Welcome to the world of MOONSTRUCK, where centaurs work as baristas, gorgons have trouble putting a band together, and werewolves have the same romantic hang-ups as the rest of us! Written by Grace Ellis (co-creator of LUMBERJANES, writer on BRAVEST WARRIOR), drawn by Shae Beagle (making her comics debut) and edited by Laurenn McCubbin (artist on SILENT ALL THESE YEARS, RENT GIRL), Image Comics’ MOONSTRUCK #1 is hitting stands on the 19th of July. We caught up with Grace, Shae, and Laurenn about the series.

ComicsVerse (CV): First things first, could you tell our readers what MOONSTRUCK is about?

Grace Ellis (GE): MOONSTRUCK is about a werewolf barista who wants to live an aggressively normal, unremarkable life — even though she lives in a world where she’s surrounded by a variety of mythical creatures as well as boring ol’ humans. She’s hoping that her new girlfriend will help ballast her emotions, but a surprise magical journey takes their relationship in a different direction. There’s a lot of coffee and puns and magic (both literally and close-up card trick-type); it’s a good time.

Thematically, it’s about falling in love too fast, supporting your friends, and exploring what it means to be normal, among others.

Moonstruck
Courtesy of Image Comics

CV: I have read that MOONSTRUCK began life as a five-page school project. How did it grow into the five issue series and what part did Image play?

Shae Beagle (SB): You heard right! MOONSTRUCK was originally a five-page short comic for the Spitball anthology, self-published by the Comics Practicum class at the Columbus College of Art & Design. The students in the class got to collaborate with professional writers on these comics, and Grace and I were paired up for the project! We found out how well we worked together and Laurenn saw that the world Grace created had a lot of potential as a series, so we joined together to pitch the idea to Image, and here we are!

Laurenn McCubbin (LM): Yep, that’s all true. I’d been working with Shae since they were a freshman at CCAD, and in fact, Shae had drawn a comic for one of my classes freshman year, and I knew that they were just immensely talented. So, when we put together the Comics Practicum class, I knew that I wanted Shae in there right away. The first year of the class, when they were a sophomore, Shae worked with the writer Lora Innes, and then in their junior year they were paired with Grace, and I could just tell that the story was going to be something really special.

I used to work at Image, and so I asked Shae & Grace if they wanted to pitch a full comic. They said yes, and we worked on it over the summer, then pitched it to Image last fall.

READ: Like the look of MOONSTRUCK? We suggest you check out DESTINY, NY vol. 1!

CV: Grace, MOONSTRUCK, with all the trappings of the fantasy genre, seems to be at its heart, a love story. What challenges are there in developing a love story that engages people?

GE: I’m really interested in telling stories that are about dynamic characters. For me, once I have a sense of the characters, the emotional parts flow pretty easily because they’re grounded in some kind of realism, even when the rest of the story is full of centaurs and ghosts and stuff. Plus, it’s fun to write about cute characters doing cute things, even when you know you have to hurt them a little bit in the name of storytelling.

The other thing that I’ve found important in making the romance engaging is to make sure the secondary plots are both interesting and thematically relevant to the main storyline. Like, for example, one of the b-plots is about the barista’s neighbors and their terrible band. The neighbors’ relationship is funny and very silly (like, he turns into a bat and farts in her face-type silly), but it also ends up being a mirror of the main relationship. They’re two sides of the same coin, and I think that ultimately makes it more interesting to read.

CV: Shae, I understand this is your comics debut. How does that feel and what has your experience been like?

SB: It’s been a wild ride, that’s for sure! I think I had this idea of what making a comic would be like, back when I was a little baby drawing and stapling little books together, but it’s been so much more involved than that. Everyone has been super supportive of me, and I feel so warmly welcomed by not only everyone at Image, but everyone who’s read the comic so far. I love it a lot, but it’s sure keeping me busy!

CV: The design of Julie as a werewolf is one of the most beautiful and endearing things I’ve seen. How much work went into getting the character designs right for this story?

SB: Thank you! As far as Julie’s werewolf design, I was back and forth on wanting her to be “scary” when I was designing her, but that’s just not in her personality. She thinks being a werewolf freaks people out, and she’s super self-conscious about it. I mostly wanted her to be distinctly Julie, even when she’s all wolfed-out. I ended up with a softer, fluffier, way more anxious werewolf design, something Julie thinks is so scary, but everyone else not so much.

Everyone else (with the odd exception of Mark) came pretty easily, aside from a few edits here and there.

Moonstruck
Courtesy of Image Comics

CV: MOONSTRUCK is set in a vibrant and friendly LGBTQ community. How important was it to have that representation in the book?

GE: I’m a lesbian, and like a lot of lesbians, I am very well-versed in LGBTQ representation across media. It’s really important to me to do a good job on this front. I mean, historically, LGBTQ people don’t usually get a fair shake with regards to representation. We’re often stereotyped or tragic or minimized in some way, so I’m making sure our queer characters are fully developed and three-dimensional. On some level, I’m making this into the kind of book I’d want to read if I weren’t writing it.

SB: The representation in the story was a lot of what drew me to it in the first place, being a queer youth and all. I’m personally so pumped about having LGBTQ representation in a fantasy-esque setting, not having straight be the default.

READ: We look at the top 10 must read LGBTQIA webcomics here!

CV: Laurenn, at what stage in the development of the book does an editor come on board and how do you guide the book?

LM: For MOONSTRUCK, I was involved from the very beginning. After Grace writes a script, I will go over it and offer suggestions or changes — usually minor things, because Grace really knows her stuff. I will also offer suggestions for background gags or other monsters to populate the world with. I am super into fairy tales and monsters, and I will give Shae and Grace a million different ideas that they can work with.

CV: How did Kate Leth get involved with drawing the PLEASANT MOUNTAIN SISTERS SUPER-SOLVER MYSTERY book that Julie reads? How important is that book in the overall story of MOONSTRUCK?

GE: The PLEASANT MOUNTAIN SISTERS pages are so fun. I love writing them especially because of how they tie into the rest of the book. We live in a culture that is absolutely saturated with media, and the media we consume shapes how we view the world, so I thought it would make the story better if we knew what sort of media these characters like. Julie, the protagonist, doesn’t just like the PLEASANT MOUNTAIN SISTERS books: she’s obsessed with them. What does it tell us about her, that she’s spent her whole life pouring over books that promote a very narrow view of what counts as normal and of who gets to be the protagonist in a story? That’s the type of thing I’m hoping to dig into with Kate’s pages. Plus the action is mirroring the main story. And also they’re very goofy and fun to write.

LM: I am so excited to have Kate on for this first arc, and she’s doing a fantastic job. We have some other artists lined up for future arcs that I am excited about as well!

Moonstruck
Courtesy of Image Comics

CV: What can you tell us about the mysterious Selena who we haven’t seen yet?

GE: Selena is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Nah, I’m joking, she’s a pretty straight-shooter, so to speak. She’s Julie’s dream girl in a lot of ways, not the least of which is that she is also a werewolf. She’s very sweet and much more direct than Julie is. But I don’t want to give too much away! Shae’s character design of her is unspeakably adorable, also.

CV: If you could be one of the fantastical creatures from the world of MOONSTRUCK, which one would you choose?

GE: A WITCH. GIMME THOSE WITCHY POWERS.

SB: I’m gonna go with shapeshifter on this. I don’t have to make up my mind!

LM: I’d like to be an oracle like Cassandra because I’d love to always know what was going to happen next. Or a mermaid, because there are some people I’d love to drown (just sayin’… some people need drowning).

Want To Find Out More About MOONSTRUCK?

MOONSTRUCK #1 will be released in comic book stores on the 19th of July. If you want to keep up-to-date with the creative team, follow them at @gracecellis, @shaebeagle, and @laurennmcc.

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