Comic Watch’s own Nicholas Osborn recently had the opportunity to catch up with Helen Mullane, author of the Humanoids original graphic novel Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen. This incredible horror story is described as an “atmospheric tale of obsession, suspense and magic” and it truly delivers. To find out more about how the project came together, what influences inspired the work and more, check out our full interview below.
Comic Watch: To start, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us here at Comic Watch about your thrilling new book, Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen. It’s a wonderfully haunting tale that I am personally incredibly excited about. So, can you take us through the origins of how this story came together?
Helen Mullane: Thank you so much, I glad you enjoyed it! This project grew out of an idea I had been mulling over for some time, for a pastoral folk horror tv show starring a teenage girl. It really started to take shape after a fateful night at the pub with Dom. We were chatting about our favourite folk horror and he said that if I ever wanted to write that story as a comic he would be up for drawing it. Of course the chance to work with such a talent is not something to take lightly so from then I started working in earnest to flesh out this moody idea I had into a real story, and I sent him my first draft of the scripts about a year later. Thankfully he really liked what I’d come up with and the rest is history!
CW: At its core, this really is a coming of age story for “Nissy” Oswald, a 15-year-old girl who, let’s just say has a lot on her plate. What can you tell us about her experience and how relatable it can be for modern teenage girls?
HM: I think that Nissy is quite an unusual protagonist, because especially from an adult perspective she is not particularly likeable. She is sullen and willfully difficult with her mother. She’s more interested in her friends back home than anything going on around her. But to me, she is much more relatable than the teens I see in a lot of media. She is much more in line with my experience of being a teen, which was characterised by pushing away from my family, causing trouble with my mates, getting wasted, hanging out. The Nancy Drew type teen has never felt real to me.
CW: From the True Thomas ballad to the Wild Hunt homage, Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen utilizes horror to explore folklore, particularly Scottish folklore, in a remarkably compelling way. Is this approach something you’d like to continue to use in your writing in the future?
HM: Melding reality and fantasy is certainly something I’m very interested in. It’s something I love in the things that I read – for example Alan Garner’s The Owl Service was a big inspiration for this book and there the real myths that are used makes it feel like the fantasy is tantalisingly close to being real.
I don’t want to repeat the same formulas on and on but many of the things I’d like to write take a grain of inspiration from the real world and then extrapolate them out to a wild fever pitch.
CW: As a bit of a follow-up, can you give some insight into the research that went into this project to capture such a vivid portrayal of folklore for our times today?
HM: Oh wow the research I put into this book was something else! Totally over the top if I’m honest, to the point of procrastination before I managed to give myself a kick up the arse to start actually scripting.
The research was important to various layers of the story. I wanted to ground it in a real sense of place, so I put a lot of research into finding a place in which I could ground a story, somewhere that had its own existing myths and legends, and somewhere with interesting geography that could be a home for the action. From there I delved deeper into the history and tried to bring something real into every layer – so for example the manner of the murders through the book is based on real Druidic sacrifice, and all the key animals have their own significance. If you look at the animal images within the homes in the book they also tell you something about who lives there from a folkloric perspective.
CW: What was the process like working with such talented artists like Dom Reardon, Matthew Dow Smith, Lee Loughridge and Rob Jones to bring life to the world where this dark mystery unfolds?
HM: Working with this team was truly amazing. It is a relatively quiet story with little in the way of explicit exposition and that could never have worked without the truly uncanny talents of Dom and Matthew. They brought such a richness to the art, and the emotional story they were able to tell was beautiful to behold. Lee’s colours struck the perfect tone and did so much to heighten the atmosphere. And then Rob, despite not having traditional narration did have a host of different voices and moods to express, and did it brilliantly.
CW: What are some of your most influential comics inspirations that helped lead to Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen?
HM: Some of the comics that influenced this book are the Saga of the Swamp Thing and Hellboy particularly in the art. Then for me a lot of the inspiration came from outside comics, with films like The Wicker Man, I Start Counting and Penda’s Fen, tv shows like Children of the Stones, and The Owl Service that I mentioned earlier.
CW: Without spoiling too much, is there anything in particular you are most excited for readers to discover in Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen?
HM: There’s a lot I’m excited for people to discover in this book. We tried to weave together folklore and the terrible, beautiful power of nature into a story that is hopefully also modern at its core. I know that from my own reading when I find out that elements in fantasy are real it really inspires me and makes me want to read more about those things. Perhaps we will awaken a new love in some readers of the amazing stories of Britain’s borderlands through Nissy’s adventures! That would be incredibly satisfying.
There you have it! Be sure to get your copy of Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen today and dive into this remarkable series. It’s available now at the Humanoids website HERE!
As always, stay tuned to Comic Watch for all your comics news and reviews!
The Terrible, Beautiful Power of Nature: An Interview with Helen Mullane of Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen
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