Wronged Woman Turned Vigilante Killing Machine – Interviewing JENNA LYN WRIGHT & KARL SLOMINSKI

LADY MAYHEM is currently funding on Kickstarter with the campaign ending the morning of February 2nd. Comic Book Yeti contributor Jimmy Gaspero welcomed Jenna Lyn Wright and Karl Slominski into the Yeti Cave to talk about their recent collaboration.

 

COMIC BOOK YETI: Jenna and Karl, thank you so much for joining me here in the Yeti Cave to chat about LADY MAYHEM, which is currently funding on Kickstarter. How have the two of you been doing?

KARL SLOMINSKI: Thanks for having us to the cave. I love what you’ve done with the place! The Wi-Fi here is surprisingly excellent despite all the stalagmite. I’m doing pretty great too - as long as I’ve got a pen and paper, life’s good.


JENNA LYN WRIGHT: Doing well! Thank you so much for having us.


CBY: Before we get into LADY MAYHEM, which is described as “...a no-holds-barred love letter to VHS revenge thrillers of the 80’s, big gun bravado of 90’s comics, and that hyperactive buzz you used to get while playing SNES and housing super-caffeinated sodas all night long as a kid,” what are your origin stories as comics creators? Were comics always a part of your life and when did you know you wanted to create your own comics?


JLW: I originally got into comics as a book scout for a movie studio. I was sent to NYCC to scour the place for IP, and continued keeping an eye out for material when I transitioned into a creative exec position for a movie producer. Though I’d been a writer for years, I hadn’t thought about tackling comics until I met Karl. The amount of catching up I’d need to do, along with trying to follow decades of continuity… it really intimidated me. Karl was the one to show me that comics weren’t just the Big 2, and I really gravitated toward more indie fare. Once I realized that it wasn’t just superheroes (though they’re great, too,) I immediately wanted to dive in with some stories of my own.


KS: ALWAYS. I got into the medium young. I used to staple scrap paper together and make my own comics before I ever even read a comic. But when I found a copy of Jack Kirby’s O.M.A.C. at a used bookstore I was hooked for life. Even then I bought my books based on the artist. That eventually led to me enrolling in THE KUBERT SCHOOL OF CARTOONING and studying under legends like founder Joe Kubert. The rest has been lost to the annals of history.

Artwork by Karl Slominski

CBY: Two very different entry points into the medium. That's cool. To take inspiration from a line in the Kickstarter campaign page, were there any comics you had to hide from your parents?


KS: The public perception of comics was a lot different when I was a kid (I’m clearly a fossil now.) The very first X-Men movie hadn’t even come out yet, so if you said “comics” to anyone older than you, they assumed you meant Peanuts- which worked to your advantage as a kid buying 90s Image Books, Tim Vigil’s Faust or saucy bandes dessinées. As long as they thought of the WHIF! BAM! POW! of '60s Batman, I wasn’t coming under any scrutiny. But that didn’t mean I was gonna be showing off my Frank Thorne collection to my mom, haha.


JLW: There weren’t! I was running around reading Stephen King and Michael Crichton at an inappropriate age, and didn’t dive into the comics scene until later. Though I wish I’d started reading them sooner. I’m also glad that once I did, nothing was off-limits.


"We have a deep respect for each other and what we can bring to the table in our collaborations, we admire each other’s strengths, and we shore up each other’s weaknesses. We never take things personally and always understand that we’re on the same team and want what’s best for the project. It’s been a total blast and I don’t see us slowing down any time soon."

CBY: What are some of the '80s revenge thrillers and big gun '90s comics that have influenced LADY MAYHEM? I feel like creators often have an obscure gem when they talk about their influences. What’s the revenge thriller, in any medium, that you think stands out above the others?

Artwork by Karl Slominski

JLW: For me, I’m coming from film, so I’m going TERMINATOR, ROBOCOP, and MAD MAX. And though it’s newer, there’s definitely some PEPPERMINT in here. A wronged woman who transforms herself into a vigilante killing machine. That’s really the vibe we’re going for here.


KS: When we first started coming up with LADY MAYHEM, I dug the long boxes out for Jenna and started pulling out the comics that made ME want to make comics to share with her for the first time. And look, we’ve all read enough interviews with comics creators puffing out their proverbial chests trying to earn the upper echelon of cool points with their lists of “important” works of “sequential fiction,” but I dig having FUN. So I was revisiting John Romita Jr’s run on Punisher: War Zone (die-cut skull covers, ftw!), Savage Dragon, WildC.A.T.s, Frank Miller & Geoff Darrow’s Hard Boiled, EVERYTHING Stephen Platt ever drew (if you know, you know,) Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed, and Boichi’s Sun Ken Rock and The Wall Man. Just a non-stop influx of LOUD, gonzo comics that are having a blast being a comic book.


CBY: I absolutely love the mix of film and comics influences here. I want to spend a weekend visiting and re-visiting some of these. It’s a fun concept and the artwork looks amazing from the preview pages I have seen. LADY MAYHEM is a 64-page one-shot in prestige format. Will the book be in color, and what led to the decision for the prestige format?


Artwork by Karl Slominski

JLW: We went with the prestige format for one reason and one reason only: to showcase Karl’s art. There’s a difference between drawing a pretty picture and propelling a story forward, and Karl does both. His killer linework and sequential storytelling take my script and make the whole book sing. It’s going to be in color, but for those that go with the digital deluxe option on the campaign, they’ll get raw art scans and a sketchbook!


KS: Epic Comics, Marvel’s “creator-owned” imprint from ‘82-’96. Aside from gifting comics readers gems like Elektra: Assassin, Marshall Law, the often-overlooked Starstruck, and the first stateside printings of both Akira AND Moebius’ library, they REALLY pushed the oversized one-shot into the direct market in a way that had yet to be seen. I love a good one-and-done adventure that doesn’t rely on serialized storytelling - it’s like listening to an incredible album from front to back.


"Jenna and I have a shared brain-space for what makes fun, escapist stories with a little raw emotion and it comes from a learned shorthand based on our influences. Sometimes in a script she’ll just write “Raising Arizona” and I’ll totally get what she’s looking to convey on the page. We’re very lucky to have found each other, not only because we dig each others’ work, but because we dig each other - any time you read a book that says “Wright/Slominski” on the cover, you’re getting a book that’s 100% born from two people’s shared love for storytelling and sharing that kinetic energy with the reader."

CBY: I'm a big proponent of one-shot story-telling, what some creators and publishers refer to as a graphic novella, so I'm on board. I’m always curious with how character design and the overall aesthetic for a comic is developed. How did things come together for LADY MAYHEM?


JLW: The initial idea came from a mistake I made. I was listening to an interview and misheard someone’s name as Maggie Mayhem (it was really Mayhan). I came home and told Karl I had to put it in a horror script I was writing. And he sparked to it and said “No, you’ve gotta call her Lady Mayhem and it’s totally a revenge thriller.” He was right! And from there, the ideas came fast and furious. He’d been wanting to tell an over-the-top violent story, and I’d wanted to make my version of a Lady PUNISHER. It all dovetailed nicely.


Artwork by Karl Slominski

KS: We definitely had a lot of conversations about the “Lady PUNISHER” angle and when I showed Jenna the issues where Lynn Michaels took up the moniker, we both agreed it was a concept that could’ve been explored more. The overall “look” from the book came from our shared influences and a general feeling of “why not?” There are a lot of cyberpunk, dystopian elements in the visuals because it’s a visual medium and it’s FUN to draw bigger worlds - why draw a police car when you can draw a FLYING police car? Lady Mayhem’s overall look came from looking at a lot of '90s comics costuming and re-appropriating them in a modern context - so sure, there’s shoulder pads and pouches, but they have a purpose!


CBY: This is the 2nd time that I’m aware of that you two have collaborated on comics, with Cult of Ikarus from Scout Comics being the first. How did the two of you start working together and what do you think makes your collaboration successful?


JLW: We “met” on Twitter. I’d been looking to follow some directors that were making horror anthology films and stumbled across the concept work Karl had done for what became the feature film THE MORTUARY COLLECTION (now on Shudder!) I followed him, he followed back, and we chatted on-and-off for a year or so. I’d already decided I wanted to work with him on something - anything - given how much I loved his art, and then one day Facebook suggested to him that he friend me because we lived in the same city and had no idea. We met for drinks, plotted collaborations, and after a few months we decided we should just go ahead and get engaged. So we did! We have a deep respect for each other and what we can bring to the table in our collaborations, we admire each other’s strengths, and we shore up each other’s weaknesses. We never take things personally and always understand that we’re on the same team and want what’s best for the project. It’s been a total blast and I don’t see us slowing down any time soon.


Artwork by Karl Slominski

KS: Can’t stop, won’t stop! Jenna and I have a shared brain-space for what makes fun, escapist stories with a little raw emotion and it comes from a learned shorthand based on our influences. Sometimes in a script she’ll just write “Raising Arizona” and I’ll totally get what she’s looking to convey on the page. We’re very lucky to have found each other, not only because we dig each others’ work, but because we dig each other - any time you read a book that says “Wright/Slominski” on the cover, you’re getting a book that’s 100% born from two people’s shared love for storytelling and sharing that kinetic energy with the reader.


CBY: Your answers are the best I have ever gotten to that question and, quite possibly, may be the best ones that I ever get when I ask collaborators that question. Are there any comic creators working today whose work has inspired or influenced you?


JLW: I’m a huge fan of Grant Morrison (I fell in love reading his run on NEW X-MEN), Mark Millar (Huck and Space Bandits are all-timers), Joshua Williamson (especially his creator-owned stuff like Death Bed), and Scott Snyder (Wake was one of the first comics I read and I was enthralled, as well as madly in love with Sean Gordon Murphy’s art.)


KS: Of the few modern comics I read, it’s always, always, ALWAYS because of the quality of the sequential storytelling. There’s a lot of artists out there making pretty pictures- but the ones that can VISUALLY tell a story, those are the ones that have me as a fan for life. Lately, I’ll pick up anything by artists like Jesse Lonegran, Jorge Corona, Filipe Andrade, Daniel Warren Johnson, James Harren, or Matteo Scalera. These are the cats that push the medium, for me. They’re doing the stuff that elevates comic book storytelling visually in ways kids will be chasing for years to come.


CBY: If you were the curator for a comics museum, which 3 books do you want to make absolutely sure are included?


JLW: Assuming WATCHMEN and DARK KNIGHT RETURNS are already in there? Ann Nocenti’s entire run on DAREDEVIL has got to be there. As with most creative endeavors, there aren’t many women in the game at the highest levels, and seeing her handle one of the most interesting characters in comics with such skill and standing tall with the big boys made my little writer heart explode with joy.


KS: If it’s MY comics museum? Oh man, that’s a whole other set of rules. MY Comics Museum has a golden statue of Jack Kirby in the entrance lobby, and entire bodies of work from Bill Sienkiewicz, Moebius, David Mazzucchelli, the Studio in Chelsea founders (Google it, kids), the OG Image Founders, and no mention of Stan Lee anywhere onsite.


CBY: LOVE those answers! Any other projects CBY readers should check out?


Cult of Ikarus, Scout Comics, issue #1, cover, Wright/Slominski/Esposito

JLW: Comics-wise, Cult of Ikarus #1 should be in shops February 9th, and I have two books on deck for Zenescope: Black Knight, in stores February 9th, and Jack & Jill, in stores February 23rd. If readers want to check out my film stuff, AMBITION is a psychological thriller I co-wrote, which is available on Blu-Ray and all VOD platforms.


KS: Aside from Ikarus & Mayhem, I’ve got the graphic novel The Last Watchtower coming out sometime next year and a wide-release of my crowdfunded all-ages graphic novel, Evermore Falls. Outside of that there’s a LOT more SloWorks coming your way in 2022.


CBY: Where can you be found online?


JLW: I’m @jennalynwright on Twitter & Instagram, and I chat about film & comics & give updates on projects at jennalynwright.substack.com


KS: I’m @karlslominski across the social media spectrum, but I’m not very active on any particular platform. Much like the mighty yeti, a Karl sighting is the stuff of legend.


CBY: Thank you so much, Jenna and Karl!


JLW & KS: Thank you for the truly thought-provoking questions. One of the best interviews we’ve had the pleasure of doing!




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