Rachele Aragno possesses the rare ability of capturing darkness and placing it inside character designs that might seem innocent at first glance. It’s a quality that artists such as Edward Gorey and Emily Carroll also possess. Characters come off as calm and approachable only to suddenly give an odd over-the-shoulder look or a cold glare that shows something hiding underneath, something not so nice. This is evident in Aragno’s collaboration with Mike Mignola on Leonide the Vampyr: A Christmas for Crows, a holiday special one-shot that also serves as a second part to the previous Leonide comic “Miracle at Crow’s Head.”

The story follows the titular girl vampire as meets a group of people that have stopped near a wrecked carriage and a strange coffin. A holy man from the first Leonide comic makes an appearance and warns of the dark consequences that follow the vampire, especially as it pertains to the granting of wishes.

Aragno excels at creating a world where things both animate and inanimate feel storied. Everything carries a sense of narrative that gives the term worldbuilding a whole new meaning, especially when it comes to key objects that characters produce a strong reaction to. Aragno likes to imbue the visuals with experience. Personal histories lead the way and develop the world, making for rich storytelling. It’s an impressive feat that only certain comics ever manage to achieve in the long run rather than so close to the start of a series.

The Beat corresponded with Aragno to talk Leonide and the research process that led to the creation of the folk horror Christmas tale we got just in time for the holiday season.

RICARDO SERRANO: There’s a dark fantasy element to Leonide that seems to break new ground. It’s intentionally weird and bizarre, requiring readers to put a lot more on their part to engage with the story. What went into giving this book such a unique approach? Certain influences, perhaps?

RACHELE ARAGNO: I always thought that Leonide would be a simple horror comic with the classic tropes that have always represented the genre. Instead, Mike Mignola managed to create something more: a dark and creepy comic that draws from the ancient folklore and legends. It was as if Leonide was referring to ancient artifacts found in the darkness of caves. 

SERRANO: What do you enjoy the most about illustrating these types of horror stories? There’s so much folklore and classical creature designs involved in it, and yet everything on the page is given the time to shine as unique and organic to the world.

ARAGNO: I love drawing this kind of stuff! You can invent worlds and creatures but also draw on stories told by grandmothers or from parables that can only be found in ancient books. Leonide has a universe around her that is very vast and could hide many new situations, and I find all this very stimulating.

SERRANO: You’ve had the chance to create a whole world with this book. What do you hope to capture whenever you create your own worlds? Do you plan things out specifically or do you go for a more flexible approach?

ARAGNO: I usually do a lot of research before starting work on a book. I did the same thing with Leonide, and Mike helped me a lot by describing what he would like to see. At that point I started with the character design and it was crazy: you have in your hands the possibility of developing the things in your head and your creativity by combining it with horror archetypes. In this case we don’t just find strange monsters, but we also create the atmosphere with the countryside, the dark ocean, and the coffin, which helps you focus on the mood of the story.  

SERRANO: Your latest Leonide comic is a Christmas special. What do you find that’s interesting about this type of one-shot story?

ARAGNO: I love Christmas stories that have that dash of gothic in them. Leonide is the classic story that can be read in the glow of the fireplace when it’s snowing outside with an herbal tea in your hands and feel that shiver down your spine. Mike is a master at writing this kind of thing, and drawing it was an honor.

 Published by Dark Horse Comics, Leonide The Vampyr: A Christmas of Crows #1 is available in stores and digitally now.