Image Comics
Christian Holub
July 18, 2017 AT 01:41 PM EDT

Get ready to fall in love with the world of Moonstruck.

Written by Grace Ellis (Lumberjanes) and illustrated by newcomer Shae Beagle, Moonstruck presents an inclusive fantasy world filled with LGBTQ characters who also happen to be centaurs, werewolves, and magicians. Main characters include Julie, a barista with a crush on a girl, a love of the Pleasant Mountain book series, and also the uncontrollable urge to turn into a werewolf when she gets upset. There’s also Chet, her gossipy centaur co-worker, and Lindi, a tough musician whose temper really flares when her snake-hair comes out.

Ahead of Moonstruck‘s debut this week, EW spoke with Ellis, Beagle, and editor Laurenn McCubbin about building this story and world (spoiler: it all started in a college class). Check that out below, along with an exclusive preview of Moonstruck #1. The issue hits stores Wednesday.

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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how did the idea for Moonstruck originally come together?
SHAE BEAGLE: The story originally started as a class at Columbus College of Art & Design called “Comics Practicum,” where 10 student artists and 10 professional writers get paired and work together on scripts. In my second year, I got paired with Grace. We worked together really well, our humor matched and Grace’s style of writing worked with my art. Laurenn is the professor of the class. She saw the story had potential and pitched it to Image.

LAURENN MCCUBBIN: When I was working with Grace and Shae, they were cute together and got along really well. It’s important that creators have that chemistry. I saw that, “Wow this is a whole world that has so much potential to be more.” So I helped them put together the pitch.

GRACE ELLIS: There’s always so much luck involved in comics. In this case, it was just really so much good luck all in a row.

There’s a lot going on in Moonstruck, blending fantasy elements with diverse characters. How do you explain the genre?
ELLIS: If you can think of a good name for the genre, we’ll steal it! I have a hard time explaining the tone. It all came out of the first five pages. I needed a twist and then a second twist within five pages. So it starts out seeming like they’re human, but then no they’re not — oh my god! Expanding it out into a full story, it made sense that was going to be a part of it. When it comes to sexuality or marked traits, I don’t think of them as trappings, they’re integral parts of your identity. So when I was thinking about these characters and how they experience the world, it became part of that. But at the same time, I am an idiot and I love to make dumb puns. That’s generally how we got to where we are.

MCCUBBIN: There’s a beautiful subtlety to how Grace integrates each mythological creature or monster with the personality of the person. So Julie’s the super reluctant werewolf who isn’t freaked out that she’s queer or Puerto Rican, she’s freaked out about this thing inside her she can’t control. Then there’s somebody like Lindi, who is a bully and kind of a jerk and can be terrifying (and that’s when the snakes come out). And then you’ve got Chet, who just absolutely loves being a centaur. They are someone who doesn’t morph. They are just that way all the time.

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Image Comics
Image Comics
Image Comics
Image Comics
Image Comics

I love that we get an interlude inside Julie’s beloved Pleasant Mountain stories. Will there be more of that going forward, and what does it add to story?
ELLIS: It came out of thinking about the world and trying to expand the world. What is something I can do in this comic that I could only do in a comic? One answer is a story-within-story that is also a comic. The other piece was, what can we add in this comic that will teach us more about the characters, using a language readers understand? The Pleasant Mountain books are not a very subtle homage to The Babysitters’ Club, something readers will probably be familiar with. The story that is in the Pleasant Mountain pages is a reflection of the main story and reflects what’s happening elsewhere.

MCCUBBIN: Like Watchmen and “Tales of the Black Freighter!”

ELLIS: Yeah I actually reread Watchmen a little bit before I started on this and was like, “Can I do that? Let’s do it anyway.”

MCCUBBIN: For each arc of the story, we’re gonna have a different artist do the Pleasant Mountain pages. For the first arc, it’s Kate Leth, whose style just fit it perfectly. I’m not going to spoil who the second artist is, but it’s gonna be awesome!

Although they’re different, something in this resembles Grace’s previous work on Lumberjanes. Maybe it’s the characters being comfortable with themselves and the general positive vibe. What would you say is the influence on Moonstruck, if any?
ELLIS: I agree with you. I’m glad that you agree. The biggest thing I learned working on Lumberjanes was the importance of planning ahead. If you go back and read the first volume of Lumberjanes, it is not what I would call coherent. It’s fun, but not very coherent. Moonstruck is extremely well thought-out. I know exactly where we’re going with this, so it’s a lot easier to plant evidence early on and leave stuff to bring up later. It feels a little older because I am older and I’m a better writer now. But there’s still the same kind of fun, it’s the same type of hijinks.

MCCUBBIN: Moonstruck is still a very all-ages book. It’s getting called YA. It can reach middle school through high school and college, and grown-ups.

ELLIS: I say the mythology jokes are for the adults, and the relationship stuff is for the kids and the adults.

We recently did a post about good inclusive LGBTQ comics to celebrate Pride Month, and we even included a preview of Moonstruck. What is the value of stories like this?
BEAGLE: Well, I think it’s important to have these stories that involve queer characters by queer creators that are not, at their core, a coming-out story. These characters are comfortable in their identities and have a life outside of that. I really enjoy that kind of story, and it’s great that we’re expanding on that and putting it out there.

MCCUBBIN: I wholeheartedly agree. It’s so important that there are other ways to experience queer characters that aren’t about trauma, that aren’t about the worst moment of a queer person’s life. That’s the only way audiences ever experience queer characters. The idea that we have to hear over and over about coming-out stories or getting beat up is silly. There are other aspects of queer characters’ lives, like just going to a café.

ELLIS: I just want to add that this is the kind of book that I want to read, if I were not also writing it. It’s nice to have something that’s sincere and warm added to the LGBTQ canon.

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