As the nights draw in and Jack Frost starts nipping at our noses, it's the perfect time to get excited about some of next year's most thrilling comics. Ever since its announcement we've had our eyes on Oni Press' original graphic novel Archival Quality. The book focuses on a former librarian whose new job as an archivist at the local museum might be more dangerous than she suspected, especially when a young woman who haunts her dreams asks her for help. To celebrate Archival Quality's recent solicit we got a look at some exclusive pages and chatted with its creators, Christina "Steenz" Stewart and Ivy Noelle Weir.
Stewart and Weir have been making comics together for a few years. They were both co-administrators of the women in comics retail group, The Valkyries, but this is their first graphic novel together. Both Weir and Stewart have worked in libraries, which greatly informed the story that they decided to tell. "Technically.. the book is not about librarians. It’s really about an ex-librarian archivist. Ivy and I are both ex-librarians, so it’s kind of like a 'Life After the Library' kind of story," Stewart stated. For Weir, the book came from a personal place. "This story is actually most inspired by my own experiences when I was an archival intern in a real life medical library during school. I was doing my academic study on the history of medical photography at the time, and I was getting really exhausted and burnt out, so I started writing a ghost story about a haunted medical archive, for fun," Weir told us.
For Weir, there was something incredibly powerful about the idea of exploring who gets to choose what gets remembered and what doesn't, which is a driving force of Archival Quality. "The role of the library in Archival Quality is more 'the library as haunted house,' in a way, where the contents of the archive are the ghosts. I'm fascinated by museums and archives, and what they represent in terms of power dynamics--who decides what's archived and does what's being archived give permission to be preserved this way? There's so much to unpack there. Our cast may not be librarians in the traditional sense, but they're definitely working within the concept of interacting with knowledge and history in the library space," Weir expanded.
The visual world of Archival Quality is both sweet and sombre. For Stewart, it was all about creating the right balance. "I started with looking into spooky buildings! I really loved how quiet they all looked, so I tried to make that speak in the artwork. But I didn't want it to be so macabre that it falls directly into the horror genre. So instead of going dark, I made sure to make everything look kind of warm and sunset-y. So it's inviting but also mysterious at the same time. As for the characters, I wanted them to look like people you know! That's one of the reasons I spent so much time making sure their clothes look realistic," Stewart enthused.
Archival Quality has an inclusive cast, one that reflects the reality and diversity of real life far more than your average Big Two comic. "In Cel, I tried incredibly hard to write an honest depiction of living with mental health struggles, something I'm familiar with in my own life," Ivy explained. "One of the best parts of AQ is that this story could happen to anyone. I want to normalize the idea that not only white people have adventures, which is why our three main characters are POC. I also wanted to include a character that's a mix between Korean and Black because there just aren't enough stories out there with mixed race representation, which is absurd considering there are so many mixed people in the world," Stewart explained.
We can't wait for the book to come out in 2018 and you can pre-order it now. Will you be picking up this spooky treat? Are you excited to see some more diverse characters coming this way? Let us know in the comments!
Images: Oni Press
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