Witchy Woman: William Harms talks "Bad Mojo"

Thu, June 24th, 2004 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

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"Bad Mojo"
It's safe to assume that a good portion of you reading this story have been involved in some sort of automobile accident. If you do any appreciable amount of driving it's going to happen. There's really no avoiding it. And hopefully everything turns out okay when it does happen. This August, writer William Harms and artist Steve Morris take a look at an accident that goes bad, very bad, because when you hit a car driven by a real-life witch, well, there are consequences.

"Bad Mojo" is that book. It's an all-new 88 page graphic novel coming this August from AiT/Planet Lar. The book tells the story of Bruce O'Connor, a young man on the cusp of breaking in to the ranks of Major League Baseball as a pitcher. To celebrate, he and his buddies drive to spring training in Florida.

Somewhere in Texas, things get strange. Well, stranger than usual for Texas. Bruce falls asleep at the wheel and ends up crashing into a car driven by a man-hating witch named Judy Gardner. Angered by the damage he's done to her Volvo, the witch puts a curse on Bruce - every day at dawn he dies, only to be resurrected when the sun goes down. Talk about being a night person. In order to lift the curse, and get to spring training on time, Bruce and his three friends set off to collect arcane objects for the witch.

"The first book is set in Harras, Oklahoma (it's planned as a trilogy of graphic novels)," Harms told CBR News. "The trio loses track of time and Bruce drops dead in a truck stop, so the Sheriff gets called and begins to investigate. From there things go down hill, especially since the folks in Harras don't take kindly to people rising from the dead."

Harms told CBR News that the inspiration for the story comes from a crusade he took with some friends to a college football game.

"Bad Mojo," Page 16 "Bad Mojo," Page 17
"The original idea was spawned during a trip to the first Big 12 championship football game, which was in St. Louis," said Harms. "Myself and two of my friends drove down from Lincoln to watch Nebraska play Texas, and during the drive down we entered into a weird conversation about what we'd do if we won the lottery. My friend Rob said that if he won the lottery, he'd travel around the country and explore the paranormal. The original idea of friends exploring the paranormal stuck with me. However, I couldn't get it to go anywhere, until I made it three friends forced to do the bidding of a crazed, man-hating witch."

The addition of the baseball storyline provides Harms' with a time pressure element. If Bruce doesn't report for spring training, his career is in jeopardy, thus creating a need to lift that curse as fast as possible.

The background of Judy Gardner, the witch, isn't explored too much in the first book, but Harms was happy to bring readers up to speed on her character.

"[Judy Gardner]…is something of a radical, 60's style bra-burning feminist. She went through a really messy divorce, is estranged from her son, and now she has it in for men.

"Not much of her history is revealed in the first book (that comes in books two and three when the boys meet her ex-husband), but she is extremely powerful and can do pretty much what she wants. That said, I intentionally cast her against the usual 'witch' type - she drives a Volvo and loves flowers and gardening. I wanted her to be the story's villain, but at the same time she had to be sympathetic and human."

"Bad Mojo," Page 19 "Bad Mojo," Page 21
With "Bad Mojo," Harms uses a non-linear story telling device to weave his tale. Jumping around time in the story solved a number of challenges he faced when writing the book.

"I wrestled with writing the book in a more linear fashion, but I just couldn't work it out because the three main characters always have to be together (because of the curse)," said Harms. "That meant that I couldn't move the focus off of them, which really limited my ability to maintain a consistent sense of tension.

"So the solution I came up with was jumping back and forth from the 'present' and a 'week earlier.' It sounds a little confusing, but it turned out really well and the story clips along - there is always something new about the story or its characters for the reader to discover."

Much like he did in his previous AiT/Planet Lar book "Abel," Harms has once again crafted a story set in small town America, allowing him to explore all the idiosyncrasies associated with small town living.. As you might expect, Harms grow up in a small town himself.

"I grew up in Beatrice, Nebraska, a small town of about 13,000. If there's one thing I know, it's small town America, so it's easy for me to incorporate that environment into my writing. Plus, it also lets me comment on life in a small town and the kind of people that live in those towns. That shows up in 'Bad Mojo' when Bruce and his friends find themselves in some serious hot water with a fundamentalist sheriff and preacher."

While "Bad Mojo" may appear to be a horror comic on the surface, Harms thinks it fits into the category of "black comedy" a bit more comfortably.

"Bad Mojo," Page 22 "Bad Mojo," Page 28
"I'd say it's a black comedy because of the outrageous and horrific situations that Bruce and his friends must endure," said Harms. "I'm putting these characters through the ringer; every situation they face is worse than the one that proceeded it. For example, there's a really nasty scene toward the end of the first book and when Steve read the script, he emailed me and told me that he couldn't believe I actually had that happen to one of the characters. I want the reader to experience that kind of feeling throughout the story - they can't believe what happened, but they have to keep reading."

Harms hooked up with artist Steve Morris by posting an ad on the Digital Webbing forums. Originally the two were going to work on his zombie comic, "Dead or Alive." Unfortunately that didn't work out due to the length of the story ("Hitman" artist John McCrea is now drawing "Dead or Alive"), but Harms was able to convince Morris to tackle "Bad Mojo."

"Steve is a phenomenal talent," said Harms. "All of the art is created digitally, which lets him really play with light and dark and create some fantastic effects."

As you read above, "Bad Mojo" is palnned as a trilogy. Harms' goal is to have the books come out once a year, but admits it will come down to everyone's schedule. The second book is called "Bad Mojo: The Werewolf of Shawnee County" and book three is "Bad Mojo: The Duct-Taped Demon."

"The story has a definite ending," said Harms, "and the primary plot through all of them is Bruce trying to rid himself of the curse, so it's not really them 'exploring' the paranormal, but rather them doing the witch's bidding. It's going to be a wild and crazy ride."

 
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