Hellicious: An Interview With Mina Elwell, A.C. Medina, Kit Wallis, And Jio Butler

Hellicious follows Cherry, the Devil’s prankster granddaughter and the cutest grim reaper in Hell, who is just trying to have fun and make new friends. She just keeps getting derailed by the fact that human beings are flammable. Published by Starburns Industries Press, Hellicious is written by Mina Elwell and A.C. Medina, drawn by Kit Wallis, and colored by Jio Butler.

Tim Midura: For the unfamiliar, what’s Hellicious about? SBI once described it as Calvin and Hobbes meets The Addams Family.

Mina Elwell: Hellicious is comedy about the royal family of Hell. It stars Cherry, Satan’s granddaughter (who happens to look just like a regular human kid, unlike her demonic family!) In book 1, Cherry kidnapped goth rock star Briggy Bundy and took him to Hell to be her best friend. Book 2 deals with some of the consequences of that in a breaking-with-the-eternal-plan kind of way.

A.C. Medina: Hellicious is a story about family and hell, which more often than not tend to be the same thing! The stars of our story are Cherry the cutest grim reaper in hell and Briggy Bundy, as goth icon and rockstar who is as lost as the rest of us.

Tim Midura: Hellicious is an over the top, light-hearted take on Hell. What went into taking a fun approach to Hell?

Mina Elwell: I took a Hell lit class in college and was totally enamored with Dante’s Inferno. Everything in there is so over the top and wild. It’s horrific, but it’s a kind of impossible to process horrific, so it just has to be funny instead. I first started thinking about Cherry while reading Inferno: as a happy demon girl who doesn’t understand that humans don’t like being tortured.

A.C. Medina: Something that’s been there since the first days till now is taking everything you usually expect with a story about hell and the afterlife and flipping it around. Everything from Cherry and Briggy’s adventures to the inner workings of our hell helmed by our very own Gramps also known as the Devil and his daughter Sin.

Tim Midura: At first glance, Hellicious looks appealing to children. Would you recommend it for children?

Mina Elwell: I never thought of Hellicious as a book for kids, but they actually love it. I’ve had parents tell me they read it to their kid, which I think is especially fun, since it’s a family story.

A.C. Medina: At first it was very hard to sell a story about hell and say it was for kids but Cherry I felt just naturally attracts younger readers. It’s been really cool hearing families sharing our weird little family story set in a place some consider the scariest of the scary but we consider it home.

Tim Midura: Hell has been depicted in every type of media. How did you make this version of Hell your own?

Kit Wallis: I wanted hell to look like hell through the eyes for a child, so not too scary, but with a slightly sinister and mischievous undertone.

Jio Butler: After seeing the character lineups and cover art, I knew that I could go wild with the colours, and luckily I am a big fan of bold colours! 

Tim Midura: The art is cartoony, but keeps a gothic aesthetic. How do you find a balance between the two?

Kit Wallis: The ‘cartoony’ style is basically how I draw most of my comic book work, I use a brush pen which I think adds a fluid, fun feel to the line art. The gothic creepy aspect is something I try and put in most of my work, it’s fun to be a bit naughty some times. That side of things probably comes from reading Arthur Rackham and Maurice Sendak books when I was a child.

Tim Midura: Despite being literally set in Hell, Hellicious pops with color. What went into that decision?

Kit Wallis: It was actually a colour palette I was intending to use for another comic book I was working on, but along came the opportunity to work with Alan, Mina and Jio on Hellicious so I adapted it for that and then Jio just ran with it.

Jio Butler: As the comic is very playful, it makes sense to use very bright colours to emphasise that you are seeing Hell from the perspective of a child- Cherry. Using lots of colours and not limiting the palette also adds to the feeling of overwhelming and excitement that Briggy must feel discovering all the different quirks of Hell!

Tim Midura: How did the four of you come together to work on Hellicious?

Kit Wallis: Basically I believe Mina knew of my work and her and Alan contacted me with a 5 page pitch which I think I did in a day it was a very tight deadline I seem to remember.

Jio Butler: I was working with Kit at the time and overheard him talk about wanting a comic colourist, so I butted my head in and scored the best comic project I’ve ever worked on.

Mina Elwell: Alan and I both went to the School of Visual Arts. We actually met in 2nd year screenwriting, but we didn’t start writing together for a few years… Hellicious is our first project as a team. We cold called Kit — I was already a fan of his work. Lucky for us he has the same taste in monsters as we do. He introduced us to Jio. I can’t imagine Hellicious without either of them.

A.C. Medina: My very first memory of Mina in film school was overhearing her talk about Neil Gaiman in one of those lame “Why do you want to be a writer” early days assignments so naturally we became friends. We both had our first books with the same publisher but Hellicious is the first time we started working together.

When Kit and Jio got onboard Hellicious really came together and its been nothing but a blast since!

Tim Midura: If you could hang out and play with one goth rock star, who would it be?

Kit Wallis: The Damned.

Jio Butler: I’ll go ahead and have a round of golf with Alice Cooper.

Mina Elwell: Melora Creager, no question. I feel like she knows more about Mary Shelley than me, and I respect that.

A.C. Medina: I have to go Marilyn Manson no doubt, it’d be exactly the right amount of weird for me and I’m sure me bringing up the fact that Beautiful People was the theme of Smackdown Live would stop being annoying by the 40th time….I’m sure.

Hellicious vol. 2 is out October 16 in comic shops and October 29 in book stores.

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