Weir, DeFilippis & Kirsch Visit LA's Underbelly in "Lost and Found"

While they've written comics for many companies including a stint in Marvel's X-universe and multiple OEL manga series at Seven Seas Press, Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis are perhaps best known for their long relationship with Oni Press, which ranges from "Bad Medicine" and "Play Ball" to "Three Strikes" and "The Avalon Chronicles" series. But the one Oni-based project they keep coming back to is their series of mystery graphic novels starring Los Angeles-based private eye Amy Devlin.

With Devlin returning for her third outing in "Lost and Found," which arrived in stores last month, CBR News spoke with Weir and DeFilippis about the book, along with artist T.J. Kirsch. Among the topics we discussed, the writers explained why they continue to return to Devlin, what fans can expect in this new volume, Kirsch's experience in joining the series' creative team and the different ways to look at Los Angeles.

CBR News: So, who is Amy Devlin?

Nunzio DeFilippis: Amy is a different kind of P.I., I think. We set out in "Past Lies" to create a very Los Angeles story -- everyone is lying, and some are lying in a, shall we say, ambitious way. That was Amy. In a case where everyone was ultimately not the persona they put forward, Amy was the ambitious liar. She had an office, and a business as a Private Investigator, but she didn't actually have her license. Like so many people with dreams in Los Angeles, she wanted to skip all the dues-paying and get straight to the glory.

The end of that book set her straight on that. She's spent two graphic novels getting herself to the place where she actually is what she pretended to be at the start of the first book. Now, she has her license, she is an actual P.I. And she's very good at it. She's solved two cases in our previous books that had gone unsolved for decades. That's become her thing -- cases that dive into the past and that are never exactly what they appear to be at the start.

However, solving those two cases has made her name a little toxic in the city, so now that she has her license, she doesn't have any business. In this volume, we explore how she's been able to afford that office (and the apartment that's adjacent to it) while working to get her license for real. And without clients, we explore if she'll be able to keep the office and the business.

This is the third time you've written a book starring the character. Has your thinking about Amy and how you approach her changed?

Christina Weir: I don't know that the specific thinking about the character has changed so much as Amy has grown through each volume so she has to be written a little differently each time. She's grown up over the course of these three volumes. She started very much as a kid playing at being a private investigator, and now she is actually a private investigator. All the bravado she used to put out there is legit, now. But at her core, she's still the same person.

I think what's interesting about this volume is, we bring her father into it, and show his opinions on her success, or lack thereof. Because so often, no matter how adult any of us may be, when facing our parents, we revert to being a kid again. But Amy's never rolled over for anyone, so you can bet this will be a hell of a showdown.

TJ, could you introduce yourself? I've come across your work a few times, but this is your first full-length book.

T.J. Kirsch: I've been drawing comics for a while now, since graduating from The Kubert School. From there I worked for Archie for a bit -- intern, staff job, then freelance for a while. I got hooked up with Oni Press in late '06 through one of their talent searches. I did a few short stories for Oni in various places -- "Jam! Tales From The World Of Roller Derby" and a Jen Van Meter-scripted story for "Resurrection."

In 2009, I became friends with the writer Kevin Church and we started collaborating on a year-long webcomic called "She Died In Terrebonne." Out of everything I've done so far, that seems to be the project that's connected with people the most.

In between larger projects, I also draw short comics for places like Top Shelf 2.0, Jonathan Baylis' autobiographical comic "So Buttons," and a lot of people like the horror comic "Straw Gods" I illustrated for writer Sam Costello.

How did you get involved with "Lost and Found?"

Kirsch: Since the beginning of my relationship with Oni I've loved their original graphic novels and I thought I might be a good fit for a project like that. For "Lost and Found," it was as simple as the timing being right. I'd just done another P.I. comic, so I think all involved thought I could do well. Plus, I'd done enough shorter pieces for Oni, I think they trusted me enough to take on something longer.

How do you go about approaching a book like this. where there have been two previous books by different artists.

Kirsch: I really tried reading and studying the first two books in the series, and tried to get a handle on the characters. I love the work Christopher Mitten, Dove McHargue and Kate Kasenow did on the previous books. I don't think my art style is too far a departure for fans of the series, although I tried to put my own spin on things.

Tell us a little about this new case that Amy is working on.

DeFilippis: A young woman hires Amy to find out if her father is really her father. We started from the recent headlines of kids who'd been abducted and spent decades in a new home before getting free, and from that we wondered, "What if someone wasn't sure if that was their story? What if their parent had been good to them, but something didn't add up?" Amy has to find out if her client is really who her client's father says she is, or if she was somehow taken. And once she starts looking, in typical Amy fashion, she kicks up other old crimes that have gone unsolved.

The book involves a quasi-religious organization called the Life Science Institute. Where did you come up with this crazy idea that is obviously in no way based upon anything that exists in real life?

Weir: Based on anything in real life? That's just crazy talk!

But in all sincerity, the Life Science Institute is not based on any one single group or organization out there. It is a purely fictional creation that borrows traits and ideas from many different sources. We wanted to create a self-help group that preyed on the rich and restless. It was fun actually to create such an organization, because we were making up the rules as we went along. We didn't have to worry if we were fairly portraying something already out there. This is a group that might actually do a lot of people in Hollywood a lot of good, but it might also be a bit of a cult. I don't want to say how much it is of one or the other, because that's part of what Amy looks into.

TJ, you're based in Upstate New York. Was there much research as far as getting Los Angeles right? 

Kirsch: Nunzio and Christina were very accommodating as far as providing any reference I might need, plus Google images and Google street view were also really helpful. The more specific the actual locations, the easier it is to get reference like that and apply it. This was my first time drawing palm trees in a comic, though.

So what's next for everyone?

Kirsch: Right now, I'm working on the sequel to "She Died In Terrebonne," called "Hard Drive To Hell" -- it's a new Sam Kimimura Mystery set in the early 1980's Silicon Valley. That should start coming out within the next few months as a digital-first miniseries. I'm also drawing a cool backup story for a new Image title.

Weir: At Oni, we're finishing up the last few issues of "Bad Medicine" as well as working on Volume 3 of "The Avalon Chronicles." We also started work on Volume 11 of our OEL "Amazing Agent Luna." This is the last volume of the series and it's proving more difficult to wrap things up and say goodbye than we anticipated. We've got a graphic novel we're working on with some Hollywood producers and we're working on a YA novel. So, in short, keeping busy!

Will there be a fourth Amy Devlin mystery?

DeFilippis: I hope so. That ball's in Oni's court. If they give us the go-ahead, we have the story already figured out. We love this character, and could tell stories with her for a very long time.

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