And We Love You is a fantastic comic that tells the story of Julie, a desperate woman who gets roped into a senseless war, through the memories she bleeds. Fell Hound, writer and artist of the comic is also the creator of Commander Rao and Do You Believe in Afterlife? She has been nominated to multiple awards (including the Ringo award for best single issue in story) and was the winner of the Sequential Magazine Best Comic 2020 Award. I was lucky enough to ask her some questions about And We Love You, the hardships of writing the story, and the relationship Fell has with the comic.
Cass Arellano: Let’s start things with a fun question, what is your favorite sandwich?
Fell Hound: My go-to order at Subway is a grilled chicken on flatbread with lettuce, cucumber, onion, black olives, and BBQ sauce. However, if we are going to get philosophical, is a taco a sandwich? Because nothing beats a good ground beef taco. Or three of them.
Cass Arellano: Where did the idea of bleeding memories come from?
Fell Hound: AWLY actually began as a 4 page short called “The Girl with Technicolor Blood” in 2013. I guess the influence came from several different things. For one, I was OBSESSED with the work of JH Williams on Batwoman Elegy. Those layouts blew my mind away, and there’s this beautiful abstract quality to his art that I adored. It’s something I’ve always wanted to bring into my own work as well.
The second is that back then, I was dealing with a lot of personal grief in my life. And I think the idea that one day we would all disappear from the earth and no one would remember you was something on my mind a lot. And what better way to express it than by some abstract concept of bleeding out your memories? Something so wonderful, colorful, and bittersweet, left forgotten as it runs itself into the earth.
Cass Arellano: What was the hardest part of creating And We Love You?
Fell Hound: Is everything an answer? Ahahah. But to be honest, I think the hardest part was the pressure I put on myself to make this comic “work”. I drew the first iteration of this comic back in 2013 and again in 2015. When I wanted to draw it again in 2020, I knew it would be the third and final time, and that meant I needed to give it the best chance it could.
That meant the story needed to be perfectly executed. The abstract blood borders needed to “work,” from a clarity and conceptual standpoint. The story needed to “work,” from an emotional standpoint, from a standalone story standpoint, but also a prequel story standpoint. When you have 64 pages to tell someone’s entire life story and more, it’s A LOT to condense and harder to do it in a way that still lets the quiet moments breathe. I can only hope I achieved it, but you never know, right?
Cass Arellano: What were some inspirations for And We Love You outside of the comic medium?
Fell Hound: The story itself was mostly inspired from my own life experiences. To preface, I have never been in a war. But I have dealt a lot with death in my work, and I think the emotions rising from that, coupled with my own personal experiences outside of it, really made me want to tell this story in a way so that others could understand what I felt. It really was just a story I made to try and connect with other people over the mutual terrible feeling of grief, which makes me sound like a villain, but there’s something cathartic in knowing you aren’t totally alone, I guess?
I also watched a lot of war movies. 1917, The Shall Not Grow Old, Hacksaw Ridge, and countless documentaries.
The greater Rao-verse itself was largely inspired by the French Revolution, as seen in The Rose of Versailles. Technically the manga came first, but I saw the anime before I read the books, so I hope that counts, haha.
Cass Arellano: The use of color on And We Love You is outstanding, what do you think make colors be such a great expression of emotions and ideas?
Fell Hound: Thank you! I LOVE playing with color. I think color is everything. I can’t stand to look at my pages until I color them because the color brings so much to life. There’s probably some technical color theory to it, but for me, I just base it on ~vibes~. What color does war remind me of? Sunken yellows and greens, dull greys. What color does sadness remind me of? Blues, so many blues! What’s the color of missing someone? I chose yellow-orange for the nostalgic sunset vibes. And so on!
Cass Arellano: War is a constant in human history, this story could have been set anywhere in history, why the future?
Fell Hound: I chose a sci-fi future for a couple of reasons. I was on a drawing kick where I loved designing high-tech armor and tanks, so that lent itself to the era real quick. But the other hand is that I guess, historically, women didn’t have a lot of frontline combat roles? They had some, of course, but mainstream media would tell you differently.
Setting the story in the future allowed a quick excuse for me to do whatever I wanted without being beholden to any historical context. It was heavily inspired by real historical wars and events, but now I can do things like put a giant robot in it! Have female combatants and not have it be questioned! Whisk away plot holes with the powers of *sci-fi technology*! It’s great.
Cass Arellano: One of the things I like the most of And We Love You is that, in contrast with other war stories, you don’t romanticize or glorify war, how did you approach this?
Fell Hound: In my heart, I think all war stories need to be inherently anti-war. And they are, in some ways, but it’s important to see how even “war heroes” aren’t really that heroic? Our leads, Julie and Kasey, were two poor kids swept up in a big, bad war because of the promise of a better life. They were people at the end of their ropes, so desperate to escape that if you handed them a gun and said, “shoot here,” they would do it for the smallest chance of freedom from their own misery.
This is a war comic, yes, but it is also a comic about miserable people manipulated into doing miserable things and realizing too late they couldn’t leave. It’s a comic about how war never gives; it just takes and takes and takes. Julie was a hero. She saved Kasey’s life! And what did she get in the end? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Cass Arellano: What do you think makes comics the perfect medium for this story?
Fell Hound: For a story like this, comics was the ONLY medium I could tell it in. I don’t think the blood panel borders and the simultaneous storytelling would translate well into any other medium. It’s visual poetry meant for the page alone, and I think shows a lot about what the medium is capable of!
Cass Arellano: I really admire the strength you showed by tackling such a heavy topic, but I also know from experience that this can be really hard. What are some recommendations for creators who want to tackle heavy topics but don’t want to get dragged down by them?
Fell Hound: My first advice is to get an editor! Get someone who can give you trusted feedback on the storytelling and the emotional weight of it. Depending on your working relationship, it’s also nice to have someone to vent to (shoutout to my editor Frankee White, MVP editor of AWLY).
My second advice is to trust in your craft. You want to tell this story for a reason. Trust your ability to tell it! I had no less than 85 nervous breakdowns trying to make this comic for a myriad of reasons, and by the time the comic came out, I realized I was panicking over such small, insignificant things.
Which brings me back to the first piece of advice, an editor is a godsend. 10/10 highly recommended.
Cass Arellano: And finally, what motivated you to tell this story?
Fell Hound: Some of it was answered above, but the TLDR is: To share in the tears! To make everyone cry!
And selfishly, I wanted people to see what I could do. Commander Rao came out with a bang and showed I could do some neat tricks with fight scenes, but I wanted to show I could one-up that and do *even neater* things. Maybe it’s a little dumb to compete with myself when I’ve only made 2.5 comics, but I want every comic to swing for the fences, no-holds-barred, and come out the gate kicking and screaming while making others cry and scream.