Writer: Aaron Duran
Artist/Colorist: Sara Soler
Letterer: Jaime Martinez
Publisher: Oni Press
COMIC BOOK YETI: This is Byron O’Neal, Media Editor for Comic Book Yeti, sitting down today with Aaron Duran to talk about his new comics series, Seasons of the Bruja, from Oni Press. Thanks for joining me today, Aaron.
So, you have this wonderfully witchy new series launching. What was your inspiration in wanting to write this book?
AARON DURAN: Well, first and foremost I wanted to write an entertaining story. But I wanted it to be a story that pulled from stories told to me by my mom and abuela. I grew up loving all the myths and monsters within Mexican culture. I wanted to craft a story that celebrated those stories while helping me feel a connection to my Mexican-American heritage.
CBY: As I understand it, the cultural significance between the literal Spanish to English translations of bruja to witch doesn’t accurately reflect their role in society. Given Althalia’s job working in a paranormal museum filled with stolen artifacts and as the last of her lineage as a bruja, could you elaborate on developing her as a character?
AD: Althalia very much grew from my own desire to know more about where I and my family came from. To learn about and embrace stories that didn’t have as wide of an exposure like European myths and legends. And while bruja roughly translate as “witch” in English, it’s a bit more than that, especially within modern society. Bruja (and Brujo) has evolved to mean more than witch. It is a form of social and emotional resistance against a system that essentially said, “convert or die”. It’s a discovery of what was. The small museum works in that it very much only displays items given to them by rightful owners, who for various reasons no longer wanted them in their possession. Though that doesn’t mean some people (or other) might see it differently and come calling.
"If there was a specific group I had in mind, I’d be lying if I said I don’t want this to reach other Mexican-American kids and see a bit of themselves in this story. However, I like to tell people this isn’t just an experience for Mexican-American kids. I think Season of the Bruja speaks to people who are curious of their own past."
CBY: Are la bruja and la curandera synonyms? This is just me being curious.
AD: Heh, not really. By the myths, they can kind of do the same thing. However, traditionally a curandera is a healer and while a bruja can heal, they have other responsibilities and “powers”. As I am a big nerd, think of a curandera as a D&D Cleric, while a bruja is like a multiclass Sorcerer/Druid. I know I'll be getting messages about Clerics being able to deal damage, yes, I know, but cut me some slack nerds.
CBY: An abuela in the kitchen feels like a nod to virtually any Latinx family that I know and reminds me of time spent with my own nana, although that’s Scotch/Irish in my case. As this story is intended as a reflection of culture and heritage, what is an abuela’s typical role in the family and does that differ in Seasons?
AD: I can only really speak to my experience. Within my family, my abuela is very soft-spoken, but is very much the emotional and spiritual center. She kinda sits in the corner and watches her family live their best lives, but when needed, she steps up and takes control. And even within the annoyingly machismo nature that can be Latinx families, abuela’s word is law. Although it is funny, Isadora in Season of the Bruja enjoys cooking far more than my actual abuela. Don’t get me wrong, she’s great at it and taught me a lot… But she hates it.
CBY: I really enjoyed how the narrative unfolds. It’s very direct and pokes fun in ways of some of the classic visual associations of Latinx culture. I don’t want to spoil too much but you’ve got a six-foot tall Chupacabra sporting what looks like an ascot that would make Fred Jones envious. Was that balance of humor mixed with trying to illustrate some of your family’s cultural traditions, that must be deeply personal, challenging?
AD: Okay first, I am so happy you caught the Fred Jones reference. That is literally what I told Sara when she was designing Chuey. “An older and suaver Fred from Scooby Doo.” So, thanks for telling me you caught it! Was it challenging? Not really. I mean, I take my family traditions seriously, but I also like to have fun with it. I mean, it’s so ridiculous that my family (and many Latinx families) use Vicks VapoRub for everything. Like, it isn’t a miracle cure, but you know what? When I am feeling even a little under the weather, it’s the first thing I use!
CBY: What in the hell is Gordo exactly?
AD: Gordo and Loquita are both Alebrijes. They are a form of Mexican folk art. The creation of Gordo and Loquita 100% came from Sara. They were never in the first draft. In the beginning Althalia just had a cat and Sara drew some ideas and pitched me the idea of every bruja having an alebrijes, akin to familiars, I fell in love with the idea, and it grew from there.
CBY: Good transition, let’s talk about the rest of the creative team. Sara Soler is the illustrator and colorist for the project. How did you two end up working together on this?
AD: Our editor, Shawna Gore knew of Sara’s work and essentially pitched her to me. It took me about 5 minutes of looking at her work before I knew she’d be perfect for Season of the Bruja.
CBY: She’s from Barcelona, if I’m not mistaken. Were many of the visual reference points the same?
AD: She is. There were some reference points that were similar. I mean, it’s basically impossible to use some Mexican imagery without the Spanish influence. But Sara studied and has a love for Mexican folklore and art, so most of the references were very easy for her.
CBY: The color work is superb. I don’t know if you are specifically familiar with Guanajuato, Mexico. We had an exchange student a couple of years ago, who I now consider my daughter, who’s family comes from this famous riotously colored town and the color palette of the book reminds me so much of that. Did Sara come up with the color choices? Was it collaborative? It’s not what I think of when referencing Portland, Oregon anyway.
AD: Any specific Portland images, like buildings or streets, we provided her with visual references. However, as I said, Sara has a lot of reverence and respect for Mexican culture and art. I rarely needed to ask her to include types of designs or colors. In fact, we often chatted back and forth via Instagram where I’d tell her random facts about certain types of imagery. Like the importance of marigolds and hummingbirds within pre-colonial Mexico. Like a day later, she’s sending me sketches of how to incorporate both within the art. Sara is truly a gift to work with, and I am so happy that she’s such an important part of our story.
CBY: Let’s not forget to mention Jaime Martinez handling the lettering as well. I really enjoyed some of the creative sound effects. I can’t say I’ve ever seen “PER-CRUNCH” before.
AD: Right? Jaime on lettering is amazing, and while I can’t say much more… There are some things coming in future issues where Jaime just gets to cut loose, or curse me, either way. It looks stunning.
CBY: You’ve been writing and publishing your own work since 2011 including the series, La Brujeria, which also features Althalia. Is Seasons a prequel? How do these two projects fit together?
AD: Honestly, apart from her name, the two are very much not connected to each other. This is a totally new story. Although I don’t want to discredit what came before, because I am very proud of that work. But it was also my first real attempt at comic writing and how I tell stories is completely different now. But again, being the nerd I am, La Brujeria is like Earth-2 and Season of the Bruja is Earth Prime.
"I mean, I take my family traditions seriously, but I also like to have fun with it. I mean, it’s so ridiculous that my family (and many Latinx families) use Vicks VapoRub for everything. Like, it isn’t a miracle cure, but you know what? When I am feeling even a little under the weather, it’s the first thing I use!"
CBY: Who is going to love this book?
AD: I mean, hopefully everyone! If there was a specific group I had in mind, I’d be lying if I said I don’t want this to reach other Mexican-American kids and see a bit of themselves in this story. However, I like to tell people this isn’t just an experience for Mexican-American kids. I think Season of the Bruja speaks to people who are curious of their own past. There are so many 2nd and 3rd generation immigrant kids wondering who they are, their future and their past. It is, as a rule, a uniquely American experience, and I think anyone can see a bit of themselves in Althalia, Dana, and Chuey.
CBY: And this is a five-part series for now?
AD: For now, yes.
CBY: Is there more to tell than the first story arc?
AD: Absolutely. I have so many stories to tell with these characters, as well as new characters in future stories. I truly hope Sara and I get to keep telling these stories.
CBY: After reading Seasons and your website bio, you clearly have a love for cooking. Creating a great comic and creating a great dish seem like they would have a lot of overlap. How does one discipline translate to the other?
AD: That’s an interesting question. First, in my opinion they are both an art and both tell a story. I think where they truly overlap is in execution. Meaning that both cooks and writers need to learn and understand the fundamentals before they can start to “break the rules”. And speaking for myself, writers and cooks also share the annoying quality of thinking their work isn’t good enough, and understanding it is impossible to please everyone.
CBY: Tell me about your podcast, Geek in The City.
AD: It’s a weekly pop culture focused show, along with my friends and co-hosts Denise Espinoza and Kaebel Hashitani. We try hard to move beyond just nerding out over pop culture, but rather talk about the political and social importance of story.
CBY: Last question, what’s your favorite thing about the City of Roses?
AD: Oh gosh, I don’t know. It’s been a rough couple of years for Portland. But I still think the creative and progressive spirit is still alive in Portland. It’s still a place where someone can try to make something weird and beautiful, and no one really bats an eye. Portland still feels like the lowkey city that attracts the rejects, and I mean that in the best way possible. I like that so many people just kind of “wind up” in Portland. It just works.
CBY: Thanks for joining me today, Aaron.
Seasons of the Bruja is a vibrant spin on the magic/fantasy comics genre with just a pinch of cooking, culture, and demonology thrown in for good measure. It’s a heck of a lot of fun and I hope we’ve teased enough today to encourage everyone to go pick it up. The first issue is out now and issue two drops at the end of April.
This is Byron O’Neal and on behalf of all of us at Comic Book Yeti, thanks for tuning in and see you next time.
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Seasons of the Bruja characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Aaron Duran and Sara Soler or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED