NYCC 2018: Delving Deeper Into The Girl In The Bay With J.M. DeMatteis & Corin Howell

by Gary Catig

At the Berger Books panel at New York Comic Con, the new series, The Girl in The Bay was announced. It is a psychological thriller about a woman who is attacked and thrown into Sheepshead Bay in 1969. When she emerges from the water she is transported 50 years into the future and a mysterious alternate version of herself has replaced her. sat down with the creative team of writer, J.M. DeMatteis and artist, Corin Howell to talk about their upcoming project.
Gary Catig: It was announced earlier today that you two have a new book entitled The Girl in the Bay, coming out in February. What does it mean for the both you to be involved with Berger Books?
JM DeMatteis: There is a real personal investment for me because Karen is one of my oldest friends on the planet. We were friends before either one of us worked in the comic book business. I was instrumental in her getting her first gig at DC. Her first job there. I worked with her when she was a DC editor. I was part of the Vertigo launch and did a bunch of projects for Vertigo. It’s been a while since we’ve worked together. The initial impulse for me was like, I’ll do anything if I get to work with Karen again. It was just the fun of us getting together and creating something together again. And then we ended up with this great story as well.
Corin Howell: It feels like a great honor almost because I always hear how awesome Marc and Karen are and how much they’ve done in this industry. I’m the wee little artist here and getting to work with some of the biggest names in this industry right now. It’s really exciting.

GC: How did this creative team come together? Were you familiar with Corin’s work prior and request her or was it something more that the editors put together?
JMD: I was actually completely unfamiliar with her work and Karen and I were discussing artists and she showed me different samples. She showed me Corin’s samples and we both went, “That’s really good.  Let’s use her.” It was really simple as that. It fit what we were looking for and Karen was very, very enthusiastic about Corin’s work. Karen’s enthusiasm also sold me and she has exceeded my expectations.
CH: Honestly, I wouldn’t become a part of this without my friend’s help. I was a member of the Sean Murphy apprenticeship two years back and Sean knows Karen very well. Sean introduced me to Karen and she was really excited about my work. I get this email one day saying, “Hey, I have this story for you. Would you be interested?” That’s how it came to be.

GC: In your story, Sheepshead Bay plays a significant role in the setting. You could place your setting anywhere, so is it more than just sentimental for you to place it in Brooklyn or is there other significance for it?
JMD: You know, it’s a specific time. It’s a specific place. I have a history in Brooklyn. Karen has a history in Brooklyn. We both grew up there and I was saying to someone earlier, really, I’ve discovered over the years, every story I write is autobiographical even if it’s a Batman story or a Spider-Man story. In some way, it’s autobiographical. When you’re working on a creator owned book like this, you get to strip away a few more layers of that. It was really for me, revisiting a world and a time and a certain point of view from that era and then to revisit those places looking back from now. The main character is a little bit older than I am and Karen is, but it’s still a very similar era with a similar feeling. By digging into that world and time, I’m digging into my own psyche and my own inner world in a time that really feeds into the story.
GC: This is something that didn’t really occur to me until the panel today, when Corin was asked if she relates to the main character and you brought up her rebellious phase. Through the story, one version of Kathy might be the lead character but you play with “what could have been”. Is she necessarily a good person? Knowing how her doppelganger came out, this may not be the way her life would have been.
JMD: Right. We don’t really know whether the life that this other version of her lived was the life she would have lived. That’s a fascinating question there. There are so many levels and layers to this story that even I haven’t had the chance to think about, which is great. I love to discover surprises in my own stories. That’s a part of it. To her, this woman may “be her” having lived “her life”, but she’s a total stranger to Kathy. And Kathy is a total stranger to this old woman version of herself. There’s no real answer to that. Kathy’s not a bad person but we don’t know what events could have happened. What little turns she could have taken over the years that could have changed the whole branch that this one version of herself took. It could be, if we get the chance to explore later stories, there are many branches of her life for her to explore. This is a very complete story in and of itself, but I know where it’s going to go. Where it’s going to go is a lot bigger and a lot more cosmic so we might run into 500 versions of her out there in the universe along the way.

GC: For Corin, I associate your previous comic work with cartoony, warm, all ages style like Bat-mite, Ghostbusters and The Mighty Zodiac. The Girl in the Bay has a darker vibe to it. Did you have to change or evolve your style to better match the tone of the story?
CH: Actually, the cartoony stuff was what I pretty much started out with. When I graduated college, it was the style I was working with and the only thing I really knew when I was starting out. As I started working more in this industry, I started to find myself more. The thing is with these recent books I worked, it’s the style they were looking for. It’s an easier one to produce on my part. The one I’m working on in Girl in the Bay is the one that’s truly what I want to do. It’s truly me. I’ve been getting comments about how I see how much of yourself is in this work. It’s really what I’ve truly wanted to do for a very long time. I haven’t had the right book to really perfect it in yet. I tried using it a bit in Ghostbusters. It didn’t quite work as much because they kept on saying it was too scary so I had to soften it a little bit. With this, I truly get to spread my wings and do what a I really want to do with my work.

GC: Finally, The Girl in the Bay is currently slated for four issues.  What are you hoping the readers take away from the series or what kind of experience are you hoping for the reader to receive?
JMD: You hope it works on multiple levels but first and foremost, when I write a story, it has to work on an emotional level. You have to connect with the characters. You have to believe in them. You have to feel for them and with them. See yourself reflected in them and be able to go on that emotional journey with them. Then there’s always a psychological layer to the story. This particular story also has a spiritual layer and a kind of a horror layer. As we take this journey with Kathy, hopefully many different layers and levels of the story will emerge. First and foremost, you have to connect with her. You have to care about her and hopefully see something of yourself reflected in her.
CH: I really hope that they get a good scare out of it and they’re really immersed to the story of what the mystery is behind the doppelganger. I hope they’re really interested in figuring out the mystery themselves as well. Marc really hit it on the spot with I hope they learn to care and grow with this character throughout the story and we all find out what’s happening in the end.
We would like to thank J.M. and Corin for taking the time to chat with us about their new series and Dark Horse for the opportunity.  The Girl in the Bay will be released this winter on February 6, 2019. Who wouldn’t want to support these talented creators?

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