On a horse made of smoke, her eerily beautiful skull-tattooed face shadowed by the brim of her hat, a stoic woman rides west. Her name is Ginny and she is the daughter of Death himself, freed from the spirit world to carry out an act of vengeance through a vibrant landscape reminiscent of the Old West. Narrated by a butterfly and an expired skeletal bunny, Ginny's story is part Western, part fantasy and altogether "Pretty Deadly."
Debuting October 23 from Image Comics, "Pretty Deadly" is the first creator-owned series from the "Captain Marvel" and "Osborn" team of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Emma Rios. The title was announced at this year's Image Expo and has been highly anticipated ever since. Rios' artwork is sharp, sweet and soft, conveying danger and elegance in each page with lush colors by Jordie Bellaire. Although "Pretty Deadly" pulls inspiration from spaghetti Westerns and Japanese pinky violence, it includes unexpected elements born from the story's organic evolution between DeConnick and Rios.
In anticipation of the upcoming release, DeConnick spoke with CBR News about the progression of her story and the cast of delightfully dark figures her newest heroine will encounter.
CBR News: It seems like "Pretty Deadly" has gone through several stages in the development and world building process. Can you talk a little bit about how the story began and where it has ended up?
Kelly Sue DeConnick: When it started it was going to be about this assassin who was making her way from the West to the East. As she went, an always-growing entourage followed her -- I had this whole plan that went completely out the window. None of that is the case anymore. The hardest thing to give up was this idea of her being a sharp shooter in a Wild West show. I'd done all of this research on Wild West shows! I'd gotten attached to these cool ideas. The thing is, that's just not what this book wanted to be. When I kept saying these things, it didn't feel right. I kept having to go back and rethink, be open to new ideas. Emma would do some sketches and they'd make me wonder. It ended up taking on this fantasy element that I hadn't expected. I thought I was doing a straight-up Western, and I'm really, really not.
A thing that has been fascinating in creating this mythology -- and I can't talk about this without sounding super pretentious -- it feels like we're discovering, not creating. It really feels like we're solving a puzzle. We have guesses about these characters and their relationships. I have this board that has all 5 issues laid out with post-it notes describing what has to happen in each issue, and it's getting filled up as we're getting the whole thing figured out. What's interesting to me is that we've got all this backstory figured out, and I actually had a little panic attack because I love it so much, and I keep wondering if we started the story in the wrong place. I finally had to accept that it just has to be what it is, and maybe we can go back and tell some of that stuff later, and it just starts where it starts.
What pieces of the story take on that fantasy element?
Ha! Well, the dead bunny narrator would be the first that leaps to mind, I guess. The man with the rabbit skull for a head. The talking bird. The beast born from the river of blood.
Those are rarely found in conventional Westerns.
Is the story set to be 5 issues or do you have more planned?
We're on the [Ed] Brubaker model. I'm sure nineteen million people have done this before him, but I'm gonna call it the Brubaker model because that's when I noticed it and I think he's done it exceptionally well -- it's an ongoing. We're going to do 5 issues and take a break, it will be a complete story, and then we will come back to it and keep going as long as the story schedule and finances allow.
What was the character design process for Ginny like? Did you have an idea of how you imagined her, and did it match Emma's design?
I think literally the only change I asked for was to lengthen her hair. Originally, I believe Emma did something about shoulder length and I asked if we could go a bit longer.
I don't think so. I think that the social media aspect has happened on some level with "Captain Marvel," but not with "Pretty Deadly." I didn't even know anyone was looking at our Pinterest. In fact, I sort of moved away from using it and we have all of our images up on a private Evernote that Emma and I share with our editor. Social media is something we're all still figuring out. I really like it, I really enjoy it, but there are things you need to be careful of. You don't' want to be spending more time on social media than you are working on your project. You don't want to be reverse-engineering what you think people want. For my career and for my spirit and for the industry I make an effort to interact with the people who read my books. I'm a people person and I want to say thank you for the support we've been given, I'm tickled when they get particularly attached to characters or they recognize moments that I put in there that surprise me, something I didn't plan or expect -- when someone enjoys that, I love it. It's an especially nice thing.
Comics has a long tradition of people coming into the industry from being fans; and, unfortunately we have a very low percentage of female professionals. We have exceptional female professionals, but not a ton of them. So I would like to do what I can to let women who would like to work in this industry know that it can be done, there's room for them, we're not all competing for the token-girl spot, so that's an effort I make with social media. I make myself visible because I think it's important for women to see this is a thing women can do – there's a place for us here!
But there's a danger... sometimes people open the door to wide and they a start to reverse-engineer a piece of art to try and please the audience whose pleasure they've become addicted to. It's not a terribly healthy relationship when that line is crossed and I don't think it makes for good books.
"Pretty Deadly" seems like it takes place in a large world with a diverse cast. Who are some of the key characters we will meet?
There's Ginny, Death's daughter, and she is a vengeance figure and a protective figure. What's interesting is there are a lot of very important figures in the book -- the blind man, the girl in the vulture coat, the bunny and the butterfly that tell the story, Johnny Coyote the journalist, a woman named Alice who's taller than the doorjamb and fights with butterfly swords and is incredibly deadly, Sara who is a mama bear and as fierce as all hell, the dog pack that rides with the blind man and the girl in the vulture coat -- it's a large cast.
Are the butterfly and the bunny reliable narrators? Yes, they are subjective, but you can trust them.
Pretty Deadly #1 is available October 23.