It’s been thirteen years since the disappearance of the ogre that attacked the village of Aragon, where a young witch named Lizzy was raised; and thirteen years since her parents, a woodcutter and a powerful witch, set off to defeat it and were never seen again.
Now, Lizzy lives with her Grams in a small cottage outside of the village. They keep goats, and Grams sells simple spells and potions to the villagers to make ends meet but refuses to teach Lizzy anything about her magic or her mother, hoping that a ‘normal’ life will keep her safe.
One day, when Lizzy is taking the goats to market all on her own, a goat disappears while crossing the bridge into town. Without that goat, Lizzy can’t make enough money at market to last them until next year, so she steals some coins from the village wishing well-and is forced to grant the wishes attached to them.
Now she must navigate secrets, desires, and monsters from her family’s past…before the well steals her future.
Written by Jake Wyatt and illustrated by F. Choo, The Well will be published by First Second Books in 2018.
Jake Wyatt is a Creative Director at Moonbot Studios, author of Necropolis (Image Comics, 2017), and has been writing and drawing for film, television, and sometimes comics (such as Marvel Comics’ Ms. Marvel, Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, and Nickelodeon’s TMNT ) for about six years. Jake lives in Louisiana with his wife, Kathryn, their son, Isaac, and their dog, Misato Katsuragi.
F. Choo is an illustrator from Melbourne, Australia. She has done illustration work for Lumberjanes.
How did this exciting collaboration between the two of you come to be? What was the timeline from scripting to finished pages?
Jake Wyatt: A few years ago I stumbled onto a fantastic short comic that Choo had made, ‘The King, In Porcelain,’ was immediately affected by it, and starting following her work. I wrote Choo to let her know how much i enjoyed the comic, and we kept in touch online, mostly through twitter, and found out we had a few shared interests and obsessions.
Meanwhile, I’d written this spec script called ‘The Well,’ to drum up some writing work. The script did its job, and I got a modest stream of writing work going, but I never did sell it. As time went by, I saw things in The Well that I wanted to change and rework, but I still liked the story and the characters. Then, several months ago, I saw an opportunity to rework The Well into a graphic novel, but knew I didn’t have time to draw it. I thought of Choo immediately. When I reached out to her about collaborating, I thought it was the longest of shots – Choo is so talented, and the story needed a lot of tuning up. But she liked the idea enough to work up a pitch with me, and here we are.
We’re actually both still working on the script and the finished pages concurrently. As for the process from script to finished page, that’s been pretty fluid. Choo took the first scripted pages I turned in and reworked the pacing, expanding the page count to let everything breathe a bit more. And then, once the pages were drawn, I went back in and changed some of the narration and dialogue to better match what she’d produced. It’s a very open and collaborative process right now, and watching Choo transform the script into something new (and better) is immensely satisfying.
F. Choo: As Jake mentioned earlier, he wrote a very nice message to me one day and we’ve kept in touch ever since. When he came to me with the initial script for The Well I of course jumped on the opportunity immediately. I really liked what he had going on in the story and I was always a huge fan of Jake’s work, so I was excited to be able to collaborate on something with him!
So far we’ve been working on everything together pretty closely, it’s a lot of back and forth with designs and ideas.
What sort of exciting challenges will Lizzy face in her quest to grant these wishes? The concept has a tremendous amount of flexibility. For F Choo, was there a sequence that you found particularly engaging to illustrate?
JW: Poor Lizzy. We don’t really do her a lot of favors. She has to gamble for her life with goblins, confront a monster of legend, brave the open seas, and even play matchmaker to septuagenarian lovebirds. We also make her talk to a boy she likes. So yeah, Lizzy’s got it pretty rough.
FC: I’m not sure if I can really answer this one – we haven’t gotten that far yet, haha!
Jake, did you find it tough to give up cartooning duties for this OGN or was it a big relief? What new element does F Choo bring in that differs from how you would have approached the project as a “one-man show”?
JW: Initially, I was just thrilled beyond belief that Choo wanted to work with me. And I still am, really. Choo’s got a way with color and pacing and mood that I find really immersive, as a reader. Everything she draws, whether it’s a comic or a single illustration, feels like an inhabitable world, with its own flow of time, and I always find myself getting lost in it. So you’ve got these really credible, living spaces she creates, and the characters she renders inside of them are so sympathetic, so relatable, and it’s just a wonderful place to spend your time. It’s a privilege to work in that space with her. So I guess more than feeling either relieved or reluctant about giving up my drawing pencil, I feel a very real pressure to meet the level of quality and craftsmanship Choo brings to the table, to make sure my end of the project keeps up with (and seamlessly blends with) the very substantial and engaging work that Choo is doing.
And there’s the unexpected fun of collaborating with another artist as an artist. I won’t be drawing any of the finished pages, but we get to bounce ideas and sketches off of each other, and have ended up with characters and locations that neither of us could have designed on our own, and I can’t wait to share them with our readers.
How did you enjoy the collaborative process with First Second on this project? Did either of you ever strive for the bookstore marketplace as a career goal?
JW: During college, and shortly afterwards, I worked mostly as a textbook illustrator, and mainstream publishing was my dream. Then life pulled me into animation and tv and direct market comics, and had to defer those bookstore ambitions. But I’ve always kept an eye towards traditional publishing, and I’m delighted that we’re doing this book with First Second. I love First Second’s catalogue, and I’m a longtime fan of Mark Siegel’s work as a cartoonist, so this is all very exciting for me.
FC: Personally I’m pretty new to the industry, I graduated university in 2014 and so far I’ve both been working in illustration as well as other side jobs. I love books and comics and especially collecting physical copies so the opportunity to work on something in that sort of vein is definitely something I’ve been aiming for! As someone who has several things from First Second on my shelf, I’m thrilled to be working on this.
Many thanks to Jake Wyatt and F Choo for taking the time to answer our questions and Gina Gagliano at First Second for arranging our Q&A about this exciting new project.