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SYFY WIRE Behind the Panel

Jim Mahfood on the return of 'Grrl Scouts,' missing cons, & the Substack Comics boom

By Mike Avila
 GRRL Scouts Stone Ghost Cover A

It's been three years since fans have been treated to the visceral joy that is Jim Mahfood's creator-owned Grrl Scouts series.

The long-running — if infrequent — book is back with a new story that's unfolding in the six-issue miniseries Stone Ghost, which is due out in November from Image Comics (it's available for preorder right now through your LCS. Click here to learn more). Mahfood's hardcore fans, the ones who go back 25 years to when the very first issues in the series were released as ashcans and were actually titled Girl Scouts (before the actual Girl Scouts objected), have come to expect that patience is a virtue for new Grrl Scouts adventures. Mahfood is an artist who is constantly working, whether it's on one of his own projects or commercial art gigs, or some Hollywood stuff like what we discuss a bit further down. The point being, the long wait between GS miniseries isn't for lack of effort. It's just about telling the right story at the right time. 

 "It always feels great to go back to my creator-owned stuff just because I get to do what I want," Mahfood tells SYFY WIRE during an exclusive interview. "And it's a world that I'm familiar with and it's always just pure fun to work with these characters."

With Stone Ghost, Mahfood aims to expand the universe and bring new characters into the mix, like Turtleneck Jones, Gordi, and a young girl named Dio with important ties to the Grrl Scouts, as well as a new villain named The Teeth! It's all told in frenetic fashion with Mahfood's signature graffiti-style art providing eye-popping imagery. A Jim Mahfood comic is always easy to spot because of his distinctive art, something that makes him quite proud. "I take that as a great compliment because my goal basically is just to do really just do something different," he says. "I mean, that is kind of what I've done with my whole career."

 GRRL Scouts Stone Ghost Cover A

This new Grrl Scouts tale stands apart for the story content as much as the visual aesthetic.

"This one is pretty different because I'm introducing a new cast of characters. I'm tapping into and exploring some of the history of the actual Grrl Scouts organization," he says. "I'm hinting at some of the origins of where this group of badass warrior girls kind of comes from. So it's cool, man. I'm expanding on my own mythology."

The idea for widening the scope of the Grrl Scouts universe actually came a few years ago while Mahfood was working on an animated Grrl Scouts pilot. During that process, which involved the artist teaming up with an A-list star who shall remain unnamed for Hollywood reasons, Mahfood wrote the show bible, which is essentially a blueprint TV showrunners use while making their show. "I wound up writing up the whole history of the Grrl Scouts organization, dating it back to like feudal Japan, and how there's been Grrl Scouts throughout history," Mahfood recalls.

The animated show was headed to Freeform where Mahfood says it was going to be part of a block of adult-themed animated shows. But the project stalled in December 2020 when Mahfood says someone high up at Disney pulled the plug on the entire animated experiment. Having spent all that time working on the project only to see it go nowhere was a crushing blow, as he put it.

Mahfood found himself thinking about this vast backstory for his characters that was just there, waiting to be explored. So he thought, why not do it in comics? "Having a show bible with all this history, I was like, 'I can use this for the next comics series. I'll actually get into some of this history and some of this ancestry of the Grrl Scouts organization,'" he says. "And that's how I created this new character, this girl Dio, and she's going to wind up being an ancestor of the very first, original Grrl Scout. 

"As soon as Disney killed the animated show," he continues, "I just decided I was going to focus all my efforts on the comic because then I can just do whatever I want. I don't have to report in to anybody. And I did character designs for the Bible, for the animated series that I wound up using for a bunch of those characters in the new comic. So I just figured, let's not make this be a wasteful thing."

 GRRL Scouts Stone Ghost Cover B

Mahfood is a popular figure on the comic con circuit. At many shows where that do live programming, he's often asked to do an art demo because he is gifted with the underrated ability to talk nonstop while drawing something incredibly cool. I've had the pleasure of hosting one of his live art jams before and can confirm he makes a host's job really easy.

Having been grounded from conventions like so many other pros and fans due to the pandemic, Mahfood, who is vaccinated, was hopeful that the fall would bring a renewal of the convention calendar. But the continued spread of the Delta coronavirus variant has him wondering if he will go through with his scheduled appearances.

"I'm scheduled to actually go to Lexington, Kentucky, next month for [a con]. And one of my best friends lives out there, Justin Stewart who colored and lettered the last Grrl Scout series," Mahfood says, adding that he has traveled in recent months, masked up, since getting vaccinated. "But I'm still up in the air about it, man. I also got confirmed for New York Comic Con in October, but again, I haven't fully decided 100 percent what to do because it seems like no one knows the direction of variant strains and where we'll be with the virus then. I'm trying to ask people for advice and some professionals, some friends of mine are like, 'No conventions whatsoever in 2021. It's not going to happen [for them].'" 

Mahfood also shared his thoughts on the recent flurry of announcements of comic creators like Scott Snyder, Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, and Mahfood's good pal Skottie Young taking their talents and original ideas to Substack with the potential for some major paydays. As a creator who often handles most aspects of the production process for his comics, Mahfood views this as a way for more creators to be able to make a good living while making comics.

"I see it as a positive thing in that you can build a platform and get fans to subscribe that way and reach an audience," Mahfood says. "That to me is huge because the problem with traditional comics is convincing people that didn't grow up with them to actually go to a comic shop and buy the material. One of the things I've encountered with younger fans who get turned on to my work on Instagram, when I explain to them how to get my comics or go to a comic shop, some of them just don't want to do that. It sounds ridiculous to you and I because we grew up going to a comic shop every week, but to them, they're like, 'Well, wait, I just want to press a button on my phone and get the thing that you're making.' Having a platform where they can get it exclusively on digital and then [creators] maintain the rights and you can publish it anyway afterwards, I don't see a problem with that. I’m interested to see the long-term impact of this."

Check out Grrl Scouts: Stone Ghost #1 when it debuts in November and check out an exclusive sneak peek at the first issue below!


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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBCUniversal.