Canada-based publisher Hangman Comics has taken to Kickstarter to fund Monsterella, an anthology which will bring a new set of anti-heroines to the comic pantheon. Women Write About Comics spoke to creator Nevin Arnold about what we can expect from this upcoming title.
Can you tell us something about your new project Monsterella?
Monsterella is a new sci-fi/horror/action/adventure anthology inspired by the classic Vampirella and 2000 AD magazines of the 1970s and ’80s. The book revolves around Montrossa Rella, a.k.a. “Monsterella,” the warden of an intergalactic prison planet where the worst of the worst monsters in the galaxy are imprisoned and isolated from the rest of the universe. When an unexpected revolt overthrows her and threatens the safety of the entire galaxy, it’s up to her and her hunting companion Zorgo to restore balance. Her adventures are just one chapter of the book, however. In the style of the classic Vampirella magazines, Monsterella goes on to introduce other creepy tales written and illustrated by a revolving roster of amazing talents.
What aspects of Vampirella and 2000 AD are you hoping to emulate?
The influence of the classic Vampirella magazines are the most obvious, the format is basically the same: the black and white on-going stories of the book’s title character and the creepy, short, unrelated stories that follow up the main story. 2000 AD is more of an influence in the sense of its sci-fi greatness. The “Monsterella” stories and a lot of the backup stories throughout the series will have a much heavier sci-fi influence than the classic Vampirella magazines had. Monsterella herself is basically Red Sonja, Wonder Woman, and Judge Dredd rolled into one very tall monster hunting, law enforcing, prison warden.
Besides the adventures of Monsterella herself, what are the other stories to feature in Monsterella issue #1?
The first issue features three additional stories:
- “The Dungeon of the Necromaster” – From the team of writer John Rathiganthan and illustrator Dan MacKinnon (From The Ashes), this story is about a young female warrior who is searching a mysterious dungeon for her friend. Beyond the challenge of escaping the dungeon, they must also escape the undead minions that guard it.
- “The Stork” by Josh Kully – In the first installment of Kully’s epic and poetic tale, a mother’s nightmares become reality when an unnatural creature approaches her home in search for her child.
- “The Space Siren of Sector 13” written by myself and illustrated by Andrew Fryer – This story is about a galactic exploration crew that finds a beautiful green woman floating in space. She seems to have all the answers, except to the mysteries that surround her origins.
Was it a conscious decision for each of the stories in the issue to focus on female characters?
Originally, before the title of the book was Monsterella: Astonishing Tales to Chill & Thrill You, it was Monsterella: Astonishing Tales of Deadly Dames & Female Furies. The idea was to center around bold female leads, both good and evil. That is still basically the idea, but I didn’t want to limit the book exclusively to that format.
What made you look to comics of the 1970s for inspiration?
I’m definitely trying to recapture something that’s been lost. I look at a lot of comics today and I find the art busied with digital colour and effects, I see a lot of the same thing. I compare the comic industry to the music industry a lot, you’re not going to hear much of anything good on the radio today, certainly nothing revolutionary.
Today everything is so polished, so over-produced, it’s difficult to find something raw, something gritty, something real (within any mainstream availability anyway). Everything now seems like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy. If you go far enough back, to the original greats (in either music or comics), the Jack Kirbys and the Wally Woods (the Black Sabbaths and Led Zeppelins of the comic industry) there was a magic to their art, their stories.
I think with everyone’s so concerned with what’s trendy or marketable this year, not enough stuff is being developed from the heart that can stand the test of time. That may just be my own tainted view. I’m sure there’s lots of great stuff I’m not aware of, but as far as looking back in time to the ’70s for inspiration, I feel that was an era in comics (and music) where the decades of evolution of the art form really peaked, became perfected. It’s only been photocopied from generation to generation since.
Do you have any thoughts about the portrayal of women in the horror/exploitation field that your comic homages?
There may have been a fair bit of exploitation of women in 1970s horror films–I’m not a film buff–it surprises people when I tell them I’m not a fan of horror films (especially in interviews around the time my last series Calavera the Undead came out), so I’m no expert. But I realize that magazines like Vampirella, Creepy and Eerie were inspired by the horror films of their time.
That said, I can’t recall reading any specifically exploitative stories in these magazines, horror-wise. I recall strong female leads, women with powers and supernatural abilities, women who were often the heroes of the story, and who would switch from victim to victor in a twist ending.
By the same token, I recall lots and lots of naked women. Those magazines had some of comic’s greatest artists and writers crafting them into the masterpiece works of art that they were, but without a doubt. they were magazines written by men, illustrated by men, for men. Monsterella takes a more PG-13 approach in its content, in that regard.
You comment on magazines such as Vampirella being “illustrated by men, for men.” Do you have any thoughts on the target audience of Monsterella?
I like to think Monsterella will appeal to both young and old, men and women. Older men specifically may be reminded of the great illustrated magazines of the ’70s and ’80s and appreciate what we’re trying to do. But young people reacted really well to my last series, Calavera the Undead. I was, and continue to be, surprised by how many young women pick up the book. When I was a kid, well you’d never see a girl in a comic shop. Now it seems to be a nearly 50/50 boy/girl split into comics, it’s fantastic. I think Monsterella is accessible to them as well, but I guess we’ll see how it goes over. I don’t give much thought to demographics, I just do what I want to read and really hope other people appreciate it as well.
Will there be any women contributing to the anthology?
The on-going cover artist is the amazingly talented Sun Khamunaki, best known perhaps for her Lady Death cover work. I’ve contacted and been approached by a number of other Canadian artists and writers, both male and female, to contribute to the next issues so I think the readers will be seeing a very vast blend of revolving talent as the series continues for sure.
Where do you hope to take Monsterella for future issues?
Hopefully, it will have a long life. Monsterella has a long tale to tell, and there’s no shortage of talent here in Canada for artists and writers to collaborate on backup stories. After Monsterella herself resolves the issues of her current plotline, there are many adventures planned afterward.
It’s been a pleasure to have you, Nevin, and best of luck with your Kickstarter.
My pleasure, Doris. Thanks very much.