DD: Who are you and what is your background? (where you're from, art school, job history, what you did in 3rd grade to get you sent home, etc. - Whatever interesting and silly stuff you'd like to include.)
KM: I'm Kevin Mellon, from Kansas City, Missouri. About as mid-Midwest as one can get. I've lived in and around KC for most of my 30 years. I went to college at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. It's an art college in Dover, New Jersey that specializes in comic book illustration. It's a 3 year school, and it's pretty intense. I got a lot out of it, and the thing I tell everyone that asks me about it is that that school is like anything else in life, you get out of it what you put into it. After that I moved back to KC and have been bumming around here since then.
You joke about 3rd grade... It's funny, I just remembered the other day that I was in a christmas play in 3rd grade. We were doing "The Nutcracker" and our parents were going to be there and it was a special school night and all that fun stuff. Well, all week I had been complaining about being sick, how I didn't feel good, but no one would believe me or take me seriously. I think both the teachers and my parents thought I was faking it to get out of doing the play. Even though I hadn't yet learned you could fake being sick and get out of going to school yet, they wouldn't listen to me anyways.
"... the more I thought about these two girls, these sisters, the more I fell in love with them and their story, and the more I fell in love with what they were doing and saying and who they are."
So the night of the play, all of us kids are all dressed up in our costumes (I was one of the many toy soldiers) and in a line. We're minutes from going on stage (that's a loose term, from what I recall the play was in the small gymnasium the grade-school had) and I started to feel even more woozy than I had all week.
I looked down the line and saw all the kids all kinds of eager and dreadful and hopeful and nervous, then the next thing I know, I'm vomiting on all of their hopes and nerves. Like Exorcist projectile-vomit-head-spinning-style. So much vomit for a little kid. Vomit all over me, on the other soldiers, I think I even bullseyed the Mouse King.
Man, it was terrible.
As the teachers and other parents rushed to clean up the costumes of the other kids, my parents grabbed me to rush me home. I remember saying to them very clearly:
"I told you I didn't feel good."
Anyways. Um, I play guitar, have been in and out of bands since high school. I love to read. I'd say I like to take long walks on the beach, but there's always this creepy, glowing, bearded dude in a robe offering to carry me. f*** that noise. Beaches are scary places.
DD: Nothing like puke stories. My friend puked bright purple Ribena (English currant drink) all down the side of my mom's car, once. It was very - colorful.
What was your role in creating the new Suicide Sisters comic?
KM: Ha. My role. Um. I created all of it. It's all by me. For better or for worse.
I had a germ of an idea over a year and a half to two years ago and it kept percolating until I had a notion of who the girls were and what they wanted to do.
My original idea is still the same as it was when it first occurred to me, two girls go after the Devil to shoot him. I've just expounded and expanded on it quite a bit since then.
I had initially thought of finding a collaborator to help me write the story, since I've never written a full project by myself, but the more I thought about these two girls, these sisters, the more I fell in love with them and their story, and the more I fell in love with what they were doing and saying and who they are. They became alive in my head and had all these things happening to them that I had to write it all down just to see what happened next. Boy, was I not prepared for where they'd take me. I've got a loose idea for about 6 volumes of stories with these girls and I'm currently writing the second volume while I'm drawing the first.
DD: Yeah, I can see where a chick would just walk up to the Devil and shoot him. I know I would. I also saw Elvis walking down the hallway...
Were you excited to have the opportunity to have complete creative control over this project? It must have been a cool challenge to create the art as well as writing the whole thing.
KM: Yeah, the challenge has been more in the writing. The art is tough just because not only am I doing the black and white line drawings, but I'm coloring it too, which this will be the first extended project that I do all the color work for as well (for your readers that don't know, comics are often divided up into skill sets for the different processes. Writer, artist, colorist, letterer can often all be different people doing those jobs), but the writing has been the real cross to bear on this one. I've had to learn how to structure a story, make sure there's enough plot without losing the cool action or character beats I want and need, make sure all the character bases are covered to make sure I get enough of who these girls are on the page. It's very easy to write from a "I know what's happening" point of view, but just because I know what's going on doesn't mean the reader does. That's been a challenge, to write to that, to get that info on the page without it sounding forced or trite.
I'll be honest, I'm in the middle of drawing the book and I just did another re-write on a few sections. I'm definitely learning as I go, and there are things that change as I get to know the girls more. I have moments where I go "oh, she wouldn't say that that way" or "she'd react this way, and then the other sister would react this way" and both reactions are different from what I had initially written down.
There's a saying, I don't know who originated it, but it goes something like "All writing is re-writing." I definitely feel like that's true for me. When I'm writing, it's sometimes tough for me to fill up the blank page, but once I do I'm constantly re-reading and re-working and re-thinking everything I've written down. Hopefully it makes for a better book.
And yeah, I love the control. I'm a bit of a control freak anyways when it comes to my work, and I really wanted a chance to take control of the aspects of making a comic book that I've never had or taken before.
It's tough, but worth it.
DD: Can you tease us a little with some Suicide Sisters storyline? We ChiX like to be teased.
KM: And I love to tease you ChiX.
"What I've never hinted at in public and in talking about this book to people, but is actually a big part of the mythos, is that the Hell's Angels are really fallen angels who rebelled against heaven and then hell by tearing off their wings and horns and choosing to live on earth as a neutral force, riding across the country (and the earth) keeping a balance between the above and the below."
Hmm, okay. So the basic premise is "The tragic tale of two sisters riding across the desert wasteland of Texas on their Harleys, tracking down the Devil to get their souls back."
Dora (Pandora) and Cora (Corazon Jade) are our raven and blonde-haired (respectively) sisters. They have a 1911 Colt .45 that's possessed by a demon and can kill anything not human. (If I get to do a second volume, I deal with the gun pretty extensively).
The first arc that I'm working on now is called "Shoot The Devil." I'm not gonna lie, it's pretty basic, the girls do their best to make the title come true. Without giving too much away, the girls lost their souls and are pissed as hell about it and will stop at nothing to get them back.
What I've never hinted at in public and in talking about this book to people, but is actually a big part of the mythos, is that the Hell's Angels are really fallen angels who rebelled against heaven and then hell by tearing off their wings and horns and choosing to live on earth as a neutral force, riding across the country (and the earth) keeping a balance between the above and the below.
Let's just say one of the girls might have once been romantically involved with a Hell's Angel.
Let's just say that there are some other Hell's Angels who show up to take care of some business...
DD: There's one thing that has been lacking in the horror space for me. It's women portrayed in roles where they seek out the enemy to fight them head on. I'm not saying there are no tough females out there but the majority of times, it starts off with a wimpy chick who is forced to change into a beast to face a tormentor. The two sisters in your story seem to be kick ass from the beginning. I've noticed in other comics you've contributed to such as Gear Head that the women start off tough as well. Is there a reason you have taken this route?
KM: You're not wrong, I think that it's not just limited to horror movies, though. I think most movies and television treat women as weaklings with a few exceptions. As progressive as Hollywood likes to think they are, they're still pretty conservative in their product because most of the viewing/buying public is not in Hollywood. Living in the midwest, I think that there's still an over-arching perception that women are still weaker and inferior to men and it's been tough to grow up seeing that, yet also knowing and dating and loving women who defy that notion on a daily basis. They're weak people of both sexes, I don't think having a backbone is purely a man's domain.
The last ten years have really seen a sea-change in a lot of people's mentalities on that front creatively, and I think it's just now starting to see itself lived out in our entertainment. Joss Whedon is an inspiration to me on that front, what he did with Roseanne, then Buffy and now Dollhouse are prime examples of strong females with strong stories that aren't just women acting like men (as is often the case), but acting like and behaving like strong women in stories and situations that could only come about because they're women.
Now, to try and answer your question.
I took this route because I dislike that we marginalize half the population as weak just because they have breasts and a vagina...
I think I'm attracted to strong female leads because I'm attracted to strong women in real life. I think doing these kinds of books and figuring out these kinds of characters is a way for me to figure out the women I know and deal with and have relationships with in my real life. It's equal parts tribute and psychiatry. It's easy to write from and to a male perspective, it's much harder to write and draw a woman that women want to read and love and know. That's what I'm working toward. That's the challenge and hopefully, the reward.
DD: And were the characters influenced by anyone?
KM: Not consciously, no. At first, I came up with the black hair/blonde hair thing as a way to easily visually distinguish the two girls, but at a dinner with a friend of mine, I realized there was more to it.
I was out with an old friend, catching up with each other on what we'd been doing over the last few months, and I was explaining the concept and story behind Suicide Sisters to her. I didn't have any art with me to show, since we were at a restaurant, but I was detailing each sisters look when she asked me if I remembered two girls we used to go to church with. She then detailed these two girls, sisters, that we knew when we were 13-14 years old, and I'll be damned, the exact same physical descriptions.
So, apparently, my subconscious wanted to draw these sisters. I must have been channeling something from when I was younger, because as soon as she detailed them, I remembered being in church and youth group and on trips with these girls and goddamn do they look like Dora and Cora.
As far as their personalities, they're an amalgam of girls I've dated and known, and being an only child, I've tried to really look at the relationships real siblings have with each other and play off of that to come up with a decent approximation of that unique dynamic.
DD: I've also noticed that the females you portray seem to be able to dress themselves in things other than prom dresses and/or thongs. I mean everyone knows a girl can only take on demons if she's a princess or half naked. Didn't you get the memo? (/sarc) How did these girls get their incredible fashion sense?
KM: Hehe. I tend to use the backs of the memos to draw on, you're saying those words on the front mean something?
"As a man, it's too easy to "think" you know how women would wear something and draw that, but it's rarely right. Women, in general, never wear the same article of clothing the way another woman would. There's so much personality and character to go along with body type and over all intention in choosing what you wear, it can drive a dude nuts trying to figure it out and accurately represent it, but that's what I try to do."
I do have a tendency/predilection for women wearing wife-beaters (I guess they're called "boy-beaters" when you ladies are wearing them) and low-rise jeans. (See Gearhead, also). That's a stereo-typically male thing to love, I think, so I might need to break away from that.
But, for serious, I am way more fashion conscious than any straight man should be. I spend way too much time looking at fashion blogs and mags and s*** like that than I should. Whatevs.
I love women, I love the completely different shape and structure that a woman's body has from a man's, I love how women dress to accentuate and cover and flaunt and hide it, I love all of that and I really try to capture it as much as I can. As a man, it's too easy to "think" you know how women would wear something and draw that, but it's rarely right. Women, in general, never wear the same article of clothing the way another woman would. There's so much personality and character to go along with body type and over all intention in choosing what you wear, it can drive a dude nuts trying to figure it out and accurately represent it, but that's what I try to do. You seem to think it works, at least, so YAY!
DD: One of the demons you illustrated in the preview scares the crap out of me. Half of his face looks like it's made of rice crispies. How did you come up with something so gross? And you're talking to a real horror fan here. Hardly anything phases me anymore.
KM: Hahaha. That's funny.
Um, I just sketched a lot. My initial takes on the demons were fairly tame and unoriginal. Dudes with horns. Whoopty-f***in'-doo.
So I just kept pushing it and pushing it until I got to a place where I actually thought "These f***ers are DEMONS."
I'm working on coming up with even more out there designs, because I feel like each issue of the series (there's 3 issues in the first volume) the demons should get more and more horrific as the girls get closer and closer to their goal. My latest designs feature demons with octopus tentacles for a mouth, and I'm looking at going pretty f***ed up for the 3rd issue... You read the article about the snake with a leg they found a few weeks back, right?
DD: If this was made into a movie, who would you cast?
KM: Man, that s***'s alwasy tough. With Gearhead making the rounds in Hollywood, you'd think I'd have pat answers for these types of questions, but I really don't, so I'll just go with what I'm feeling right at this moment.
For Dora: Kat Dennings or Anne Hathaway
I think Kat's got some deeper things in her, acting-wise, so it'd be interesting to see if she could pull off being the tough girl. Hathaway is a badass all-around.
For Cora: Aly Michalka or Taylor Momsen
Aly, I know she can do funny, I'd be curious to see if she can do dramatic and action too. Visually she's perfect. Taylor, yeah, I've seem some Gossip Girl. Shuddup.
For Satan: I'm basing my Lucifer slightly on Gary Oldman circa Dracula, but he's a little too old for the role now. So I'd have to go with Ed Norton. Give that dude long locks and some muttonchops and get him back into "American History X" shape and he'd have it f***in' down. I'd buy that as the Prince of Darkness. Give him some rams horns and a Harley, f*** yeah.
DD: Where and when can we pick up this piece of genius?
KM: Here's the rub, it's not out till spring of 2010 :(
I'm still working on the book, but it should be available in all comic shops around late spring, and in all book stores in the fall/winter of '10. A long ways off, I know, but that's how this biz works sometimes. It's coming out from a great comics publishing company called Ape Entertainment.
DD: Can we sign up somewhere to be informed of when new stuff is ready for our prying eyes?
KM: You can sign up for the Google Group Suicide Sisters at: http://groups.google.com/group/suicidesisters
DD: Do you have any other cool projects coming up that we should know about?
KM: Yes, actually. I'm working on finishing up a Graphic Novel that's as of yet untitled.
Here's the "Hollywood Pitch" style synopsis:
Kalli Monroe is a jaded rock photographer who has all but given up on love when she suddenly finds herself imbued with the powers of Cupid. What does a girl who doesn't believe in love do when she's able to make others feel what she can't?
"Dead Like Me meets Almost Famous"
It's written by Dennis Hopeless (Gearhead writer) and drawn by me. It'll be out in 2010 as well from AiT/PlanetLar.
DD: Do you have any advice for readers who want to get into your line of work?
KM: Whatever you want to do, be it draw, write, whatever, make sure you do it every day and constantly work at getting better.
[Tony Robbins] The people who succeed are the people who work at it, those are also the people that tend to get the most out of life. [/Tony Robbins]
There are so many online communities and sites with information, if you want to get into comics and graphic novels, just do the work and your homework. The internet is just full of people willing to help and that want to see you succeed.
Plus, comics needs more women creators.
DD: I can't believe you pulled a Tony Robbins... His mouth actually scares me more than your demons. But thank you for letting us know more about you and your work. I can't wait to see Suicide Sisters in its final form!