COYOTES is a startling new ongoing series from Image Comics. In this urban fantasy and horror tale, readers follow Analia, a young girl on a journey of vengeance. After her mother and sister are killed by a pack of vicious coyotes, Analia joins a secret society determined to purge the world of this werewolf threat. Recently, ComicsVerse had the opportunity to sit down with Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky, the creative team behind COYOTES. Sean, the writer for THE FEW and SAINTS for Image, and Caitlin Yarsky, the creative mind behind webcomic THE CHANGEABLE HARPER FINN, took us through the dark landscape of this modern dark fairytale.

ComicsVerse (CV): In your own words, could you give me a rundown of what COYOTES is about?

Sean Lewis (SL): I think it’s UNDERWORLD meets SICARIO. KILL BILL meets THE HOWLING. It’s the story of a town where girls go missing. Girls are hunted by a new type of werewolf, an engineered werewolf that augments their innate desires. So women band together and begin to arm themselves — like militias with Katana blades — and they start cutting the wolves’ heads off.

CV: How did you two start collaborating on this project?

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

SL: I found Caitlin online. Super creepy! But yeah, I found samples for a webcomic Caitlin had made about a Changeling Girl and I loved the art. I had the first issue of COYOTES written at that point. And so I sent a random email: “Hi, I like your art I wrote a story about girls murdering werewolves…” And for some reason, Caitlin was like “I’m in.” That was 2 years ago.

Caitlin Yarsky (CY): Yeah, I got this random email from Sean asking if I wanted to collaborate — he found my personal comic (it was sort of the SANDMAN meets HELLBOY meets old Jim Henson movies like the DARK CRYSTAL or LABYRINTH). After checking out his story I got really excited and ideas started flowing.

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CV: The allusions to Little Red Riding Hood comes across clearly in this story. What were some of your other inspirations for the narrative elements and the visual aesthetic?

SL: Me and Caitlin are both real SANDMAN geeks. We connected on that early. I knew I wanted it to have a storybook feel- a very twisted fairytale — mainly, because I feel like a lot of things that happen in the real world are so difficult to comprehend or engage with that we don’t know what to do with them when they come up. Myth circumvents that. I wanted there to be a way we explored the idea of women going missing and gave it a heart that we couldn’t ignore: a large world with meaning that we wanted to be a part of… I mean, my influences are so disparate. I’m obsessed with Cormac McCarthy and Junot Diaz. 70’S cinema, Tarantino, Kurosawa, Riot Grrl Bands. The great thing I am finding with comic books is the pure imagination you can bring so everything becomes an amalgamation of things I am obsessed with. So this book becomes Cormac McCarthy reading a bedtime story where Kathleen Hanna and her friends decapitate werewolves and other vile monsters (human and otherwise).

CY: As far as the visual aesthetic, beyond the movie and book influences, I did a lot of research and reference gathering to find a direction that felt somewhat unique. I gathered images from Day of the Dead and Carnivale, traditional Mexican dress, Victorian era & steampunk-style costumes, etc. For environments, I took a lot from Mexican, Spanish, and French architecture (even some New Orleans influence in there), as well as old abandoned buildings and train stations, Juarez Mexico and the desert.

CV: Red (Analia) is such an interesting character, and from page one, the visuals and narrative force us into her traumas. How important was it for you to establish this backstory early on?

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

SL: Huge. It’s a big world. The moment it popped in my head I was like “oh man, this is epic.” I mean, my first comic (SAINTS) was kind of a punk rock book of revelations, there was a source and a grounded reality to the story. THE FEW took our current disparate social climate and pumped it up to MAD MAX proportions. COYOTES was something else. It wasn’t just America I was writing about. Suddenly, it was the universe. It was fairy tales I heard as a kid mixed with stories I researched all over the globe. With that size you need a grounding force to keep you tethered — so really understanding who Red was, what she had lost and who she might become all in one issue became the necessity.

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CV: With such a serious tone in the opening pages (i.e. Red standing amidst a pile of bodies), the appearance of the Duchess is rather striking in her Victorian-era clothing and her hip-hop mannerisms. Tell me a little about the process of building her character.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

SL: Haha. I love her. I don’t know, man. I feel I should have a better answer but it was gut. I started writing this character in the draft and that’s what came out — this B-Girl who kind of appropriated Victorian clothing. And I was in love. She became for me a timeless character once I did that. She was cool, but mysterious… she demanded attention. And then, once I had her, I knew what the rest of the women who fought with her were like. They’d be a cross-section of the world, dressed with a slight homage to a distant queen, who defied their city in clothing, behavior, and manner.

CY: Sean’s description of the Duchess sparked a sort of grungy steampunk aesthetic to me that was really fun to explore. She emits authority and a sort of damaged but stoic beauty.    

CV: Looking at the werewolves (werecoyotes?), their existence is mostly alluded to in the early pages. While Red’s sister is killed by this wolf pack, it isn’t until the end that we see them as transformed & mystical human beings. Was it deliberate to keep the presence of the supernatural a mystery?

SL: Yes. Because it’s not just the wolves & coyotes who are dangerous. It’s the entire environment. The Duchess and Red look out at a vast desert in the beginning of the book and the only thing said is “out in the heat are monsters.” Those monsters aren’t solely the Coyotes. It’s the world. And Red (and our reader) have to be prepared for this. When we see them at the end, we know this is not a Werewolf like we have seen before… no, things are much worse than that.

CY: Totally. And also, the idea that there is always something lurking, a constant threat and potential danger, can do a lot to pull you into the world.  

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CV: Caitlin, the visual work with the werewolves seems to stem from real animal anatomy instead of a monstrous hybrid. What were your inspirations in adapting these long mythologized monsters?

CY: My biggest inspiration for the coyotes is probably the giant wolf in Miyazaki’s PRINCESS MONONOKE. I thought that if I tried to draw some kind of hybrid wolf-person, that it would come out kind of goofy. So I thought that just a supernaturally large version of a coyote would be the most menacing, and that maybe some of the more graphic & monstrous sequences would come from peeks at their transformation. The transformations (you’ll see more later), are inspired by the anime EVANGELION, in which these huge semi-conscious robots morph in kind of grotesque ways.

CV: Visually and narratively, the two pages in which Red is learning combat from old kung fu movies while the Duchess puppeteers Red’s every move are some of the most striking pages I have ever seen. Tell me about the process of developing Red’s training sequence and the decision to metaphorize the Duchess’ training methods.

SL: Aren’t they great! Sorry, I just love this book. And Caitlin is unreal. We have, over time, found a great and trusting way to collaborate. I write out a narrative story and then we talk about it and then art comes back and we talk about it and so on and so on. I think knowing we wanted to stretch framing — explode the sequences — use fairytale books and some old school SANDMAN and DEATH issues to inform us allowed the book to really create its own identity.

SL: Narratively, I love Kurosawa. I love old R&B. I love Kung Fu movies. I used to watch DRUNKEN MASTER and then go in my front yard and “train.” Which was an awful idea for a middle school kid. But I loved the idea of those movies — which all deal with community and code — would be the touchstone of her training. And the puppet page! Caitlin is an art monster!

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CY: As Sean said, we collaborate and find a common place from which to draw inspiration and excitement. We both love the SANDMAN, myths and fairytales, as well as gritty & artistic action films. So the training sequence is meant to call back to those classic montages, as well as take advantage of the comic book medium and do some things with paneling that wouldn’t easily translate into a show or movie. The puppet page was inspired by Sean’s description to me of Red’s inner turmoil and wariness of this new authority, the Duchess, and her motives.

CV: If you could, give us a hint of what is in store for Red, the Duchess, and the Victorias in the future. What awaits this group in coming issues?

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

SL: There is an ancient history to the proceedings in the “City of Lost Girls”. The Wolves and the Women have been battling like this for millennia. Myths and bodies pile up. It’s gonna be a special ride.

CV: What other projects are you working on at the moment?

SL: Hayden Sherman and I (we created THE FEW at Image) are in the middle of a new Sci-Fi book about gaming, war, poverty, and the future of armies. And in Feb or March, I’ll have a new comic out with Aftershock Comics called BETROTHED which has been a fun high school space opera type book.

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CY: Right now it’s all Coyotes all the time! I do have an older project (the one Sean saw when he found me online) that I’d like to revisit, but in general, I’m really looking forward to delving deeper into the comic world.

Want to Know More About COYOTES?

COYOTES #1 hits shelves November 8, 2017. For more on Sean Lewis, check out his Twitter @SeanChrisLewis or his website. Caitlin Yarsky can be found @yarrrsky on Twitter, while THE CHANGEABLE HARPER FINN can be found on Behance.

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