Ty Whitton, a contributor for The Comic Book Yeti, was able to interview Olivia Cuartero-Briggs and Roberta Ingranata, the genius creative team behind the riveting comic book Jill and the Killers #1. Conversation in this interview revolves around how the project came to be, what level of collaboration was needed for Jill and the Killers, as well as what details really stood out to the team within the creative process. Jill and the Killers #1 released on 01/31/2024, so be sure to go find the title at your local comic book store and pre-order future issues!
COMIC BOOK YETI: Greetings Olivia Cuartro-Briggs and Roberta Ingranata! It’s so great to have you in the Yeti Cave for an interview. Before we dive into the interview regarding Jill and the Killers #1, how has the past year been for you?
OLIVIA CUARTERO-BRIGGS: Very… different. The writers’ strike had a big impact on my life, and my finances, of course. But, on the upside, I had a lot of time to focus solely on comics - the ones I was writing, and developing ideas for new books, so in that respect it was great. I am, however, very happy that I get to go back to spinning plates in all mediums of the dramatic writing world.
ROBERTA INGRANATA: Last year was really complicated for me. I had my first child, so all my day-to-day balances changed. Breastfeeding alone at home, and having to work, wasn't easy. But this project arrived at the right time, it accompanied me on a difficult path. I became so passionate about the story that it made all my days!
CBY: When it came to the creation of Jill and the Killers #1, can you share what inspired you to create such a story?
OCB: There are three main sources of inspiration that I can point to for why I was drawn to Jill and the Killers. One is my fascination with horror and true crime, which I’ve had since I was a kid. The second was an obsession with subscription boxes that I developed during the pandemic, and what turned me on to subscription-based games like Hunt a Killer. And lastly, the iconic coming-of-age thrillers of my youth, like It, Stand by Me, Monster Squad, and Goonies. I loved the crap out of those stories, but they always centered around groups of boys. I wanted to take that genre I loved so much, and subvert it, by throwing in a cast of kickass teen girls. So, that’s what I did!
RI: When I read the Jill and the Killers pitch it was easy to immerse myself in the atmosphere, Olivia's words inspired me immediately. This is the kind of story I love reading and drawing, so it was really easy for me!
CBY: The art and writing had such a smooth flow throughout the first issue! With that, would you be able to describe the dynamic between the two of you during the creative process?
OCB: I feel like Roberta is an Italian version of me who can draw. I’m joking - a little - but I feel a very close kinship with Roberta, and I have throughout this entire process. We are around the same age, we are both mothers, and we are both creatives that are very passionate about what we do and the stories we tell. In the past, my editors have often served as a go-between when it comes to communications with myself and the artist working on my books. With Oni, this isn’t the case, and as such, Roberta and I have become a team built on mutual respect and admiration, and I am just so lucky to know her. She has made this book better every step of the way, and I owe her a debt of gratitude.
RI: I immediately felt a great affinity with Olivia, I liked her as a writer but above all as a person and as a woman. Having the fortune of being able to have direct contact with the person who writes the comic is a great fortune for the designers, because there is a very important flow of ideas and thoughts that helps the creation of the project. Olivia was a formidable partner and I hope with all my heart to repeat this experience.
CBY: When it comes to the characters, is there anything unique you can tell us about the main set of characters? Also, how did you approach those characters regarding developing their personalities, backgrounds, and motivations?
OCB: All the characters are unique! But I can tell you my favorite thing about each one. With Jill, I love how much of a hopeless romantic she is. She’s driven by emotion, which is her greatest strength and weakness, but at the end of the day, she’s always going to do the right thing, no matter how much it hurts. Ginger is the brains of the group, which is her super power, but also has a long way to go in terms of truly loving herself, which I think makes her really relatable. Cher is the heart, and the one who will keep the group together when forces threaten to tear them apart, and Clyde is our witchy, cool girl, who has more skeletons in her closet than I can count. In terms of the approach, I crafted Jill and her emotional arc first, because ultimately, she’s the protagonist of the story. Each of the other girls, then, had to have characteristics and personalities that would challenge Jill in the ways she needs to be challenged to get to where she’s going. And then, lastly, I wanted all the girls to have very distinct points of view, which is reflected in the way they talk, so you don’t even have to look at the tail of the speech bubble to know who’s talking. You can feel them.
RI: Olivia's descriptions were very helpful, they made me immediately understand who the characters were. But, as in all stories, I was only able to best interpret them by drawing them panel after panel.
CBY: When it comes to the art of Jill and the Killers #1, were there specific references that helped bring the book together visually? Was the development process easy, or did you come across any sticking points in realizing the overall vision?
OCB: Roberta understood the characters intrinsically from their descriptions in the pitch document, and the first issue. I think I sent over a few references for clothing, but other than that, Roberta just nailed them off the bat. The only other visual reference is the world this takes place in. Seligman, Arizona is a very, very specific town with a very specific look, and very specific weather and feel. All of that had to be considered with the art, and I think Roberta handled it beautifully.
RI: Olivia provided everything in detail, with a document introducing the characters and setting. I found some difficulty in drawing the city, especially because being Italian and not having the slightest idea of the traditions of a city like Seligman, but thanks to Olivia and a series of links to real estate sites selling houses I was able to understand it better!
CBY: With this issue being the first of many, what messages and/or themes can readers expect to be explored further?
OCB: A big theme in Jill and the Killers is grief. Understanding it, processing it, running from it, all of it. Jill wants to move on from hers as soon as possible, but the world just isn’t letting that happen, and readers can definitely expect that to blow up in her face in coming issues. There are also themes of friendship, but perhaps more, there’s the theme of female camaraderie. A chick doesn’t have to be your best friend for you to understand and stick your neck out for her. Girls can look out for one another, regardless of the circumstances. We have an incredible capacity for love and forgiveness, and those themes get showcased here, as well.
RI: Jill and the Killers has many messages. There is love, friendship, the sense of profound loss of someone you love and a strong sense of helplessness. But I think Jill teaches you to look your fear in the face and face it head on when there's someone you love in the middle of it.
CBY: Would you be able to describe any challenges, obstacles, or barriers that you faced during the creation of Jill and the Killers #1, either creatively or in the production/publication process? If so, how did you overcome them?
OCB: Oh wow… this feels like a job interview! I mean, there are always challenges with any piece of artwork you put out there into the world. Especially one that is so collaborative. On the whole, however, Jill and the Killers came together pretty seamlessly. The biggest obstacle at times was just time itself. Some books come together quickly. Jill and the Killers took four years, and sometimes I worried it wouldn’t happen at all. But I’ve learned to be patient, and trust the process and the people I work with, and now here she is!
RI: There were no major difficulties in creating these comics. The times we found some small snags, we overcame them with great collaboration.
CBY: With how much detail has been added to this first issue, would you be able to explain how much world-building it took to form the project at the start?
OCB: The world building was actually pretty simple. This is present-day, Arizona, with a bunch of recognizable and modern teens. What was difficult was crafting the mystery itself and how the girls were going to solve it. Thankfully, however, I had worked as a writer's assistant on Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, and knew I had to work back to front. I had to decide who the killer was, why they did it, how they did it, and then work backwards from there in terms of how the girls would solve the case. That was the most daunting part for me, because I’d never crafted a mystery on my own before, but I ended up loving the process.
RI: Olivia was very specific in the details she added, leaving the "breadcrumbs" along the way. I'm curious to know if readers will catch them all!
CBY: Which elements of this first issue that you believe will resonate strongly with readers? What will keep them engaged for future issues?
OCB: I am hoping that Jill herself will resonate with readers. That they’ll connect with her quirkiness, her passion, her isolation, and her determination, and laugh at her dumb jokes. I hope they’ll root for her to solve this case, find out what happened to her mom, connect with her dad, and win Ginger back. I mean, I love Clyde, don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to the love story, I’ll always be team Jill.
RI: There are a couple of elements that will surely keep readers on the edge of their seats, because I myself couldn't wait to read the next issue to find out how some situations would end! But I can't say more. No-Spoilers!
CBY: Were there any specific panels or pages of this issue that were especially enjoyable to create? Any detailed imagery you knew would have to be a part of the story from the start, or anything that surprised you along the way?
OCB: This is really a Roberta question, but my favorite panels ended up being the singles on Jill, usually at the end of scenes, where she has some silly quip, or an emotional reaction to something. Those are the moments where I feel like we really get to know Jill, and Roberta handled them so beautifully.
RI: The pages that struck me the most were certainly those between Jill and her father, very intense, but also between Jill and Ginger. Where the emotions were strongest, I entered with all of myself, and I hope that the reader can "feel" them as I felt them and as I believe Olivia wanted to describe them.
CBY: Before we end the interview, I just have a couple more questions. Are you able to share what readers can look forward to in future issues, without any spoilers of course?
OCB: Oh boy… with a mystery it’s so hard to avoid spoilers! But I can tell you that this case has some really fun and bizarre twists and turns. I can tell you that we learn more about Jill and her mom, Juliet, and that there’s a big old mystery surrounding Clyde that readers can look forward to finding out more about. I can also tease that there’s a super fun cliffhanger at the end of this series, that I’m hoping spurs a whole other Jill and the Killers arc. I just love this crew, and I want to tell their stories for a long time.
RI: Oh god, it's hard not to give away spoilers. I'm really bad at these things, I don't want to make a mess! I am sorry!
CBY: Although you’re going to be working on this story for some time, can you disclose any other projects you are/will be working on?
OCB: Sure! This summer, my book Fate: Winx, Dark Destiny - the continuation of the Fate: Winx saga, will be released from Maverick. I also have a couple horror books in the works with Humanoids and Mad Cave, and a romantic comedy with Maverick that I’m super excited about. I have lots to come in the next few years, and I don’t plan on slowing down after that!
RI: At this moment I have moved away from the big publishing houses and towards the independent market, because I need to take a deep breath after the last intense years. Combining childbirth with work without maternity has been tough, so I'll be taking this year to work on more introspective, softer-deadline projects. For the future, who knows!
CBY: Where can readers find you on social media?
CBY: Thank you for your time. We at the Comic Book Yeti wish you the best on your future endeavors, and look forward to seeing what you both come up with next!