Interview: Erica Schultz on 'The Deadliest Bouquet'
Can you even call yourself a podcast if you haven't talked with Erica about her new retro crime comic? Nope.
So, that question above: can you even call yourself a podcast (or a comic book devoted website) if you haven't talked with Erica Schultz about her new retro crime comic, The Deadliest Bouquet? We've answered with a "Nope" cuz Schultz is seemingly everywhere right now. She's stoked about her new graphic novel, and she's bombarding the online space with her Kickstarter campaign. The world must know about this comic, and we're only too happy to help spread the word.
The Deadliest Bouquet is a 120-page graphic novel written and lettered by Schultz, illustrated by Carola Borelli, colored by Gab Contreras, and edited by James Emmett. Oh, and it features a gobsmackingly stunning cover by Kevin Wada and if you back the book at a certain level, you'll walk away with an equally incredible print by Alane Grace (see the image above).
The story centers on three sisters who reunite after their Nazi-smashing mother is found dead inside the family florist shop. Schultz and company tell the tale through a clever stacking of flashback panels. You think the plot is one thing at the start, but it quickly begins to churn into something else entirely. We read the first twenty-five pages and immediately backed the Kickstarter. You gotta put your money into what you want to see out in the world.
Set in the very particular year of 1998, the comic strums those nostalgia strings, but never falls into the sentimentality trap. As you'll read in the interview below, the time and the place is there for a reason. The comic could not exist in any other decade, or any other year, really. Does Buffy, Charmed, and - checks notes - Law and Order come up? You betcha!
When chatting with Schultz, it's hard not to get caught up in her excitement. She's so damn delighted to be making comics. She's already worked in nearly every area of the industry, and she offers tremendous insight and encouragement for those that dare wade into these four-color waters with her. You will come away from this convo inspired.
This interview was edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the entire 40-minute conversation on our Patreon feed. Just $1 Dollar. That's less than the cover price of a comic from the 1990s.
Lisa: You have a special perspective in the comic book world, because you've done a little bit of everything.
Erica: I have, yeah.
Lisa: When you're building a team, it's easy for you to have all your fingers in all of the pies.
Erica: I do, and I could blame COVID for my extra couple of pounds, but I'm sure it's just probably because I'm sticking my fingers in everybody's pies! I am a bit of a control freak though, which is funny because on the particular book that I'm here to shill, The Deadliest Bouquet, people have been bringing up the fact that I'm also lettering the book. I have worked as a letterer, but one of the main reasons why I'm lettering the book is because I am a control freak, so.
Brad: Well, I don't think you put on a project like this without being a little bit of a control freak. And I think that's an interesting place to start this conversation.
Erica: Start with my psychosis. Okay [laughs].
Brad: Yes, yes.
Erica: My neuroses. Sure, let's go.
Brad: This is why it's Comic Book Couples Counseling, you're on the couch, you're in session.
Erica: Oh, great. Should I get my husband? I'll tell him to stop mowing the lawn.
Brad: Okay. That would be great! But seriously, in assembling your team, what were you looking for specifically for this project and what did they all bring to The Deadliest Bouquet?
Erica: Well, for a project like this, because the story takes place in the real world, it's not a cartoonish thing, I obviously wanted to find an artist, a line artist who had a very realistic aesthetic. Some projects, you can really admire an artist's work, but their work might not be good for that particular project.
If you do a children's book, you don't want a super realistic artist, because that takes away from sort of the imagination of a kid's book. But if you're doing a story like this, which takes place in 1998, in the real world, you don't want somebody who has too cartoonish of a style, because then it takes away from - not necessarily the stakes, but sort of the realism of the story.
So I had noticed Carola Borelli's work on Destiny, NY, which is created by Pat Shand at Space Between Entertainment, and I really enjoyed her work. And everybody jokes because I tend to work with a lot of Italian artists like Maria Laura Sanapo and Marika Cresta and now Carola Borelli, and I don't know, I mean, it's just, I'm getting back to my roots, I guess.
But I wanted somebody who had a really nice clean line work, somebody who could do good acting and expressions on the faces. And some of the shots like you could just see with these three sisters, just the expression on their faces, their body language, you can automatically know what the hierarchy is, what their relationship to each other is. I showed my husband a shot from Book Two the other day and he's like, "Oh yeah, you can tell who's pissed at who already from the shot." Because she really does great acting. So I wanted somebody to do that.
Lisa: The story centers around these three sisters who I feel like age-wise are just spaced out enough to have a little trouble relating with each other. And I love stories that center around siblings and sisters in particular, because I have siblings and I have a sister! I was wondering if you were perhaps inspired by your own siblings?
Erica: I do, my brother is the oldest, and then my sister and then me. We're spaced out a little farther, my brother is five and a half, six years older than me, my sister is two and a half years older than me and then there's me. When you're one of two, you only have one person to sort of butt heads with. And you're either best friends or you hate each other, because sibling rivalry just happens, it's a natural thing, it's a survival mechanism more or less. Who's going to get mom and dad's attention more? Who's going to want to beat the hell out of the little rugrat more kind of thing?
When there are three, it is a much more complex dynamic, and I don't think that I realized it as a child, because my frontal cortex hadn't developed enough, but now looking back, I'm like, whoa, there's politics involved, there is who am I going to align myself with - and I've used this phrase before, but this is round-robin of alliances.
It's like, do I align myself with my sister because she's a girl and she gets me, or do I align myself with my brother because he's bigger and he can beat the crap out of both of us? I find that dynamic so interesting. And I was talking with someone about hierarchies, and there is hierarchies in society and in families and everything. There was actually a New York Times article the other day about how families have their own sort of language.
It basically comes down to when you are brought back - no matter how far you've gone - when you are brought back to your family reunion or whatever, a hierarchy re-emerges. And you can fight that as much as you want, and you can say I'm forty-something-years-old and I'm no longer the baby of the family, but you're still always going to be the baby of the family. And to this day, I mean, I'm forty-four-years-old and my mother still calls me baby, and I'm just like, really mom, really.
Brad: When I was reading the book I imagined seeing the 90s TV adaptation of The Deadliest Bouquet. And you have this gorgeous cover from Kevin Wada that really does seem to live in...well, it doesn't quite live in The CW space because I wish CW ads looked as good as a Kevin Wada cover, but I get that vibe from it. Was that intentional?
Erica: I told Kevin, when I reached - first of all, I was nervous reaching to Kevin, because I'm a huge fan of his work. And just, I mean, he has such a phenomenal aesthetic, and I reached out to him and I said, it's Clueless meets Singles meets Law and Order.
Lisa: Oh my goodness!
Brad: Boom. Done, that's it.
Lisa: I see the whole chain of DNA. I see it all.
Erica: And I felt like such an ass saying that, I was like, this guy is going to be like, "Who is this person?" Because it was like, "Hi, you don't know me, I'm a huge fan of your work, I have this project, I wanted to know your availability and blah, blah, blah, blah." And he was just so kind and so generous. And I sent him that, not log-line, but that sort of mood board, and he was like, "Three things that have nothing to do with each other, thrown together, that's when the best art is made."
And I'm like, if you can run with it, which I know you can, because you're a professional's professional, then go for it. And he came back with this and I was just, Jesus Christmas, this is fantastic.
Erica Schultz ain't lying. That Kevin Wada is fantastic. So is the whole comic.
As we already stated, we've backed the project and if you want to see more Clueless meets Singles meets Law and Order mysteries in the world, then you'll want to back The Deadliest Bouquet too. Click HERE to do so. Also, don't forget, you can listen to the full unedited, extended interview over on our Patreon.