Talking ‘Catrina’s Caravan’ With Hector Rodriguez III And David Bowles
by Rachel Bellwoar
Oral storytelling might not be as appreciated now as it used to be but Doña Catrina is bringing the artform back in writer Hector Rodriguez III and artist Guillermo Villarreal‘s new series, Catrina’s Caravan. To learn more about Doña Catrina and the story she’ll be spinning in the first issue, check out this interview with Rodriguez III and editor David Bowles:
Rachel Bellwoar: Readers familiar with the Mexican legend of La Lechuza might have some idea of what’s coming in this first issue but otherwise the cover and title really center around the framing story, where La Santísima Doña Catrina is telling a story as part of her traveling show. What made you want to use this framing device, and can we expect future issues to follow this same format?
David Bowles: Narrators have been a part of horror anthologies, both in print and on screen, for many decades. They serve many purposes: to set the mood, to comment thematically or morally on the story, to challenge readers directly. And they create a sort of continuity across multiple style of storytelling and fictional worlds. Above all, they are iconic. The Crypt-keeper (of Tales from the Crypt). The Creep (of Creepshow). Elvira. The Vault-keeper (of The Vault of Horror). The Old Witch (of The Haunt of Fear). Dr. Schreck (of Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors). The Witches Three (of The Witching Hour). Cain (of The House of Mystery). Etcetera.
So we wanted to not only curate great Latino horror stories, but also craft a host that would be uniquely ours, giving her a backstory that would gradually be revealed through the framing device. Catrina, as a very visible icon of Mexico’s attitude toward death, made the most sense visually and metaphorically.
RB: Catrina expresses some concern that a priest might be showing up for her show. Can you tell us anything more about them?
DB: Without revealing too much of their backstory (which readers will learn as the framing device advances across issues), let’s just say that the priest has been tracking Catrina for a very long time on behalf of the Catholic Church. And she knows what the man is capable of doing, so she has carefully stayed a few steps ahead of him for many, many years. We will eventually witness, however, what happens when he finally catches up.
RB: When we first meet Catrina she’s applying makeup, but before going on stage she puts on a mask that covers-up most of her work. Can you speak more to that decision?
DB: Though we establish pretty quickly that Catrina has the ability to alter her appearance in more … magical ways, we wanted to show that typically she uses the tools of the circus or carnival to keep humans from beholding her actual face—which is cadaverous, if once beautiful. And wearing the “sugar skull” mask so omnipresent in Mexico during the Days of the Dead makes her appear more mysterious and sinister.
RB: There’s quite a bit of gore and guts in this issue. Did you have any discussions about how far to take the violence or how much blood to show?
Hector Rodriguez III: The depiction of gore is a tribute to the horror comics of yesteryear, such as The Vault of Horror and Tales from the Crypt. I’ve always been a big fan of horror and find it one of the biggest challenges in sequential storytelling.
DB: I’m with Héctor on this issue. We want real, visceral horror in the pages of our anthology series. If you’re gonna go dark, I say—lean into it! Catrina’s Caravan is not for the faint of heart. It explores real horror as only comics can.
RB: Often when a character is speaking another language in a comic from DC or Marvel, they’ll be an asterisk saying they’re speaking another language, but the text will be in English. How did you decide not to not to translate the Spanish in this issue?
DB: Chispa is a Latino imprint. Catrina’s Caravan will be exclusively written and illustrated by Latinx folks. Spanish is a integral part of our culture, and calling attention to it in an othering sort of way would center the white gaze in a way that detracts from our mission
RB: What makes La Lechuza such a scary antagonist is they don’t discriminate when it comes to their victims. Nobody is safe. What did you enjoy the most about coming up with their character design?
HR: When I was young, I took part in many sleepovers at my grandparents’ house, sharing scary stories with my cousins before going to bed. The setting was always the same: a dark, desolate ranch. An unknown shrill scares the horses. Something evil lurks. This is how La Lechuza was introduced to me. There have been various accounts of how La Lechuza appears. This borderland cryptid at times appears in human form with owl-like characteristics. She has also appeared in creature form. We wanted to portray La Lechuza as a force of chaotic evil, representing something sinister in nature and primeval in myth.
RB: La Lechuza isn’t the only monster in this issue. What made you want to introduce some human monsters as well, in the form of racist vigilantes?
HR: It unfortunately comes from our current reality that real monsters walk among us. People that are consumed with hate and malice. There are organized groups whose sole purpose is to cause harm and subjugate others. These vigilante groups are very real and active along the border.
RB: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Hector and David!
Catrina’s Caravan #1: The Night of La Lechuza is out now from Scout and Chispa Comics.