We recently sat down with Riley Biehl, the talented writer and creator of Miranda in the Maelstrom to talk about working with different artists on the same comic, a love of pets, and what's in store for the future of Miranda in the Maelstrom.
Megan Marsden: Hi Riley. It’s a pleasure to get a chance to talk to you for Comic Book Yeti. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Would you mind introducing yourself and giving a quick bio for our readers who are new to you and your work?
Riley Biehl: Howdy! I’m a Seattle-based comic writer and copywriter originally born in Denver, Colorado. Miranda in the Maelstrom is my first published work, aside from a short play many years ago. I’ve been a huge comic fan my whole life, so Miranda is very much a labor of love and tribute to the stories and characters I grew up with.
MM: I really enjoyed reading Miranda in the Maelstrom. Can you tell us a bit more about the story’s plot?
RB: Thank you! The story follows Miranda Sherbet and her shark-dog Noodles as they explore the multiverse via an interdimensional storm called The Maelstrom. Having lost her world and family to the storm, Miranda searches for a sense of belonging but finds that difficult to find amidst the chaos of the maelstrom.
MM: What age group and audience would you say Miranda in the Maelstrom is best suited for?
RB: It’s an all-ages story targeted at younger readers that are just getting into comics through movies and cartoons, but also adults that never forgot their inner child. If you love superhero comics and classic cartoons but want to see new and different characters in those stories, then Miranda in the Maelstrom should be well-suited for you.
MM: What was your inspiration to write this story?
RB: I’ve always loved any comic story that deals with the multiverse or interdimensional travel. When I first started drafting up story ideas, I was looking to adopt a dog and it was all I could think about. Those two things really formed the story during the early stages.
MM: I found it very creative to change artists on each issue to represent the different universes. How did you come to find each artist? Was it a personal choice of people you wanted to work with, or were there artists suggested to you? Also, were you worried that readers could be put off with the changing of artists?
RB: A lot went into the artist search. I started curating my Twitter with artists I wanted to work with and got into some webcomics as well. Once the scripts were done, I started cold emailing artists I thought would fit the book. Some signed on from my emails and others were recommended. Our issue #1 artist Koi Carreon recommended our colorist Borg Sinaban. Issue #4 artist Drew Moss suggested Jamie Jones for issue #3.
I was very worried readers would be put off by the changing artists. I got some feedback from publishers that it was a concern for them as well. I know a lot of readers want a consistent creative team on a comic but since it's part of the premise, I have faith that readers will understand and enjoy all the different art styles.
MM: With the artists changing each issue, is it refreshing to know you’ll always have Taylor Esposito lettering each issue?
RB: Yes! Big time! Taylor’s not only an extremely talented letterer, he’s a great collaborator with excellent foresight and knowledge. When we first started, we had a discussion about potentially changing the lettering style from issue to issue but decided on consistency. I really appreciated that discussion and all his ideas. Whenever I had something special in mind for the lettering, Taylor picked up on it right away and did so much more than I could have imagined. He also designed the series logo which is amazing and, in my opinion, very iconic. We also have Dezi Sienty as our designer for the book’s chapter credits and "previously" pages, which do a wonderful job refreshing the reader on the story and changing art styles.
MM: I love that the story has Miranda trying to find a place to fit in, but she is obviously very self-reliant. Did you know you were going to be writing such an independent young woman from the get-go, or did her chutzpah gradually happen as the writing for each issue went on?
RB: I wouldn’t say I set out to write a really independent character but I liked the idea of a character that was going to change a lot over the course of the story. All the situations that Miranda found herself in helped form the character she becomes so I’d say it happened gradually. But no matter how much she learns and adapts, her skills don’t keep her from feeling lonely. She’s always going to be eager and a little naïve when it comes to making friends.
MM: Miranda would risk her life to protect her pet Noodles; have you ever had a pet you’d do anything for?
RB: Oh yes! I’ve been blessed with a few pets in my lifetime, including my beloved beagle-terrier Sif.
Part of the inspiration for this story was born from the absence of a pet in my life. Before I adopted Sif, I would walk past parks and long to have a dog. So when I first started drafting up some short comic book concepts, they almost all revolved around the relationship between pets and people. My original story sentence for Miranda was: “A young girl searches for her lost dog in the middle of a supernatural storm.” I also bonded with a few of my collaborators over our shared love of dogs which shows in the artwork. Look at the forehead wrinkles on Noodles and the way Miranda holds him in her arms. That’s love!
MM: Will we ever find out more about Miranda’s background, or are we only looking into her current life for the rest of the series? I’d love to learn more about where she came from, myself.
RB: I’ve got lots of future Miranda stories plotted and outlined, some of which delve into her homeworld and parents. Her parents may still be alive somewhere. She thinks she’s the last of her kind but there might be other survivors from her dimension. Our first story arc is really about setting her up to become an interdimensional explorer, but I’d love to flesh out her past, parents, and species.
MM: Would you say that you are peppering pop culture and sci-fi references into the story, or am I reading too deep into some of the lines?
RB: Haha, no you’re right on! I enjoy wearing some of my influences and favorites on my sleeve. Mostly just in the first issue. I toned things down across the rest of the series. Our story takes place in the multiverse, so theoretically those “pop culture” references could be references to something a character actually experienced or saw.
MM: The trade paperback is set for May 19th. Can you give a quick pitch about why Miranda and the Maelstrom is worth picking up or downloading?
RB: The trade collects our first arc, issues #1-6. If readers didn’t have the chance to pick up the single issues, this will be your chance to get the full story in one book. Maybe readers were hesitant to pick up the issues due to the changing artists? Now they can flip through the pages, get a look at all the beautiful art styles, the ways they complement each other and the story, and realize what they missed out on. Not many comics intentionally change artists, so it will be a unique addition to any collection.
MM: Lastly, if you’d like to, can you let people know where to find and connect with you on the internet?
RB: Folks can find me on Twitter @RileyDBiehl.