For over a decade now fiction’s most famous teenage cheerleader, Buffy Summers, has been trying to keep the denizens of the underworld off the face of the Earth. Beginning in August, writer El Torres and artist Juan Jose Ryp will flip the script a little to introduce another high school cheerleader who finds herself trapped in the underworld, and tell the story of her struggle to get the hell out.
Nancy In Hell is a four-issue Mature Readers limited series from Image Comics. For this pair of Spanish creators and long-time friends, it's a long-held idea that’s finally making its way onto comic book shelves. Artist Juan Jose Ryp is best known for his collaborations with Warren Ellis at Avatar Press on titles like Black Summer. Writer El Torres broke into American comics with the IDW miniseries The Veil. We recently spoke to the creators about their hellish collaboration.Newsarama: Fellas, what can you tell us about Nancy, and why she's going to hell?
Juan Jose Ryp: Ha! I believe it's too soon to speak about that, isn't it? We first meet Nancy “living” in Hell, and like any other teen -- well, like any other naughty cheerleader who bumps into the worst imaginable scenario -- she only has one thing on her mind: to escape from Hell, no matter what!
El Torres Nancy never read a book. She was never a committed person. She just enjoyed the good things in life, like most of us do these days. She never had hunger, never had big money problems, never had to sacrifice anything. Then she dies and goes to Hell, but Hell is a bad place and a good place at the same. We meet Nancy as a hardened girl, so something about Hell has changed her attitude and outlook. The Nancy we'll meet is harsh and hard like Hell itself.Nrama: Nancy is literally going to a hell - a Christian, biblical hell. What were you and El thinking when you were dreaming up what Hell is for Nancy?
Ryp: When thinking about the graphic design of Hell, I was clearly influenced by the “classic Hell” of Dore's illustrations and such, with all these jagged peaks and rough cliffs. But I was also influenced by the aesthetics of 80's horror movies and B-movies. It couldn't be any other way, really, since our book is an homage of sorts to those movies. Then El Torres came around with his idea of Hell as a living organism, so I added organic stuff, like these clouds of blood floating here and there. I believe Nancy in Hell is a very cinematic story. I always tend to tell stories that way: thinking of the panels as movie shots.Torres: Nancy goes to a sort of Christian hell because she's a Westerner. The place she tends to imagine is the place she finally goes; fire pits, demons and everlasting pain. Little by little, she will discover the truth behind what Hell really is. Christian cosmogony is the basis, but that's not exactly the place that Nancy steps into. More than that, she lives in the hell that every heavy metal fan dreams of: full of booze, easy girls and loud rock and roll! Not a very Christian place. Oh, and there are chainsaws, too!
Nrama: When I first heard of the title of this book, I was reminded of the comic strip character Nancy. Is the title of this an homage to that character, or a simple coincidence?
Ryp: No, it's just a coincidence. Our Nancy was designed as a flighty blonde bombshell becoming a tough, street-smart girl by falling into such a hellish scenario.Torres: I wish I could write things as lovely and well-loved as Ernie Bushmiller did, but no, we took our character's name from a very popular blonde doll here in Spain, a sort of “Barbie," but “Barbie in Hell” would give us some legal troubles.
Nrama: People know you Juan from your work with Warren Ellis, and you El from your work at IDW… but as far as I can tell this is the first collaboration between you two. Tell us about your relationship.
Ryp: El Torres and I have been friends for many years, and though now we scarcely work together, friendship and the desire to work together keep us driven, whether it's Nancy or one of the many other projects we always have on our minds.
We created Nancy in Hell years ago (along with the fantasy story “Rogues!” among others) when we worked together in a Spanish publishing house. The project didn't exist beyond a few preview pages, but Nancy was always my favorite. It was a story with so many possibilities. I'd love to tell more stories about her beyond this miniseries. I believe Nancy in Hell deserves more.Nrama: After years of doing work with Warren Ellis over at Avatar, you're spreading your wings here with Nancy in Hell here at Image and also some work over at Marvel I see. What are your big goals for your career in comics?
Ryp: After eight years under exclusive contract to Avatar Press on a dozen projects -- work I'm very proud of -- I thought it was time to try my hand on beloved and popular Marvel characters. At the same time, I wanted to do creator-owned projects like Nancy in Hell.
Big goals? I don't know... I'm very happy right now working on Marvel titles. I love to draw comics. Comics, along with my family, are the most important part my life. I'll keep doing them as long as comic book fans support my work.
Torres If you ask me... I want to write superheroes, and I want Ryp to draw them.