Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe gives readers a chance to experience the tale of Persephone and Hades through a spellbinding depiction that brings the retelling of the Classic story to vivid life. While the second season of the WEBTOON series wrapped up earlier this month, the third season of the Eisner Award-winning comic will begin on August 27th, 2022.
In the meantime, The Beat caught up with Smythe over email to ask about how her creative approach to the comic has changed, to learn more about her approach to color in Lore Olympus, and to find out which outfit from the series has been her favorite!
AVERY KAPLAN: How has your approach to creating the comic changed over the intervening years (if it has)?
RACHEL SMYTHE: Due to the weekly publication schedule and the sheer length of the series, I’m always looking for ways to update my approach in an effort to keep things interesting for myself and stave off burnout.
I am always trying to push myself forward as time passes. It’s important to try new things – for better or for worse. I’d rather struggle and fail in the most fantastic way than try to repeat that same thing again and be thought of as dull.
KAPLAN: Can you tell us about your personal history with Classical mythology?
SMYTHE: I feel like Greek mythology is the backbone of most modern stories we participate in today. So, to some degree, most people will have a personal history with Greek mythology, whether they know it or not.
I became obsessed with Hades and Persephone in middle school. That was a difficult period in my life, where I was coming to terms with being alone. And the old myths did what most treasured stories do and cared for me in a way nobody could.
It feels a little cringe to say this but, I think Hades and Persephone may be my muses. If muses are still a thing…
KAPLAN: Do you have a favorite character?
SMYTHE: They’re all my favorite! It’s so hard to choose when you like them all so much.
KAPLAN: Are any of the characters particularly hard to depict, or do any come especially easily to you?
SMYTHE: I’m going to give a particularly utilitarian answer to this. Drawing is just really hard.
I love designing characters and environments though. The concepts are always the fun part.
KAPLAN: Do you have a favorite outfit?
SMYTHE: I like the white dress Persephone wears to the underworld for the first time.
I liked it because I thought it was a beautiful, timeless look. But nowadays, I have such a fondness for the design because it really marks a moment in time when the series was really starting to take off. And there are very few feelings in the world that can compare to creating something that everyone is enjoying.
KAPLAN: What kind of visual research have you conducted for Lore Olympus? Is there any particular historical work of art or type of aesthetic that has been especially influential for the series?
SMYTHE: In terms of research on Greek mythology, I listened to a lot of lectures, read a lot of books, and listened to a lot of podcasts (still do). Most people can tell Lore Olympus is not intended to be canonical with all the myths. But I do think it’s important to know the rules before you break them.
KAPLAN: Can you share with us a little about how you approach color for the series?
SMYTHE: I’m going to answer this question in the form of advice. If you are going to make a comic, and you know production is going to take years. You better make sure you choose visual elements you enjoy working with.
I love bright colors, and I love pink. I’m half a decade into this project, and I still have a tiny little rush of serotonin when I’ve finished coloring in a panel of Persephone, and she glows.
KAPLAN: Lore Olympus received an Eisner Award at San Diego Comic-Con 2022. Can you share what that was like, and how the reaction to the win has been?
SMYTHE: It was tremendous. I think most people suffer from imposter syndrome, and I am no different. Whenever I feel like I don’t deserve to be where I am, I can look up at my trophy. A tangible representation that I’m doing the best I can do in my field.
KAPLAN: What has the process of adapting the comic from WEBTOON format to graphic novel format been like? Has the adaptation presented any particular challenges?
SMYTHE: Actually, it’s been relatively easy as I don’t design the layouts.
Catch up with the first two seasons of Lore Olympus on WEBTOON and/or check out the first two volumes of the physical release, available now at a local bookstore or public library near you. And of course… we’re all looking forward to the animated adaptation!