legacy alive for a new chapter.
Nrama: How much time has passed since the Queens' last encounter?
Ferrier: The Rat Queens: Swamp Romp one-shot that came out in April - the first issue with myself, Priscilla, and Marco - takes place a few months after issue #25 - Kurtis and Owen Gieni's last - - and issue #26, which is the start of the new five-part arc, jumps ahead by another eight or nine months, give or take.
We wanted to let a little bit of their lives develop and settle after that last arc, which was incredible and heavy and defining and informative for the characters, but we also didn't want to wait too long and have it feel foreign, so to speak. It's the same with having a new creative team; we want it to feel new and exciting, but also true to everything we know. So there's no 'Old Woman Rat Queens' or 'Rat Queens 2099' stuff, nor is it a reboot or re-start at all. What you will find though, is this new arc takes place in a very, very specific time in the Rat Queens legacy, if you're to look at it in past-tense. Also, a very informative period for each character as we all look to the future, which we absolutely are.
Nrama: For the longest time, the Queens were a quartet but they've recently expanded. What can you tell us about Maddie and how she fits into the group at the start of this arc?
Ferrier: I can't say too much as it may wander into spoiler territory, but Maddie's inclusion, finally, as a full-fledged member of the Queens is both imperative to the team's new journey ahead, and not at all without consequence.
Maddie brings a heart and potential to the team that hasn't quite been seen before; at first glance she kind of stands out like a sore thumb among these distinct and loud personalities, but part of what makes this arc so important is how we're going to see Maddie's story unfold; how she affects each member of the team - and she will - and how necessary she is. At the start of this arc, however, Maddie is completely over her head. She immediately embodies me doing anything every day forever; terrified and self-doubting. I cannot wait for readers to see how her story plays out. It's wild.
Nrama: You're working alongside Priscilla Petraites as well as colorist Marco Lesko, how would you describe what they bring to the world of Palisade?
Ferrier: Oh holy hell, Priscilla and Marco are amazing. A team from heaven, and absolutely perfect casting for Rat Queens.
Their style is obviously different from Owen's, but, like my take on writing, it still feels familiar. It's that wild card factor, that nameless thing, where you see the pages and just know that it fits, that it is Rat Queens.
Priscilla's eye for detail and expression is a really important part of what makes this book work, and she absolutely nails it. From the serious, heartfelt or thrilling moments, to the absurd and action-packed, she knows how to balance the line and make everything real while bringing a more refined aesthetic to the comic.
Marco's colors are just stunning too, we're definitely seeing a bright, vibrantly-lit Palisades (and surrounding areas). Both Priscilla and Marco gel so freaking well together, and so well with me, it's genuinely a huge joy to make this comic with them. I can't wait for people to see some of the stuff that's about to go down.
Nrama: Into the Rat Queens themselves... how is Hannah dealing with the loss of her hand?
Ferrier: In a nutshell, not at all great. This is actually a really big part of Hannah's journey this go around. We aren't retconning her hand, nor are we exploiting it; this is now a part of her character, and it's still really fresh and new for her. Her magic is completely suffering from it, as we saw a little in Swamp Romp. This kind of thing has to change a person, and Hannah's role in the new arc - and the arcs to come, most certainly - is integral, as it has been before. Let the record show that we're not fucking around here; her hand is 100% not coming back.
Nrama: Do you feel like that's greater than the loss of Violet?
Ferrier: I wouldn't entirely say that. I wouldn't entirely deny it. I think once the issue comes out it'll paint a more specific picture, in regards to Violet and the Rat Queens. I know I'm being coy here, but Violet was, is, and definitely still will be someone who directly and indirectly affects the Rat Queens and their new journey.
I'm actually stupidly excited for people to discover how this will all work out with her, and her sisters. Let the record stand again, that everything Violet has been through, and everything that has been set up with her and those closest to her, will be addressed and expanded on, in ways that will surprise readers.
Nrama: Going back to Hannah's hand and it's something she needs for magic, would it be out of character for her to "multiclass" down the line?
Ferrier: I think a huge factor of Hannah's failure to adjust to practicing magic post-dismemberment is mental and emotional, so that's going to be in play right off the bat, in addition to the physical adjustments she has to make. I don't think it would necessarily be out of bounds to multiclass, but I can't confirm nor deny. I think you're going to see some things from each member of the team that might be unpredictable or new, be it from "leveling up," or if the dire situation demands it. I'd say keep an eye on Dee in particular... and her relationship with Hannah following the last arc, which is very, very strained, with magic being in the eye of that storm.
Nrama: So going into this new encounter, who are the Queens flipping the bird to this time around and going after?
Ferrier: As readers will see in the preview pages, we're introducing a new, big, bad villain in this arc - a dude with little patience and big dreams of conquering as much of this world as he can. This will take him right into the Rat Queens at a time where they're going through some pretty big growing pains.
What we're excited about with this arc and this villain, is that he's gunning for them specifically as well. This conflict is completely personal and familiar, and the Rat Queens could very genuinely face their own undoing. That's really all I can say about this character, for now, so not to go into issue #26 spoiler territory; but what I will add, is that even once the chips have fallen, we've got some big, big surprises up our sleeves throughout the entire arc.
Nrama: Dee is going through a lot here too as she finds herself feeling used by the team. We know that's not the case, but it is understandable to why she feels that way, and it looks like the team is just always on the verge of breaking up. Could you ever see not just a team expansion, but complete rotation? Sort of like Avengers or X-Men?
Ferrier: Yeah, totally. Dee's journey in this arc is super, super important, and will be moreso moving forward in future arcs. As for team rotation,I think that might be more of a Kurtis question...ultimately this is still in-line with his vision and creations. As for me personally, I would be hesitant to have an all-new team. The characters are just so wonderful, and there's still so much to do with them. A Cat Kings spin-off, on the other hand, would be amazing.
Nrama: Can you tell us at all about any new characters you're bringing into the fold with your run here?
Ferrier: I made a character you'll see that's a cross between Jiminy Cricket and Sid Vicious. There's also a gigantic french bulldog named Professor Fudge. I'll be killed if I say any more, but there will be more.
Nrama: If this was a D&D campaign, what kind of DM do you think you're being to the girls?
Ferrier: I'm the benevolent DM. I want them to get some thrills and chills in-between laughter and fun. But I don't want them to know that during the campaign. I love these characters and want to see them win and grow.
Nrama: Speaking of which, did you get a chance to see the live-read Rat Queens RPG a few months ago?
Ferrier: I did! That's pretty damn cool. I'm so proud to be part of something that's reached so many people and has now branched out into these exceptional, creative things. Everyone involved in the live RPG is doing some pretty great things.
Nrama: Lastly, new creators taking over a creator-owned comic is sort of a rare thing these days outside of staples like Spawn, Witchblade, how do you see the legacy of Rat Queens as a fan as and as the guy holding the reins now?
Ferrier: I think for me, having known Kurtis for so long and been letterer for a while, the transition and concept of taking over someone else's baby was unsettlingly kind. He and I share incredibly similar styles and tastes, so I was/am confident though caring about the legacy. As a fan, I really do not want to fuck it up. As a writer, I do not feel I will fuck it up. There are still so many new Rat Queens adventures to be had, and I'm pumped that I get to be a part of that and continue the legacy!