Writer / artist Mike Wolfer, whose credentials include Stitched with Garth Ennis, War Goddess, Night of the Living Dead, and Gravel with Warren Ellis, recently conducted an interview with Diamond Comics to discuss the ongoing Lady Death series, specifically the story arc running from issues #7 through #12 which are collected in the upcoming Lady Death Volume 2 graphic novel. Although the original interview was truncated for Diamond's use, we are happy to present the entire interview here for your reading enjoyment.
At the beginning of this particular story arc, what's Lady Death's predicament?
Since the Boundless Comics series is an ongoing monthly in the truest sense, the Volume 2 trade paperback picks up moments after the incredible cliffhanger ending of Volume 1. Fans of the book will tell you that over the course of her twenty year history, the quest for her kidnapped mother has been the primary driving force behind Lady Death's actions. In fact, Lady Death's origin is directly tied to that event. Forsaking her soul and pledging herself to the dark forces of the Under Realm, Lady Death acquired magical abilities and has honed and mastered those powers during her fruitless search for her mother in that nightmare dimension.
At the opening of Lady Death Volume 2, the albino goddess has at last found her mother, but the heartbreaking truth is that the woman she forfeited her life to rescue has donned the guise of the sadistically cruel and completely insane Death Queen, whose zombie and demon army has nearly succeeded in conquering the entire Under Realm. Kingdom after kingdom has fallen, and thousands have been crushed by the forward advance of Death Queen's forces, but the seeds of rebellion have been planted, and all the freedom fighters need is a symbol to unite the survivors of the fragmented realm under one banner. Naturally, all eyes turn to Lady Death, but with a portion of her power in the possession of Death Queen, and spiritually broken by the revelation of her mother's fate, it's going to take the strength of every one of her allies to help Lady Death reclaim her former glory.
Was there a favorite scene that you enjoyed writing?
There are always a lot of little characterization moments and scenes which are immensely fun for me to write, so it's really hard to boil it down to one. Lady Death has such a rich assortment of supporting characters, which has always been one of the strong points of the series. One of the tasks which I took upon myself was to take all of those cool characters seen in the various Lady Death series previously published by Avatar Press and breathe new life into them, and to give them all more fully-developed relationships and personalities.
Also, this story takes place roughly fifty years since we last visited the Under Realm, so much has changed, as have the characters themselves and their relationships with one another. That was a lot of fun, imagining what might have happened in that fifty-year span and how it has affected them all; friends are now enemies, enemies are now friends, so much has transpired. And that's one of the reasons fans have so enthusiastically embraced the new series, because they can't wait to see what favorite characters are around the corner and how the war against Death Queen has changed them. Two of those characters are Wargoth, who was Hope's mentor during her transformation into Lady Death, and Stigmata, a villainess whose liquid-like body is composed of sentient, living blood.
But to finally answer the question, I guess my favorite scene to write was the concluding battle in Volume 2. In the ruins of a forgotten city in a remote desert, Wargoth faces off against Behemoth, Death Queen's mightiest general. Simultaneously, Lady Death is battling Stigmata in an underground labyrinth for possession of a sword which would give she who wields it incredible power. Just as we saw with Lady Death Volume 1, this second trade paperback in the series ends in quite an unexpected and emotional manner, which will leave readers anxiously awaiting Volume 3!
If there was a supporting cast member (or two) that you felt fans should keep an eye on, who would you point out?
Well, as I said, the supporting cast is so integral to the series, and in writing this epic storyline, I've made sure that each and every cast member will play a crucial role at some point. Everyone has their purpose, and I've been really diligent about everyone playing their parts in believable and logical ways. And when readers reach the end of Volume 2, a second reading of the first two volumes will reveal that so many subtle nuances early on were intentionally laid, in order to spring "traps" later on down the road.
The character who probably best embodies this concept is Tormina, teenaged daughter of Death Queen and half-sister of Lady Death. She has been by her mother's side since the beginning, but as the story progresses, we're seeing that their relationship is anything but functional. I like to describe Tormina as the little hornet buzzing in everyone's ears, taunting and being a general nuisance, but she's a nuisance with magical powers and an influence over Death Queen which no other being in the Under Realm possesses. There are very, very big plans on the horizon for Tormina, so I would recommend that every time she appears, readers take very careful note of the things she says and does. You never know when that little hornet is going to sting!
It's been twenty years since the first appearance of Lady Death in comics, and she's still going strong. What are your thoughts on the title's role in comic history and your contributions to her continuing adventures?
In all honesty, the reason people pick up the book, buy posters, or get tattoos of Lady Death is because of her physical appearance, and that hasn't changed in the last twenty years. That's the hook, that's what lures readers in. But it's the character herself who seals the deal and transforms readers attracted to those sexy covers into lifetime fans. My part in all this was to take a firmly established character and mythos and move it into territory which would be a logical progression for her, giving readers exactly what they've come to expect while at the same time taking her story to a new level of sophistication. I've been friends with Lady Death's creator, Brian Pulido, for nearly as long as Lady Death has been in print, so it's incredibly rewarding for me to be able to add my own take to his character, while still maintaining a quality that is consistent with the wealth of material which has come before. In fact, one of my proudest accomplishments is the creation of Death Queen, who wears a porcelain mask mocking Lady Death's own face, but the features on that mask include the twisted, sardonic grin that was popularized by her original artist, the unforgettable Steven Hughes. That's my homage to him, and to the roots of Lady Death herself, and they should never be forgotten.
Anything you'd like to say to the retailers who have been picking up Lady Death?
I would like to thank all of the retailers worldwide who have been so overwhelmingly supportive of the ongoing monthly. Because our sales are so strong, it's a clear indicator that they're either keenly aware of their customers' tastes when it comes time to order, or they're familiar enough with the Lady Death property that they've been willing to put those books on their shelves, and it's because of this that we're picking up first-time readers month after month. We're also noticing that quite a few comic shops are noticing the crossover appeal of War Goddess, and recommending that series to their customers who love Lady Death. If the Lady Death and War Goddess Facebook pages are any indicator, the readership of both books is nearly identical. Boundless Comics has had an incredibly auspicious start, and we have the retailers to thank.
Lady Death Volume 2 Signed Hardcover
Written by Mike Wolfer & Brian Pulido
Artwork & Cover by Gabriel Andrade
Autographed by Mike Wolfer, Matt Martin, and Michael DiPascale
Limited to 1,000 copies
$34.99 Retail, Diamond Item Code: MAY120999