Since it’s launch, Ahoy Comics, has become one of the industry’s most innovative publishers with such high concept titles as Second Coming, The Wrong Earth and Billionaire Island. The latest title headed to bookstores is the first volume of Ash & Thorn, a buddy comedy between geriatric trainer Lady Peruvia Ashlington-Voss and her latest “chosen one” to save the Earth from the apocalypse and the heir to a sacred mystical lineage, the also elderly Lottie Thorn, reluctant savior of the world.
With the imminent release of the trade paperback, writer Maria McCourt took some time to chat with Forces of Geek about her career, the book, her influences and more.
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FOG!: For those unfamiliar with Ash & Thorn, how would you describe it?
Mariah McCourt: The main ingredients are an apocalypse, an unusual Chosen One, badass older women, and the power of creativity and baking. The result is a funky, nuanced, weird but thoughtful piece about aging, heroism, and who we value and why.
Although you’re professionally better known as a writer and editor, you studied Illustration at the School of Visual Arts. Were your initial plans to be a comic artist?
Actually, I always hoped to be a comics editor. But I did train in illustration, though for things like cover art, not comics storytelling. I rarely draw my own short comics, it’s a very particular skill set and most of the time my artwork is better suited to single pieces than longer narrative pieces.
You then became an editor at Vertigo and IDW. While at IDW you started writing some Whedon-verse titles and True Blood. Prior to actually doing it, was it ever your intention to work in that aspect of the industry?
It wasn’t! When I started in comics licensed work from things like TV shows was pretty new, though there were movie adaptations. It wasn’t something I had thought much about until after I moved on from Vertigo and worked at Virgin Comics (as in the brand Virgin). They worked with a lot of film creators and that’s where it started. With IDW I got into the licensed comics area and went from there. I actually worked on the collected editions first, and then ended up editing and writing for various titles.
How did you get involved with Ahoy? Did you pitch multiple projects, or was Ash & Thorn something that you had already developed and brought to them?
Stuart Moore approached me about pitching to them after reading some work of mine. I’ve known Stuart a long time now, though Peter Gross (Lucifer). I’d been working on the initial concept for Ash & Thorn on my own but I wasn’t sure which/if publishers would be a fit for it since it’s kind of an odd concept. So I pitched it to Ahoy! because the tone of “funny Vertigo” felt right for it and they were immediately into it.
How did artist Soo Lee come on board and what does she bring to the project?
She brings the look, feel, and world to creepy life! Not to mention balances the horror and humor. Soo came in via our editor, Sarah Litt. It was obvious her work would be fantastic for the story and she got the characters immediately. Soo the sweetest person and a great collaborator. It’s not everyone who can draw little old ladies battling demons AND baking pie in an equally visually compelling way!
The first trade collection is coming out with accolades by three of the most iconic women in the history of the industry; Louise Simonson, Trina Robbins and Colleen Doran and the series featured covers by the inimitable Jill Thompson. What is it like to receive so much support from these icons?
Extremely intimidating and humbling. I’ve known all three for awhile now and I was nervous to ask them if they’d like to read the book and comment on it. They’re, as you say, iconic. So I’m extremely grateful, and relieved!, that they liked it so much. Jill is, obviously, one of the most incredible artists the industry has ever had. Getting her for covers was a dream come true for me, cliche as that sounds.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
Probably too many to list but the big ones for Ash & Thorn are the obvious Golden Girls and Buffy, but lots of Terry Pratchett and Agatha Christie though the latter might not be that obvious. There’s a lot of cosmic horror in this series too, though more the genre than any particular creator in it. My grandmothers, my childhood art teacher Myril Adler, and just the overall mixed genre of horror/humor. Which is a personal favorite.
Are there plans for a “Season 2”?
Hopefully! I hate to be coy but these are the times we live in. I can say; I am personally not done with these characters.
How did you spend your quarantine? What have you binged?
MM: Thankfully we were never quarantined but we have been self-isolating/social distancing this whole time. And still are since our area still has a fair amount of cases and some things only recently opened up and I’m frankly worried about new spikes. Lore Olympus has been a lifesaver. I’ve also managed to read about 89 books during all this, somehow. They’re all over the map in terms of genre. Historical research on botanical artists. A sci-fi romance series by Ruby Dixon. Victorian slang. And a lot of comfort viewing like Community and Lucifer.