Over the summer, AHOY’s Ash & Thorn saw septuagenarians Lottie and Lady Peruvia fighting eldritch threats. Now, just in time for Halloween, the series (think “Golden Girls meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer“) is being collected as a trade paperback.
We were lucky enough to speak with writer Mariah McCourt about working with artist Soo Lee, her influences, wrestling with tropes, and finding the right tone, among other topics.
Ash & Thorn volume one (“Recipe for Disaster”) is available starting this week.
AIPT: Lottie and Peruvia aren’t exactly the typical comic book heroes, what sort of influences did you have when creating these characters?
Mariah McCourt: Some really obvious ones, like all the characters on The Golden Girls, Miss Marple, the witches from Discworld, Yubaba from Spirited Away, and my grandmothers’ who were a big part of my life growing up.
AIPT: So often it feels like the ‘chosen ones’ are 13 or younger these days and Ash & Thorn really plays with that idea. What was it like jousting with comic/ fantasy tropes?
MM: So much fun! I mean, I think it makes sense to have younger chosen ones in books/stories for younger audiences, but even for adults you don’t find that many over the age of 20 or so. So for me it was about taking those tropes and very obviously and deliberately fiddling with them, challenging them, exploring them, and even criticizing them while still honoring the things about them that make them resonate.
AIPT : How did you find balancing humor and horror in a story like this?
MM: I personally think humor and horror kind of naturally go together, which probably sounds weird, but a lot of horrifying things are so awful you end up having to process them with humor. There’s a reason we have dark humor, gallows humor, etc. It also helps break the tension so you can go no and freak people out some more!
AIPT: There are some absolutely stunning pages in Ash & Thorn, what was it like getting to work with Soo Lee? How much collaboration went into the monster and character designs?
MM: Soo is a real treasure. She’s so funny and sweet and enthusiastic. She really ran with the monster designs, the tone, playing with the humor and the horror. That’s not an easy balance but she nailed it. She brought so much life and reality to this very weird world, grounding it while also letting it be strange and disturbing and bonkers.
AIPT: Who’s idea was it to include Pickle’s Pantry each month? Perhaps it was one of those strange coincidences but a lot of people found themselves picking up baking over the summer, what with the extra time indoors, so the recipes were very much a welcome addition to the comic.
MM: Our editor, Sarah Litt, had the great idea about Pickle’s Pantry! I referenced a lot of recipes in the scripts and we actually came up with that before the pandemic. So it was a very weird coincidence. I’m really glad we were able to do that, though, because I know baking is a source of comfort for me these days and I love being able to share that through this story and see the folks making them, sharing them, and generally finding a little relief amidst the chaos. Which is really a big part of Ash & Thorn, even if it wasn’t meant to be quite so timely.
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