You may remember back in January of 2009 when a brand new series launched entitled “Hexed” from bourgening comic publisher BOOM! Studios. Written by a then-unknown Michael Alan Nelson and the first American illustrated series by Emma Rios, it was an incredibly underrated supernatural series that ran for four issues before being lost in the always moving sea of comics. It was an open-ended finale, though, and while both Nelson and Rios moved on to bigger and better things, fans of the series had always held that hope that one day we might get to see more of it.
And now, as part of our fifth anniversary celebration, we are pleased to announce that yes, Virgina, there is a Santa Claus: “Hexed” is coming back as an ongoing series. Once again written by Nelson and now illustrated by Dan Mora with Emma Rios covers, the series picks up some time after the finale of the previous series, once again chronicling the supernatural adventures of Luci Jennifer Inacio Das Neves.
Read on as we talk with Michael Alan Nelson about the return of “Hexed.”
It’s been some time since we last saw the series — almost 4 years now. Looking back on the original series, how do you feel about the book and where you’ve gone since then?
Michael Alan Nelson: Whenever I’m at a convention and someone asks me what title of mine I would recommend, Hexed is the book I always put in their hands. Even though I’ve written plenty of books that I am incredibly proud of, it still sits at the top of the list of my personal favorites to this day.
As for where I’ve gone since then, I think I now have a bit of name recognition that I didn’t have when I first wrote the series. At the time Hexed first came out, readers might have identified themselves as a fan of a specific title that I had written, but not of me as a writer. People would come up to me at a convention and say they liked 28 Days Later and Valen the Outcast without realizing I had written both of them. That’s really started to change in the last couple of years.Continued below
I also like to think that I’ve improved as a writer and as a storyteller since then as well. But I think every creator hopes for that. We want to always be improving, always getting better at our craft. If I’m lucky, four years from now I’ll be able to look back to what I’m writing now and say the same thing.
So now “Hexed” is back, and it’s an ongoing series to boot. How did the decision come about to bring back “Hexed?”
MAN: It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do. It was just waiting for the right moment. Hexed was something that I and the great folks at BOOM! have always believed in so we knew that if we were going to bring it back, it had to be when we felt it would have the greatest chance at success. BOOM! has a well-established track record of publishing quality books and original titles with longevity, so now that I have a few noteworthy series under my belt, that time is now.
Is “Hexed” something that you’d always planned to continue? It definitely seemd like a book that was very open ended, especially with a lead character like Luci.
MAN: Absolutely. Ever since that first series, I’ve been developing ideas and scenes and scenarios, just waiting for the day I get to continue telling the story. And it is a singular joy to develop my favorite characters, to watch them grow and see them experience wonderful, horrible things and how those things shape who and what they are.
The book is continuing on without the original artist of the series, Emma Rios, and obviously Emma’s got her own creator-owned series at the moment, but she’s still providing covers. Did you and Emma talk about the continuation of the book back in the day, or about what the current plans are now?
MAN: I never really discussed the direction of the series with anyone back then because I wasn’t sure how much of my plans would remain intact. Stories can, and often do, change direction from their original heading. And even though I have an endgame in mind, it’s possible, as the series continues on, that endgame may change. In fact, it wasn’t until we were in full development of the new series that I told my editors what I ultimately have planned. They seemed to like what I have in mind so perhaps it won’t change after all.
As for Emma, I can’t tell you how happy I am that she is able to provide covers for us. She was such a huge part of the original series and, let’s be honest, probably the biggest reason readers responded so postiively to the book. And now that she’s a bonafide rockstar, we are very fortunate that she’s made the time for covers. I’m such a fan of Emma. In fact, when you read the new ongoing series, you’ll notice I even named a wing of the Brisendine Art Gallery after her. Just a little Easter Egg to show my appreciation.
After spending so much time away, was it hard to get back into the world of this series?
MAN: Not really. It wasn’t difficult to get back into the world because, in all honesty, I had never left. Lucifer, the Harlot, Val, Madame Cymbaline, they are all my favorite characters. So they have always been in the back of my mind, whispering me their stories, their secrets, waiting for me to continue telling their tales. But what IS difficult is the pressure I feel when writing the series. Quite simply, I want this to be the best thing I’ve ever written. For me, for the fans of the series, for all the artists involved , for the wonderful people who are working so hard to make it the best series it can be. Hexed has a tremendous amount of support and I want to make sure I do right by them.
So in terms of some of the other work you’ve done since Hexed, how do you think your time in comics has helped develop your writing to take this book where you wanted it to go?
MAN: Other than just helping me improve my craft, writing those other titles also helped me develop different story telling techniques as well as teach me how to really recognize various tones and approaches to a story. The way I approached 28 Days Later isn’t the same way I approached Protocol: Orphans or Day Men. Each title brings it’s own tone to the table. And while I’ve worked hard to develop my own personal writing voice over the years, I still try to give each story a unique flavor. So in the time I wrote the first series, I’ve gotten better at recognizing what kind of style and tone a particular story needs. Id like to think I have a better understanding now of what I want Hexed to be.
I can imagine that with a book like this, given the circumstances, that your influences from the original series have probably expanded and changed for the new one. Can you talk a bit about what sort of things you’re drawing from for the new series?
MAN: Oh goodness, there’s so much! Creaters draw inspiration from, and are influenced by, just about everything. Comics, television, film, books. Saga and Hawkeye are huge inspirations for me right now. They’re just so damn good and are great examples of how good comics can be. Ricard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series is another big influence. It’s grittier than Hexed but it shows how urban fantasy can be done right. Another thing that I’m really inspired by is Games of Thrones. I know, who isn’t? But what I love beyond the greatness of the show and the books is seeing how the show differs from the books. It really is a perfect case study on what to cut from a story. What is absolutely essential and what can be taken out without hurting the story. That really helps me when writing comics because I only have 22 pages an issue and only so much space on each of those pages. How do I convey what I need to within such constraints while keeping the reader entertained? GoT does it wonderfully, so it’s more than just a great show/book, it’s a master class on economic story telling.
So what are some of the new things people can expect with Luci and Hexed? It’s been some time since we’ve seen her; are we picking up right where we left off, or has time passed?
MAN: Some time has passed and we’ll see that Lucifer doesn’t work alone at the art gallery. She has a colleague whom she doesn’t like very much(a mutual feeling). We’re also going to see more of Madame Cymbaline and the Harlot as their own stories begin to intersect with Lucifer’s. Their lives are about to be tied into a very complex knot.
The new artist of the series is Dan Mora, whose work I’ve seen and it’s pretty exciting. How did Dan get involved with the series?
MAN: Oh Matt. Just wait. Just. Wait! When my editors showed me his character sketches and his covers, I lost my mind. Dan is really bringing something special to this series. I can’t wait for people to see it.
As for his involvement, that’s all thanks to my editors Eric Harburn and Chris Rosa. They knew what this series needed and were the ones who brought Dan on board. They’re great at funding the right artist for a project and this is no exception.
Speaking of my editors, Eric and Chris deserve a Brinks truck full of praise for their help on this series. They’ve been working tirelessly to help me make Hexed the best that it can be. Oh, and equal praise to BOOM! EiC Matt Gagnon as well for pushing them to push me. These guys are the best in the business and are instrumental in making Hexed (and all the books they publish) so damn good. Okay, brown nosing over.
How is the collaboration like between you and Dan? Obviously you have a rather deep connection to the series, so what is the back and forth like for you two?
MAN: My only real communication with Dan is through the script. Eric and Chris are the ones who work with Dan directly since I know nothing about art and would only confuse things by getting involved in that conversation. There’s no industry standard when it comes to writing, but I prefer to fully script an issue, breaking it down panel by panel before giving it to the artist. I know many creators who prefer Marvel style, but I’m not one of them. However, when I write a script, I try to explain why I’m breaking a scene a certain way so the artist knows what I’m moving toward to see if they know a better visual way to get there. But I’m always surprised at how much better things look than what I see in my head. That’s an amazing part of writing comics. Getting to see your story brought to life in a way beyond anything you could have hoped for.
So with Hexed, I mean, where do you see this book standing in comparison to maybe some of the other female-led titles? I think originally the book was noted as similar to Buffy or Tomb Raider, but that was before either had their own regular ongoing. With Buffy and Tomb Raider comics on stands now do you think that remains the same?
MAN: Comparisons are always tough. I only like to use them when Im trying to give the reader a barometer to guage her interest in the book. Buffy works as a decent comparison since both worlds deal with magic and monsters in the “real” world, and both vary in tone from humorous to dark and moving. But that’s pretty much where the comparisons end. Though Buffy and Lucifer are, in a way, both “Chosen Ones”, Buffy is the most recent in a long line of Slayers, gifted with immense power. Lucifer, however, has no powers. All her skills she had to teach herself, whether it’s hand-to-hand comabat or how to use magic. And the creature who “chose” her didn’t do so because she was the strongest, but because she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. In a way she chose herself. And that was intentional. I like a protagonist who is special because she makes herself special by rising to the occasion, not because some mystical whosit gifts her with superpowers. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. Many of my favorite stories have super-powered protagonists. I just enjoy writing about normal protagonists in an abnormal world who survive by using their wits and exploring the limits of their very human potential.
A lot of focus has been put lately on books that star female-leads, as our culture has become a lot better with the dialogue surrounding female characters. You’ve certainly written quite a few heroines before, but do you find that the increased focus has changed the way you approach writing the series?
MAN: That’s a good question. The quick and simple answer is no, not really. That’s certainly not because of an indifference to how women are portrayed in comics, but because I like to think I’ve always been aware of that in my approach to writing.
Now, before I go any further, let me clarify. I’m not saying that I’m some great and noble man who doesn’t see gender, race, religion, etc. Of course I do. To suggest otherwise would be patently ridiculous. But no matter how progressive or enlightened I like to think I am, I’m still a straight white male who will never fully understand the situations and struggles unique to women. So if I try to address those things when I’m writing female characters, it’s going to come across as disingenuous at best, mansplaining at worst.
To give you an example, the protagonist in my series 28 Days Later was Selena, a black woman from London. I know nothing of what it’s like to be black, or a woman, or even a British citizen. But I do know what it’s like to be afraid, to be angry, in love, lost. So those were the things I tried to focus on.
It’s the same with Hexed and Lucifer. I try to focus on the things we can all understand, things we’ve all experienced regardless of whether we’re men or women. When I write Lucifer, I don’t try to write a character that I want to date, I try to write a character I want to be. Resourceful, fearless, and smarter than all the people around her (though, in fairness, those are also qualities I look for in a mate). Does it always work? That’s for the reader to decide. And I’m sure there have been times, and will be times, that I drop the ball. And when I do, I’m sure there will be readers out there who will put me in my place and I will, hopefully, learn from the experience.
But at the end of the day, I’m just trying to tell the best story that I can. I love these characters. I want readers to love them as much as I do and follow me as I tell their stories.
Another thing I’m curious about: you’re certainly not adverse to horror. In fact, I might even say you’re known for it. So what is it about this particular blend of horror that you find appealing? How do you try to differentiate this from, say, 28 Days Later or Valen?
MAN: I would say that 28 Days Later and Valen the Outcast would be considered dramatic horror, where Hexed is more, well, I don’t want to say dramedy, but there’s definitely an element of humor in Hexed that you don’t find in those other titles. But the biggest difference is that Hexed can be, at times, fun. I don’t think you could ever say that about 28 Days Later, Valen, or even Fall of Cthulhu where Lucifer’s character originated. But that’s what I love so much about Hexed. There is a sense of fun amidst all of these horrific situations. Will that fun last? We’ll just have to see how the series develops, but it’s certainly something that I enjoy putting into the story.
So to wrap-up, what do you think readers coming to Hexed for the first time will find? How wide open are the doors for them?
MAN: The doors are wide open. You don’t have to know anything going in. We’ve worked very hard to make sure that it is completely accessible to new readers while still making it fresh and new for existing fans. It’s going to be a fun ride and I’m terribly excited to share this story.
“Hexed” returns in August from BOOM! Studios. Here’s the official solicit:
HEXED is a continuation of Michael Alan Nelson’s story of Lucifer, the supernatural thief, who is a mix of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lara Croft.
Author: Michael Alan Nelson
Artist: Dan Mora
Cover Artists: A: Emma Rios B: Dan Mora
WHY WE LOVE IT: DAY MEN. 28 DAYS LATER. DINGO. Besides being one of our favorite writers, Michael Alan Nelson is one of the industry’s preeminent voices in horror, and we couldn’t be happier to be bringing back his fan-favorite creation HEXED for another dive into the depths of the Aether with an ongoing series!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT: Lucifer is the perfect mash-up of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lara Croft. Plus, HEXED was Pretty Deadly and Amazing Spider-Man superstar Emma Rios’ introduction to the American comics scene back in 2008, and new series artist Dan Mora is poised to continue the trend with his lyrical, horrific, and wholly unique take on Lucifer.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Luci Jennifer Inacio Das Neves (most people just call her “Lucifer”) is a supernatural thief-for-hire, stealing wondrous objects from the dark denizens of the netherworld for her mentor/mother figure, Val Brisendine. But when Lucifer accidentally unleashes a terrible evil from one of the paintings hanging in Val’s art gallery, will any of the tricks up her sleeve be enough to stop it?