In the new graphic novel Mel the Chosen by Rachele Aragno, readers will take a journey to the land of Here&Now, where they’ll meet an unforgettable cast of characters and see sights that will be indelibly imprinted upon their memories.
First published in Italian, Spanish, and French as Melvina, the beautifully designed English language edition of Mel the Chosen is available now from RH Graphic. Featuring a translation by Carla Roncalli Di Montorio and interior design and lettering by Patrick Crotty, you will want to be sure and pick up this graphic novel as soon as possible.
The Beat caught up with Aragno over email to find out all about Mel the Chosen’s origin story, why she favors ink and watercolor for making comics, and what’s in store for Mel in her next graphic novel adventure!
AVERY KAPLAN: Can you tell us about the origins of Mel the Chosen? I understand from the afterword that you have been developing this story for a considerable amount of time!
RACHELE ARAGNO: Melvina was born at a very complicated moment in my life: my grandfather, who meant a lot to me, had just died. I was thirteen and had no shield to be able to defend myself from the destruction of my happy nest and from such great pain. While I was suffering for my world gone into a thousand pieces, I began to think about how nice it would be to live in a place where everything was possible, to find serenity, new friends, and a lot of comfort. Thus was born Melvina: my alter ego with the most red hair possible!
KAPLAN: On the copyright page, it says that Mel the Chosen was made with pencils, inks, and watercolors. Can you tell us about your creative process in-depth?
ARAGNO: I love being able to smell the freshly pinned pencil and the noise that its tip makes as it runs across the paper. When I started working on my first comic, I decided I would do it with ink and watercolor, the materials I love the most. The process is a bit long complicated, it does not allow the possibility for error, but it is very satisfying. After finishing the definitive pencils, I switch to the inks that I make with the nib. As soon as everything is dry the fun begins: I choose the nuances carefully and then the magic begins when I start coloring with watercolors. This is also a very delicate but really exciting part!
KAPLAN: In Mel the Chosen, readers will visit a whole new world called Here&Now. What went into creating this world? Was there any particular element (or resident) that was important for you to include?
ARAGNO: Here&Now was born almost spontaneously. After all, it is very similar to our world but with more colors and more oddities: anthropomorphic animals, headless queens, children living in a cemetery and bees that give life. I let my imagination flow freely and the characters and places were already there, just waiting to be able to go out. But for sure, the part that I could never give up is that of the children, I am deeply attached to them and the message they give.
KAPLAN: This book features a cast of characters that includes humans and animals alike. Was there any character design that posed a challenge for you?
ARAGNO: For sure Malcape! He is the villain par excellence, of those who have no reason to be evil, of those who are evil because it is part of their nature. As if it were deeply rooted or made them more like a predator than a human being. With his look I wanted to capture his essence: I wanted a new and captivating design for one of the most ruthless characters … I really hope I succeeded!
KAPLAN: Mel the Chosen was previously published in Italian, Spanish, and French, and now it is being published in English for the first time by RH Graphic. What was it like seeing the new edition of the book?
ARAGNO: It was great to see my book translated into so many languages … a dream come true! For sure I would like Mel to arrive in the homes of all the people of the world, but if I had to choose I would like to see her next in Brazilian, Russian and Japanese.
KAPLAN: Were there any books (or any other kind of stories) that were especially inspirational to you when creating Mel the Chosen?
ARAGNO: Certainly all fantasy films like The Neverending Story or Labyrinth have had a great influence, but also writers like Rohald Dahl, Edward Gorey, Neil Gaiman and Ray Bradbury inspired me most growing up!
KAPLAN: Can you give us any hints about what is coming up next for Mel?
ARAGNO: Mel will have a new adventure, which I am working on right now, and will be more grown up! As usual, she will find herself catapulted into mysterious situations but will have her longtime friends Otto and Beniamino by her side. I can’t wait to let everyone read it!
Mel the Chosen is available now at your local bookstore or public library.