In a world where witches revealed themselves in the 1960s, Charlotte Helms is a junior staff member from Roanoke thrust into the murkiness of D.C. politics. Comicosity talked to Kirsten Thompson, Christianne Goudreau, Little Corvus, and Taylor Esposito about the Kickstarter-backed comic, I Am Hexed — which is in its last 24 hours of campaign! Pledge NOW!
Mexi Gramillion: I Am Hexed is a tale about an alternate history where witches exist in the society we live in today and have been known as real for quite a long time. What inspired you to come up with this idea? Why witches? Why politics?
Kirsten Thompson: I was inspired in part due to my love of witchcraft and magic and also by the words ‘witch hunt’ being used so freely in a political context these days – by people who would never be subject to such a thing. Another reason I chose witches is that witches, like many other minority groups, are resisting simply by existing – and historically, haven’t fit into the boxes of what is often ‘proper’ or ‘decent.’
MG: Before writing I Am Hexed, you had a long track record in journalism. Women Write About Comics, Teen Vogue, ComicsMNT – you’ve done a lot of journalism. What made you decide to take the jump into comics? Have you always wanted to write a comic of your own?
KT: I’ve been reading comics since I was very young and yes, absolutely love writing about them, but also wanted to write my own – with women and queer people at the forefront.
MG: I noticed that most of your team is made up of fantastic women who have already worked in parts of the comics industry already. You don’t see a lot of comics teams with mostly women often. Was that a conscious decision on your part?
KT: Yes, I wanted to make this comic with women, fellow queer people, and generally speaking, the comics industry needs more of that, so I hope to do that on projects in the future as well.
MG: You started a Kickstarter campaign to bring your idea to fruition. Why a Kickstarter campaign rather than going through a publishing house? What have been the pros and cons of the experience so far?
KT: Initially, I wanted to crowdfund the first issue and really connect with a wide audience – with the thinking being if it does well, then a publishing house for publication of future issues is an option. I think the pros of Kickstarter are being able to reach out to so many people and to give them a preview of a new world, which can be challenging when you pursue other avenues right away.
Plus, there have been some amazing contributions from artists such as Jenn St. Onge, Yoshi Yoshitani, Meredith McClaren, and Natasha Alterici who I am so thankful to for supporting this project. The cons of Kickstarter campaigns is always whether or not you will be able to reach your goal in time – and luckily we’ve been able to do so, and also unlock some fun stretch goals for backers.
MG: Christianne, you’re a Dwayne McDuffie award-nominated creator and a fantastic illustrator. How did you learn about I Am Hexed? What made you choose to work on this project?
Christianne Goudreau: Thank you very much! I actually learned about it on Twitter. Kirsten tweeted a request earlier this year for queer/women/nb comic artists to get in touch with her to potentially work on an unspecified project. I was looking for freelance opportunities at the time and decided to throw my hat into the ring. After I received a description of the project and learned what I am Hexed was about, I was totally on board. I love witches, especially queer ones, and anything involving magic and intrigue.
MG: I’ve seen only a few pages of your work for this comic thus far, but I’m already excited to see what art you have in store for this comic. What is it like working on I Am Hexed? What’s the difference between working on a kickstarter comic like this and your webcomic Full Circle?
CG: Working on I am Hexed is fun, challenging, and rewarding all at once. I’ve been really pushing myself while working on this project and the input from the editor is really helping in that regard. There are a lot of differences between I am Hexed and Full Circle, the first and foremost probably being the setting. Full Circle is high fantasy and really anything goes in that world (within reason), versus I Am Hexed which is very much grounded in the present day and very real location of Washington, DC. It’s also different in that I’m working with a full team of people, including a letterer! I’ve always done my own lettering, so that’s a big change for me.
MG: I know you can’t give too much away, but what has been your favorite panel or scene to work on thus far?
CG: My favorite panel by far is actually one you’ve seen! It’s the one with Jaya fighting amongst rubble and fire and just looking like a total bad ass with a grin on her face. She’s such a fun character to draw and I can’t wait for you to see more of her in action.
MG: Little Corvus, you’re an Eisner-nominated artist who’s worked on small projects like a short comic called Deja Brew, and bigger graphic novels like a particular historical graphic novel debuting later this year. How did you learn about I Am Hexed? What made you choose to work on this project?
Little Corvus: A few months ago there was a tweet from James Emmett going around asking for diverse artists interested in a witch-themed comic project, and I happily threw my name into the mix of replies, but wasn’t expecting anything to come of it.
So I was pleasantly surprised to hear from James a little bit later inquiring about my interest! He shared the general pitch with me, and the premise of modern witches, a diverse cast, and politics had me immediately hooked. I couldn’t pass up the chance to do a cover illustration for such a relevant and cool project.
MG: I don’t usually get to talk to a lot of cover artists so I’m excited to talk to you. What’s it like to work on the cover of a comic? Are there major differences between making a piece of cover art and working on panels, besides the obvious?
LC: One of the aspects I love most about doing a cover illustration is seeing the characters drawn in the interior artist’s style and then having to reimagine them in my own style. It’s both enjoyable and challenging to try and take the essence of characters that aren’t mine, and then make them my own while also staying true to the original vision.
There’s also a certain kind of freedom that comes with being able to put a lot attention to detail into an illustration that you simply can’t do when you’re drawing tons of panels, and it’s always a fun change of pace from my comic work.
MG: I’ve been googling your art and I have to say I’m super excited to see what you’ve made for I Am Hexed. What’s it been like working on I Am Hexed? What’s the difference between working on a kickstarter comic like this and the work you’ve done in the past through publishers?
LC: I had a great time working with the I Am Hexed team! James Emmett was a pleasure to work with – his commitment and passion about this story was one of the reasons I was initially drawn to the project in the first place, and so it was a great experience working with him to bring the vision of the cover to life. And between the combined talent of Kirsten Thompson and Christianne Gillenardo-Goudreau, I had a lot of great material to draw inspiration from.
One of the main differences for me in working on a kickstarter comic is the sense of comradery that grows from bringing a project to life together. I feel like there’s a deeper sense of kinship with your team, and it’s such a positive and inspiring atmosphere to be a part of!
MG: Taylor, you’ve worked on so many comics, from kickstarter work like Drawing Blood to work with companies like DC, Marvel, BOOM! Studios, and IDW. Heck, I’m pretty sure I’ve reviewed your work several times in the past. How did you learn about I Am Hexed? What made you choose to work on this project?
Taylor Esposito: I’ve done too much work, I might need a life. (Haha) I was actually one of the first people Kirsten told of the project. I was the sounding board she was bouncing the ideas off of. (Haha) It was a combination of reasons, one of the biggest ones being the Kirsten is a friend and I was hoping to work with her for a while. It was also just a great story that was relevant to today’s issues but still fun, which feels like an increasingly rare thing in today’s climate.
MG: I don’t get to interview a lot of letterers, so I’m really excited to get this chance. Lettering is something that can make or break a comic. The best lettering can elevate a comic from great to fantastic.
Is there a difference in lettering when you do more indie works like Drawing Blood or I Am Hexed compared to working with the major publishers?
TE: Not too much of a difference. Obviously, some semblance of a “house style” is required with certain publishers if there is a shared universe, as the lettering is used as an ”anchor” of sorts—visual continuity between books—but otherwise, I looks at the art and the story and try to develop a style that suits the art, but also the tone of the writing. From font choices, to balloon strokes, color choices, individualize flourishes, everything is developed/chosen at the start to give my lettering a style and help keep things consistent.
MG: I’ve only seen a few pages of I Am Hexed, but I already want to read it all. I know you can’t give too much away, but what has been your favorite panel or scene to work on thus far?
TE: I can’t say. Partially because I can’t choose, and partially because I don’t want to give anything away. Sorry.
MG: Besides I Am Hexed, are there any other projects that you’re working on that you’re excited about?
KT: I have a graphic novel that I’m pitching at the moment, and am working on another project, no details to share yet. 🙂
CG: I’ve got a few I’m currently working on! Full Circle is of course always on the list, but I’ve got a piece that’ll be featured in Faerie Fire, a 5e supplemental for table top campaigns that’ll be coming out soon. I’m also working on an entry for the charity zine, Fat Mermaids 2, being run by Paige Hall that will benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. There are also a couple graphic novel pitches I’m working on that have to stay under wraps for now, but I’m very excited and can’t wait to share them.
LC: I just wrapped up a comic for the Alloy: Electrum Anthology (edited by Der-Shing Helmer and Kiku Hughes) that I’m thrilled to see printed later this year. I’m currently in the final development stages for a young adult graphic novel pitch with my lovely friend and talented writer Jasmine Walls for Scholastic, and I’m also working on developing a few personal graphic novel projects of my own.
TE: I’m excited about all my projects! I can’t choose between my babies. That said, there are a lot of fun projects in the works. I’ve got Charlie’s Angels over at Dynamite which has been a lot of fun, I’m wrapping the sequel to Swashbucklers there too, and I’ve just done my first issues of Elvira and Red Sonja recently.
I also have the Kevin Eastman Kickstarter Drawing Blood that was previously mentioned, as well as my various Webtoon strips, with more on the way soon. As I said, too numerous to mention. Best thing I’d say is keep an eye on the Ghost Glyph Studios social media for updates on the books I’ve worked on every Wednesday (and if it’s a Webtoon, on the particular strips release date).
Last chance to pledge I Am Hexed #1 on Kickstarter right now!