Writers Cat Mihos and Ethan McQuerrey, along with artist Jouni Koponen, bring us a new tale of old gods in their new graphic novel Lore Of The Havamal. I got to speak with Mihos about the influences, creative process, and historical input behind this tale of the fall of the Norse Gods!
“Ragnarök, The Twilight of the Gods is over, but something went wrong. Instead of dying heroically in the final battle, Odin One-Eye finds himself working as a bartender, reflecting on past losses and the death of his loved ones. If this truly was Ragnarök, why didn’t the old world end and a new better world emerge?”
MFR: Mythological tales are seemingly always popular, especially right now. What made you decide on the Norse Pantheon for a story and not the Greek, Egyptian, etc.?
CM: We were approached by a Scottish tourism board to write a comic about the Norse myths to help interest a younger tourist demographic, and really did a deep dive into that magical world. That being said, I am half –Greek and have spent time backpacking in Egypt, so either of those worlds may be next!
MFR: Reinterpretations of mythical tales are all over the place in every medium, including comics and graphic novels. With so many stories involving the Norse pantheon being out there, was the challenge to put your own stamp on these characters more daunting or exciting? Or both?
CM: I absolutely loved the idea of an eternal Odin behind the bar with his all-seeing ghost ravens. Working so closely with Jouni, the Finnish wonder, I knew it would only be a terrific exciting ride. His knowledge of the myths is incredible.
MFR: Your collaborators on this graphic novel include (co-writer) Ethan McQuerrey and artist Jouni Koponen. How did this team form and what was your combined creative process like?
CM: Ethan and I met long ago in Baltimore, and I met Jouni in 2004 when he came from Finland to Wisconsin for a Sandman convention. We are all old comic book nerds, so to speak.
We were dodging the time zones and work schedules in a big way. (Although I cannot complain, as I have heard all the stories about how comics were collaborated upon via the mails, fax machine and long distance telephone calls.)
We had the amazing Dee Cunniffe on colors, and he saved the day with his lightning fast work.
MFR: What and/or who are your biggest influences, in any and all mediums and genres, going into telling this old tale in a new way?
CM: For this project, Jouni and I talked it out in great detail, and tried to stick closely to the outline we originally pitched. A few things had to change here and there as in any collaboration. I always love a bar atmosphere as a storytelling vehicle–this has been going on since forever, people gathering in a space to hear the tales of times gone by.
Obviously, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman are huge comic influences on me, and I collect old House of Mystery comics. I love a host talking us through a story.
MFR: A really cool note I wanted to talk about was the Follow The Vikings Project and how your use of Edda literature in Lore of the Havamal. How did your interest in this project start and how did you come to use it for this graphic novel?
CM: My husband Drew and I are ex-roadies. We have travelled with many different bands, across the world. He was in Iceland with the Deftones and was reading me an Asatru passage from a book on the Havamal, and it got me thinking about how that could be woven in as an educational thread. Jouni was able to elevate the concept with his incredible art.
MFR: The nature of myths through history is that the core stories change and end up reinterpreted time and time again, like a centuries old game of telephone. Do you tend to welcome diverging stories involving the Norse world and its characters, or do you tend to favor the closest translations to the source material?
CM: That’s an excellent question. Out of respect for the culture of the Norse, I did want to look closely and carefully at the source material. I do feel that expanding on a myth/storyline can bring more eyes on to a the rich historical cultures. We hope to inspire more people to explore the past.