by: Sonny Woody
After publishing a review I wrote on the incredible WEBTOON known as Nevermore, I was lucky enough to garner the attention of the creators: Red and Flynn. They were so kind to me and so appreciative of my review that they eagerly accepted the invitation for an interview. I was simply over the moon to be granted the opportunity. We scheduled a casual Discord chat for an early Friday afternoon, and ended up messaging back and forth for a few hours. Conducting the interview this way made conversation feel more natural, and provided us the chance to expand on the basic questions and answers. This resulted in us sharing stories about post-college life, dealing with the COVID-19 lockdown, talking about trauma, and of course–nerding out together about their work and what inspires them. Here’s what my conversation with them was like!
Warning: We do talk about specific Nevermore story beats. This means there are minor spoilers in this interview! Proceed with caution.
Q: How did you guys meet/start collaborating?
Red: So for context, we are in the same room right now. And we both kinda busted out laughing reading that question because it’s a long and weird story. The first time we met was half a lifetime ago, literally. Sixteen years, now? And we’re in our early thirties. We were pocket-friends in high school, like online friends. That’s how it stayed until we were both out of college, just kind of background noise in each others’ lives but always there. And leaving college was a little bit depressing, honestly. I had an office job and I was climbing the walls. And I had this really bizarre dream one night that Flynn and I started a comic together, because she’d gone to art school and I’d been an English major. I told her about it like ‘lol. lmao. unless.’ and everything sort of went from there. We’ve been making comics since 2012 and we really had no clue what we were doing in the beginning, it’s sort of priceless thinking back on it. We didn’t even know about webtoons, we were hosting our own website for like a year before we even got a Twitter account, I think. Just posting to the void. But we were having fun with it, and that made my office cubicle a lot more tolerable. We didn’t start dating until years later. We really did the opposite of the u-haul lesbians thing. Took us like ten years to move in together, damn.
Me: That’s incredible lol. I totally get the post college depression. But it’s awesome that you guys had each other to bounce off of creatively while bonding so deeply.
Red: It’s rough, you go through a decade and change of school, and everyone tells you that after college is ‘real life’ like the big game starts but then you get there and it’s pretty much like ‘welcome to the sandbox, figure it out, make up your own life, good luck.’ Definitely jarring aha, but after you get over the initial shock, it’s pretty freeing I think…and boy did we go through jobs. Webtoon wasn’t anything remotely close to a full-time thing for us until we got the offer to make Shiloh an original series in 2018, and even then it was only Flynn who was able to go full-time. I still had an office job until I lost it during lockdown.
Q: So what got you turned on to webtoon? And what inspired you to create Nevermore?
Flynn: We published our first series on Webtoon Canvas for a while, and had a small community around it that was amazing. One day we got an email from a Webtoon editor about possibly publishing it on Originals. When we got it, Red was laid up wearing a boot for a broken toe and I was at a work holiday party at a very loud arcade bar, so it was a lot of baffled excited yelling over the phone. Webtoon wasn’t as established then, so it was kind of new territory in general. Like, it almost didn’t seem real. But making comics together for a living had been our dream for years so we jumped on it.
And for Nevermore inspiration, definitely Edgar Allen Poe and gothic literature in general. I think we both grew up reading things like Dracula, Frankenstein, Paradise Lost, Wuthering Heights, stuff like that. Some Shakespeare. We’re big nerds, is what I’m saying. I think some shonen anime vibes are present too.
Red: Just to add on to the inspirations thing! We wanted to make a sort of sweeping, epic, angsty love story for sapphics. A lot of wlw stories lean towards aspirational. And like, that’s so valid and so understandable. Fluff is wonderful. But we wanted to see other kinds of stories too. Something a little darker and more complex. Something more like a Phantom of the Opera vibe, but with a sapphic relationship at its heart.
Me: I totally see some Shakespeare and shonen inspired with some of the intense scenes!…Oh and Wuthering Heights. That also tracks for my obsession because the line about being haunted in a romantic way is obviously something that stayed with me and my interests. I love that. I love acknowledging that not all romance has to be this light, completely upbeat thing. I love the messiness and the dimension. Reminds me of Killing Eve in that way.
Red: Yeah! I don’t know, it’s like. I have all the love in the world for fluffy wlw, but what I don’t love is when people act like that’s the only way a sapphic relationship can be worthy of their support. I think all afabs, women, and femmes have had to confront the ‘you should smile more’ attitude at some point in their lives. And in a way, this feels like an extension of that. I love a wholesome sapphic couple. I love a messy sapphic couple. Both should be allowed to exist in wlw media. I don’t really understand why that seems to be such a hot take, sometimes. It’s not something you see even in other forms of queer media.
Me: Oh, yes. That’s definitely not something I think people are considering. And I think it’s even crazier that it isn’t something you see more since a lot of femmes and afab people have started talking more about the horrors and ugliness of girlhood and growing up with societal expectations about themselves and relationships.
Q: So that’s some of the literary inspirations, but who are some of your artistic influences?
Red: I feel like I pick up little pieces of inspiration from all over the place. I want to cite Poe again because he’s really not *just* an inspiration but an influence as well. I view him sort of as Father Goth, ahaha. He saw beauty in the macabre, pain in romance, and to him death was bittersweet. Those are big inspirations for me, not just in Nevermore but in anything I anticipate I’ll ever make. That duality is really important to me, as a writer. I’m also in love with the Modernist literary movement. I love the pared down, raw, vulnarable feel of the writing from that time period. Samuel Beckett, TS Eliot, James Joyce. But we don’t always reach that far back. I’m eternally enchanted by the works of Hayao Miyazaki. Any time I’m feeling uninspired, I just have to watch one of his movies and it’s like I’m reinvigorated. I was also an emo kid in school, and go back to My Chemical Romance over and over again. I know it’s not technically narrative writing, but, in a way it is. They tell stories in their music. There’s so many more, but I’ll tell you an amusing if a little embarrassing one. One of my first inspirations as a writer was actually the Cats musical. I know. I was eight when the VHS came out and I watched it so often some parts of the tape got damaged and the footage became grainy during those songs. It’s weird but I can still vividly see its influence in what I want to work on today. I became fixated on unraveling the stories of all of the chorus cats, whether they were friends or if they hated each other. How they got along. What happened offscreen. I knew all their names and I would write little notes, from one of them addressed to another, hundreds of them probably. Which I guess is fanfiction, in a way. But I think our casts and their complex web of relationships, and how often those things are revealed in the background, and having ensembles casts in general? I think it really is thanks to the Cats musical. Which! A bit of trivia. Is based on a book of poems by TS Eliot. Who also wrote some of the bleakest literature of the Modernist movement. Duality.
Flynn: So not that this is specific to Nevermore, but I’m so feral for some artists that they just creep into everything — Caravaggio, Zdzisław Beksiński, John William Waterhouse, Goya, John Singer Sergant, and Gustav Klimt. Also Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, it’s just iconic.
I read a lot of manga growing up, and can definitely see some Trinity Blood and Bleach in Nevermore. Persona 5 snuck in there too. It’s a mishmash of classic romanticism and pure edginess which I guess describes me pretty well too, haha.
Me: I love all of this. I totally get Miyazaki as a go to for feeling reinvigorated. I love the multitudes of places you both pull from. Musicians as storytellers is 100% a thing. I think MCR is a great example of that. Green Day a lot of the time too. That era of punk and emo has a lot of metaphorical writing, as well as narrative writing. That’s something I love about Taylor Swift actually. And Cats? Love it. There’s a lot of dimension to that story!
Q: With Nevermore, are there any characters/character traits/plot points you’ve had to scrap or drastically change?
Flynn: Oh definitely. We have the main beats all laid out beforehand, and those stay in place for the most part, but more detailed elements are hashed out closer to episode production to keep things fresh and flexible to fit what the story needs. And yeah, sometimes that means cutting things for time or doing them later instead, or changing the way something happens to hit harder or fit better for what’s coming next. It’s a little heartbreaking sometimes to have something planned but not be able to fit it in to keep the pace up, perhaps until later or perhaps until never. A lot of the time we keep those things in our back pocket, until they fit in nicely, but sometimes that ideal moment never comes and that’s just how it goes.
Red: There’s a funny story that we can finally tell. We had to scrap a scene (as we often do, because of pacing, panel limits, etc…) earlier in the story. I think it was meant to be in Ep 28. But there was a scene that was cut of Montresor attempting to flirt with Ada, only for her to shoot him down and laugh in his face. Not having it there really really changed the vibes of Ep 71, overall. Butterfly effect stuff, y’know? That development really upset a lot of people. I do wish we’d gotten to leave the deleted scene in, to show that Ada can give as good as she gets.
Me: That makes sense. Gotta make the right choice for the story as a whole and sometimes that means losing something. It would be cool if you guys ever got a physical release to include some story beats or rough drafts of that scene!…Ada is one of my favs to read. I didn’t get to talk much about her in my review but she is such a standout to me.
Q: Speaking on specific scenes, what’s your favorite so far?
Flynn: Oooh, that’s tough. Maybe Ep. 066, Annabel’s bathtub scene. That was kind of a torturous one to make, but Red’s writing was so delicious in it and I just love the setup and symbolism…I’m also really fond of the end of the maze arc, and Ep. 038…And Ep. 036, I know it’s a quiet episode but I’m really fond of that one too.
Red: I really liked episode 66 too. That one was stressful, we did a lot of rewriting and editing on it the day it went up but I’m really proud of how it turned out. Any episode with music is really exciting, too. Our composer Ele (@ele_soundtracks) really brings the scenes to life in a special way.
Me: Those are all amazing moments. The bathtub scene is simply gorgeous and the writing in it makes me want to scream…(036) is also a favorite of mine! I love the found family moments.
Red & Flynn: That means a lot. The day that was posted was maybe one of the most stressful days…we were really just like “is this anything?”
Me: I think the quiet moments are important! That’s where a Miyazaki influence comes in. No one does the beauty of quiet and subtle like he does. These little pockets of real life, just taking a breath. Lenore is always dealing with so much but in that chapter, she gets to just be silly with people she loves. And that gives the readers this moment to just appreciate the bonds there and understand why Lenore feels so deeply for those people.
Red: Yes!! I’ve read about how he uses the Japanese concept of “Ma” and it really does immerse you so much more into a world and character!! He’s a genius.
Flynn: I completely agree, Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of my favorite movies for that.
Q: We already talked about scrapped scenes, but how were Lenore and Annabel Lee, as characters, different when you first started drafting them?
Red: I think in the very VERY beginning Lenore was a little more dour/goth? But that was back while we were muddling through the greenlight process, since we started on the webtoon, she’s been pretty much the same personality-wise. Characters always grow into themselves a little bit but she’s been very consistent. Annabel is interesting because she’s so multifaceted. She was more the ‘popular pretty girl’ in those pre-greenlight versions. But she also found footing pretty quickly as the strategist/queen and simultaneously stupid-for-love character she is since then. Actually we had to draft out the first three episodes several times. Too many times. And when I say ‘had to’ I mean, we felt the need to, because it wasn’t clicking. It’s hard to fit a story’s entire ‘promise’ into the launch episodes. I think it’s a bit of a limitation of the medium sometimes, there’s not a lot of patience for a series that doesn’t manage to make that promise on launch. So we had a lot of things we wanted to do in the launch episodes. Too many things. And ultimately, the bit we had to take a scalpel to was Annabel’s earliest character development. Other drafts had her acting a bit more pompous and aloof. In one version, the suitcases the students were handcuffed to were footlockers, and Lenore was hauling this unusually heavy footlocker around, when someone inside started speaking to her. Followed by lots of witty banter and Annabel eventually stepping out of the footlocker when the Deans give Lenore her key. But it was just impossible to jam it all into the first three episodes. So we were left nervously hoping that Annabel’s character design would be enough to sell the romance on launch. People seemed to like it though. We were very relieved, and excited to get into her messier attributes later.
Me: Wow. That sounds like a long and grueling process. But I think it paid off, and I hope that it feels like it did for you guys too. I really like that Lenore is sort of… very genuine outwardly and Annabel is a character you just keep having to pull back layers on. I think that comes through well in the introductory episodes.
Red: Yes! We had a rule early on that we weren’t allowed in Annabel’s thoughts, even when the reader was watching her. Which caused some kinda interesting problems. Like Annabel speaking out loud to herself in the arboretum when she thought Lenore was gone. But we wanted to keep her a closed book until the flashbacks after the manor arc.
Q: What do you look forward to most when publishing a new chapter?
Red: Honestly, the content readers create based off of the episodes and story in general. Theories, art, fics, minicomics, edits. There are so many wildly talented people in this community, it’s insanely humbling. And selfishly? I’m just pleased to death that I get to consume Nevermore content that we didn’t make ourselves. I think that’s any creator’s dream and I feel outrageously lucky to be living it.
Flynn: Theories!! Readers’ theories evolving with new information, and if there’s love or conflicting feelings (or even hatred) for a new angle of a character. And honestly, getting to work on the next episodes and the excitement of wanting them to come out. Just being completely entrenched in this story and these characters, and seeing other people care about them too is really incredible.
Me: I love that. That’s the kind of thing that I dream about, for sure. And I love reading theories too! I’m not the greatest at coming with them most of the time, but I love reading comments and engaging with them.
Q: Okay, last question. What kind of advice do you wanna give creators who are starting out?
Flynn: Care about what you’re making. Care viciously and unapologetically about it. Be self-indulgent. If you find yourself struggling with a scene or arc or design, return to things that make you happy and excited, even cringey things you liked as a teenager or a kid. Maybe especially that. Comics are hard, they’re hard to make and hard to sell. Any media is. But if you have that burning need to make things, it’s also ridiculously fun and rewarding. Sometimes I see content only created for clout and that seems so hollow and miserable to me. So there are a lot of tricks of the trade and all, but the bottom line is to make something you love. If you love what you’re making the rest will come from that. And if what you love seems silly or over-the-top or edgelord or overly fluffy to anyone else, ignore that and just focus on what makes you happy and excited. Some of the best media out there is silly and over-the-top, but because it’s earnest and doesn’t apologize for itself, its energy is infectious and there’s an audience that will go feral for that.
Red: Sorry, this is about to get a little sappy. But I think my biggest piece of advice is to make something that is authentic and earnest. It’s so hard to come by stories like that now, due to corporate shenanigans even in the indie world. I think the whole ‘cringe’ movement really harmed art in general. Don’t be afraid to be cringe. Embrace cringe. And I mean that in more ways than one. Don’t be afraid of being imperfect, or of learning as you go. Don’t be afraid to put your soul on the page. Don’t be afraid to break ‘rules’ of comic-making. I see people starting out with very cynical ideas about what kind of story they ‘should’ be making in order to garner readers and momentum. And I’m just saying like, there’s no issue with understanding the trends, but if you’re going that route, make them your own. Be self-indulgent. I will never envy creators who get a readership by making something they don’t care about. It doesn’t matter how huge. They’ll never be able to fully disentangle themselves from it, and I think that’s tragic. I’d rather be hated for making what I loved, than loved for making something I hate. And realize too, that people hating your work is a badge of honor. If everyone likes what you’re working on, then nobody loves it. Making people feel something is far-and-away more rewarding than making something that most everyone thinks is just ‘nice.’ Media tends to be so soulless these days, and one thing I love about webcomics is how many passion projects you can find. I think it makes this medium really unique. This is where new stories are being told, while the mainstream focuses on reboots, rehashes, reimaginings. Be that creator. Make something only you could make, and you’ll never need to worry about being copied.
Me: Those are wonderful answers. You guys have been wonderful. Thank you again for this lovely experience!
Flynn: Thank you for your time too, and for such thoughtful questions, and for your review! This was really fun and it was great to meet you!
Red: Yes thank you so much! It’s been so lovely chatting with you! Let us know if we can do anything else!
There you have it, folks! I, again, can’t express how lucky I feel to have had this conversation. I never would have guessed that my passion for something would lead to me getting the chance to talk about it in depth with the people who created it. We talked about what inspires Red and Flynn, but I hope they know they inspire me. You can always tell when a work is crafted with all the love in the world, and that’s something I can see so plainly in what they do. I will treasure this interview all my days.