WCA 2019: IN CONVERSATION WITH LYSA HAWKINS (RECORDED AT WONDERCON ANAHEIM, MARCH 2019)
Comic-Con International‘s sibling convention, WonderCon (29th-31st March 2019, Anaheim Convention Center), has over the years grown and developed into a truly epic event in the North America comic convention calendar, selling out over its entire weekend and bringing thousands of talented creators, publishers, artists, writers, cosplayers, actors and actresses and much more to Anaheim in California.
WonderCon has developed and evolved from what was primarily a passive ‘experience’ delivering show into one which companies and creators can now bring new projects and share updates on brand new content – we have been lucky to have a couple of correspondents visiting the show as Press, catching up with a number of these fresh stories.
One such correspondent is Samantha Maybe (@SamanthaMaybe) who had the chance to sit down with Valiant Entertainment Editor Lysa Hawkins, who has been on administrative duties for Cullen Bunn and Adam Gorham‘s mini-series PUNK MAMBO, coming out on the publishers ‘Breakthrough’ slate.
As Sam discovers, an editor’s role on a book like this is complex, collaborative and incredibly rewarding. Here, the pair talk about the origins of PUNK MAMBO, about what the creative team and Valiant hoped to achieve with the book, and where the story may lead in the future…
SAMANTHA MAYBE: Hello, this is Sam and I’m here with Lysa Hawkins, the editor of PUNK MAMBO, which I reviewed recently and I loved! I’m really excited to talk with Lysa more about the comic and working with Cullen [Bunn]. So I’ve never interviewed an editor before, so this is super exciting for me! Because I feel your perspective on the creative process and what goes into graphic novels is just wildly different to the creator’s themselves. So, can you talk to me a little bit about what it’s like specifically working on this project, and what attracted you to PUNK MAMBO?
LYSA HAWKINS: Sure, sure. I just lucked out! The day I started working for Valiant, they said, “Well, we’re going to give you these titles to up and run with it. And the titles were, I hate to say but, almost thrown away. You know, PUNK MAMBO has never had a series of her own and I don’t know that they invested too much in it, for me doing it, so they gave me a lot of room, which was wonderful. I’m a big fan of voodoo, I’m a big fan of punks. So, to me, a natural progression as this is wonderful. I Love New Orleans, I have a passion for it all.
I found Cullen because I started reading some horror novels, some horror comic books, and I said, “This guy’s got a good feel for it!”, and I reached out to him and I was just so excited that he said yes. And then finding Adam was like the cherry on the cake; it was just perfect and they were so enthused about it and it comes through on every page of the project. And then, to get Dan Brereton to do the covers was [excited noise!!] I love dan’s work, I worked with him years ago, to have him back in the fold was just like, so perfect. And it was wonderful, because nobody paid attention to me; there was nobody saying, “Oh, no, you can’t do this.”
So I kind of scrolled off on my own, and I created this… And then it sort of blew up, everybody got excited about it. It’s awesome. And it’s wonderful because, you know, it’s like, nobody micromanaged me I was an island out to myself for PUNK and and it’s really just blossoming into something very exciting. People seem to be, you know, really receptive to it.
SAMANTHA: I think it’s my favourite project of Cullen’s so far that I’ve read, I think…
LYSA: And if you like the first issue, yeah, it just gets better. [laughs] It just gets better. And I feel, as an editor, very excited and fulfilled because I’m giving somebody a satisfactory read, they’re not going to be disappointed. If you pick up the first issue, you’re going to want to pick up the second. And at the end of the fifth, you’re gonna be like, I didn’t waste my time. I went for this ride. And it was really, really fun.
SAMANTHA: So obviously, there’s a lot of back and forth in graphic novels. It’s a highly collaborative process. And I’m sure every book is different in terms of the team and just at what that dynamic is like. So, for PUNK MAMBO, because you reached out to Cullen, and it kind of started in your head a little bit more than his, maybe, what’s that back and forth? When he sent his pages to you, what kind of communication do you have, how much feedback do you get back into the story?
LYSA: The most collaboration begins in the very beginning, when he’s feeding me the outline, that’s when we’re going back and forth. I’m saying, Okay, this is this is needs a little bit more juice in this issue, this doesn’t need as much. And, of course, Cullen’s such a professional, I didn’t need to do too much, because I was very excited with what he was giving to me.
You know, I think the biggest contribution that I did was, I probably… actually, that’s not true, I did have a lot of control! [laughs] But I didn’t want to stay in New Orleans and we have another character, named Shadow Man who’s based in New Orleans, and I wanted her to really get out of his shadow. I wanted her to shine on her own which is why there’s no other Valiant characters in this, it’s just her story. So, to take her out of New Orleans and put her in Haiti, not only is that the centre of voodoo, but it also puts her in a place where she’s diametrically opposed because she’s a white voodoo practitioner, a white Mambo, and she’s automatically on the defensive: it’s a very black practice, it’s a black religion, so it’s fun to see her interact with that, and what she’s going to learn and grow from that, which is very important to the story. Punk grows, by the end, she’s got a growth, she’s got an arc. And it’s really cool.
But, to answer your original question, the most work we did was at the very beginning in the outline, Cullen, coming through and showing me a couple of scripts and I’ll be, like, “Okay, this needs a little bit more action here”, or, at the end, “No, this wasn’t quite clear. We didn’t give enough bang for our buck with the people, we need to go back in there and give them a little bit more.” But I’m talking minor minor stuff, because he’s so wonderful – loved working with him.
SAMANTHA: Did you ever feel that you would have more or less, I guess, contribution and back and forth with the artists, in terms of what the character design brings to Punk, visually, and what her visual look lends to the story? Do you ever have copious amount of notes for the artists in terms of just representing your vision, in a different way?
LYSA: Not really. Well, I mean, I feel like as an editor, my job is to pick the right team. And if I pick the right team members, it’s pretty easy because they do all the work. No, Adam has been amazing, amazing! His excitement is palpable, you can feel it in the pages. So no, very rarely do I have to go back to him and say, “Well, we need to tweak this panel or isn’t quite clear enough”, it just doesn’t happen because I’ve lucked out. Other titles haven’t been so easy but this one happens to be!
SAMANTHA: I feel like PUNK MAMBO is being presented at the ideal moment, in a way: the world is ripe for the story about about a White Mambo going into this place where she wouldn’t normally be welcomed, and finding her place in that world. So what set the stage to allow PUNK MAMBO to happen now?
LYSA: Well, I think it just sort of lucked out. I feel like, y’know, I started and they said, well, we need to give her some title and, y’know, there’s never been a PUNK MAMBO series will let her have that! And it’s really kismet for me because there is such an opening right now: there isn’t anything that’s really horror-slash-comedy out there. So yeah, I think that she’s in a great place to take off, you know, if people picked up the comic, I think it’ll be successful. I know that a lot of punk websites are promoting this comic as well. You know, punks they might not have picked up a comic since WATCHMAN but now it’s here’s an opening for them as well as for the horror comics you don’t have to just be into supernatural or superhero comics to enjoy this.
SAMANTHA: That’s great. I really enjoyed the monsters as well that are coming into play and the mystical elements are really interesting. Were there any particular products that are rooted in in New Orleans, specifically because of the paranormal scene in New Orleans?
LYSA: The whole beginning, the Grunch Road, that is a local folklore in New Orleans. Everything Cullen does is spot on, I contributed by bringing in the Voodoo Pantheon, I wanted to really play up the Pantheon and then Baget, which is one of them, which is the white voodoo [mumbled]. Well, of course, she smokes and she drinks and she’s very much like Punk Mambo. Of course, she’s the one that’s going to have the most interest in Punk.
We saw the monster in the first [issue] but that’s not even the Big Bad – when you when you meet our big villain… is he scary?? Oh my goodness, he’s very scary! [laughs] And he’s handsome, too…
SAMANTHA: Dangerous usually is, isn’t it? [laughs]
LYSA: …but he gives Punk a run for her money. I’m not going to say how because some spoilers but he does give her a run for her money.
SAMANTHA: Are there any elements of voodoo culture, anything that you wanted to bring into PUNK MAMBO, that you haven’t been able to yet?
LYSA: Absolutely. Well, the main thing I wanted to get across is Punk Mambo totally misuses magic and voodoo – for a voodoo practitioner, the Loas ‘ride their hosts’, meaning that if you want magic from a Loa, you have to allow them to come into you, your body, and you get the magic from them. Punk is always a rebel and she does it the exact opposite way. She rides the Loas, she forces the Loa into service, which is the exact opposite of voodoo is all about so that’s the major tagline throughout, and that’s what she’ll have to come to grips with.
SAMANTHA: So there isn’t maybe any other additional pieces of folklore, anything from voodoo culture that you have yet to bring in yet?
LYSA: Oh, yeah, yeah, it’ll all be in there! Keep reading it, you’ll see more, you’ll see more! [laughs]
SAMANTHA: Do you have any final thoughts on on where PUNK MAMBO is headed, or anything you’re particularly excited about surrounding the release of [the book]?
LYSA: Well, I’m really thrilled about the response I’ve been getting; everybody who’s picks it up is really excited about it, which makes me excited about it, and the creators are all thrilled about it! I’m just overwhelmed by the love that I’m getting from everybody else, because I knew it was a good product but I’m validated to see other people are enjoying it as well. And, if the numbers stay up and then in the sales stay where they are, we will have another series, you know, which is the goal.
SAMANTHA: Yeah. And I do feel like now, because comics are growing steadily and you have more people from different backgrounds and different interest groups coming into graphic novels, I think it’s a great time to have a product like this, that is kind of unique in a lot of ways, I think a lot of people will dig it.
LYSA: Absolutely, it’s a great place for anybody who’s never even picked up comics to pick up a comic and read it and understand it and enjoy it. So yeah, it’s pretty fun. And she’s a great character. And, you know, she doesn’t care what you think about her, which is refreshing to have, you know, a character that’s, “Well, whatever, sod off, I don’t care!” [laughs] But, even though she’ll say that and she’s gruff, she’s still a hero and she’s going to save the day, at the end of the day.
SAMANTHA: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for taking time out to talk to me. Thank you, I appreciate it.
Thanks to Lysa for taking time out of her very busy con to talk, and also to Samantha Maybe for bring the interview to us.