With the launch of; Castle Full of Blackbirds today from Dark Horse Comics, we got a chance to sit down and chat with award-winning novelist Angela Slatter. Anglea makes her comic book debut with this series. She is joined; by Mike Mignola, Valeria Burzo, Michelle Madsen, Clem Robins, Wylie Beckert and Vanesa Del Rey.
Hi Angela, it’s so wonderful to have you here with us. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi there! I’m a writer of novels and short stories (www.angelaslatter.com). My work tends toward tales that play with fairy and folk tale themes, myths and legends, and I love dark fantasy and horror. I’ve written five novels, three novellas, and eleven short story collections. The novels are the gothic fantasy/horror books (as A.G. Slatter––the least-convincing disguise since Clark Kent’s glasses) All the Murmuring Bones and The Path of Thorns. The supernatural crime/urban fantasy trilogy (as Angela Slatter) is Vigil, Corpselight, and Restoration. I also work as a freelance developmental editor of fiction, and teach creative writing at the Australian Writers’ Centre. Castle Full of Blackbirds is my first comic!
Can you tell us about your history with Hellboy?
I started reading in the Hellboy Universe about ten years ago, and loved what Mike had done with this little red demon that turned into a big red demon who loved pancakes and beer and sometimes did not make good decisions. I love how everything is dark and magical, playing around with old versions of fairy tales—the proper ones, the ones that haven’t been given the Disney treatment. They’re deep, dark stories with epic villains and surprising stories—and sometimes yesterday’s allies are tomorrow’s enemies and vice versa. I’m a big fan of that mix. If I were to choose my favorites—or at least the ones that stick with me the most—it would be The Troll Witch, The Sleeping and the Dead, Darkness Calls, and The Three Wishes.
How would you describe the Castle Full of Blackbirds series?
It’s a kind of witches’ coming-of-age story and it follows Sara May Blackburn, who helped Hellboy out of a jam in Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: The Return of Effie Kolb. Sara’s been thrown out of home by her family because she sometimes knows about things before they happen, and her family is scared she’s a witch. She is totally a witch, and she made a connection with Miss Brook in The Return of Effie Kolb––Miss Brook gave her a photo of the Linton School for Girls in New York, so Sara May is on her way to NYC, trying to find a place in the world. There are some new and old enemies, and some new allies.
What were your thoughts when you first saw the art created by Valeria Burzo and Michelle Madsen?
Oh, delighted screaming and phoning a friend to gibber inarticulately at him until I calmed down. From Valeria’s first sketches I knew we were golden, and as we progressed to the inks, and Michelle added the colors it just got better. The gothic look of the school and some of the characters is exactly what was in my head. I know some of the actions that I was describing in my script made me think “Can anyone actually translate this into art? Am I being nuts?” But no, Valeria got it all down beautifully, and Michelle’s colors rendered it all so richly. So, yeah, I am a HUGE fan of the artwork—and the covers by Wylie Beckert are just astonishing.
What can you say about Sara May Blackburn?
Sara May is like all the best characters in that she doesn’t fit where she was born and grown—so she was always going to have to set out on a journey across the world to find out who she was and where she needed to be. It’s not fun that her start was getting rejected by her family, but that experience also taught her some life lessons—and she was lucky in that she got to meet Tom (from Hellboy: The Crooked Man and The Return of Effie Kolb) and, through him, met Hellboy. I think she saw this big red guy who was so different from anyone else, and he was kind and compassionate, so maybe not everyone was so bad. In Castle Full of Blackbirds she’s learning about found families and the reaches of her own power—and she’s faced by a bunch of hidden enemies, so she’s got to survive the Linton School for Girls before she can do anything else.
What’s it like working with Mike Mignola?
Awesome! He’s been doing this gig for a while now, and he’s very patient with questions and ideas that I threw in. And there were a lot of questions, because it’s my first comic, so I was learning on the job. He gave me about three tips on writing comics and then the training wheels were off. He said, “You know how to tell a story!” And I’m grateful he had that faith in me! Let’s not forget the editorial team at Dark Horse—Katii O’Brien, Jenny Blenk, and Misha Gehr have been fantastic support. You can ask them any dumb question (and believe me, I did. Soooo many dumb questions.) and they’ve got the answers.
Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?
Just that I hope they enjoy this limited series and exploring the world of the Hellboy Universe’s witches as much as I enjoyed writing it.
A big thank you to Angela for chatting with us; we wish her and the team the best of luck with the Castle Full of Blackbirds series.