James Lawrence Tells ‘The Legend of La Mariposa’ [Interview]

James Lawrence’s ‘Dangerine’ has proven to be one of the most entertaining superhero comics I’ve read over the last few years, and every Thought Bubble I’ve made a tradition of picking up one issue at a time from his table. It’s funny, with great characters, and reads as superhero construction rather than deconstruction – something which is surprisingly rare in comics right now.

So, when he posted a teaser image last week for a new comic project he’s working on, ‘The Legend of La Mariposa’, I immediately got in touch with him and asked for more details. As the story this week sees release as a webcomic which you can find right here, it seemed like a good time to ask James exactly what readers can expect from the story, where the concept came from… and why one of the main characters appears to be a talking walrus.

So I did just that! Read on to find out more about ‘The Legend of La Mariposa’!

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Steve: What’s the premise of The Legend of La Mariposa?

James Lawrence: Conan The Barbarian, filtered through Lucha Libre movies.  La Mariposa wanders through a fantastical desert landscape, getting embroiled in adventures, fulfilling her destiny as one of the mighty masked warriors she idolises.

You’ve worked with superheroes before, in your series “Dangerine”. How did you decide that this was the next project you wanted to work on?

I’d been drawing LM a lot in my sketchbook, and found myself just kinda casually fleshing out her supporting cast and the world she was in.  I was struggling with shaping another project, so rather than bash my head against that wall, I figured I’d forge ahead with the project that was coming together very organically.  Initially LM was going to be a one-off minicomic-type deal, but the story just kind of… ballooned.

What does the luchador(a?) setting offer the story which readers might not find in the typical American superhero setting? Why choose this location for your webcomic?

I’m shooting for more of a fantasy vibe in La Mariposa, which will become more pronounced as the story progresses, but you can’t deny the superhero trappings that come with Lucha Libre, so what I’ve wound up with is something similar to those stories where The Avengers travel back to medieval times and become knights, or the Justice League become cowboys.

I’ve always been fascinated with Lucha Libre as well as aspects of Mexican and South American folklore that I absorbed second-hand through films, comics and video-games growing up, and there’s more than enough material there to populate what I hope will be a rich and unique land for La Mariposa to explore.

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What motivates La Mariposa, as a character? What are her ambitions and goals, at least to begin with?

Initially, La Mariposa’s goals are very straightforward: She’s a novice luchador who is a lifelong fan of luchadores, and she wants to defend the defenceless and entertain the bored, luchador-style.  She’s a true believer, but that belief is going to be tested, believe me.

In Dangerine, the hero Del was somewhat reluctant to take on the role of a superhero – but La Mariposa seems eager to get started. Was this a conscious choice for you, to create a hero who this time immediately delights in getting to save the day?

It was definitely a conscious choice.  Dangerine is pretty plot-driven.  There’s a definite end-goal for the characters, and time is very much a factor.  La Mariposa is more me trying to find a less-driven character that I can plop into varied self-contained stories that aren’t necessarily connected by continuity.  I’m looking for my Asterix, my Usagi Yojimbo.

The difference between Dangerine and La Mariposa is wish fulfilment.  Del doesn’t want to be a superhero, but he doesn’t have much of a choice.  LM getting her mask was a literal dream come true, so she’s fully on board from minute one.

How did the design come together for her? She seems to be a major superhero fan, so is that reflected in the way you put together her costume?

La Mariposa is Spanish for “The Butterfly”.  Specifically, the Chaos Butterfly.  The whys and wherefores of this choice of theme will be revealed…

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The series is only just starting out, and you have a five-page “intro” on the site right now. What can readers expect as the story moves forward? Where’ll the series take us?

The initial big storyarc will see LM tackling the trial set for her by Ojo Tercero Jr. and the Sons of Justice.  Along the way we’ll learn a little more about her and how she deals with obstacles, we’ll meet some new faces, and we may even see the Sons of Justice in action!

Beyond that, there’s a lot of fun, varied adventures planned for LM.  It’s not all going to be fight scenes, but there’ll be a lot of those too.

Why take the series to the web, rather than as a series of print comics? What decided you on making this a webseries?

The reasons are threefold: First of all, I wanted to put out content more regularly so the people who follow my work could get hold of it on a regular basis, rather than having to wait for a new issue.

Second, by doing the comic online, I can nip the limitations and costs of print in the bud.  Full-colour is no extra cost, I can change up the format if I want easily.

Third, I have a small flat currently containing stock for four books.  If I print many more, I’ll have to get rid of my couch to make room.  And I love that couch.

Does having the comic update on a page-by-page basis change the way you tell your story? How has the creative process been for you on this series?

It hasn’t thus far, but I’ve generally tried to compose pages in such a way that each page ends in a way that I hope the reader feels driven to see what happens next.

Ironically for a digital venture, I’ve actually kept the process pretty low-tech.  I’ve been doing all the writing and thumbnailing page-by-page in a wee notebook I carry around with me, and La Mariposa is my first attempt at lettering by hand.  Colouring and loose notes are still done digitally, though.

It’s pretty different from Dangerine, which is written full-script, thumbnailed all at once, and lettered digitally.

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What are the influences for the series, both as writer and as artist? I felt, and there have only been five pages so this could be wrong, like the style of dialogue and worldbuilding was reminiscent of stories like Empowered, perhaps?

I hadn’t thought of Empowered as an influence, but I’d be interested in rereading it and seeing if there’s a parallel there.

Apart from diving headfirst back into my childhood obsession with Pro Wrestling, my main influences for La Mariposa have mainly been other self-contained, plot-driven adventure series.  Asterix, Groo The Wanderer, Usagi Yojimbo, Tezuka’s Black Jack and Astro Boy, the excellent Franco-Belgian Lucha Libre series recently collected by Humanoids, the more self-contained Hellboy stories, and my current favourite, Sabertooth Swordsman, among others.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – will there be more of the walrus anytime soon? I’m a big fan of the walrus thus far.

Are you referring to Hippatomicus, The Herbivorous Hellraiser?  The Wallowing Weapon of Mass Destruction?  The Ten-Megaton Mudhole Monster?

Yeah, he’ll be back soon enough.

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