Interview by Anthony N. Castle
In Hail issues 1- 3, we were introduced to Lena, a woman who crumbles into shards of glass whenever she experiences anxiety. After a violent confrontation with a serial killer in issues 4 & 5, Lena begins to question her ability to fight crime on top of her basic daily responsibilities. Written by Miranda Richardson and illustrated by Rosanna Lam, Hail continues its exploration of strength, gender and mental illness…
Lena has fought a serial killer now and is attempting to balance her crime fighting alongside her everyday life. Do you think Hail is taking on more elements of a genre book as more familiar superhero motifs appear?
Hail is definitely moving into some more classic superhero conflicts as we go. It’s true that the concept of Hail was always about challenging things we often expect of superhero comics, like objectified women and large-scale conflicts that reinforce dichotomies. I wanted to show that strength and weakness aren’t separate, and they actually almost always mix together. And I really wanted to throw in some gentle, unassuming and varied forms of love and show them growing alongside and through the action. There were parts of the genre that I wanted to be more realistic with, like long-term emotional impact, trauma and relationship development, and other parts that I wanted to more playfully emphasise, like bank heists and badass superhero moves.
Lena continues to be challenged by her anxiety and utilise that struggle. How has the mental health a theme of the book developed?
It has been a challenge in writing Hail to show that anxiety pervades Lena’s life without writing down her every moment-by-moment struggle. A lot about anxiety doesn’t happen in a conscious thought that can be whittled down to worded captions; it’s more of a constant dread and sense of fragility that periodically builds to a breaking point. The comic, of course, opens at a breaking point.
However, one thing I’ve noticed in my experiences with long-term illness is that it can change in small ways as you become better at managing it or change the way you respond to it. I guess it evolves. It’s the same mass, but its shape slowly moves. Lena discovers her glass form in a moment of anxiety, but her anxiety isn’t the source of her power. Her anxiety has moved and her power is still here. As we get closer to finishing volume 1, I’ll be looking to explore that further.
You guys have just hit 100 pages into the story so far. How has the process been over the first year?
It might not seem like it when we post a set of pages once a month, but we actually have a very fast workflow. We work with draft 1 scripts because there’s no time for me to do a second draft when the backgrounders need to get going with it. Then we have a week for each art stage. Because of that speed, we haven’t really had time to adjust our process much over the year.
But there have been small changes. Mala and Tom, our background artists, work more collaboratively than they originally did, with Tom primarily on line work and Mala on colour. I think we’ve become a really cohesive, supportive team and I’ve been able to rely on everyone more and more. Team work can be heaven or hell, and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with such a large number of talented, reliable, inspiring artists.
I finally took the time to re-read Hail from page 1 to page 100 the other day and the standard of our work has changed so much. Rosanna’s art style has evolved and our colourists have been studying her changes and testing out her techniques. Since going into print we’ve become more conscious of colour balance as well. My writing is much, much better. Hail was the first comic any of us had ever produced and it has become some kind of nostalgic album of our creative growth.
What’s in store for the future of Hail?
Volume 1 will be complete at the end of issue 7 so we’re currently ramping up to the apex of the main story arc with the serial killer. Volume 1 is like a pilot episode on TV; you have a short time to introduce all of the story’s potential and you only have time to tie up one arc. After volume 1 we’ll go on a hiatus, and I’m going to miss the team and the characters immensely. For now, I’m just excited to be writing with them.
Hail can be read for free online at hailcomic.com