Creatively Killing People: Discussing `Killchella’ With Writer Mario Candelaria And Editor James Ferguson

by Tom Smithyman

True music lovers will find something to love – or at least to die for – in Killchella, out last week from Scout Comics. Telling the story of a music festival replete with human sacrifices, Killchella follows a group of friends from Los Angeles on their quest to see their favorite singer. In this exclusive interview, writer Mario Candelaria and editor James Ferguson discuss the series’ upcoming change in artists and how becoming “Coachella-ready” inspired the story.

Tom Smithyman: I’m going to assume that you guys are big music fans, right? Have you been to Coachella?  

Mario Candelaria: I have not been to Coachella, but I spent years in high school and college in the live music industry, booking bands at venues and promoting shows. I have been to Warped Tour a few times, though.

Tom Smithyman: How did the idea of blending music and murder first come about?

Candelaria: I got the spark of inspiration when I read an article about a woman who spent $10,000+ to get herself “Coachella-ready.” Physical training, cosmetic modifications, wardrobe, the whole shebang. There was a line that said something like, “It’s not enough to look good in my photos. I need to look good in the background of other people’s photos.” That made me realize I want to creatively kill people like this.

Smithyman: You spend a lot of time in the first issue introducing readers to the friends from LA. Why did you feel that level of character development was important from the start of the series?

Candelaria: So many of my comics have heavy Los Angeles elements, so this felt like a natural element for me. I mean, I didn’t talk about taking the 101 to the 5 to the 10 or anything like that, but there’s a lot of real-life sights along those roads that I made sure we added into the story, like the dinosaurs from the Pee-wee Herman movie.

James Ferguson: We’ve all seen the slasher movies where you don’t care about the characters and you’re actively cheering for the villain to murder everyone. Killchella is different in that Mario laid out some characters you can relate to, putting them into some glitz and glamor, while maintaining some personal stakes. When they’re put in danger, you care. The shocking moments carry more impact that way.

Smithyman: Lautaro Havlovich takes over artistic responsibilities from Serg Acuna in the second issue. Will readers see a dramatic change in art direction? What does Lautaro bring to the table?

Candelaria: Lautaro is first and foremost a horror aficionado, specifically Italian horror movies from masters like Dario Argento. Seeing how well he drew beautiful women on his webtoon series Santo Silencio, that was an easy choice for us to make.

Ferguson: Lautaro came in with an impressive drive, a great eye for detail and emotion and some amazing design chops. The groundwork is laid with Killchella #1, and things only get crazier with the rest of the series when Lautaro can really stretch his legs.

Smithyman: What is the scope of the story you’re trying to tell? Do you envision this as a limited series or are you planning something broader?

Candelaria: This is a four-issue series, but Lautaro and I have a few ideas on how to expand on the world at least thematically if not directly. This was the start of a beautiful and fucked-up creative partnership.

Ferguson: The things that I’ve seen Mario tease about as potential ideas for where this can go next are something else. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot more meat on the bone.

Smithyman: The series’ second issue isn’t due out until January, which is a full two months after the introduction. Are you worried about losing or confusing readers? Are you taking any steps to remind them about what happened in the first issue?

Candelaria: Scout’s original delay would’ve been three months, so if anything, I am grateful for it being two months thanks to the hurricane. I cannot comment on that gap as it was not my decision nor that of anyone from creative. The second issue picks right up where the first left off with some quick flashback panels, so I am banking on the “Previously” blurb to do the heavy lifting here.

Ferguson: Scout intentionally puts a gap between the first and second issues of their series. This is for comic shops to get a realistic sense of the demand of the book. Otherwise, they’d have to order the third issue before they even saw the first one. They’ll be able to adjust their orders accordingly. If you thought the first issue was something, wait until you see where the series goes next.

Smithyman: OK – What is the favorite concert you’ve both attended and why? (Bonus points if it featured human sacrifices!)

Candelaria: This might be recency bias, but my wife and I just saw Roger Waters, and it felt like everything I wanted to see in Pink Floyd but never got the chance to. It was our first concert since COVID kicked off and I think that made it a bit more special, too. Close second is seeing Fall Out Boy with The Academy Is…, Cobra Starship, and +44 (Blink 182 side project) from like the fourth row in an amphitheater.

Ferguson: A while back, my wife and I followed a friends’ band around the area for a bit. We always made a point to check out their shows, even if we had to drive over an hour to get there. The rest of the group took notice and dedicated a song to us one night. It was in a cramped dive bar in upstate New York, but it meant a lot to both of us. There was no human sacrifice though.

Smithyman: In that case, it was probably for the best! Thanks guys, and best of luck with Killchella!

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