The following is an interview with Jessica Maison and Anna Wieszczyk regarding the launch of their Kickstarter campaign for the YA/Middle Grade horror mystery comic book, Mary Shelley’s School for Monsters: Origins. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Maison and Wieszczyk about their shared creative approach to bringing the story to life, what they hope that readers will take away from the story, more plans for the comic’s world and characters, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the success of your Kickstarter campaign! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the story’s premise, and what was its inspiration?
Jessica Maison: A young Mary Shelley encounters an occult scientist and a living book of spells who split her into two versions of herself—one the literary giant who goes on to write Frankenstein, and the other a supernatural girl, Shel, who spends her immortality fighting evil humans who exploit monsters.
Mary Shelley’s life and her novel, Frankenstein, inspired this story. I’ve always loved the outsider story, the monster story, specifically the Frankenstein story and its many retellings. Mary Shelley herself was the ultimate outsider. During a time where women were expected to be one thing, she insisted on being exactly who she was even if others thought it was monstrous. In doing so, she wrote Frankenstein and started the science fiction genre. I’ve also always loved shows like Buffy, Supernatural, Sabrina, and Scooby-Doo, so that type of storytelling also influenced the writing of this comic.
My heart always breaks for the tragic monsters in mythology, folktales, books, T.V., and movies. Mary Shelley’s School for Monsters allows me to unbreak that heart by giving these well-known monsters a chance to be the heroes of their own stories, not by changing but by being exactly the monsters they were before the world demonized them.
BD: How would you describe your shared creative process in bringing this story to life?
JM: From the moment I reached out to Anna, and we started doing character designs, she completely understood the world I wanted to bring to life. When she sent me her first character sketches, I knew we were going to make a special book together. Since an ocean separates us, our creative conversations are all through the script, email, and shared images and influences. You have to be very clear and precise when you communicate that way which can be helpful to the process—It leaves little room for miscommunication. The work Anna is producing for this comic is so magical. For me the experience working with an artist as talented as Anna inspires me to write more plotlines and characters for this world just so I can keep doing these books with her.
Anna Wieszczyk: Working on Jessica’s script was a great pleasure. I had a lot of fun exploring the characters she created. The story was very immersive, and I enjoyed the whole process of bringing it to life.
BD: While readers are able to enjoy this comic book as a standalone story, it will also serve as a prelude to the larger hardcover graphic novel, Mary Shelley’s School for Monsters: La Llorona in the Machine, which will be released in 2023. What are you able to share about this larger project, and is it currently available for pre-order, as well?
JM: La Llorona in the Machine is where readers meet the complete monster-rescuing team and see Mary Shelley’s School for Monsters in modern times. The complete squad is Shel, Frank, Necro, Medusa, and their forest’s Will’o the Wisp, Will. In this first book, the infamous bogeywoman from Mexican American folklore, La Llorona has been kidnapped by a villainous video game programmer, Edith Sharp. Sharp trapped La Llorona in a video game, and now, children who play it are going missing. The team must figure out a way to rescue La Llorona (and the kids) before townspeople enter the forest to avenge their children by hurting other monsters. When attempting to free La Llorona, they discover a dangerous secret from Shel and Frank’s past that could destroy them and the school, maybe the world.
We are just finishing the lettering step of the graphic novel. Joel Rodriguez will start designing the book in November. We are getting close to going to print. I will be publishing a hardcover edition of the graphic novel through Wicked Tree Press in July 2023. My plan is to make it available to review and for pre-orders in March 2023.
BD: In light of the Kickstarter campaign for Origins, are there any specific backer rewards that you would like to highlight for our readers?
JM: I really love the Monster School Gift reward. It’s a way for a backer to send a gift bundle to their favorite magic or monster fan. It includes the signed comic, the school crest pin, the Necro Vinyl Sticker, an admission letter to the School of Monsters, Special Thanks in the comic, and a mystery item all packaged in spooky wrapping with a personal note from Shel. It will also include all the stretch goal items. The enamel pin is also something special, so I love the comic plus the pin reward, as well. Mark Mactal, the artist I work with on Pistil, designed it, and it came out pretty cool.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
JM: Currently, I am finishing the third and final book in my YA sci-fi novel series, Plastic Girl. It will coming out in May. The other books in that series are available either on my website or on any other online marketplace. I am also working on finishing the Pistil series with Mark Mactal and writing the next Mary Shelley book, so Anna and I can continue this adventure.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Mary Shelley’s School for Monsters: Origins and its Kickstarter campaign?
JM: The best way to learn more about Mary Shelley’s School for Monsters: Origins is to go to Kickstarter and check out the video and the project details. Our campaign runs until November 18th. Fans can also go to our website – www.wickedtreepress.com – or find us on Facebook (@wickedtreepress) or Instagram (@Wicked_Tree_Press). I’m also on twitter (@jessistarjudd). We’re having a lot of fun on the platform. We received the Kickstarter Project We Love badge, and the comics community is giving the project a warm welcome.
AW: I hope people will enjoy the universe of Mary Shelley’s School for Monsters as much as I did and will join us for the journey.