Exclusive Preview and Interview: Mariah Huehner and Aaron Alexovich’s Stitched for Charmz Line of Graphic Novels For Girls
Yesterday, we made the exclusive announcement that the kids’ graphic novel publisher Papercutz would be launching a new line of books aimed at tween girls. The line, called Charmz, is set to launch in May 2017 with four new titles to kick things off. This week, we’ll be showcasing each of the titles, allowing you to get to know the line, the stories, and their creators.
First up is Stitched, a graphic novel by writer Mariah Huehner and artist Aaron Alexovich. Here’s the official solicit information:
Publication date Tuesday, May 02, 2017
BIC 2.1 Children’s, Teenage & educational / Children’s / Teenage fiction & true stories / Comic strip fiction / graphic novels (Children’s / Teenage) (YFW)
BISAC JUVENILE FICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / General (JUV008000)
Binding Trade Paperback
Format 6 x 9
Extent 96 pages
Word Count Territorial Rights World exclusive
Crimson Volania Mulch has a problem; she just woke up in a crypt and, besides her name, has no idea of who, where, or what she is. Welcome to the Cemetery of Assumptions, a vast landscape of stones, mausoleums, and secrets. Home to monsters and mayhem, it may also hold the answers to Crimson’s mysterious parentage.
Crimson is a resourceful patchwork girl and she’s determined to find out who she is. While she does, she meets a mysterious girl named Wisteria with a tendency to…change, a witch named Parameter whose spells tend to go awry. And two boys, Simon and Quinton, who make her feel something besides lost and confused.
Crimson must battle ghosts, zombies, strange shadows and monsters, in order to find out where she came from and who her real “mother” is. But will she do it alone, or will she have help from her new friends and unexpected crushes?
This book sounds like it has everything a horror/fantasy-loving girl could want, including a “patchwork” heroine who must, among other things, deal with the fact that her body is not like other bodies, something that I know plenty of girls can relate to. Charmz provided us with an exclusive first-look at some of the interior artwork and character sketches! Check out this adorably weird cast:
I already want a Crimson doll.
One of the great things about Charmz is that it’s already managed to attract a bunch of high-caliber creators to tell stories for them. Mariah Huehner is a New York Times Bestselling writer and former editor for IDW Publishing, probably best known for her work on Fables, The Last Unicorn, Angel, Illyria: Haunted, and True Blood. Meanwhile, Aaron Alexovich is best known for being one of original artists on the Nickelodeon series Invader Zim. He has also created the comic Serenity Rose, published by Slave Labor Graphics.
I had the chance to pick their brains via email and find out the story behind the story of Stitched:
Teresa Jusino (TMS): What excites you about telling stories for a younger audience?
Mariah Huehner: This audience is so passionate about stories, they get invested right away and if you’re lucky, they connect with your characters and world and make it their own.
Writing for them means you have to bring your best ideas, your enthusiasm, and make sure you never underestimate them as readers. It’s a lot of responsibility (in a good way). Stitched could be someone’s first comic, for instance. So we really wanted to make sure this series was inclusive, fun, spooky, and all the things we wanted to read when we were their age.
I’m also really excited to write for this audience because I’m a mom and this is the kind of book I’d like my daughter to be able to read when she’s older. Especially because it explores being weird, having relationships, and figuring yourself out as an ongoing journey, not a problem to be solved all at once. I love how positive the line is about romance because most of us are going to have to deal with painful crushes and relationships at some point. It’s great to have that embraced and celebrated rather than avoided or treated as less-than in a story.
Aaron Alexovich: I’m excited to introduce more kids to comics! Especially spooky horror-tinged comics, because that’s kind of my thing. Young girls have maybe been a little under-served by the comics industry in general, and I think reaching out to them will be an important part of keeping comics alive and vibrant for a long time. Papercutz is doing a really cool thing with the Charmz line, and I’m happy not just to be a part of it, but to help stake out a creepy little corner of it, as well. Girls need monsters!
TMS: What’s special to you about working for Papercutz and the Charmz line?
Huehner: They have a really clear editorial POV and wanted diverse, smart, fun, stories. That was really appealing to me. When our editor Rachel Gluckstern approached me, she knew exactly what she was looking for, so it was easy to find the right concept and develop everything without the usual stress. There wasn’t any cynicism or pandering; this line is all about giving readers smart, fun, books they can get invested in.
TMS: How did you develop the idea for Stitched?
Alexovich: That was all Mariah. This incredible world she’s built is pretty much all there on the page. She left the character descriptions pretty loose, though, so I had room to have a little extra fun there. I thought I was out on a limb with Crimson’s crazy hair, but it went over pretty well!
Huehner: Rachel basically came to me and told me they were looking for relationship oriented books for the Charmz line, and that she was hoping I could bring my spooky/creepy cute aesthetic to it with something involving monsters.
About a minute later I had the idea for Stitched and the character of Crimson, our little protagonist who is quite literally made of different people. I’ve always wanted to write about a monster girl who is “in pieces” and has to figure out how to put herself together again. Being young is difficult and trying to figure out who we are is a pretty universal struggle. Add a complicated romance, friendships, a mystery, and all kinds of creatures, and you’ve got Stitched.
Alexovich: Well, I just wandered over to Papercutz because I saw Mariah in there waving and saying “Come on in! It’s not too scary!” I didn’t have a lot of pre-conceived ideas about them. But now that I’ve seen the rest of the lineup, I couldn’t be happier to be part of it! There’s a really talented group of creators here, and I especially love the diversity of voices here. That’s really important for comics going forward, especially for comics meant for younger-type people.
I’ve also appreciated the freedom Papercutz has given me so far. Not every publisher is willing to trust their creators to deliver something cool, but so far they’ve been willing to go along with all the weird ideas I’ve been throwing out there. It’s a good feeling to be trusted.
TMS: Beyond entertainment, what do you hope the girls (and boys, too!) who read this title take away from it?
Huehner: I hope readers will recognize themselves and people they know in these characters. I hope their challenges will feel familiar. I personally think “spooky” stories give us a way to channel a lot of difficult feelings, especially when we’re young, and I’d like readers to feel like this story is acknowledging how tough it is to navigate, making friends, having crushes, figuring out who you are and how you fit into the world.
Alexovich: If readers could take one message from Stitched, I hope it’s that appearances are misleading. Someone (or someTHING) might look strange or frightening, but that doesn’t mean they’re dangerous. Sometimes the most important things to learn about are the things that scare you the most. It’s a really simple message, but it gets more and more important all the time.
TMS: Describe your working relationship with Aaron. Who brings what to the storytelling table, and for what do you rely on each other?
Huehner: So, I’ve known Aaron for years now and we’re good friends. He’s the most amazing artist. We’ve been trying to find a project to work on together because I’ve wanted to write for him for ages. Aaron takes my scripts and makes them effervescently spooky and alive. His art is so distinctive, playful, and spectacular. Even his panel borders are cool. I basically rely on him to make me look good because he brings so much life and fun and creepy awesome to everything.
TMS: What about you, Aaron? Describe your working relationship with Mariah. What did each of you bring to the table?
Alexovich: Well, Mariah pretty much had the script written before I showed up, so I didn’t have TOO much to do with shaping the story. We did trade some notes back and forth on the character designs, but for the most part we each have our own domains. Always open to suggestions, though! Mariah and I have known each other for a bajillion years, so it’s cool to finally get a chance to work on one of her stories. She’s so talented… I just love how ALIVE her characters feel, even if some of them might not technically be “alive” at all. It’s such a well thought-out little world she’s put together here, I’m just happy to have the opportunity to live in it for a while. wqhjqu <— This part was written by my new kitten, Shelley. Please leave it in if possible, it may be important!
TMS: Are there any other projects you’re working on that The Mary Sue’s readers should keep an eye out for?
Huehner: Yes! I have a darker YA story called Breaker up on Stela, an app for comics designed to read on your phone. The first chapter is available for free right now and the rest should be out next month (it’s 6 chapters total). It’s a surfer werewolf mystery with art by Nichole & Kelly Matthews who are INCREDIBLE. Just stunning art.
My final Emily & The Strangers OGN will be coming out from Dark Horse towards the end of the year with art by the lovely and amazing Cat Farris.
I also write supernatural romance novels, which you can find on Amazon under Mila Noir. A Bite in the Dark, Infamous, and My Billionaire Is a Werewolf! are for sale now.
I tweet a lot as Tiredfairy and my site has art and project updates; mariah-mccourt.squarespace.com. I’ll be launching a Patreon in the fall.
Alexovich: I have another spooky-cute book floating around out there called Serenity Rose. It’s kind of a horror/comedy about this horribly social-phobic witch stuck in a supernatural tourist trap. I did it as a webcomic for about ten years, and now it’s available in big chunky hardcover book form. I also wrote a Lovecraft-inspired horror/comedy called Eldritch! with beautiful, horrifying art by Drew Rausch (our colorist for Stitched). Both of those books are more for adults, but I’m working on a children’s book right now, too. It’s called It’s Not Scary!, and you better believe it’s got monsters in it. Hopefully we’ll have that out early next year.
I also did artwork for ten issues of the Invader Zim comic book series, which was kind of weird for me because I was a character designer for the TV show way back when. It was like a big, hideous family reunion.
You can find me on Twitter as essrose and on all the other various socially mediators under my own name. I’m probably there WAY too much, frankly.
For more information on the Charmz line, check out yesterday’s announcement. And stay tuned all week, as I’ll be sharing interviews and exclusive art from all four books with which Charmz will be launching in the spring!
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