Oh, Sleepyheads, have I got a treat for you this week. Hot on the heels of BOOM!’s Sleepy Hollow #1 hitting the newsstands, I have an interview with Sleepy Hollow writer, Marguerite Bennett! I met her briefly at NYCC when she signed my copy of the issue, and we got a chance to chat via email about Sleepy, her other series Butterfly, and what she’s reading now. And yes, my dear friends, she is a Sleepyhead like the rest of us. Here’s what happens when a fangirl gets her shot at writing about our favorite characters (my review of issue 1 is right here, if you haven’t picked up a copy yet).
Marguerite: Ha! That was the very first thing I knew I wanted to do with the series, actually. I’m a sucker for structure. I’m a sucker for the comics medium in general. I knew
Arash Amel, who created the entire property and sent me the most gorgeous Look Book, had envisioned Butterfly as live action—perhaps a television series. He’s the story’s dad; I’m there to teach it how to be a comic.
And with comics, to live up to a story’s full potential, you’ve got to do something that only the comics medium could pull off. Make comics the only place the story could be told like this. Prose couldn’t tell a story this way, movies couldn’t, TV couldn’t—only comics could give us this structure, the splashes, the claustrophobia, the tight 6-panel grids losing unwinding and becoming chaotic sprawls.
Arash introduced his story as one of dual protagonists, spies from different times
bound by their family connection, and that’s exactly what I tried to reflect in our
structure. Two narratives, one running towards their reunion and one running
away, bound by the splashes where they meet. I hope y’all dig it.
Julie: It seems like Rebecca followed in her father’s footsteps, but I get the feeling she never knew about his profession. Can you talk about that connection
Marguerite: Butterfly lived in her father’s shadow. She believed the stories, the war hero, the noble sacrifice, even through all the grisly detail. After news of David’s death, her mother withdrew emotionally in her grief, which left Butterfly—then just Becky—even more isolated. She had very few connections, except to this legacy of her father’s, which gave her meaning, and which she felt she could embody. She wanted to be as he was; when she was chosen for The Project, she may have even imagined that she was exceeding him at last.
Julie: Which comes first in the process of developing Butterfly, the art or the writing (in other words, is it scripted out and then the artwork is done, or does the artwork lead the writing)? What’s the process for Sleepy Hollow?
Marguerite: Arash had all the information about the characters’ backstories, motivations, enemies, and experiences—he’s brilliant, the level of detail he’s put into this
universe. I sliced all that up and rearranged and embellished it, overlaid the dialogue, and sent it on for approval. Once it fit the vision, Cameron and Stephen brought in Antonio, who set up the breakdowns and then the full pages. Once the art came back, we did massage lines here or there for clarity, or cut things as unnecessary since the art was doing our job for us.
Sleepy Hollow is much the same, with Dafna, Noelle, Jorge and Tamra, though Butterfly is a very internal story—lots of captions, lots of stillness and tension before the moment of violence, whereas Sleepy Hollow is very external, lots of banter, lots of motion, lots of spectacle. Our budget is only limited by Jorge’s brilliance, and he’s absolutely killing it.
Julie: Rebecca and Abbie are both strong female characters. What other similarities (if any) did you find between them as you wrote?
Marguerite: Both of them are very observant, and even calculating, people; they observe, they weigh, they consider before they act. They are very aware of consequences, and deviating from their duties or protocol is a task undertaken with full appreciation of the disaster and bloodshed that may ensue.
They are both learning to trust, but are primarily self-reliant. Abbie’s trust in Ichabod and Jenny becomes as dear to her as her trust in herself, but Butterfly’s struggling trust in her father, David, is always a second-guessed and uncertain thing.
Julie: When you signed my comic at NYCC, you told me that you had really been looking forward to working on Sleepy Hollow. Are you a Sleepyhead, and what were you most looking forward to?
Marguerite: Cheers, and thanks so much for coming out! I hope you had a brilliant con. I AM a huge Sleepyhead—that fangirl passion for the show was a huge part of how I wound up on the project, actually. In our comic, I was most looking forward to three things—1) the charming funny campy moments between the characters, 2) the still quiet emotional moments in the aftermath of battle, when everyone’s guard is down and you get into what they really mean to each other 3) getting into their fears and limits. Just getting to play in this universe was an honor.
Julie: How much autonomy did you have from Fox? Could you do anything, or did they give you guidelines?
Marguerite: The Sleepy writers were HUGELY supportive and gave us a ton of freedom. I sent them 9 pitches, and they chose the 3 they liked best. From there, I jumped straight to script, with them reviewing and offering notes on the finished product before it when to Jorge, our penciller, and Tamra, our colorist. Dafna, our editor at BOOM, was a dream come true. There were moments where we accidentally stepped on beats from the series (hey, I’m a fangirl, I watch for clues), but the writers were lovely and gracious and we always found a way to work everything through for the benefit of the story.
Julie: Can you give us a hint as to where the rest of the story arc will go and what characters might be popping up? Is there a chance this might go beyond a four issue run?
Marguerite: I would be over the moon if we went for more than four issues! However, I think everyone is waiting to see how these four do first; I can’t thank fans and readers enough for their support. As far as a hint, the first story is the story of magic, the second is the story of a man, and the third is a story of a machine. Our world and our cast gets bigger and more elaborate with each passing issue, and while Issues #1 and #2 could function as one-shots, if you read #3, you’ll realize the con we’ve been setting up all along.
Julie: And finally, what’cha reading?
Marguerite: I’m actually reading a ton of prose right now! I worry that if I get sucked into comics in all aspects of my life, I’ll lose my roots in prose. I’m rereading Rebecca, which is one of my favorite novels of all time, and rereading its adjacent heir, Gone Girl. I’m about halfway through Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend (I read The Secret History this summer and thought it was one of the best modern American novels I’ve ever read). And, of course, I’m rereading the Maximum Ride series, which I’m adapting into a five-issue miniseries for Marvel for Spring 2015.
And so there you have it: a bit of what’s to come in Sleepy, some more background on Butterfly, and a look ahead at what Marguerite’s going to be doing in 2015. Can’t wait to see where she’s going to go with Maximum Ride! And if you haven’t picked up Sleepy or Butterfly, you really need to. Now. Both are fantastic books.