Image Comics is Moonstruck in Latest YA Fantasy Adventure

Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it's up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it's too late.

The first chapter of the brand new, all-ages magical coffee-laden adventure, Diamond sits down with Lumberjanes creator GRACE ELLIS, talented newcomer SHAE BEAGLE, and editor Laurenn McCubbin to discuss their work on Moonstruck Volume 1 from Image Comics. 

Moonstruck Volume 1 will be available in stores March 27, 2018.

Moonstruck takes a wonderfully modern approach to magical creature characterization with the strong and floofy werewolves, sassy coffee-making centaurs, and eclectic fortune tellers. What was the inspiration behind the magical world-building of this story?

Grace Ellis: Moonstruck was originally conceived as a five-page short story for an anthology, so when I was thinking about the kind of story I wanted to tell in five pages, I knew I wanted it to be something with a twist and then a second twist that built off of the first twist. I do a lot of writing in coffee shops (I know, I know), and one of the things I like about working in that type of environment is that there’s always a lot happening that you can’t control, which makes for incredible people watching. So Moonstruck grew from that feeling of sonder, that feeling of understanding that everyone around me was living a full life full of secrets and subplots that I would never know. And that sort of evolved into “what if this looks like a regular coffee shop but everyone here is secretly a mythical creature,” and then the reveals of their creature-ness became the twists in the five-page story, and the world of Moonstruck grew from there.

Shae Beagle: Grace’s original story for Moonstruck had so much fun and character in a short 5 pages, I knew I had to do it justice with the artwork. For the original short (Moonstruck #0, if you will) I wanted the characters to be easily recognizable types of people you’d see in any little coffee shop. For example, this especially applied to Mark who was that guy who brings his guitar everywhere, probably bought one coffee and has been sitting at his table for 3 solid hours. While I didn’t have anything to do with the writing, I wanted to bring the same warm feeling to the art of the story that Grace brought with the world!

Laurenn McCubbin: Shae and Grace originally created MOONSTRUCK as a  five-page short story for the anthology class I teach at Columbus College of Art & Design, and if anyone is interested in seeing it, we have it up as a “pay-what-you-want” PDF on Shae’s Gumroad: https://gumroad.com/shaebeagle. All the money from that issue is going to the Hispanic Foundation for Hurricane Maria relief.

We find a wide variety of characters present in this story in terms of gender, sexuality, and magical abilities. Can you give us some insight in what went into the development of the characters in Moonstruck? Were the initial character draftings similar to the characters we see on the page now?

Grace Ellis: Yes, the characters have barely changed a tick from their original forms. Except for Chet! Chet was just a background character originally, but Julie needed a friend and the story needed some levity, so Chet became a main character.

So, because of the way Moonstruck came into this world, the character development process was pretty unusual; in a short story, the characters’ motivations and inner lives only matter enough to like, push the plot forward. So when we decided to expand it into a full series, it was almost like an adaptation because we were taking these characters who existed in one form and had to breathe different life into them for a longer form. For example, in the short story, Julie is clearly very anxious and very sensitive about being a werewolf. But if there are lots of other people in this world that are mythical creatures, why is she anxious? Asking questions like that and about how they physically interact with the world is how we fleshed them all out and built the story. It was really fun and really different.

Shae Beagle: The initial cast of characters remains in the story now! Their designs have also hardly changed, besides stylistically (Moonstruck #0 is… over 2 years old now?) A lot of the designing happened pretty naturally based on the glimpse of character personality you get in 5 pages. You know shockingly Mark was the hardest to design. I kept coming back to classmates with a new look for him asking “Does he look like enough of a loser yet?”

This story takes a look at not only the anxieties of dating, but personal insecurities with Julie’s reluctance to accept herself. Despite this, Julie’s girlfriend Selena seems better able to embrace herself, and encourages strength in Julie as well. Was it an important factor for Selena’s strength to be a foil to Julie? How does this portrayal of support in a relationship provide a foundation for relationships throughout the story?

Grace Ellis: Selena and Julie’s relationship is so complicated, definitely more complicated than it seems at first. You’re definitely right in that Selena’s self-confidence is a foil to Julie, but as someone who knows what happens in issue 4, I am hesitant to call their relationship “healthy.” That’s such a horrible answer, I’m sorry. Someone else take a crack at it.

Shae Beagle: Julie and Selena still have a lot of growing to do in their new relationship, and while Selena is very supportive, Julie still has a lot of her own anxieties to work through. Honestly, they’re gonna have their fair share of bumps to smooth out, but we’re gonna be with them every step of the way!

Laurenn McCubbin: Julie and Selena are YOUNG. And Julie… well, she needs to start taking responsibility for her life a little more.

Chet faces an interesting twist when they accompany Julie and Selena to the magic show. Without giving too much away in terms of story, what is the significance of this event for each of our three protagonists? Why was it important that this happened to Chet as opposed to Julie or Selena?

Shae Beagle: I’ll let Grace have at this one!

Grace Ellis: It was important that it happened to Chet for the character development of all three of them: Chet needed to experience the world differently, and Julie and Selena needed to each have very different reactions to the situation. Since Julie and Selena’s relationship is the heart of the book, the situation with Chet is a way to explore their dynamic and then test them individually. I think that’s probably all I can say without giving too much away? Don’t worry, though, Chet isn’t just a plot pawn in this. They have a wild storyline as well, it’s just harder to talk about without spoiling the whole thing.

Grace, the series is categorized as a young adult book. When you first started scripting the story, was it always your intention to cater towards this audience, or did your characters develop in such a way that it naturally fell into the category?

Grace Ellis: Nah, I just started telling the story I wanted to tell, and then we categorized it later. Which is, uh, not a terribly smart way to write a book, marketing-wise, but it’s a good way to write something you genuinely want to write. I never want to condescend to a young adult/kid lit audience, and I genuinely feel like there’s something in this book for everyone, so I wrote the kind of story that I would be excited to read, and it seemed like the type of thing that could be for a YA/all-ages audience if I committed myself to not swearing, and here we are!

Shae, your art lends beautifully to the story by emphasizing Chet’s humor, underlining Julie’s anxieties, and portraying Selena’s strength. You can feel your love for each of the characters through your art.

Shae Beagle: Aww, thank you so much!! I really do have so much love for every one of these characters, and it’s important to me to use expression and body language in a way that adds more to the dialogue. 

Laurenn, an editor’s job is a more important part job in the creation of a comic series than many realize. What was it like working on this series, and how did your efforts with Grace and Shae lead to this final product?

Laurenn McCubbin: I love working on this book – first of all because it’s totally in the Venn Diagram of things I like that includes “cute stuff” and “fairy tales and mythology”, and second because I really, really love working with this team. Shae & Grace are brilliant (and I love that we all live close enough to actually hang out and work sometimes,) and Caitlin and Clayton just do such a fantastic job and are such dreams to work with.

I’ve always been a huge mythology/fairy tale/folktale nerd, so talking with Grace and Shae about the story and different characters and situations has been really fun. I can say “hey what about this kind of creature?” and Shae will draw it into the background, or Grace will plan a story around it (keep an eye on those Frat Fairies that are everywhere! Or the increasingly grumpy café cats!)

Finally, because there is no way you can read this story without becoming overly attached to AT LEAST one character, who is everyone’s favorite magical friend, and why?

Grace Ellis: It’s gotta be Chet! They’re just so fun to write! And they got a lotta heart. And puns. What’s not to love.

Shae Beagle: I still love Chet so so so much, but I’m so attached to everybody! They all deserve some love!

Laurenn McCubbin: Everyone loves Chet! But.. I gotta say, Cass is really growing on me. And, yes, we know there are Mark and Lindi fans out there (ugh, they are just the worst though! You kids and your love of problematic babies!)