In the aftermath of a mysterious explosion that tears through a major metropolitan area, five coffin-like stasis tubes are discovered, each branded with a woman’s name. Blasting off this December from critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling comic book writer Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun, Harrow County) and up-and-coming artist George Kambadais (A Place in The Heart), Grave Lilies is a riveting, Joss Whedon-esque Sci-Fi series — and the first superhero title from boutique New York publisher Z2 Comics.
In Grave Lilies, readers follow five mysterious women as they escape disaster without a scratch, and with no memory of who they are. They each discover that they possess a remarkable ability: the ability to charm the masses, the power to control plant life, the gift of healing, supernatural senses, and unbelievable physical strength. The women will need these powers, too, as they are pursued by sinister agencies that want to apprehend them before they learn the shocking truth of their origins and the destiny that awaits them.
Cullen and George took some time to discuss the new series, it’s origin and it’s characters.
FOG!: Congratulations on the new book, Grave Lillies, which is a mystery/thriller/sci-fi/superhero tale. What was the genesis of the book?
Cullen Bunn: Thanks so much! I’m really excited for the release of Grave Lilies. This is book that George and I have been toying with for a couple of years now. I think this is one of those stories that started with a title. I wrote “Grave Lilies” in my notebook a long while ago and started noodling around with ideas for a story with that title. I went through a number of possible stories, but nothing felt right until I stumbled on this notion of five young women with strange powers waking up in the wake of a disaster. I felt like the idea might go against what you might expect, but the story still has so many strong connections to the title.
How did you both come to work together on this book?
Cullen: If I recall correctly, I first met George when he started posting some artwork and commissions for a Marvel series I did titled Fearless Defenders. I really, really loved his style and, after exploring some of his other art, I realized we had a lot in common in terms of the kind of stories we love. I reached out to him and asked if he’d be interested in collaborating on something.
George Kambadais: I’m a big fan of Cullen’s work. Around two years ago I was at my apartment in Greece doing fanarts and commissions and trying to make a living out of it. I think Declan Shalvey, the artist on Venom, who I really admire and respect, saw a fanart of Mania, a character that he and Cullen created for Marvel and sent it to Cullen.
After that, Cullen contacted me and told me that he wants to work with me on something. Of course I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to work with one of my favourite writers, so I said yes, and in the next days he sent me some character descriptions. I instantly fell in love with the girls.
The book features a team of teen heroes, which in comics, can almost be considered it’s own mini-genre. What were the inspirations in both the story and the visual designs?
Cullen: I’m a big fan of a science fiction sub-genre I call “kids with powers on the run from shadowy agencies”. I think Stephen King’s Firestarter is the first thing that pops into my mind when I think of that kind of story, but there are plenty of examples. I wanted to tell a story that featured characters with super powers who were not necessarily superheroes. And I wanted to build up a big mystery around these characters, something that would continue to grow over the course of the series. And I wanted the book, despite all the seriousness of the situation the characters are in, to be fun.
George: Visually I got inspired a lot by European comic artists like Matthieu Bonhomme and Alessandro Barbucci and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira.
George, your color palette and depiction of how the characters use their powers is pretty unique. As the series progresses, will you continue with the limited color, or are there plans for it to evolve in some capacity?
George: I’ll probably add a color or two, but I’m going to use mostly the same palette. I’m having a couple of things in mind that I want to try in the future to show that they’ll be better with their powers then.
You’ve both worked with indie companies as well as the Big Two. What made you bring the project to Z2?
Cullen: George and I met with the Z2 team to discuss what we might do with a book like Grave Lilies, and they were just so excited about the possibilities with the book. It was impossible not to get hyped with their plans. It’s always a pleasure working with people who are excited about your ideas and who really want to explore some interesting angles with everything from the look of the series to the way the book will be marketed.
George: I’m not as experienced as Cullen with companies. When we talked with Z2 I really felt that they loved Grave Lilies as much as we do. I think that we couldn’t find a better place than Z2 for our story.
The cast features a primarily all female cast. Is there one particular character that you feel especially connected to or identify with? Why?
Cullen: That’s a tough one. I dearly love each and every one of these characters, and if I have a “favorite” it changes from one day to the next. If you had asked me this morning, I would have told you that Celeste, the “leader” of the group was my favorite character, because I was working on a scene in which she was coming to grips with her powers. Celeste is the kind of person who really just wants to be left alone by everyone but her closest friends, but she has this ability to make other people like her and be drawn to her. I think that’s a fun dynamic to play with. But if you had asked me a few days ago, I might have said the mysterious Elsie was my favorite. I love the mystery that surrounds her.
George: I agree with Cullen. That is a tough one. I love all of them but I think I’m leaning more towards Elsie. I love the mystery that surrounds her and how isolated she is from the everything and everyone around her.
What are you currently geeking out over?
Cullen: I’m enjoying a lot of television right now. There are so many great options. I watched Stranger Things over the summer and loved it. That show falls firmly into the sub-genre that inspired Grave Lilies. I’m also watching (and loving) Luke Cage on Netflix. Of the new fall shows, Designated Survivor has really grabbed me. And I’m going to start watching Westworld soon.
George: Right now I’m really excited about the Walking Dead Season 7. I’m going to watch the first episode after I finish answering these questions. I’m also binge watching the Netflix Marvel series that I haven’t watched when they came out and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and a lot of horror movies.
Grave Lilies, which retails for $3.99, is slated to hit stores December 7, 2016. The order code for the first issue of the title, is: OCT162100. For more information, please visit http://www.gravelilies.com/.