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DF Interview: Maria Llovet centers on psychedelic sex and death cults in new miniseries, ‘Luna’
By Byron Brewer
For fans of Faithless and Die comes a new dark thriller from acclaimed writer and artist Maria Llovet about a young woman named Teresa, who's plagued by prophetic dreams that connect her to something powerful, something ... divine.
When Teresa fatefully crosses paths with the Family of the Sun, she believes them to be exactly what anyone else in the late '60s would expect -- a hippie cult whose leader claims to have met the divine. But secret blood rituals, powerful drugs and sex runneth amok will bring Teresa face-to-face with the truth about the Family, herself and the dark secret behind her dreams.
Immortality, magic and alchemy, and the true power of enduring love collide in this new miniseries for Mature Readers. To learn more, DF sat down with creator Maria Llovet.
Dynamic Forces: Maria, your work is certainly well known these days, but I believe this five-issue limited series is the first time you have worked in the monthly comics format as a writer. And – AND – you’re handling art chores as well! What persuaded you to meet this challenge with Luna?
Maria Llovet: The truth is, I don't really approach the project any differently than any other of my previous personal works. For me this is not a "series" but one single story, that divides into 5, and that's how I wrote it, not issue by issue but as a whole.
But what is new to me here is that it will be published bit by bit for the first time, and the readers will follow the story slowly. I've never experienced that before -- even though Heartbeat was published as a monthly series in the U.S., it had already been published in Europe as a complete book -- and I'm looking forward to seeing how this feels.
As for handling the art, this is actually something I've noticed and wondered about; how is it that an artist decides to start writing but not draw their own scripts? I see it's pretty common here in the U.S. but I don't think I've seen this in Europe much, it's kind of a mystery to me.
I'm not saying I would never write anything for anyone else, because who knows, right? But right now it would feel really weird, because making both things at the same time is what makes this most enjoyable for me, what really "is" making comics for me.
As the author and the artist, when I conceive a story, I can plan and make all the different aspects interact together, coherently and totally in the same direction. I find writing is at some point planning visual narrative too. It's an entangled process, sometimes is absolute chaos, but at the same time is beautiful, something I love and I would never renounce to do, the real reason why I do comics.
DF: As always, this book seems to be very complex and likely chalk full of love, betrayal and similar foibles that make us human. Tell readers what inspired this new series.
Maria Llovet: This is a project I had for so long, but it has changed so much through the years it's almost unrecognizable as the same one (I could actually do another one with the first ideas and I don't think anyone would notice they were the same, haha). At first it was set in Europe in a medieval castle, so you can imagine it's been a long way to how it finally is presented.
I had a conversation with my life partner, explaining the dynamics the characters had between them, and he pointed out how it was a bit like a sect, and it was totally true, so that brought up the "what if" this story was actually set between a "cult group" like the ones during the '60s in the U.S.
That idea brought many more changes in itself until finally the story settled to what it is now.
The core themes are the same though, it's a story about love, a love so deep that goes beyond time and space, but also, as you say, of lies and betrayal and concealment, all of it surrounded by ancient magic and alchemic secrets, in a lysergic context in the late '60s.
DF: Introduce us to Teresa.
Maria Llovet: Teresa is a young girl who has premonitory dreams and visions. She doesn't know what they are really but her grandma encouraged her from a young age to put these visions into drawings to try to understand them better.
Some of the dreams are magical and incoherent to her, others are about plants and different things. She keeps all this weird information in her head and draws everything, but she doesn't feel any closer to understanding them. But of course as the story progresses this will all become clearer and reveal to have a real use for her.
Right at the beginning of the story, she's on a kind of self-discovery trip through the desert, because she doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. But precisely choosing to drive through this very desert is what will bring her to her destiny.
DF: What is the Family of the Sun?
Maria Llovet: When Teresa has an accident with her car, The Family of the Sun rescues her. They are a cult group living in a commune in the desert, in a place full of lush vegetation around a mysterious hidden cave.
Teresa feels a powerful connection with the place that makes her eager to stay with them, and they're really nice, especially the cult leader, Lux.
They talk about love and the magic of the place, but soon she will discover they are hiding more than one dark secret.
DF: This story takes place in the 1960s but I don’t believe I know its main locale. What type of research do you do when you have period tales such as this? (Notice I am asking that like I myself didn’t live through every year of the ‘60s, LOL!)
Maria Llovet: I always try to research as much as possible, even if it's something that’s not going to be in the story, because it helps having a mental picture. I read about cults and communes during that time, searched for photos and how they lived a bit, also general things like fashion, music, etc. Most of that doesn't really help in anything in particular because the story is not a realistic one, but it helped build my mindset.
One of the important points to research here was the suitability of the location for the Family of the Sun settlement, not only for the initial setting of the story in the 1960s (and for someone who didn't want to be found to hide on), but also in past times, during the 18th century.
I needed an isolated location in the desert, but not a real specific one. This is supposed to happen somewhere around California/Arizona/Nevada/Utah deserts, somewhere isolated, away from any other inhabited area.
I also did a lot of thorough research on alchemy, because that is one of the core themes in the story, and the thing that glues together Teresa's visions and the secrets in the cave.
Also I have to say I spent a ridiculous amount of time researching the exact releasing dates on many LP albums to be featured on one single panel while they play records by the fire. Some of my all time faves from this period that made it into the exact dates are there.
DF: I know it is early, but can you compare/contrast working with graphic novels etc. as opposed to Luna’s monthly schedule?
Maria Llovet: Well as I was telling you before, I'm not really writing it monthly. This is something I don't know if I will ever do honestly. I like planning beforehand and having to settle the first steps of the story without having the ending written is something that seems so weird to me, and also stressful.
The real difference here is that is the first time I do a project knowing it will be directly split into issues instead of a single volume. That means having in mind where exactly the partitions are, so you can place the cliffhangers of every issue better. On Heartbeat, for example, the cliffhangers and story turning points were not exactly placed for splitting (even if they were there anyway, as they should be in any story, of course).
So I wrote it all beforehand, but knowing there would be five issues.
To be precise actually, in the first stages, it was just the story and then once it was more or less shaped I decided how many partitions would suit what I had best. Then I refined the story with those partitions already in mind.
What really makes a contrast for me is not working on different things done by myself, but working with other writers, it feels like a completely different job, with just some tiny things in common.
The writer is the only one who can give intentionality to the story. I find this very fascinating lately, the concept of intentionality. So the writer is the author. If I'm only drawing the story, my main concern will be to give intentionality to my graphic narrative and storytelling, and also to the drawings themselves. But the real intentionality of the story comes from the writer, it's nothing for me to decide. No matter what an artist does (for good or bad), this cannot change. And that is the key point, and the reason writing my own stories is so important for me.
I find this so interesting.
DF: Is this a book that, if readership is strong, might develop into an ongoing?
Maria Llovet: No, not an ongoing, but I have to say there are more things that I might want explore and tell about this world and characters in the future, both on prequels and sequels, because this story is only a fragment in the lives of some characters that are particularly interesting to me.
DF: Maria, aside from Luna, what other projects are you involved in that you could tell our readers about?
Maria Llovet: I have some crazy months ahead actually, because besides from working hard on Luna, I'm currently preparing something else with Ablaze Publishing (not sure if it has been announced yet when this interview is published, so I won't say now).
Also already trying to decide between two new personal projects after all this, but they will have to wait till 2022, because first we have Faithless III on the horizon for 2021!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Maria Llovet for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions. Luna #1 from BOOM! Studios is slated to hit stores February 3rd!
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