The Valley of Death

Lowdown - Interview

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Returning today to DC's Zuda Comics webcomic arena is Lily of the Valley - Adam Atherton's eerie serial killer love story. Broken Frontier spoke to Adam to get an update on what he has in store for his readers now that Lily has won an extended run on the site...

BROKEN FRONTIER: To begin with Adam can you remind the Broken Frontier readers of the basic premise of Lily of the Valley and the rather memorable tagline you have for the series?

ADAM ATHERTON: The tagline I've been using to describe Lily of the Valley is 'a love story for the over and under medicated, the disenchanted, the excessively violent and the soft spoken'. I think that's the quickest way to establish the tone and who might enjoy it. The story itself is about a teenage girl named Lily who suffers severe social anxiety, depression and a lot of other related mental conditions which likely include delusional schizophrenia.

She refuses all of her prescribed medications and instead finds relief from all of her torment in a very sinister hobby - murder. In this story, she'll begin to fall in love with an elusive night roaming boy of almost mythical status in their small town of Elmwood. The very boy who has been taking the blunt of the blame for her nightly activities...

BF: Since we last spoke Lily has been picked up for a longer run on Zuda and will be updating regularly beginning this month. How does it feel to have achieved an extended turn in the spotlight? How are the competitive stress levels now?

AA: It feels great. I don't really think of it as making it into comics but more as being given the opportunity to prove I can make it. The stress is still there. Now I have to have pages finished on deadlines for the first time where I used to just work on an individual page until I felt it was perfect. The crunch will hopefully improve my ability in the long run but at first I may have to learn to let pages go before they're perfect in my mind and move onto the next. Making comics is really about speed and productivity and this should break my habit of dwelling on pages for far too long.

BF: How frequently will the series be updated and when should we be looking for new instalments on Zuda?

AA: Lily of the Valley will update every single Friday with one new page. The first new page, being page 9, goes up today (Friday October 9). It's been so long since the first 8 pages went up that I really wish I could just post like 8 new pages at once to really get people back into it but that would mess up the schedule and I'd no longer be like 10 pages ahead of deadlines!

BF: How difficult is it to write a serial killer as a central character and still maintain an audience’s sympathies?

AA: I've found the character incredibly easy to write. Her thoughts and dialogue come to me easier than any character I've tried to write. Essentially because I'm writing myself. The character is just a reflection of myself. Where I used to use art as an outlet for my anxieties, Lily uses murder. I think she will maintain audience sympathies for this reason. She kills because of feelings and struggles I think everyone can relate to. Everyone has problems they deal with. The majority of us try to deal with them in positive ways. Lily does the same, but she is INSANELY misguided.

I think by inviting readers into her mind and showing them her world perspective, readers will see her not as an evil monster but as a monster in the way the creature in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a monster. Frankenstein's creation is a grotesque character who commits unforgivable deeds. We don't agree with his actions but we understand his feelings that lead him to commit them. I'm aiming to present Lily in a similar way. You won't likely agree with her coping mechanisms but you'll relate to her exaggerated struggles and emotions.

BF: The initial pages earlier this year used a very distinctive coloring scheme. Will you be continuing with that and how do you feel it’s working in enhancing the mood of the story?

AA: Yup! I'll continue with the same tones. I'm a big fan of black and white comic book art. I've always been of the notion that a page should stand on it's own before any colour is added at all. So I aim to make pages that don't NEED colour but I'll add it if it actually enriches the story and brings something more to it expressively.

I chose the minimal colours I did because I wanted it to still feel like a black and white comic with all the suggestions of classic horror films that it brings to the work. The red I think enhances the violent aspect of the story and the pink suggests Lily's innocence and balances everything out. I don't want something really dark so there had to be something to lighten the atmosphere a bit. I think the colours work to immediately suggest the mood of the comic to a reader before they even read anything. So in that sense, if they like what they see, they'll like what they read. I hope.

BF: Looking at your blog I noticed that you recently exhibited some of your Lily of the Valley pages in your hometown, which you note as an influence for your comics work. How gratifying was that as an experience?

AA: It felt really great to see my hometown support what I'm doing. I live in Toronto now but it's always inspiring when I go back to visit my family and friends. The town is really beautiful and has a lot of history to myself and in general. It's one of the oldest towns in Canada. My memories growing up there, good and bad, inspire and motivate what I do now with comics so the community recognizing what I'm doing is encouraging. It also adds to stress levels though because I don't want to let anyone down.

BF: What are you hoping the readership gain from Lily of the Valley? Is there any central message to the strip?

AA: Well, I'm hoping the story will display the absurdity of living your life with fear and worry of fitting in all of the time. The central message would be to live your life without those things and to be yourself. Obviously (I hope it's obvious at least) the message isn't to deal with your personal struggles by killing people but instead to find things in life that make you happy.I think of the whole thing as more than just a comic though. To me, it is an outsider's manifesto. I'm actually dedicating the upcoming sequence, starting with page 9, to anyone who has ever been picked on, ridiculed, or made to feel inadequate by others because of their differences. May this comic point out to them the absurdity of belonging and encourage them to embrace their existence on the periphery with me.

BF: Do you see Lily’s tale as a finite story with a natural beginning, middle and end? Or do you have further ideas for your characters and their fictional world?

AA: The story as I first imagined it has a beginning, middle and end. There are stories that could continue beyond that initial story but the core story does have an end.

BF: I would imagine that LOTV is taking up all of your creative energies at the moment but are there any other projects you’re currently working on that you’d like to tell the BF readers about?

AA: Not right at the moment. I have other ideas that I'm excited about getting to at some point but right now my priority is with Lily of the Valley and ensuring I do it well. Once I become faster and more productive with my page outcome then I could likely start another project while Lily is ongoing. One thing I've been interested in doing for a while is start an online regularly scheduled 3-panel comic strip with its own website. I really enjoy stand alone strips with recurring characters and all of that. I have another dark comedy idea too that I'm thinking of using for Zuda as well sometime in the future. When any of this begins to materialize though I'll let you know! Thanks for your time!

You can check out Lily of the Valley on Zuda here. For more on Lily creator Adam Atherton visit his blog here.

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