Casting The Spell of Exorsisters With Co-Creator Gisèle Lagacé

by Hannah Means Shannon

Today a brand new series kicks off in comic shops from Image, written by Ian Boothby, illustrated by Gisèle Lagacé, colored by Pete Pantazis, and lettered by Taylor Esposito. In Exorsisters we meet Kate and Cate, two very different young women who look, at least on a basic level, very much alike. They share a strange history with divergent life-experiences, but they’ve come together as a team to investigate supernatural occurrences and set the balance straight between the human world, the heavenly world, and more prominently, the infernal realm below.
The cases they pursue, as well as mysteries from their personal lives and history, make for dramatic fare, but according to series artist and co-creator, Gisèle Lagacé, there’s plenty of humor to be found in a world with such dramatic events and implications, too. Lagacé kindly sat down with us at New York Comic Con 2018 to discuss the new series that lands today.

Hannah Means-Shannon: What’s the history of the project, and how did you come to be working with Ian Boothby on Exorsisters?
Gisèle Lagacé: I’m always looking to start new projects here and there, and I’ve done work for Archie, Jem and the Holograms, Betty Boop, and so on. I was talking to Nick Bradshaw, who lives in my neck of the woods, and asked if he knew anyone who would be good to collaborate with as a writer. Because when I’m writing, I have a certain style, and I feel like working with someone else, with a writer or a co-writer, I find I can do things a little differently. I wanted to work with someone who had a sense of humor, and Bradshaw suggested Ian Boothby. I checked with Ian, and he sent me a few pitches, which I thought were all good, and some of them we might still develop in the future, but I thought this one was the one that spoke to me.
I started doing sketches, and that inspired him, causing him to change the story as he viewed the art. He has an overall plan for the first trade, and the second trade after that. That’s pretty much how it all started. We got the team together, we drew the first issue, and planned three. Ian took it to Emerald City Comic Con and pitched it to Eric Stephenson at Image.

HMS: I like how organic that process was, about finding mutual interests and finding something that spoke to both of you.
GL: For me, I’m a big fan of Scooby Doo, Buffy, Supernatural, and all kinds of mysteries with supernatural aspects to it. This one I felt was even more adventure-like than some of the things I’ve done on my own. I liked the whole backstory and concept, too, and I’m looking forward to where it’s going.
HMS: Based on the descriptions that have been released for the first three issues, it seems like as the story moves on, more mysteries about the sisters are pushed forward, regarding their mother, then one of their boyfriends…
GL: Exactly. It’s called Exorsisters, but I don’t know if you can actually call them true sisters.
HMS: Oh, yes! There’s a mystery about that, right? About how they came to be?
GL: Yes. They grew up in different “environments”, let’s say.

HMS: Would you like to talk about the design of the sisters in any way, and how you conceived of them?
GL: Basically, I’m a big fan of manga. I’m more of a manga reader than I am a reader of American comics. Although born in New Brunswick, a good chunk of my childhood was spent in Northern Quebec and there was a lot of French-dubbed anime at the time on TV. The only American comics I was exposed to were French-translated Archie comics translated into French. I think that’s why you see these influences in all my works. For Exorsisters, I was thinking “I’m gonna try and pull off a look similar to xxxHolic by CLAMP”. Obviously, I’m not CLAMP, so it became what it became, but that’s where I started from. I really liked the high contrast in that series.
HMS: There are so many different supernatural and occult elements in manga—so much to read!
GL: There is so much supernatural and occult imagery. I would use google images for demons and things, but manga was better. I also really like Rumiko Takahashi of Ranma ½. She does beautiful little demons and things. And they are funny, too, which is a plus for me.

HMS: Is that something you get to do on this book—create lots of little creatures?
GL: Yes, way more than anything else I’ve ever worked on. It’s a bit of a challenge, but I like it, and hopefully I’m getting better.
HMS: The world of the story is very interesting, because there seems to be a realistic aspect to things. I’ve seen some art from the first issue, and we seem to see a very realistic wedding taking place. You might think it’s in the real world. But this is also a world where Hell does actually exist, based on the descriptions of the book.
GL: Yes! And Heaven, too. That’s coming!
HMS: Wow. So, this is actually a very big story-world that encompasses all of these places?
GL: Well, you could consider Hell kind of a different universe or world. And that world is different from Earth or Heaven. And there are different creatures there.

HMS: Can the beings of those worlds travel between the worlds and affect the human world?
GL: Yes. They have different ways of showing up, and I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but the shadows have a lot to do with it. The shadows are almost like beings in themselves. So, you have to be careful what shadow you’re looking at.
HMS: Right! Sounds like a lot of inking for you.
GL: I guess so. Depends on the shadow.
HMS: Did you have a particular aesthetic in mind for the colors by Pete Pantazis?
GL: Well, he had colored me on Betty Boop, and she ended up in Hell a lot. I liked the way the colors went on that, even though it was more cartoony. My style can’t be too rendered, and I find he has a nice approach to it. He puts just the right amount.

HMS: There’s a lot of light. In tone, is this comic somewhat comedic?
GL: I would say in the same way that Buffy is comedic, or Supernatural, yes. But it will get serious, and it will get even scary, but you can have a good laugh. I think humor, once in a while, keeps things more interesting in the long run, even in horror.
HMS: It definitely breaks up the heavy moments. It gives some relief. Maybe you can’t even have really solid heavier moments without that kind of alternation?
GL: Exactly, yes. It’s like coming up for air.
HMS: Is the humor something that arises from the interaction of the sisters, or is it more from other characters? They are both called “Kate” right, Cate and Kate?
GL: Yes, there’s Kate with a K, and Cate with a C, and I think the humor will come more from Kate with a K. She’s more punk rock, and they are totally different.

HMS: You can kind of see that in the design elements released so far—in their clothing and body language.
GL: Even though their faces are pretty much the same, and they look like twins, they are very different.
HMS: Before working on this project, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw? Have you ever thought, “Oh my God, how am I going to draw that?”
GL: I haven’t had anything really weird, but from working on Menage a 3, which is a fairly risqué comic, people sometimes ask me to work on things that are even more risqué. And if it’s too much for me, I’ll turn it down. I also draw for Archie, so I have to keep that in mind. It’s more that I refuse stuff.
HMS: How would you classify Exorsisters? Is it Young Adult, all-ages?
GL: I think early teens could read it. Kate and Cate are in their early 20s. They look young but for the business they run, they have to be adults. One of them, Kate with a K, has no problem with drinking, so you’ll see her with a bottle of Jack Daniels, though it doesn’t affect her in the same way. She can drink more than others for a particular reason. So yeah, early teens and up. Maybe even 11-12, if you’re okay with seeing someone drink alcohol on occasion.
HMS: Like Jessica Jones?
GL: She’s not affected by it right? Kate with a K is sort of like that.

HMS: Has coming to conventions played a role in your career, or it just something you do also, alongside making comics?
GL: I’ve only been doing conventions for about three years. I had built my following through webcomics. I was doing Kickstarters, and I was doing very well with them. I noticed that social media was increasingly playing a role, and I wasn’t on social media until 2015. I began to think it was time to get out there a little more. I also just wanted to meet more fans, and people who had been fans for years. I had been doing it since 2000. And at the same time, it got me to meet people in the business who I admired or who, like me, were new to conventions. I made connections, and made new friends. It also got me out of the house, since I was working at home all the time.
HMS: Yes, totally.
GL: I’ll go to a convention once in a while, maybe once a month or every two months, and it gets me out of the house. Vancouver Fan Expo is my last con of the year. Then I’ll be a hermit for six months. I’ll just be drawing 15 to 18 hours a day after that, but I don’t mind.

HMS: Anything else you’d like to add about the book?

GL: Pick it up! The first trade is five issues. We hope to do another five issues after that. It has also been optioned by Piazza Entertainment, the same company who optioned Gail Simone’s Crosswinds.
HMS: Congratulations!
GL: Well, we’d love to see it as a show. And I think it would be a good show. I like the whole story, though, so I’m going to keep on going, as long as Ian has ideas to keep it going as well.
HMS: It seems like the set up for the story makes it easy to keep coming up with more adventures as different “cases”.
GL: Exactly, and you have the bigger story going on in the background, too, at the same time.
Thanks so much to Gisèle Lagacé for taking part in this interview at New York Comic Con 2018! Check out Exorsisters #1, which lands in comic shops today, October 17th, 2018!

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