We could list off any witchy movie in the last thirty years or so and chances are that the Spell on Wheels creative team are fans. The influences on the series can be compared to shows like Charmed or Supernatural and the creative team themselves have a few other shows they shouted out as well.
Following three amazing, distinctive young women on their journey to reclaim their stolen belongings, the series is one part road-trip, one part-supernatural, and all-parts women supporting other women. It’s a refreshing series that doesn’t find any drama in women tearing other women down to get ahead, but takes full advantage of the supernatural elements and creativity afforded to witches as main characters.
Spell on Wheels explores relationships and deftly tackles sensitive issues in a way that empowers readers to be the best witches they can. My only complaint may be that the limited series wasn’t enough time to spend with these amazing girls (can I shop their closets, please?).
We spoke with Kate Leth and Marissa Louise, two-thirds of the Spell On Wheels creative team at San Diego Comic Con this year! Find out what inspired the story and the characters, how they collaborated on the aesthetics of the book, and what kind of road trip they’d go on themselves (complete with route and playlist!).
Keep reading for our interview and be sure to pick up the entire Spell on Wheels series, with all five issues collected in trade paperback, wherever you buy your comics!
What was the inspiration behind Spell on Wheels?
Kate Leth: A lot of stuff like Buffy and Charmed and Elvira, especially her movie – that was basically a big part of the road trip party. You will notice that the car in Spell on Wheels is the same make and model as Elvira’s car in the movie. It’s not the exact same car because of copyrights, but it’s a similar vibe. I really love supernatural stuff and witches and things like that. I grew up with it. I love road trips and that’s sort of where it was all born from.
Was there anything specific you did with the colors to keep with that theme?
Marissa Louise: Yeah, there’s so much I did with the color! A lot of the things Kate’s drawn to, she told me about. We set up a Pinterest board so we were all able to sort of agree on aesthetics.
KL: Yeah, it was cool.
ML: And then I made sure each issue has a distinct pallet, so that each issue feels like its own distinct location. On issue #4, for careful readers, I did some things with the pallet where it’s set up as ominous, but at the end you realize it’s not an ominous pallet. And that was taken directly from Susperia.
KL: Which we both love.
ML: Yeah, we both love that. I tried to pay attention to what Megan [Levens] and Kate wanted and then put my own weird, overly emotional spin on it.
KL: Weird and overly emotional is my vibe, so it was very good!
You mentioned this Pinterest board, what did this collaboration process look like?
KL: It was just all of us adding things to it, pretty aggressively for a while. Everything from shoes to hair to nail polish to color palettes to backgrounds to cars, stuff for specific references and then stuff just for inspiration. It was very cool. I love doing that. I do it for everything I do now! I’m doing two different pitches and for both of them I have these really extensive Pinterest boards.
ML: Yeah, it’s a useful tool.
KL: It is, it is. It’s so good to look at to really get back into the visual. Even when you’re writing, it’s really useful.
Did a lot of things go into the series from there?
ML: I think so, yeah. A ton of it.
KL: A lot of the fashion, especially the last issue. The outfits that they’re all in, I think some of them are directly taken from that board. It was things that I was sort of specific about. Like Claire in our book, she was not skinny and she was very much my own sort of body type because I never see that. There was a lot of stuff on the Pinterest board that was plus sized fashion that actually looks hot and wasn’t just like a bag. So there was a lot of stuff like that, that was very distinctive to a lot of personalities. That was cool.
Was that most of your research or were there other things going into it?
KL: There was lots of research going into it. I had to do a lot of map work to make sure the distances between the different places. We talked about this before, but it was originally going to be six issues and it got cut down to five. So the trajectory of how long they could spend in each place and what places they could go to had to change.
KL: So I had seven different Google Maps windows open at one point to make sure, “How long does it take to drive from Maryland to wherever?” And then a lot of stuff about tarot and the various different kinds of magic we used. It was very interesting. It’s something I knew a little bit about going in, it’s just something I’ve always been interested in and then just more.
How did you develop the three main characters? They all have very distinct personalities.
KL: Yeah, they’re kind of based on people that I know. It’s not like one person is based on one specific person, but elements of different people. Some of them are based on me and people that I’m close to. I don’t know, they kind of develop organically as you build the story. It’s what needs to happen and their characters build out of that.
ML: Megan definitely recognized the archetypes and brought her voice to it and from what she was doing, I was able to figure out different things about them.
KL: Jolene is very heavily based on a tattoo artist that I’ve been following on Instagram for like six years. I don’t know, I wanted them to have very unique styles and unique personalities that weren’t very stereotypical and felt really real.
So, who are you taking on your road trip with you?
KL: Who do I get to pick from? Celebrities?
ML: How many people?
Anyone you want! Three people.
KL: You guys? The three of us could do it?
ML: Yeah, let’s do it. But we get one more person, so who is the one more…? Cassandra Peterson.
KL: Cassandra Peterson, of course!
ML: We got it, the three of us and Cassandra Peterson. Yo, that would be heaven! Can you imagine? Except I’d spend the whole time giggling at her. That’s Elvira’s real name.
KL: We can pick up Sandra Bullock on the way. Sandra Bullock from the mid-90s. I’m very big into Practical Magic. It’s like my favorite movie.
Where are you going on the road trip?
KL: I used to really want to drive through the American south and do that Route 66 thing because I’m Canadian, so the fascination that we have with the south is that it’s like a different planet almost. And I lived in Canada forever. Now that I actually live in the states I’m like, “Maybe? We’ll see…”
KL: But there’s a lot of it I haven’t seen. I’ve been on road trips through Texas and mostly up and down the eastern seaboard. It’s my favorite collection of words in the English language, “Eastern Seaboard,” which is a big influence on the book. It’s in the script a lot of times.
ML: Ooooh, that’s what that was about!
KL: Yeah, I’m from Halifax, Nova Scotia and so I’ve driven between that and Boston and New York dozens and dozens of times, so that was a big influence on it too. But, I don’t know. Where would you want to road trip?
ML: You know, I actually just love the trip itself. So you could throw a dart and I would be happy wherever. I will find all the weirdos in any town and just drag them out and be like, “Look what I found!”
KL: It’d be really great, there’s a lot that I haven’t seen. I’ve done through California up to Vegas. I haven’t driven up to Seattle, so like the Pacific Northwest I would do.
ML: Yeah, if you come through my town, you know my house is haunted, right?
One last question about your road trip: what’s on your playlist?
KL: That’s was the other thing that I was going to do for Spell on Wheels but then I was like, “I don’t want anyone to judge me because my musical tastes are not always great.” Basically, I listened almost exclusively to extremely sad songs or lady-fronted electropop or musicals.
KL: So, it would probably be a lot of that. Who wants to listen to LaRue and Robin and then also the entirety of Hamilton? I don’t know, I would probably let someone else make me a playlist.
ML: I’m a weirdo, so I’m late to the game, but I just really got into Thundercat. Oh, I’m trying to convince one of my friends to go on a road trip to go see them! I’m really into Thundercat, I like Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, I like ArtBrut, I like… tons of stuff. I accumulate a lot of music because I like everything. I have almost learned to whistle all of “Die Fledermaus.”
KL: See almost all of my musical knowledge comes from other people. I follow a lot of my friends on spotify and I’ll just listen to their playlist and just pick and choose from that. I grew up on Lilith Fair, so sad girl music is always going to have a place in my heart. A lot of Stevie Nicks!