Breakout Italian creator, Mirka Andolfo, follows her successful title Unnatural with the release of her new project from Image Comics: Mercy.
Mercy is a gothic tale centering on the mysterious Lady Hellaine in the placid mining village of Woodsburgh, as she deals with the disturbing murders that end up putting the town in total turmoil.
Originally published in Italy, the six-issue Mercy makes its English-language debut this week. Newsarama had the chance to talk to Andolfo about the process of bringing her title to an American audience, writing comics with a beginning, middle, and end with no sequel plans ahead, her creative process as both the artist and writer of the title, and Mirka’s inspiration from other media that helped give birth to her new book.
Newsarama: Mirka, tell us a bit about your new title Mercy.
Mirka Andolfo: Mercy is something pretty different, compared to Un/Sacred and Unnatural. I always like to try something “new” with every project I work on.
It is a gothic story with a lot of blood, mystery, and strange poisonous flowers... But it is also a story about emotions and relationships, not necessarily in a “romantic” way.
Nrama: What inspired you to tell this story and the style you chose for the book?
Andolfo: I've always been very interested in gothic/horror movies, TV shows and video games, like Crimson Peak, Penny Dreadful, Bloodborne, they've been so important as a visual inspiration. My choice for this kind of setting and atmosphere was also due to a pretty bad and apathetic period for me, so I needed to talk darker stories. The main character, Lady Hellaine, is really cold.Then, as always, I also like to play with the contrast of my “cartoonish” style, against the dark atmosphere (even if my style is a little bit more realistic than in my other books).
Nrama: What can you tell us about this mysterious Lady Hellaine?
Andolfo: No spoilers here, but I can say she hides some secret... She is emotionless, beautiful and dangerous. Like a poisonous flower. And I must admit I'm pretty thrilled that no-one knows what to expect from her…
Nrama: How about the other characters that appear throughout your limited series?
Andolfo: I tried to be more focused on secondary characters, working on this story.
There’s Goodwill, Lady Hellaine's butler; an old man, full of charm and fancy attitude.
Then there are Jonahan and Betsy, from a very poor family, and the sweet and crazy Rory (probably one of my favorite characters in the whole book!).
And can't forget Lady Swanson: she -together with her husband - has stained something very bad, in the past. As for the whole cast, I could say there is a constant in every character: nobody is really how they seem at first glance...
Nrama: What’s it been like repurposing this book for an American audience following its release in Italy?
Andolfo: I enjoyed it a lot, it was difficult but very good. It’s like a dream coming true. I’m proud to be an Italian creator, working with an Italian publishing house (Panini Comics), that strongly believed in my last comic-book, Unnatural, and, now, in Mercy.
At my studio (Arancia Studio), all of us are used to working abroad, but being published with my own book it's something so special and crazy. When I work on the book, I try to remember all the audiences I'm trying to talk to (Italian, European, American…), but to be honest I always try to focus on the story I want to tell, not on the target I will reach. It is something I've always done, starting in my first days as a professional.
When I was very young, I remember everybody at comics school told me that I would never have a chance to work for the American market, because of my “Euromanga” style… Honestly, I’m proud that I never gave up.
Nrama: What was the reception like in Italy?
Andolfo: It was very good. I got a very warm welcome during Lucca Comics & Games (when the first book was launched), selling thousands of copies. And some readers immediately told me that they had loved the book (they had read it while waiting in the queue for the signing session!): this was very pleasant for me! Then I had good reviews from journalists. I’m happy about this because every new project/new genres are always really “risky”.
Nrama: What are you most excited for American audiences to get out of your title?
Andolfo: I’m really excited because, for the first time, I already knew that this title would have been released in English language, in the United States. With Unnatural (and Un/Sacred as well: especially for my first book, the American translation arrived eight years later, more or less) I had no idea that my book would have been published in the U.S., too. I could just hope.
As I know this will be published there for sure. That makes me happy because I love American comics, and I worked (and still work) a lot as an artist on superheroes and work-for-hire stories for this market…
Nrama: In promotion, the series has been described as a mix of Penny Dreadful, Crimson Peak, The Alienist, Parasol Protectorate, and Dark Shadows. How do you think all these properties combine with your story? Why do you think fans of these properties will enjoy Mercy?
Andolfo: I think they are perfect to describe Mercy. In particular, I'm in love with Penny Dreadful and Crimson Peak. I think the main links with the titles told in the promotion are for the setting, the horror and a little bit of “humor” (I'm thinking on Dark Shadows). I hope the readers who loved those shows/movies (but also video games like Bloodborne!) could enjoy this book, because... I’m a huge fan of those titles! And I think they’ll find a similar atmosphere and feeling!
Nrama: Why did you think Image Comics was the best place to publish this story?
Andolfo: Because they are the most important independent publishing house, well known for their great books. I can't say enough how much of an honor it is for me. If I think that my books are on the shelves close to The Walking Dead, Saga, Chew, Tokyo Ghost, Death or Glory and many other books I adore as a reader…Wow! How lucky am I? And, last but not least, everyone at Image is super professional and nice! Yes, I’m very lucky!
Nrama: What's your creative process been like as both the artist and writer of this book?
Andolfo: When I work on a new project, I always start with a character. Lady Hellaine, for example, is a really old original character I started thinking about during my school period (she has changed a lot in her actual version, by the way). I know it sounds like a cliche, but for real, when I become obsessed with a character it’s like she/he starts “speaking” to me, to tell their stories. I love this kind of process.
I usually don’t have a “real script.” I work on a written, short version of the whole story for my editor (and publisher), and then, after approval, most of the work is done directly when I work on layouts. The fun fact is that I have to blame only myself if I’m late!
Then, when the artwork is done, I give the pages to my color assistant, Gianluca Papi, who works on flats and start some shadows in the backgrounds, and then I do colors. During the whole process, I'm helped by my mates at Arancia Studio: it's them who manage all my work and provide me graphic design, lettering, etc.
I'm very grateful to them, especially because they didn't kill me (sometimes I ask too many changes at the last moment…)!
Nrama: What do you think fans of Unnatural will enjoy?
Andolfo: I think they’ll be interested in discovering another female main character who became really strong. Well, OK, Lady Hellaine is already strong, but... something will happen. Just like Leslie, she'd probably hate me, because her existence is not easy, because of me...You’ll see it!
Cool ladies as the main characters are definitely my cup of tea! I think they will also enjoy the mystery and my color style, close to Unnatural...
Nrama: Would you like to write a sequel or expand this from a limited series to an ongoing series?
Andolfo: I'm not sure about that. Usually, I like to write the “end” of a project, as soon as possible, to focus on new characters and don’t obligate myself (or my readers) to be forced to continue a story. I usually like to have a beginning, a development and an end. To do my best in a limited number of pages (even if I know that, from a commercial point of view, it's not the best strategy…
But, as I told at the beginning, I prefer thinking about the story I'm telling).
But never say never!
If something new comes to my mind, why not? And I'm not speaking only about Mercy…