The synopsis reads: “Three sisters trained by their Nazi-hunting mother must come together to help solve their mother’s murder…and try not to kill each other in the process.” In Erica Schultz’s latest series, The Deadliest Bouquet, Rose, Poppy, and Violet are three semi-estranged sisters trained in espionage and assassination by their mother, Jasmine. Now they must reluctantly work together to solve their mother’s murder. Set in 1998, the book offers the perfect Grunge/’90s Pop aesthetic as a backdrop for a fascinating, layered tale.
Schultz chatted with The Beat about the new book (which features art by Carola Borelli, colors by Gab Contreras, and cover art by Kevin Wada) and its Kickstarter that just launched today.
Deanna Destito: After reading issue 1, I’m intrigued about this family and its history, the mysteries around the mom, etc. How did you come up with this story?
Erica Schultz: I wish I had an answer other than, “I blurted it out randomly on a phone call.” But that’s really the truth. I have a lot of ideas come to me all the time (which is why you’ll always see me with a notebook writing things down). Some of them are fleeting and have no real meat to them. Others really have potential. In the case of The Deadliest Bouquet, I had the idea of three generations of this badass family, each with their own trauma and each with their own personal missions.
I also tend to write a lot about family and family dynamics. In Forgotten Home (comiXology Originals), we had the three generations of Jannadan Royalty all with their own ideas on how to rule. In M3 (Vices Press), we had the orphan finding her way with a new family. So the idea of where you are in the world in relation to who you are or who you want to be is something I tend to write about.
And being one of three siblings, this story really hits all the right points because there’s a real sense of revolving alliances of two ganging up on one that is so true to life. Several colleagues who have read the first issue have said that the family interactions are “too real for fiction.”
Destito: These women are obviously physically capable and come from a line of women who can handle themselves. You’ve also written other tales where women are center stage, strong, and even dangerous. Why are these books important for readers to see?
Schultz: I think it’s important to have stories about women that are really about women. Many times, if there’s a character that’s tough who happens to be a woman, she’s written like a hardened man with little to no emotions. Women and men are different, and therefore they have different stories to tell. This isn’t to say that men can’t write compelling women. It’s just to say that women shouldn’t be written like men in heels.
The first comic I wrote was M3. I was so blessed to work with the incredibly talented Vicente Alcázar on that series. Unbeknownst to me, I was the first female comics writer that he had ever worked with, and he made it a point to say that my scripts were written differently, not in terms of format, but in terms of an emotional depth that he hadn’t seen in other scripts he had worked on. I took that as a huge compliment and hope to keep that up.
Destito: How did you put together this creative team?
Schultz: Our editor, James Emmett, and I have known each other for a few years, and I’ve always trusted his ability to really bring a story out of a creator. After he came on and helped me find the throughline for The Deadliest Bouquet, we worked on finding the artists who would bring it to life.
I’ve been a fan of Carola Borelli’s work, and I had reached out to her for another project that went nowhere, so I was glad that I had a clearer path here. And Gab Contreras…Gab really has such great color work that I knew she’d be the perfect complement to Carola’s linework.
I’ve been so lucky to work with such talented and creative people when it comes to making comics, and Carola, Gab, and James keep that streak going. I’m spoiled, I know.
Destito: What is your process with the art team? Do you work collaboratively with character designs or do you let them have at it?
Schultz: Because I had been developing this story for a few years, I had an idea of character designs, but in the most basic forms. Carola really just took those bare-bones ideas and went full force with them. The fact that the story takes place in 1998 also informs a lot of the palette for Gab as well as the wardrobe for Carola.
In all my comics work, I really try and give the artists as much freedom as possible. As long as the story is being communicated and the emotional and informational bits are coming across, then they can really do what they want. I only do layouts if the scene is a complex setup, but that’s incredibly rare.
Destito: Why did you choose the crowdfunding route?
Schultz: Originally The Deadliest Bouquet had interest from a publisher, but Covid reared its ugly head and took that opportunity away. The choice to crowdfund this story did not come easy, but James has been invaluable throughout this whole process. He has a great deal of experience with Kickstarter through I Am Hexed and other projects he’s run, so I’ve been leaning heavily on him. Poor James! But we knew that it’s a story that people would want to support, so we made the leap.
Destito: There are some ’90s and some Jersey references in here (which I can relate to being a ’90s teen from NJ). Any autobiographical Easter eggs in there?
Schultz: Everything I write has an emotionally autobiographical element to it. The story takes place in Bergen County, NJ (where I grew up), not far from the banks of the Hackensack River. So the setting and timing are definitely from my past. I was 21 in 1998 finishing up my junior year in college, and going into my senior year, so the memories are still pretty vivid.
One thing I think people forget is that at the turn of the millennium, there was an interesting convergence of skepticism, conspiracy theories, and enthusiasm for what the 2000s would bring. It was almost an eeriness that started to creep in. I hope the story captures just a touch of that sentiment.
Destito: After this miniseries is complete, do you have any plans to return to this universe for more stories, different characters, etc.?
Schultz: The Deadliest Bouquet was originally conceived as three story arcs starting with the Hawthorn sisters’ maternal grandparents fighting in WW2, then moving on to Jasmine’s upbringing as a young woman traveling all over the world hunting down escaped Nazis and sympathizers, and then concluding with the arc that we’re currently working with. We weave a good deal of the history into this arc to show the deep family roots, but it’s obviously not as in-depth as a dedicated story arc.
Depending on how this Kickstarter goes, maybe we’ll be able to go back and explore those other arcs…or do a spin-off comic called Violent Violet. See? Another idea out of nowhere. Better write that one down!
To back The Deadliest Bouquet, click here and take a look at some art below.