Creator/Writer: Michael Mongillo
Pencils/Colorist/Letterer: Rob Ten Pas
Format: Trade Paperback/Digital, 122 pages
Publisher: Arcana Studio (March 2012)
Genre: Action/Urban Fantasy/Horror
Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher
United in their forbidden love, Joy and Rurik fight a small army of Neurian flesh-eaters who have come to kill Rurik for abandoning their fading clan.
The Lost Girl begins with Joy leaving an orphanage and her best friend, Sarah, to seek out a life she has dreamed of in Nantucket. She starts hitchhiking toward her goal. She ends up stranded in the woods where she encounters Rurik, a Neuri shapeshifter.
I really enjoyed The Lost Girl. Each scene conveyed a wealth of information either through dialog, artwork, or both. There's a bit of romance but that is not the main focus of the story. In some ways I felt this was more Rurik's story than Joy's. We get a wealth of information about Rurik's background and people - what has happened to them, why he left them, the bigotry against and by the Neuri. Joy is more of a clean slate. She's just starting her 'new' life. For a brief time their lives intersect. We see Joy's strength and character though I can't help but think that Joy is a bit reckless as an 18 year old tasting freedom for the first time might be. Even she recognizes that hitch hiking may not be the best thing to do.
Visually, The Lost Girl is stunning. Rob Ten Pas' artwork is beautiful. The story moves at a very fast pace without missing a beat. The Lost Girl is a tale of girl meets Neuri, girl and Neuri fight a common foe, and girl and Neuri move on. It is filed with action, some gore, and a very interesting backstory about Rurik and his people.
Bottom Line: The Lost Girl is a compelling story that not only delights visually but is also entertaining and thought-provoking.
I give The Lost Girl 4 1/2 Qwills.
TQ: Hi, Michael. Welcome to The Qwillery.
Michael: Hello, Sally.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Lost Girl?
Michael: I’d been kicking around the concept for about a year and had the main characters, plot, and general story elements written in my head but hadn’t come up with a fresh enough angle to motivate me to actually write it start-to-finish until I saw a documentary on History Channel about vampires and werewolves. In it they referenced a 5th Century BC historical account by Herodotus, the Greek “Father of History,” about a clan from southern Russia called Neurians who transformed into beasts. What fascinated me most is that this brief account is from history not mythology and that gave me what I needed to start actually writing. I know that Herodotus himself debunked this but that’s not the point; the point was taking that seed, supposing it were true, and applying the simple premise, “Where would the Neuri be now, present day?” as a springboard to tell a story that comes readymade with thousands of years of history and backstory to reference and reimagine.
TQ: What was the most challenging thing for you about writing/creating The Lost Girl?
Michael: Making the characters believable within the reality I was creating was the usual challenge. “What would real people do in this situation if it were really happening?” is how I generally approach horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, all genre elements here. That may seem obvious but the reason why something like The Walking Dead was as popular as it was before the TV show is because it did just that. Kirkman took a tired formula and the twist – in addition to just being a heck of a good writer – was populating that world with characters who responded to fantastic situations in ways that you or I might, too. And he took his time with letting it all unfold in “real time” so we became invested in their story, not just the situation, which served as a backdrop for character motivations. Too many writers get caught up in “the gizmo,” the plot, the world, or whatever that one unique concept is, and let the characters be slaves to that when the best writing is almost always the other way 'round. That kind of storytelling was my goal with The Lost Girl and with Joy it pretty much wrote itself. The complexities of the motivations with Rurik and Stas as well as the relationships and politics within the Neuri clan presented the biggest writing challenges because, for the Neurians, that fantastic reality is their everyday, normal reality. It’s not as tough to write the “fish out of water” that Joy becomes because it’s easy to drawn on your own experiences for that. The real work is creating characters completely apart from your life experience yet finding ways to imbue them with universally identifiable cores of humanity or, in this case, lost humanity.
TQ: In addition to writing The Lost Girl (among other works) you're a filmmaker. Does writing/creating a work like The Lost Girl share any similarities with making a film?
Michael: Probably more similarities than differences. How I conceive stories can come from pretty much anywhere but the writing process is always the same. Some take longer than others to complete but there’s no escaping that you have to sit down and write. The process from it being in your head and then putting it onto the page is one step of filtering or interpretation, the actualizing of the concepts into the written word. Directing a film, shot by shot, sequence by sequence, is a similar process of filtering and interpretation to actualization that continues to the editing and scoring process. But you’re not doing it alone like you usually do when writing; it’s with a team of collaborators who bring all their skills and talents to the table. Writing a comic book script definitely has its medium-centric demands, primarily that the actualization process requires a lot more precision and details in the writing itself since, using the filmmaker analogy, you’re essentially writing your direction to the illustrator who is your actors, cinematographer, production designer, you name it. And Rob Ten Pas did it all!
TQ: Are there any plans for Joy and Rurik to return in another graphic novel?
Michael: Those who have already read it know it is visually bracketed with the first visual being the same as its last, which are both new beginnings for Joy. So it was always intended to be a self-contained story. A few people have commented that it sets up a sequel but The Lost Girl is the story of Joy and Rurik. Yes, the stories of those left alive continue after the last page and some of the threads are left unresolved but only insofar as plot. Emotionally, we know where everyone is at the end and how they’ve been transformed. To me, the stories one can imagine from there are probably better than what I’d write but if I were to write a sequel it would be about Rurik since, for the story to truly work, there’s no way Joy and Rurik can ever see each other again. That story becomes her personal mythology and the fabric of her life thereafter. The fairy tale qualities of the story are obvious and intentional so, to me, it’d be like a sequel to Little Red Riding Hood. Does it even matter what comes next? No, not really. But if I’m lucky enough for the response to this to be so great that the market demands a sequel I’m sure I’ll change my tune but only if Rob Ten Pas does it with me. Rob is amazingly talented. It was a privilege to work with him and I hope to work with him again on something.
TQ: What's next?
Michael: I have a script that I want to adapt into a comic book series called Awful Bliss. It’s a reimagining of the pod people, sci-fi genre that owes as much to Red Dawn as it does to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I’m trying to convince Arcana to publish it but they’ve got a lot on their roster so the timing may not be right. We’ll see. For movies, I wrote the screenplay for the adaptation of Jesus Hates Zombies, Stephen Lindsay’s comic book series. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be one of the producers and Eric Balfour of Haven fame will direct. I’ve also got a serial killer script that I wrote, Meanest Man in the World, in development too and that may come together with me directing sooner rather than later. Fingers crossed.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Michael: Thank you, Sally. It was my pleasure.
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