by Aly Runke, contributing writer
Krypton Radio DJ Willow Leafstorm has been scooping up amazing and interesting interviews on the floor of San Diego Comic-Con International all weekend and her interview with author, illustrator, and animator Elizabeth Watasin is no exception. If you don’t know Watasin’s name already, you definitely should because chances are she’s had a hand in animating pieces of your or your children’s childhoods, maybe both! She has contributed her animation skills to an impressive list of Disney classics including The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Princess and the Frog, and Mulan. And if just the fact that she worked on these films at all doesn’t excite you, she worked on them straight out of college! Watasin got to experience the golden age of animation first hand. And it helped her spur her own comic projects, including the ongoing Charm School graphic novels she is currently writing and illustrating.
Leafstorm asked about how Watasin was inspired to do Charm School. Watasin said it had been her de-stresser when working for Disney. She also wanted to do something family-oriented with her comic that was fun, had humor, and teen romance. She got a lot of inspiration from Grease and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. “I wanted to do kind of a contemporary fantasy thing, ’50s kind of era, a magical world with vampires and witches and demons and hot rods and malt shops.”
And with Charm School it is safe to say she succeeded. Charm School, if you haven’t picked it up yet, is about a teen witch named Bunny, who is dating biker-butch vampire Dean. However, a bad faerie has also got her eyes on Bunny. To find out who wins Bunny’s heart, well, you will have to dive into Watasin’s magical fifties world yourself.
Balancing a fun, family friendly comic with the LGBT themes present in Charm School is sometimes a hard line to walk. When asked how she pulled such a feat off in face of all the questions of how family friendly Charm School really was Watasin told Leafstorm she simply wanted to have fun. She isn’t out to live out some fetish just make an enjoyable paranormal story where the main characters are lesbians. The stories told in Charm School are “not meant to entertain you sexually” she iterates clearly, “they’re not prurient at all.”
And she succeeds. Charm School is a lot fun to read and the world is fun to immerse oneself into, as well. There are tons of paranormal aspects to explore. Watasin also enjoys playing with different myths and folklore involved in her characters. When it came to research, she pulled form traditional supernatural creatures as well as some of Asian influence. She admits to reading up quite a bit on faeries for Charm School as well as adding her own spice to characters such as the vampire Dean. Dean is a character whose story Watasin is still forming in her head. She is a vampire but Watasin also wants her to have a family, so she isn’t sure how that will play into how vampires are made or born in her world. In creating Dean, she mixed traditional ideas of what a vampire is, taking from western and Chinese folklore. She still wants to keep it fun; She laughed and joked about “doin’ the Chinese Vampire bit.” And for Dean, Watasin uses traditional Chinese vampire lore where vampires are re-animated corpses who can only hop (not walk), and suck out life force or chi, not actual blood. The character Dan’s mother is a westernized vampire so she sucks blood. This has yet to be revealed in the comic Charm School and is still in Watasin’s mind, being configured for the story. Thus far, Charm School has nine issues out digitally and Watasin is working on the tenth. The issues will be gathered into five books, two issues a piece, along with extras. After these are released Watasin will continue the story of Charm School as novellas.
Watasin has also made herself known in the world of writing novels; her series The Dark Victorian has two books out on Amazon. Once again, Watasin delves into the world of the paranormal but with this world, there is more steampunk Victorian England. The main character is Artifice, an artificial ghost. When Leafstorm asked how she came up with Artifice’s existing as a sort of ghost, Watasin explained that Artifice is like an alchemic formula. “She is written is how I see it, and it is possible to un-write her and that’s something I’ll be able to explain better in the later novels.” A lot of what Watasin wants to do with this series and character is to show Art’s self-discovery, both in terms of her paranormal existence as an otherworldly crime-fighter in Victorian London, and as a woman who loves other women in a world where the view on such existence is changing.
This theme of self-discovery is also, according to Watasin, at the root of making Artifice a Quaker. She told Leafstorm, “I wanted someone who was outside the society and who spoke in an archaic sense, and then I realized she is a very good contrast from Victorian values, she functions outside of that, as a woman.”
The time of The Dark Victorian novels is a point when society was changing, in the Victorian age was when the standard of LGBT persons being abnormal and outside-of-society became widespread: a standard that would prevail for the next hundred-plus years in society as we know it. Watasin wanted to show an outsider character dealing with the LGBT community at the point when such lifestyles were normal, respected, and accepted and then through that character’s story show when that changed in the society she was already an outsider in. Of course in the midst of these themes is the story of a detective solving paranormal crimes when the normal police cannot with a talking animated skull as her partner. And it is that image that birthed The Dark Victorian.
Watasin was working on another novel, never finished, when she drew a poster with a ghost detective holding an animated skull. From there this, magnificent world was born. And Artifice isn’t this world’s only story subject. Watasin also writes Elle Black penny Dreads: stories about a young housewife in an unconventional marriage with a woman who has telekinetic powers. She solve crimes that are too small for newspaper star Artifice, but still too paranormal for Scotland Yard. This universe Watasin has created is so rich, we cannot wait for more!