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Indie Comics Spotlight: Erica Schultz's mother of an adventure story 'Forgotten Home'
While most of the planet was collectively obsessed with Elsa’s kingdom of isolation, Olaf’s warm hugs, and “Let It Go,” Erica Schultz was quietly writing an anti-Frozen tale that would eventually become the seeds for Forgotten Home. Vices Press, Schultz’ creator-owned brand, partnered with Comixology Originals to digitally publish the eight-issue series. Drawn by Marika Cresta, the seventh issue in the series drops this month, with the finale dropping after that, and a collected edition to be released later this year.
Forgotten Home follows a fugitive alien princess hiding on Earth, who’s trying to protect her daughter from a life of war when teens in her town begin disappearing ... including her daughter. This epic matriarchal tale will pique the interests of both YA fantasy and sci-fi readers alike, as our heroic princess is forced to return home and face a past that threatens her daughter's future.
Schultz was raised on a healthy diet of Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Flash Gordon — she even had a stuffed Siamese cat she named “Ming the Merciless” (because of course she did). Her dad was an avid reader of Asimov, and her mom was an artist for the old-school ‘70s and ‘80s Star Trek fanzines. She fondly remembers escaping for hours in issues of Batman and Uncanny X-Men that she stole from her brother.
Despite being raised in a proper geek household, Schultz still didn’t consider comics as a career until 2008, following a terrible car crash that left her almost immobile. While she healed, she spent most of her time reading comics, writing, and drawing. Upon her recovery, she was able to land a job at Neal Adams’ Continuity Studios. Her first project at the studio was as a digital artist on the Astonishing X-Men motion comic Gifted, and the Batman: Odyssey comic. Life had come full circle. The diverse skill set she gained working at Continuity for eight years has served Schultz well, as she regularly works as a writer, letterer, and editor.
Today, Schultz is probably best known for her writing on Marvel’s Daredevil Annual (2018). She has edited several indie books and is currently an editor at Mad Cave Studios. She’s lettered multiple books for Dynamite, and most recently lettered the graphic novel Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists for Mikki Kendall. SYFY WIRE caught up with Schultz during her busy lockdown schedule to find out how she has time for it all, and what inspired the huge story behind Forgotten Home.
Who was your main character, Lorraine Adalet, based on?
Lorraine wasn’t based on anyone in particular, but I wanted to show a realistic portrayal of a single mom with a teenage daughter. Teenage daughters can be difficult to deal with, or at least that’s what my mom tells me. [Laughs]
I wanted Lorraine to be relatable and not the hero who gets it right every time. She’s virtuous but very flawed. I think the most relatable heroes are the ones that try their best but still fail at times.
The Queen, at first glance, appears to be a mother from hell. And a despot to boot. But is there more to her?
There is definitely more to Queen Rani than what you read on the page. Like many villains, Rani truly believes she’s justified in her actions and hatred toward the Chilombons. And villains who believe their own lies are the most difficult to defeat. I thought about the relationship between Marcus Aurelius and his children in Gladiator. Rani is definitely comparable to Commodus. Commodus tells his father that “ambition” is a justified and noble trait. Rani has a similar exchange with her older sister, Kralista, early in Issue 2.
Lorraine’s daughter, Joanna, has quite the arc in this story once she discovers the source of her powers. Her frustration was palpable!
Being a teenage girl is scary, emotional, and every day feels like an upheaval of sorts. Then add into the mix that Joanna is the only one of her friends with bizarre powers that Lorraine hasn’t quite explained to her completely. Blend until smooth, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for resentment.
Another big point I wanted to hammer with Joanna and Lorraine’s relationship was this idea of control. When you’re a teenager, you think your parents don’t have all the answers, but they seem to have all the control. I wanted to capture that infuriating paradox in Joanna’s character. She’s trying to find her way on Earth, and then she’s trying to find her way in Jannada. Neither is easy.
The war in Jannada and the worldbuilding in Forgotten Home is extensive. How did you come up with it all?
The easy answer is that I made it all up, but the real answer is that you can look at human history and see a fight over resources time and again. In Forgotten Home, they’re fighting over Aliazh, a crystal that powers the Jannadan cities, but it needs to be mined and refined by the Chilombons. Just look at the mining of coal, diamonds, or any other resource. Those who are doing the labor to find these resources are never the ones benefiting from them.
I wanted Jannada to parallel Earth in the sense that, no matter where you go, problems are universal. I think people tend to have a “grass is always greener” sensibility, but it’s really not the case, even in a fictional world. Take Lorraine: She thought once she left Jannada and came to Earth that everything would be fine for her. Well, it didn’t work out that way.
Joanna believes her problems are solved once she’s taken in by Rani, but changing your location doesn’t fix any of the issues you had going in. Moving around the world throughout Lorraine’s military career never made the relationship between mother and daughter better. “Wherever you go, there you are.”
What was it like working with your team? Marika Cresta, your artist, and Matt Emmons, your main colorist? What was your reaction when you found out Bill Sienkiewicz was doing your cover?
I cannot say enough about the absurdly talented team on this book. Marika Cresta is a star. Her work blew me away every time she sent me a page. If you’re a fan of her art, you should definitely look into her work on Summit from Lion Forge and her current work on Doctor Aphra for Marvel.
Matt Emmons was introduced to me by my close friend and sometimes collaborator, Liana Kangas. He absolutely rose to the challenge and really knocked the colors out of the park. Natasha Alterici is my go-to cover girl. She and I did a short together for Destiny, NY Volume 2, and I just loved working with her. The cover for Forgotten Home Issue 7 is my favorite cover ... probably ever. It’s an homage to Frank Miller’s Daredevil 181, and Natasha did such an amazing job. She’s a treasure.
Now, what can I say about Bill ... Bill Sienkiewicz is a master. I was fortunate to meet Bill many moons ago when I was working at Continuity Studios. He was inking for a Batman title at the time, and he was the most pleasant person ever. Since then, Bill has been a champion for my career and a supportive colleague and friend. He kindly was the cover artist for the second issue of M3 when I was a “nobody.” So when we caught up at NYCC ’19, it was a no-brainer to ask him to do Forgotten Home’s trade cover. To have Bill on any project means that I have the support and faith of one of the best creators of all time.
But that’s not the whole team. Yissel Ayala designed the traditional Jannadan royal outfits for Joanna, Rani, and Lorraine; Kevin Maher designed the logo for Forgotten Home; and Cardinal Rae handled all the lettering duties.
What was the one theme that you never wanted to lose sight of when writing this?
“Family” is the central theme in Forgotten Home. Everyone has a family, whether it’s by blood or by bond, and those relationships are unbelievably important to all of us. There’s the round-robin of Joanna, Lorraine, and Rani, plus their conflicting relationships with each other. But then you look at Kerel, Trodaire, Dagaal, and Bajec. You meet Decko and his parents, Vechter and Janchi. So family really is the heart of the story. And I hope that it’s relatable to the audience.
Will we get more of this story past Issue 8?
There is a collected edition coming, and I would love to return to Jannada someday. But Marika is currently working on Doctor Aphra, so I’ll have to wait until she’s available again. I wouldn’t want to do the book with anyone else.