Russell Nohelty is a self-published comic book creator who has run a series of successful Kickstarter campaigns. Some of his published work includes ICHABOD JONES: MONSTER HUNTER, KATRINA HATES THE DEAD, MY FATHER DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF, and SPACESHIP BROKEN: NEEDS REPAIRS. Nohelty funded all of these works through Kickstarter, and he shows no sign of slowing down. His latest work is PIXIE DUST, the third part in a horror-fantasy trilogy that began with ICHABOD JONES. Nohelty spoke with ComicsVerse about the origins of PIXIE DUST, his manga inspirations, and the particular brand of zaniness that fuels this story about a zombified pixie out for revenge.

Russell Nohelty
Image Courtesy of Wannabe Press.

Russell Nohelty on the Origins of PIXIE DUST

ComicsVerse: Can you catch our readers up to speed on the origins of PIXIE DUST? How did you conceive of the story? Where does it fit in the canon of your “Monster Hunter” series?

Russell Nohelty: PIXIE DUST is the third (and final) part of my monster hunter series that began with ICHABOD JONES: MONSTER HUNTER, continued with KATRINA HATES THE DEAD, and now finishes with PIXIE DUST.

With PIXIE DUST, I wanted to introduce a new era into the monster hunter framework. Both ICHABOD and KATRINA take place in the present and near future. Readers will recognize humanity as it stands now.

For PIXIE DUST, I wanted to show the history of Katrina and Ichabod’s world, set before the apocalypse, when monsters roamed the earth. I also wanted to show a world in which monsters aren’t the bad guys. In my previous two books, the monsters usually came down on the side of evil. In PIXIE DUST, I wanted the monsters’ alignment to be nebulous.

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Horror Meets Fantasy

CV: PIXIE DUST has a bit of tonal cross-breeding. It’s fantasy for children, and horror for adults. There’s imagery that boasts both childlike wonder and horrific gore. What is the trick to combining the two successfully and cohering them into a recipe for good storytelling?

RN: I take a lot of inspiration from manga. In fact, most of my work revolves around making western stories that appeal to manga audiences. Manga has no problem combining cute with scary, or adorable with horrific. I dig that about manga.

It’s a staple of the genre that I’ve been integrating into my work since ICHABOD. If you want to mold those two things together, I suggest watching a lot of manga and anime. If you love anime and manga, then you will like PIXIE DUST.

Russell Nohelty
Image Courtesy of Wannabe Press.

The Stigma of Being Different

CV: Throughout the comic, there are references to the stigma of ugliness. The very same family that Akta saved later tries to kill her, simply because she’s hideous. It’s as though ugliness clouds their vision, and they literally cannot see her. What is the significance of ugliness/superficial appearance in your writing, and why did you decide to use PIXIE DUST as a vehicle for such commentary?

RN: I use ugliness synonymously with “different” in PIXIE DUST because people often equate the two. It’s not a perfect comparison. Given five trades, I would have developed a more nuanced approach. However, the book is only 90 pages so I had to employ some easily definable linguistic devices that could be recognized immediately when I couldn’t dig deeper into a topic. This idea of “ugliness” ended up being a visceral key people could identify to clue themselves into Akta’s plight in just a few panels.

In the middle of the book Akta goes into a town of monsters, and nobody there sees her as ugly or different. They treat each other with respect and admiration. They even look, well, more adorable than outside of the town. The whole book dives deep into this idea of the other, and what happens when you see the other in a new way.

Only the humans perceive Akta or her troll companion as ugly. It is not a universal belief among the monsters, who are more welcoming and treat her as an equal, for better or worse.

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Fantasy Influences

CV: What are some of your fantasy influences for PIXIE DUST? I caught whiffs of LORD OF THE RINGS, especially in Odgeir’s jealousy and lust for Atka’s power. What were some of the fantasy books/graphic novels you read growing up (and more recently) that might have had an impact on you?

RN: This is going to be a deep cut, but the fantasy book that influenced me most was one called THE BLUE SWORD by Robin McKinley. I did enjoy the LORD OF THE RINGS movies, and gravitated toward Terry Pratchett books in my adult life. Also, I became obsessed with FULL METAL ALCHEMIST and SOUL EATER when I dove head-first into manga.

I also voraciously read Greek and Roman mythology as a child. That influenced me most of all. I loved AESOP’S FABLES, THE ILIAD, THE ODYSSEY, and just about anything I could find about Greek gods. Additionally, I played roleplaying games as a kid, where I fell in love with fantasy characters and worlds. I can’t have an astute conversation about specific fantasy books, but I will talk forever about fantasy worlds.

What I love most about epic fantasy are the worlds, much more than the prose itself. Most of the fantasy books on my wall are urban fantasy. However, the monsters in epic fantasy, and the setting, and the wonderful magical mythos are things I voraciously read. Even though I can’t read GAME OF THRONES, I do watch videos and read about the mythology of the world all the time.

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Devilish Good Looks

CV: I love your zany depiction of Hell, and I especially love your version of the devil as a snot-nosed, chaos-loving princess named Velaska. It’s such a bizarre turn, yet somehow makes perfect sense in this world of trolls, goblins, and pixies. Can you tell me how you settled on the idea of the demonic Velaska as a beautiful spoiled princess, and how that conceit might fit into your story’s other points about ugliness, jealousy, and vengeance?

RN: In this universe, Velaska is the god of Hell before Lucifer takes her place. Hades tricked her into taking over Hell so he could travel the universe. She’s stuck there until she can find a worthy idiot to take her place (which we’ll discuss in KATRINA HATES THE GODS, releasing next year).

She doesn’t want to be there, but she’s accepted it, and if she’s stuck then she’s gonna have fun with it. Usually, that means alleviating her boredom by screwing with people, making impossible deals, and seeing what happens.

I contrasted the horrible constructs of Hell with the beauty of her inner sanctuary. However, that beauty doesn’t mean Velaska is good-hearted. We are often known to misconstrue the two. Velaska isn’t good, but Akta believes her deal to be fair because Velaska looks beautiful and kind, and Akta ends up paying the price for that naïve belief.

If ugliness does not always equate to bad, then I wanted to show beauty is not always equated to good.

Russell Nohelty
Image Courtesy of Wannabe Press.

Funding Through Kickstarter

CV: You’ve had great success funding comics through Kickstarter, and you’re now helping others do the same. Can you tell our readers a little bit about your website, Wannabe Press, why you started it, and where you hope to go with it? Do you have any advice for our readers who might want to create and fund their very own comic book?

RN: Wannabe Press is my publishing company. We’ve released thirteen books so far, including six through Kickstarter. PIXIE DUST will be the seventh if we can successfully fund that one.

Our goal is to make the biggest, best, most beautiful comics and novels in the world. My personal goal is to make books that are entertaining and thought-provoking in equal measure.

My mission in life is to help creatives build better businesses. I have a podcast called The Business of Art, which has recorded 180+ episodes, including interviews with creators, tips, tricks, and hacks to help people succeed selling their passion. I also have a non-fiction book called SELL YOUR SOUL: HOW TO BUILD YOUR CREATIVE CAREER which is a ten-year data dump of everything I learned to make it to this point in my life.

Additionally, I admin a Facebook group called Authors and Creators Making Money Selling Books. So yeah, I do a lot to help the creative community. It takes a lot of time to do, but it’s very rewarding to see people come up and thank you for the advice you’ve given them, and to see them succeed.

My advice is honestly to go read my book and listen to my show. It’s a thing I made to answer your questions.

Our thanks to Russell Nohelty! He’s currently funding PIXIE DUST for a hardcover release through Kickstarter. Click here to contribute to the campaign! 

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