By Shannon Rygg
Today we’re pleased to welcome Sas Milledge to the WNDB blog to discuss graphic novel Mamo, out April 19, 2022!
Family matters aren’t just hocus-pocus for this young witch!
Cartoonist Sas Milledge (The Lost Carnival: A Dick Grayson Graphic Novel) makes her astonishing debut in her first original graphic novel that answers the question of how we all reconcile our responsibilities with our dreams for our own future. Orla O’Reilly, the youngest in a long line of hedge witches, is compelled to return home after the death of her grandmother, Mamo. In the wake of her Mamo’s passing, seas are impossible to fish, crops have soured, even Jo Manalo’s attic is taken over by a poltergeist! And to make matter worse it appears that the cause is Mamo, or her mislaid bones that is. Can Orla shoulder the responsibility of quieting her Mamo’s spirit, saving her hometown, and will she have to step up as the new witch of Haresden like Mamo always wanted? Collects Mamo #1-5.
Mamo was an absolutely wonderful adventure from start to finish; congratulations on your first original graphic novel collection! What was it like writing and illustrating a world of your own?
Thank you so much! Writing and illustrating is a daunting task, you become so ensconced in your own little world it can be hard to know which way is up, let alone if what you’re doing is any good. I’m lucky to have had a wonderful editor in Sophie Phillips-Roberts at Boom!, as well as my agent Jennifer March-Soloway, both of whom kept me on track and offered an enormous amount of support when I was at my most wobbly.
Both Orla and Jo are intriguing protagonists that we follow and learn more about in Mamo. If you had to describe them both in three words each, what words would you pick?
Hmm! Orla I would describe as: obstinate, guarded, and loyal. As for Jo: intrepid, dogged, optimistic.
What inspired you to write about witches and magic in a seaside town named Haresden?
Haresden is based on the town where my parents live, that I spent much of my childhood in, and that I happened to be living in when I was working on Mamo (thanks, global pandemic). I am fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world in southeastern Australia, on land that has been lived on for thousands of years by the Bunurong people of the Kulin Nation. Living here has given me a huge appreciation for the presence nature can have in our lives, and that relationship is central to so many folktales the world over. I grew up reading any folktale I could get my hands on, and it strikes me that the respect and wonder that past generations of people had for their wild places is present in these stories, often represented by witches, faeries, and other magical creatures. I believe there has always been a tension between the human and the natural world—our anxiety about climate change and how we have treated our planet is a new kind of narrative, one we hope to change. Mamo is about relationships, familial, romantic, and environmental—the magic of Haresden is designed to be an echo of the other relationships in the book, and like the others it requires curiosity, nurturing, and balance.
In Mamo, we see two rather different examples of family, from Jo’s side as well as Orla’s. Why did you choose to show how family shapes them both?
Like I said, Mamo is about relationships. Our relationships shape and usher us into life, and can inform how we approach the world; but they do not define us. I felt it was important to show how familial relationships can be nurturing, or in Orla’s case, suffocating. These experiences have changed the way both Orla and Jo approach each other, so I felt that to understand their relationship we must also understand where each of them are coming from, and what they can learn from one another.
Which scene/character/interaction would you say, without spoiling too much, was your favorite to bring to life on the page?
Oh I love when we meet the currawongs, it’s where Orla really starts to see she might have underestimated Jo. It’s always fun to work on a scene where we begin to realise everything might not be quite as it seems.
When it comes to your artistic style, what are your favorite mediums to use and what did you use for Mamo?
I work primarily digitally, and Mamo is no exception. However I love working traditionally as well, and much of my early concepts and colour studies for Mamo were done painting with oils and in my sketchbook.
What are some of your biggest illustration inspirations? Biggest writing inspirations?
I have been reading a lot of Moebius comics recently, and he was just unbelievable, he had such incredible imagination and flair. Gyimah Gariba does character work I want to eat, and Jillian Tamaki’s comics are unmatched for atmosphere and feeling. As for writing, I’m a huge fan of David Mitchell and Ursula Le Guinn.
Do you have any advice for budding storytellers and artists who are just starting out, or ones who may be finding themselves at a roadblock?
Oohh, okay here’s three suggestions. One, draw! And read! Then draw some more! Boring, I know, but it’s the only advice that will work and continue to work, for the rest of your life. Two, make stuff you want to make, this seems obvious, but don’t waste your time making work you think other people want—you chose this career because you want to love what you do, so do what you love! Three, get yourself to a regular life drawing class, cannot stress this enough.
If you had the opportunity to create a graphic novel about anything, what would your dream story be?
This is a trick question because I just got to make my dream graphic novel! But luckily dreams change: I love horror, so I’m hoping I can convince someone to let me do that sometime soon.
Are there any upcoming book and/or comic releases that you are excited about, or new ones that you’d recommend?
I just read In by Will McPhale and really loved it, also the second volume of Ariel Ries’ Witchy just came out, Ariel is such a gifted storyteller and their colours are just delicious.
Bonus Question: If you were the witch of Haresden, what form do you think your familiar would take?
Ooooh great question. I can’t believe I haven’t thought about this! I think I’d quite like a bird, maybe an Australian butcher bird or a kingfisher.
Sas Milledge is an artist based in Melbourne, Australia. She has done design, comic, and illustration work for DC Comics, BOOM! Studios, BlinkInk, and Passion Pictures amongst others. You can find Sas on twitter @sasmilledge or hanging out in your local bog.
Shannon Rygg is constantly writing everything but what she should be writing. A creative writing graduate from the University of Redlands and a young professional in the publishing industry, in her free time she enjoys reading fantasy and romance, rereading said fantasies and romances, and then getting emotional over aforementioned rereads and tweeting and/or writing fanfiction about it. Expect her novel to drop by 2034. Maybe. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @shannonrygg.