Vampire bikers, a road trip, and a coven are at the center of Vault Comics' new series Witchblood.
The new series by comics power couple Lisa Sterle and Matthew Erman follows a 1000-year-old witch named Yonna who, during a roundtrip across the American Southwest, catches the eye of a group of biker vampires with a taste for her blood.
In the world of Witchblood, the blood of witches has a special potency - something which transmits the witch's powers to any vampire that drinks it. Sounds appealing if you were a vampire with little to no morals, right?
Sterle and Erman spoke with Newsarama about this rollicking horror roadshow, and we get into the feel, the fashion, and yes, the fangs of Witchblood ahead of its March 31 debut.
Newsarama: Matthew, Lisa, Witchblood is at the center of everything in your story, but what is it exactly?
Lisa Sterle: Well, Witchblood is the magical blood of witches. Traditionally, when you puncture the skin of a human, 'classic' blood comes out; but say, when you puncture the skin of a witch, Witchblood comes out. It's like New Pepsi, sort of the same but with different ingredients.
Also, when vampires drink a Witch's blood, they gain the magical powers of that witch.
That's all you need to know.
Nrama: It's been a few years since you paired up for Long Lost, what do you think is the biggest thing you've learned since then as creators?
Matthew Erman: I've come so far as a writer. Long Lost, I was really teaching myself through trial and error how to write a comic. Luckily, Lisa is my wife and had no issues telling me when things sucked for her or I wrote something bad and untranslatable.
Since then I've put myself together to write some really cool and fun things. I've grown a lot as a writer in some ways I think. It's nice to say and feel that way.
Sterle: I mostly feel like I've just gained a ton of confidence in my storytelling abilities. I was so scared of breaking the grid when I first started and now I really feel like I'm discovering how to really experiment with layouts and fully take advantage of the comics medium.
Nrama: When coming up with designs and concepts, especially for Yonna, what did you want to stand out? Secondly, what did you want to avoid?
Sterle: Oh man, I don't even know where to start here!
Fashion is always such a huge inspiration for me in general, and I had a pretty wide-ranging aesthetic in mind when I started designing the characters and world. Definitely lots of '70s Americana, southwestern style, with some '80s punk and '90s grunge thrown in here and there. I was scouring runway looks for a lot of ideas: Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, Saint Laurent, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen.
There are a handful of celebrities that were a big inspiration as well: Orville Peck, Adam Ant, Madonna, Cher, Stevie Nicks… all that with a dash of spaghetti western, Easy Rider, and avant-garde drag fashion. With Yonna, in particular, I focused a lot on creating a silhouette that was interesting but not overly complex!
I'm not sure I really was intentionally avoiding anything in design, other than I supposed not leaning too hard into the goth/punk style as I feel that's an obvious place to go for vampires.
Nrama: Who is Yonna facing off against as she's on this road trip? Who are these Hounds of Love?
Erman: The Hounds of Love are the primary antagonists of the series - they're a vampiric biker gang of five that roam the American South, causing all sorts of terror and mischief in the search for powerful Witchblood. They're lead by Paxton, a cowboy with a flair for theatrics.
His crew are a wild bunch, Samson, Monkberry, Hunger Child, and Jupiter of Blood. You learn more about them through the story and I'm excited for everyone to get to know each of them.
Nrama: Working as a couple and actually being a couple could be challenging in some aspects, do you feel like you're both right for each other when it comes to what you want out of a collaborator?
Erman: I really can't imagine a universe where either of us says something negative for this question. Could you imagine if I wrote, 'Lisa is a terrible collaborator and I'd never recommend her.' That would be insane.
Lisa is the best collaborator. I think because we trust each other in life, it allows for us to be really vulnerable in the creative process and we can find some really wonderful deep things. We have bad ideas and we workshop everything. Lisa gets the first pass on the scripts before anyone, and I get the same when it comes to the art. We're really involved.
At the same time though, we try to keep it between certain hours. We don't talk comics after 8 PM unless we're working late or something.
Sterle: I mean, Matthew is the perfect collaborator. [laughs]
We both trust each other's creative instincts but are also willing to go to bat if we disagree so there's a great push and pull when we brainstorm. He gives me the freedom to tweak the script when I need to serve the art better, and his stories just instantly inspire me to create something amazing.
Nrama: Lastly, what made Vault a perfect place for Witchblood?
Erman: Lisa and I had worked with Adrian [Wassel, Vault Comic' CCO/editor-in-chief] on prior books and there's something really incredible when you get to extend that trust you have as creators to an editor. Adrian is a creative life force and we both knew that a book like this, which's so weird and full of ideas and potential, needed someone like Adrian.
Vault's design team is one of the best in the business. Tim Daniel's logo and interior designs are just out-of-this-world cool. They just really understood from the get-go what this was, and the idea behind it and what it wasn't. Developing trust with the people I work with is so important and I've trust Vault to treat this book right.
Sterle: Yes, all of what Matt said!
Nrama: Yonna is seen singing a Mannequin Pussy song. Did you make a playlist for Witchblood?
Erman: We did! You can find it here.
Nrama: Springboarding off that, how important is music for both of you while you work?
Matthew: For me, it almost serves as the foundation for my creative process. I'm most frequently inspired by music and noise and the auditory.
A lot of this story has felt very musical to me - there is a beat to the storytelling and a speed at which things happen. It's really fun to find out what those things are and be open to all kinds of inspiration. There's a part in Witchblood #2 where the idea came out of listening to an Olivia Newton-John song, which I never expected.
Sterle: I listen to music mainly when I'm doing layouts and pencils, to really get into the right headspace. The playlist we made for Witchblood was especially fun to jam to, so it was easy to sit down and get into it.
Nrama: Last question - what do you think is at the heart of Witchblood?
Sterle: Fashion and hotties.
Witchblood #1 goes on sale on March 31 in comic shops and on all major digital platforms. For the best digital comics reading experience, check out our guide to the best digital comics readers for Android and iOS devices.