Taking Tea And Talking Comics With ‘Ash & Thorn’ Co-Creator Mariah McCourt

by Oliver MacNamee

Olly MacNamee: Ash & Thorn has been billed as a comedic series featuring the Earth’s last, great hope against the coming apocalypse. But, they happen to be two elderly ladies with a hankering for a nice up of tea. But, with the would-be saviour of the Earth being a septuagenarian, she’s far from your average archetypal hero isn’t she?

Mariah McCourt: Lottie Thorn is eighty, retired, and very fond of baking. She’s also someone who knows who she is (or thought she did) and has to figure out a very different future than what she was expecting. But Lottie is tough, tougher than even she knew, and that’s where we start off.

OM: What’s more, you portray your two leading lights – the eponymous Peruvia Ashlington-Voss and Lottie Thorn – with great care and avoiding any stereotypical representations of the elders in this first issue. How important was it that your comedy came from elsewhere and not from the portrayal of Ash and Thorn as ‘little old ladies’?

MM: Very. It would be easy for the concept to come across as absurd or silly and I wanted to avoid that. The humor comes not from it being inherently funny that “little old ladies” have to save the world but from the characters self-awareness, from dealing with impossible things, from simply being older and wiser and aware that monsters and the end of the world are things that shouldn’t happen but are. 

OM: Ash and Thorn are very different characters aren’t they? While Peruvia has spent a disciplined lifetime fighting monsters and training others, Thorn seems a freer spirit. That’s going to cause friction across this series, I imagine?

MM: Absolutely. They’re an odd couple for very good reasons and that plays out over the seriously in some, hopefully, surprising ways.

OM: Now I have to ask, as it’s brought up in Ash & Thorn #1 by your editor, Sarah Litt; how must of yourself have you poured into both Peruvia and Lottie? Is one more you than the other?

MM: There’s a little of me in both. I do love to bake and I’m a big fan of cardigan sweaters. But Lottie and Peruvia are their own people and their characters are very different than I am. I’m not as fierce and confident as Lottie or as rigid at Peruvia, for instance. I do hope I’m more like Lottie for reasons I can’t explain or it would spoil some things.

OM: Of course, any good horror story often involves an enigmatic, oft-times prophetic dream, and this story is no different. I don’t want to give too much away, but what can you tell us about this visions Lottie has while sleeping?

MM: I love dream sequences! I’m pretty sure I have at least one in every story I’ve written. I find the subconscious fascinating and when you’re working with magic, cosmic horror, prophecy, it gets that’s much more fun to play with. Lottie, as a Champion, gets to have a lot of different prophetic experiences and her dreams are a mix of what might be, what will be, and what is. 

OM: And then there’s Sarah, Lottie’s very own student. Albeit in the arts and not kicking monsters butts. I assume she’ll be sticking around, considering what she witnesses? What can you tell us about her?

MM: Sarah is our teen character, the one who would usually be the Champion but in this case is more of a witness to what’s going on. Her arc is very important to the series because she has a different point of view than Lottie and Peruvia and has the chance to learn about this new, weird, world from Pickle, our fey troublemaker. Like Lottie subverts the hero trope, Sarah subverts the sidekick trope.

OM: Having an all-female creative team on a comic presenting a strong female cast is a growing trend in comics, thankfully, but we’ve still got a long way to go to re-address this long standing disparity. Keeping it positive, and you having been a voice in comics for a good while now, how have you seen the industry change in recent times for the better?

MM: Well, I hope it’s more than a trend! And I think a lot of books have taken that approach so I don’t think Ash & Thorn is unique in that respect. The industry has thankfully become a lot more actively inclusive since I started nearly 20 years ago. We can always do better but at least now it’s not so strange or unusual to have a team like ours or a book like this.

OM: One last question, Mariah. I’m a Brit, so very protective of my tea making and drinking. So, how do you make a decent cuppa, given over here we’ve been left with our jaws hanging on the floor after an American woman went viral with her own awful, awful tea making which involved adding Tang to it. I kid you not.

MM: Oh, that video was horrifying. I probably don’t make tea in the most proper British fashion, but I do make my Earl Grey in a teapot with water that’s been boiled in a kettle. I usually let mine steep for 5-10 minutes and then add a bit of almond milk. Not too much! I also do have a daily tea time with my kiddo, my grandparents used to do that when I was growing up and I love the tradition.

OM: Thanks for the time, Mariah, and all the best with your new series and the debit issue coming out this week.

MM: Thank you so much!

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