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Fanbase Press Interviews the Talented Writers and Artists Behind AHOY Comics’ Upcoming Anthology, ‘Project: Cryptid’

The following is an interview with creators Alisa Kwitney, Jazzlyn Stone, Liana Kangas, Melissa F. Olson, and Hanna Bahedry regarding the upcoming release of AHOY Comics’ hilariously unbelievable anthology, Project: Cryptid. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with the creators about their approach to bringing their out-of-this-world characters to life on the page, the possibility of returning for more cryptid adventures, and more!

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Alisa, your work has spanned multiple genres, but always carries with it strong emotional connections among your characters, and a lot of humor. When provided with the opportunity to focus on cryptids as characters, did you immediately know the story that you wanted to tell?

Alisa Kwitney: When Sarah Litt approached me about Ahoy’s new anthology, she said something like, “You know, Cryptids. Chupacabras, Yetis.” And I instantly had one idea for each, because my two great childhood loves were horror comics and nature programs. The Chupacabra story, which I wrote first, was inspired in part by my daughter’s friend, who was attacked by a pack of starving dogs while walking to work out on the mesa on the outskirts of Taos, New Mexico. Going out to Taos to visit my daughter, I was struck by how the landscape feels uncanny. Out on the mesa, you know you are in a place where wild things roam, and you can stumble across an ancient petroglyph on a rock. It feels desolate and beautiful and dangerous, and very magical. In real life, the young woman was rescued by her boss, but in my telling, Chupahuahua becomes more of a supernatural Golden Girls story, which is to say, at its core, it’s a story about strong emotional connections between characters, with a lot of humor. It also includes, as you may surmise, a chihuahua. (The second tale, about the Yeti, features another of the women you meet in the Chupacabra story.)

BD: How would you describe your shared creative process working with artist Mauricet to bring this story to life on the page?

AK: First of all, Mauricet and I get each other. When I told him about my idea for the first Cryptid story, he understood what made me want to tell the story — the appeal of women of a certain age traveling into ancient and uncanny places. He came up with the title. We spend a lot of time talking with each other, exploring themes, talking about character moments, and just referencing comics and TV shows and movies we love. Sometimes, we talk through a page or panel as he’s drawing it, or after he’s drawn it, so there’s a give and take about the pacing. We’re both very focused on getting the balance of horror and humor and emotion right, and over time, I think we’ve really learned to trust each other more and more. Recently, on a different project, I wrote two page sixes, and we talked it through and fixed it in under ten minutes. Now that, my friends, is true magic.


BD: Liana, did you have a specific visual style in mind when given the opportunity to delve into the larger-than-life world of cryptids?

Liana Kangas: When Jazzlyn Stone and I met about what cryptids we wanted to pitch, we didn’t have an artist in mind prior, so a lot of what ideas we were pulling from I think I was excited about if I drew and she wrote or OR if we got to co-write which has been our dream. We’re naturally drawn to what we know and relate with– both her and I have lived on sea coasts, so I think sirens as a choice was an automatic hit for either of us to pull from personal experience. We love to integrate a lot of punk and non-conformist ideals into our work together, so we had a lot of fun ideas we were toying around alongside other pitches using cryptids like the Jersey Devil and… leprechauns? Haha!

Jazzlyn Stone: Other than wanting to tell the story through a song, I don’t think we had a specific style in mind. We have a mega list of artists we’d love to work with at some point; Ted & Ro have been on there since day 1. They knocked it out of the park.

BD: With Volume 1 of the anthology behind you, are there other cryptid-inspired stories that have come to mind that you would be interested in exploring?

LK: As mentioned above, I think we’re reft with ideas on how to pull and modernize current day cryptids. We’re both excited to see everyone’s excitement over Ted and Ro’s work, and the entire volume in general!

JS: I grew up in the mountains, and Liana on the space coast, so we had a good time sharing the various cryptid legends from our home towns. We both want to jump back into this space to explore these creatures a bit more. Can Mothman swim? Does SlenderMan dream of SlenderSheep? There are questions we’d like to investigate, preferably through a visual format.

BD: Melissa, you are no stranger to writing for things that go “bump” in the night, having previously published the vampire procedural series, Nightshades. What enticed you to tackle the world of cryptids, and what are you most excited for readers to experience with your upcoming story?

Melissa F. Olson: It’s true; writing things with scary teeth is my wheelhouse—in addition to the Nightshades books, I’ve written [counts on fingers] 16 books in the Old World urban fantasy series. But I’d been wanting to work in the comics space for a very long time. A few of my writing friends had told me how AHOY is doing really interesting things in the field, so when I learned they were putting together a cryptid anthology, it seemed like kismet: a way to dip a toe into comics while telling a story still in my wheelhouse…but outside my comfort zone!

BD: Has this anthology inspired any plans for future cryptid-related adventures in your work?

MFO: Funny you mention that! I had such a great experience working with Sarah Litt and the AHOY team that I’m writing a new series for them, which will likely debut at the end of 2024. The book is about what happens to immortal creatures and gods when the civilization that worships them is completely wiped out. I put a whole bunch of them on a legendary island, which is sort of like a game preserve for really, really weird folk tale creatures. A couple of them might qualify as cryptids, although I’d probably categorize them as “cryptid-adjacent.”

PROJECT CRYPTID 02 CoverB nologo

BD: Hanna, given that this anthology will be your comic book writing debut, what enticed you to delve into the otherworldly realm of cryptids to bring your story to life?

Hanna Bahedry: I’d already written a couple prose backmatter stories for AHOY, so when editor Sarah Litt approached me about contributing to the anthology, she said I could either write a prose story or a comic story. I’ve been writing prose forever but had never tried my hand at a comic, so it felt like the perfect opportunity to stretch myself a little and try something new in an environment where I knew I’d be supported. Plus, the best thing about writing a cryptid-based story is that nobody can fact-check you, so technically it is impossible for me to have done the assignment wrong. Well done, me!

BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in bringing the story and characters to life, and were there any creators or media that served as inspiration for your work?

HB: I did a deeply unnecessary amount of research beforehand, which was a very fun part of the process for me. I knew that bigger-name writers were probably going to have their own hot takes on all the major cryptids, so I knew I wanted to try something a little out-of-the-box to secure my spot on the lineup. I spent weeks going down internet rabbit holes and reading delightfully strange books, collecting an unwieldy Google Doc full of ridiculous cryptids and the people who love them—I found myself particularly obsessed with Bernard Heuvelmans whose delightful book, “L’Homme de Néanderthal est toujours vivant,” has a cover so unforgettable I am determined somehow to work an homage to it into Project: Cryptid’s next season. There was so much great fodder for all the big-name cryptids, but I also kept gathering stories about smaller-time folks like the Snallygaster, the Bermuda Blob… Eventually, my naturally indecisive nature came to a head and I realized I could not choose just one from among my cryptid children to spotlight, so I decided the comic would be about all of the cryptids, gathering at their monthly meeting where they discuss important cryptid issues together. Might this be the first time the Devouring Gourd has been immortalized in a comic book? Well, I surely hope it’s not the last.

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief




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