Father-daughter relationships can be complicated, especially when your dad is the soul-devouring leader of a hell-like dimension. That’s the case with “Adventure Time” star Marceline and her dad, Hunson Abadeer, the ruler of the Nightosphere. That dynamic will take center stage in “Adventure Time: Seeing Red,” the latest entry in the series of black and white, 6×9″ original graphic novels from BOOM! Studios.
“Seeing Red,” which debuted earlier this week, follows in the steps of “Playing with Fire” and “Pixel Princess.” Starring the unusual pairing of Marceline and Jake the Dog, the former returns home during a family reunion to retrieve her battleaxe-turned-bass. As it turns out, however, Hunson has mysterious plans for his daughter and her pal.
Kate Leth, who is best known as the writer and artist behind webcomic Kate or Die has provided a number of covers and back-ups for BOOM! over the past few years. This time around, however, she’s teaming up with artist Zachary Sterling to tell a longer tale focusing on an unlikely pair. We also discussed her other website, The Valkyries, an online meeting place for female comic store employees to gather, share stories and retail ideas.
CBR News: On of the most interesting things about “Adventure Time” is that its cast is so diverse, with any number of characters able to be slotted into the role of the protagonist. What drew you to exploring the character of Marceline and the relationship with her dad?
Kate Leth: Marceline is one of my favorite characters, and I’ve always wanted to explore more of her personal life and history. We’ve seen her interact with her dad a few times, and we’ve explored her relationship with the Ice King/Simon, but this felt like a bit of foreign territory. I wanted to show more of Marceline’s vulnerability, as well as her strength.
“Seeing Red” finds Marceline teaming up with Jake. Why did you decide to pair them up and how do their personalities bounce off of one another?
They’re an odd pair! I love putting together characters who don’t mesh completely, it gives me more to play with. Marceline and Jake aren’t totally comfortable with each other, but they have each other’s backs. I think, in the beginning, Jake feels weird adventuring without his buddy, and a little uncomfortable with Marcy. Their relationship, to me, was a bit like a kid hanging out with his way-too-cool older sister. He wants to impress her, a little.
Marceline’s heading back to the Nightosphere during a family reunion. Does that mean you and Zachary Sterling got to design some new relatives of Hunson and his daughter?
Yes, absolutely! The book is full of a bunch of new characters, as well as new ways of showing some familiar faces. Ooo is an amazing place; it’s limitless, and I had so much room to invent. Zachary really brought my ideas to life. You’ll get to see some of the extended family, as well as some old friends and foes of Marceline’s.
Hunson is rarely operating at face value. What’s his game in “Seeing Red”?
That, you’ll have to read and find out! He’s good-bad, but he ain’t evil. Well, okay — he’s a little bit evil.
Was “Seeing Red,” always conceived of as a graphic novel from the beginning, or was there ever talk of it being a mini?
No, it was always going to be a graphic novel! It was quite a jump from my 6-page back-ups to a whole book. [Laughs]
Having written and drawn a lot of stories yourself, what was it like working with an artist? Did you have to alter your scripting style or creative process much?
Oh, yeah, it’s totally different. My notes for myself can be really oblique, or brief, because I know what I mean. Writing for someone else, especially someone I hadn’t worked with before, required me to be a lot clearer. I’m sure Zachary would have made anything beautiful, though! Still, yes, I had to step outside myself and look at my script more objectively. It was good for me, a great challenge.
Was there a lot of back and forth between you and Zachary as you not only developed the new characters, but also worked on the actual pages?
There was more of it the further Zachary got into the story. A bit of clarification here and there, some enthusiastic exchanges about drawing monsters. He has such a great eye, such a great imagination. I love the way he adapted my bizarre descriptions into these completely charming, wonderful characters.
You run Beware The Valkyries, an online community for women who own or work in comic shops. What inspired you and the other initial members to start the site?
It’s actually just The Valkyries! The website has “Beware” in it on account of Domain Names Are Hard To Get. I was inspired by groups like ComicsPro, message boards or other hubs for people working in the same field. I got to talking with my boss, the owner of Strange Adventures here in Halifax, about how cool it would be to have a girl gang of comic shop employees. He suggested to make a Facebook group, and it grew faster than I could’ve imagined, to 170 members already! It’s pretty fantastic, and getting more powerful all the time. I love it. The response has been so enthusiastic.
What are some of the most talked about topics these days?
It’s pretty varied! Lots of publishers have been reaching out to us and sending along some previews of upcoming comics, so we talk about those. Right now there are discussions about customer loves and horror stories, what we like in Previews, what cons we’re attending, hosting Ladies’ Nights, video games. It’s all over the place! It updates almost faster than I can check it. [Laughs]
You have a unique perspective on the comics world since you work in a comic shop and also create comics yourself. Do you think that influences the books and strips you make?Â
I think it does. There are niches I want to fill, specifically, comics with girls in charge, and that are girl-friendly. “Adventure Time” appeals to everyone, but you should see 10-year-old girls’ eyes light up when I show them the Fionna and Cake or Marceline miniseries. I want to write for them. I think about how reading comics like “Alison Dare” changed my world when I was a tween, how exciting it was to find a book about a girl and her friends having such awesome adventures and I want to try and give that to someone else.
It’s hard — newspapers love to tout that headline about comics not being for kids anymore, and in many ways, they just aren’t. There are less than a handful of superhero or adventure titles coming out now I can give to a kid, even less that appeal to young women. I want to make the books I would’ve read and reread at that age. I’m lucky to have been given these characters to do that with.
Adventure Time: Seeing Red,” by Kate Leth and Zachary Sterling, is on sale now.