Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: I’m here with Kelly and Nichole Matthews, the artists for Breaker for STELA Comics along with the writer, Mariah Huehner. Breaker is a really interesting storyline with some twists and turns I didn’t expect. Do you want to give a quick summary without giving too much away?
Kelly Matthews: It’s basically a supernatural suspense whodunit where the main character is trying to figure out who is responsible for all of these murders that are going on in the area and whether or not she is actually the murderer.
CB: Whether or not she’s the murderer? She’s got some secrets.
Nichole Matthews: Yes.
CB: You probably don’t want to reveal it, but it’s shocking what her secret is. It feels right and feels weird at the same time.
How did you approach drawing this series?
Nichole Matthews: It was a new experience. We’ve never done a comic for this type of format before. We’ve only ever done comics for the traditional format. So when we first heard it was going to be for a mobile platform, we had to step back and think, “How are we going to approach this in a way that we wouldn’t for a traditional comic?” Clearly if we’re going to be using the mobile platform, we can’t do it like a normal comic. It has to be its own unique thing.
Kelly Matthews: It’s actually easier, though,
Nichole Matthews: To be honest, I was surprised. We do all the layouts for one page first and then we have Mariah’s notes. If it’s going to be four panels, then she wants this on this, this on that. But then it’s really liberating to know that we have her trust and Jim’s trust that if we want to extend it, say, two or three panels to add suspense, we’re totally allowed to do that.
Kelly Matthews: The infinite space that the mobile platform allows us is really great. A normal issue that has twenty-two pages, you can’t do anymore or any less if it needs it. But with Stela, they give us the freedom to do as much as we want.
Nichole Matthews: So long as it’s the minimum of four panels.
Kelly Matthews: Yes.
CB: And you play with that with the reveals.
Nichole Matthews: Yes, we do.
Kelly Matthews: Yes.
Nichole Matthews: We had a lot of fun using that to stretch out the suspenseful moments and squish the panels together a little closer to make it more tense.
Kelly Matthews: It helps us. When we’re doing it, we try to think of it in our heads like, “Well, if you were shooting this on film, how would you shoot this on film?” Because you can do the same sort of effect just with that one static image. Like say with the big reveal at the end of the first issue, we were trying to think, “Well, how long can you stretch this when you’re scrolling it that would give you the same effect as if you were watching it on video?”
Nichole Matthews: Yeah, and if they were panning down to show you the reveal in a movie.
CB: Was there something about this script that especially appealed to you? I know the roommates are very close in the story.
Nichole Matthews: The roommates are close. They are close like sisters, but they aren’t actually related.
We always have loved supernatural and horror and mystery. The prior comic we worked on this before this, Toil and Trouble, is about witches and supernatural elements. Jumping from that to werewolves was a really great starting off point. We love werewolves. We love all of that sort of thing. As soon as she said that it was going to involve supernatural creatures (werewolves, vampires, that sort of thing), we were like, “Sign us up!”
CB: But she looks like a regular girl at the beginning, too.
Nichole Matthews: She does!
CB: On her surfboard, she’s so happy. And then she goes through these physical changes once a month, which I thought was so clever. It feels very naturalistic I guess.
Nichole Matthews: Yeah! Mariah was very good I think at writing some little funny beats and referencing all of these things like you know what Varity really is and what Ava is and all of these other characters that you don’t find out until later.
Kelly Matthews: If you reread it again, “Oh, this makes sense. I see it now.”
Nichole Matthews: And in this new context that you have, suddenly you realize “Oh, that’s what they were saying all the long,” but it could mean something else.
CB: Right. Right. That makes it more exciting for you, too. It forces you to be prepared to set these scenes up correctly, too. How much editorial guidance did you get when you were putting it together? Or did you get a lot of freedom?
Kelly Matthews: Not a whole lot, which is also really great.
Nichole Matthews: What I really appreciate about Jim and our other editors is that they have a lot of trusts that us and Mariah know what we’re doing. The editorial notes that we have, they are all very minor. And that could just be because we’re hitting the right notes in the first place.
Kelly Matthews: Which would be great if that’s true.
Kelly Matthews: But then he also has [inaudible 00:05:08], like, “Well, you’re all professionals so you know what would be expected of you in this setting and for this sort of format.”
CB: How did you get hooked up with Mariah?
Nichole Matthews: We actually knew her through Marighread. Toil and Trouble. They’re friends.
Kelly Matthews: And then she emailed us.
Nichole Matthews: Mariah emailed us because she talked to Mairghread and asked her if she knew if we were doing anything post Toil and Trouble and Mairghread said no. Then Mariah emailed us.
Kelly Matthews: She contacted us through Marighread and emailed, “I know you guys know her. Are you interested in doing something with me? And would you like to hear about the pitch that I am thinking of doing?”
CB: I have to admit, I never knew about Toil and Trouble. What’s that about and is it available?
Nichole Matthews: Toil and Trouble is the ultimate retelling of the story of Macbeth.
Kelly Matthews: From the witch’s point of view. It’s basically about these three sisters who are the weird sisters who are trying to decide among themselves whether or not Macbeth deserves to become king.
Nichole Matthews: And then this results in war because they are all arguing over it. It’s not available for individual issues now. We actually just literally sold out of the last ones here at the Con. But it’s going to be available for a trade paperback. It’s available for preorder on Amazon.
Kelly Matthews: And you can still buy the single issues on Comixology and BoomStudios.com. We did it through Archaia Press, which is BOOM’s creator-own subset.
CB: What else are you working on that you can talk about?
Kelly Matthews: Well, right now we have Breaker obviously. We have something in the works with this online I guess publisher of web comics called iWorks. They have dozens and dozens of self-published web comics under their banner. We’re working with one of their authors to do a special paid project. Instead of giving revenue share, which is what they usually do, we’ll be getting a page rate for it and then a revenue share on top of that later.
Nichole Matthews: Yeah.
Kelly Matthews: They have a handful of selective comics that they are doing as an incentive to get people to read the site. The one that we will be working on will be a part of that. That’ll be launched I think next month.