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Marjorie Liu discusses the heart and horror in 'The Night Eaters'

Comic Books

Marjorie Liu discusses the heart and horror in ‘The Night Eaters’

Another collabo with Sana Takeda, book #1 of trilogy is out today.

There’s some real magic that happens when writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda get together. Back in 2010, they did some great work together for X-23. A few years later, however, they struck true gold with the award-winning Monstress. Now, the pair are looking to see if lightning will strike once more as they release another new collaboration, The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night.

It’s actually the first volume of a planned trilogy of horror graphic novels. In this first book, we meet Chinese-American twins Billy and Milly, who in addition to dealing with woes in their personal and professional lives, have to contend with an annual visit from their parents, Ipo and Keon. When the family decides to clean up a neighbor’s home (which just so happened to be the site of a “grisly murder”), the family find themselves facing “a night of terror, gore, and supernatural mayhem [that] reveals that there is much more to Ipo and her children than meets the eye.” It’s a nuanced, complicated tale that tackles the giant issue of family with heart and horror alike.

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With The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night in stores today (October 11 via Abrams ComicArts), Liu was kind enough to answers some questions recently. That includes her collaboration with Takeda, exploring Asian family dynamics, and what to expect from the trilogy, among other tidbits.

Marjorie Liu discusses the heart and horror in 'The Night Eaters'

Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts.

AIPT: How has your collaborative process with Sana Takeda changed since Monstress? How does that impact the book at-large?

Marjorie Liu: In some ways the collaborative process hasn’t changed much in all the years we’ve been working together — except I think, perhaps, it’s deeper and simply…more. More friendship, more trust. Both of us, individually, went through a lot before we started working together, and I think that gave us a common language of sympathy and understanding that transcended the language barrier. Time has done the rest. I write stories with words and Sana tells them with her art, and it’s always been an effortless collaboration that has created a situation where I know that we’ve got each other’s backs, creatively and otherwise.

AIPT: And speaking of that beloved title, are there any connections (even the faintest spiritual ones) to that and The Night Eaters?

ML: That’s a great question. As a writer, I think I’m always wrestling with family — blood family, chosen family. What comes from blood is an intergenerational legacy that can be a source of strength and inspiration — or trauma. And, hopefully, what comes from choosing one’s family is an opportunity to heal — to expand into a self that family can’t always accept, or nurture. Is it that simple? Of course not. But it’s just one of the ways that I think about these things, and they play out powerfully (if differently) in Monstress and The Night Eaters. Part of Maika Halfwolf’s journey is coming to terms with the sins of her parents and her ancestors, which have been passed down to her in the form of a literal monster, who is as much her family as anyone else. And in The Night Eaters it’s the secrets kept by families that prove to be the ultimate source of conflict.

The Night Eaters

Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts.

AIPT: A focus of this book is the dynamic of the twins, Milly and Billy, and their parents, Ipo and Kenny. Why are those relationships so important and interesting to explore? Is it born of the Chinese-American tradition?

ML: The most interesting part, for me, is the relationship between the twins and their parents — everything else revolves around that. Is that close focus part of my Chinese-American experience? Certainly, and this book is very intent on exploring family within that specific context—it’s more or less the only family context I know firsthand.

But I also suspect there’s a universality to the stress-fractures that occur between parents and their grown children, particularly mothers and daughters. People often exercise their best selves, and their worst selves, inside of family — and it’s not always easy to know which is which. I think that’s very much the case with Ipo and her children. She hasn’t been affectionate, she’s made choices that confuse and hurt their feelings — the twins don’t understand her at all.

But Ipo, I think, will be a familiar figure to some readers — and her concerns will be familiar, too. She’s an immigrant who wants her children to excel — particularly her daughter — and she also wants them to assimilate. But there’s a price for assimilation, and Ipo — like many immigrant parents — realizes perhaps a little late that maybe she shouldn’t have worked so hard to have her children forget their culture.

The Night Eaters

Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts.

AIPT: This is both a family drama and a supernatural story. Is there a kind of connection between these “genres”? And why does it all work so well together?

ML: People understand intuitively that families are often sites of horror — the demon haunts from within, where we’re most vulnerable, where we should feel most safe. But, alternatively, we all know that families are also strongholds against horror. What evil can break a family who loves one another, even if that love is imperfect?

AIPT: This is the first part of a reported trilogy. Without spoiling too much (or however much you’d like to spoil…), what can we expect from the rest of the series?

ML: Well, let’s just say that at the end of this book the twins get a shock that totally upends everything they thought they knew about the world. But plenty of people have life-changing experiences — and then don’t actually change their lives. That’s going to be the tension moving forward — a desire for normalcy that conflicts with the reality that the world is far stranger and more dangerous than anything they ever previously imagined.

Marjorie Liu discusses the heart and horror in 'The Night Eaters'

Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts.

AIPT: Why should anyone pick this book up?

ML: I mean, death and dismemberment aside, this is a story that has a lot of heart, and I think it’s funny, too. To me, there’s nothing better than being scared and laughing at the same time, and while I’m not sure this is a lighthearted story, it’s not terribly serious, either. I’d like to imagine a reader reaching the end, and instead of feeling scared or depressed, they might actually feel good about the world. And, maybe, a little hopeful.

And then, of course, there’s Sana’s art. She’s experimenting with a new style in The Night Eaters, and it’s so energetic and raw and like nothing she’s done before. I’m incredibly excited for readers to see what she’s done.

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