Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir, best known for their work on a variety of books for Oni, DC, Marvel and Seven Seas, are currently working together on the Oni Press published “Frenemy of the State.” During Comic-Con International in San Diego, the publisher announced two new books from the pair. The first, coming out this fall will be “All Saints Day,” a sequel to their mystery graphic novel “Past Lies” which has just been rereleased.
We also discussed “The Avalon Chronicles,” a relaunch of the duo’s earlier graphic novel “Once Upon a Blue Moon.” Always intended to be the first of a series, it’s being reissued with a new title and a new artist, British creator Emma Vieceli, best known for her adaptations of “Hamlet” and “Much Ado About Nothing” for the Manga Shakespeare series as well as her contributions to anthologies like “Comic Book Tattoo.”
CBR: There’s a new Amy Devlin mystery, “All Saints Day.” Fans of the first book with her, “Past Lies,” no doubt remember, but for those who don’t, who is Amy and where was she left at the end of the story?
Nunzio DeFilippis: Â Amy is a very Los Angeles Private Investigator. Â Or she was, in “Past Lies.” Â Los Angeles is a place where lies, deceptions and illusions are currency. Â No one is what they seem, and not everyone is being bad or evil in their deceptions. We live in a desert, after all, and yet we love our fountains. Â It’s the place where you can change who you are in a moment, and if you can’t become who or what you want to be, just fake it! Â
And that was Amy. Â She was a Private Investigator who had never put in the time to get a license. Â She was lying to everyone. Â At the end of “Past Lies,” she had broken the unsolved murder case of a lifetime, but she couldn’t tell anyone. Not only because of the particulars of how the case ended (which I won’t spoil since we’re re-releasing the book), she also did all her work without a license and that was illegal. She ended the book working for the Beverly Hills Police to put in the three years’ time she needs to qualify for a license.
She’s working for the police in the cold case division and that brings us to “All Saints Day.” What can we look forward this one?
Christina Weir: Â “All Saints Day” takes place almost three years after “Past Lies” and finds Amy coming to an end of her time with the Beverly Hills Police Department. It’s been a long three years for her as the work is not exactly scintillating. And Amy’s always looking for a new case to solve. Â And in “All Saints Day,” she comes across a doozy! There are several cold cases that all took place on November 1st – “All Saints Day.” Â And it’s Amy’s keen eye that pieces together that this might be the work of a serial killer. Â Plus, she realizes that all the victims have had the names of saints. Â With November 1 quickly approaching, Amy needs to convince somebody to take her seriously.
What was the challenge in following up on “Past Lies?”
DeFilippis: Well, there were two challenges. Â The first one was basic. Â We described the case in “Past Lies” as “the unsolved case of a lifetime.” Â How exactly do you top that? Â So we decided to make it the unsolved case of multiple lifetimes! Â The second challenge was larger. Â We had gone from writing a single, stand-alone mystery to a series. Â The standalone case had a structure similar to a movie. Â But once you do multiple books with a detective, you can’t just craft a series of standalone stories. Â It doesn’t feel right, you know? Â It’s now a detective series. Â That means building a supporting cast, planning a long-term arc for the detective and other characters, and fleshing out her world in a way that goes way deeper than you can cover in a one-off murder mystery. Â That was a huge challenge and (as we discovered) part of the thrill. Â We’re not just building Amy, we’re building her world – her corner (or corners) of Los Angeles.
Chris Mitten illustrated “Past Lies” but you have a new team of artists for “All Saints Day.”
Weir:Yes, we do. Â Dove McHargue. Â He’s very talented and the new book is going to look great. Â Unfortunately (for us, not for Dove), we hooked up with Dove right at a time when his wife was having triplets, so his life got turned a little upside down. Â But with patience and perseverance, we are finally able to give you a beautiful book that will hopefully be a suitable successor to “Past Lies.”
You also have another Amy Devlin mystery in the works. Would you like to talk a little about that?
DeFilippis: Â When we write I get a lot of big ideas, then ambush Christina with them. Â She’s the arbiter of whether or not my ideas (usually dreamed up in the shower, I must confess) are useful or just the lunatic rantings of a diseased mind.Â So I had come up with an idea for the third Amy Devlin mystery, one that Christina liked well enough but that I could tell (after years of marriage and writing with her) she was not 100% behind. Â And then there was a story on the news that fascinated the world for about two days. Â And she came out of the shower and said, “What if we did something like that?” Â And our roles were reversed. Â It was a great idea, and my old idea was tossed. Â The short version is that a young woman comes to Amy and says “I think the man who raised me isn’t my father.” Â And it only gets weirder from there. Â We’re tentatively calling it “Lost And Found” for now, though the title feels pretty set to me.
Your other big announcement is “The Avalon Chronicles.” In your graphic novel “Once in a Blue Moon,” which was illustrated by Jennifer Quick, “The Avalon Chronicles” was the supposedly fictional book at the heart of the story. What is “The Avalon Chronicles” and how does it relate to “Once in a Blue Moon?”
Weir:“The Avalon Chronicles” is the relaunch of our series “Once In A Blue Moon.” Â We received so much positive feedback when “Once In A Blue Moon” came out and that book was always intended to be the first in a series. Â But unfortunately, [artist] Jen Quick moved on to other projects and we weren’t able to continue. Â However, we have a new artist, Emma Vieceli, and were given the go-ahead from Oni to re-release the first volume. Â Oni also decided to let Emma re-draw “Once In A Blue Moon” so that the series would have a cohesive feel. Â And we decided to use “The Avalon Chronicles” as the name of the series.
DeFilippis: Â We made some minor changes (a few lines, changing the name of one of the supporting players, and planting a few seeds for future stories that we’ve mapped out with Emma). Â But because Emma is getting to rebuild the world, the look, and the characters, we wanted this book to not just be “Blue Moon” Volume 1 Mark 2. Â It will feel new, look new, and read new. Â So to give it a new name, but draw from the same place, we went with Avalon Chronicles, with this redone Volume 1 being sub-titled “Once In A Blue Moon.” Â All the planned volumes will have a subtitle under the “Avalon Chronicles” banner.
What’s taken so long for the book to come out?
Weir:The curse of being a writer is that you can’t draw. Â Nunzio and I have joked hundreds of times that one of us should have gone to art school or sold our soul to be gifted with the ability to draw. Â Believe it or not, it’s taken this long to find an artist who could fit the tone and style of “Once In A Blue Moon.” Â And once we met Emma, all the pieces just fell into place.
DeFilippis: Emma Vieceli is 31 flavors of awesome! Â We met her through an anthology we were all talking about contributing to. Â Christina and I got a group e-mail from the editor, then got an e-mail from Emma addressed to the whole group, saying hi and expressing her excitement. Â Her website was in the sig of her e-mail. Â We’d been looking for an artist for so long on “Blue Moon,” and in general are always looking for artists for one project or another. Â So, it’s now second nature to follow links to artists’ websites. Â We did and were stunned by what we saw. Â She’s incredibly talented, and (from her e-mail), very good natured and friendly. Â So we reached out, and it all kind of rolled from there. Â Emma is a wonderful collaborator, full of ideas and bringing a whole new and different energy to the book. Â It’s as much her book as ours now, and we all got together for a Skype chat a ways back and mapped out the entire journey for Aeslin in the world of Avalon (and elsewhere!). Â And wait until you see how it looks!
On that note, Emma, what about the project appealed to you?
Emma Vieceli: Originally, the plan had been for me to maybe pick up where Jennifer had left off. I read the original book and it had a real charm about it, but obviously Jennifer has a very different style to my own, and the first book was out a long time ago. We all started to realize that if we did dive in at book two we’d risk confusing potential new audiences – a risky move with such a large gap between books, and would be a bit unfair on Jennifer. Instead we moved towards the idea of redoing book one. So I got the utterly joyous task of redesigning Aeslin and friends and really getting a feel for the world.
The instant appeal of the project to me was in its genre. I’ve grown up with a lot of manga and anime series amongst my general love of comics, and the classic “girl-gets-pulled-into-a-fantasy-world” is one of those stories I’ve always wanted to play with. And here were these amazing writers with just that kind of basis (I’m not going to give away the twists here, haha), but with a really western tilt in terms of dialogue and attitude. It sounded wonderful.
Also, the guys were keen early on to let me know that they wanted my input. That I wouldn’t just be an artist on this project, but a partner. That meant a lot to me. I totally fell for Nunzio and Christina and their script. I wanted to work with them badly. They’re a large part of the reason I stuck with the project during the uncertain early umms and aaahs that you get with any new venture.
Also, Oni as a publisher appealed to me hugely. I’ve always heard great things about the “Oni family” and to be a part of it means a lot to me as a creator.
You’re redrawing a new version of the previously released “Once in a Blue Moon.” Was it strange or intimidating to redraw something another artist had already worked on and how different a version will the new version of the book be?
Vieceli: Strange and intimidating, for sure. I knew Jennifer’s work through Tokyopop’s “OffBeat.” I liked it, but clearly our styles are very different. Knowing that the first book has a following familiar with Jen’s designs is pretty nerve-wracking. I was relieved that we did opt to redo the book in the end as, this way, I feel we’re making something entirely new and so I don’t feel too much like I’m stepping on what was achieved with the first book. I’d have felt even weirder continuing a story using someone else’s designs; it wouldn’t have felt fair at all.
Obviously the story remains largely the same, though I’ve worked closely with Nunzio and Christina to build up what happens next (and we’re all stupidly excited about it), so I’m able to work knowing what is to come. I think readers who are aware of the first book can see this version as a bit of a rebirth. My characters are different to Jen’s. One of them even has a new name! It’s almost like we’ve had a change of cast. I really hope people who read the old version will warm to the new actors, and anyone who’s never seen the book before will fall for these amazing characters the same way that I did!
The biggest change between this and the first version, I think, is probably that the three of us have had big chats together about where we want to take it. I’m a storyteller myself and I’ve been amazed and flattered at how much weight the guys have given to my suggestions. They make me feel very much a part of this, and the story we’ve come up with is one we all feel passionate about. This means that we’re not creating blindly. We know where we’re headed and we know how these characters are going to grow and change. I feel like we’re sitting at the beginning of something huge and exciting.
How many volumes are you planning on doing, when can we see the first all-Emma volume, and any spoilers on the crazy stuff you’ll be showing you can draw?
Vieceli: The current aim is four volumes. I’m actually already half way through production on the first book, so the plan is to see it released in 2011. Very exciting.
Hmmm…spoilers. Well, poor Nunzio has had to deal with Christina and me getting all girly and inserting as many fanciable male characters as we can. That said, our female bandit has the most enviable hips I’ve ever drawn on a woman – so there’s something for everyone.
This being a story of two worlds, I’ve had fun switching from a standard street of houses to a mountainous castle. I’ve designed suits of armor, switched from modern school uniforms to frock coats, and I’ve drawn more horses than I ever want to draw again.
I hope readers will be as psyched about stepping into this world as we are.