Written by Neil Greenaway
When a lovelorn chef makes a deal with Stan (the devil's-left-hand) and his pastries start coming out a little bit evil, its up to 11-year-old sleuths Lilly and Sol to save the day! If the premise of the new graphic novel - When Baked Things Attack from Elisa Sargent & Laurissa Hughes - does not grab you, the animatronic cupcake monsters they keep caged at their table definitely will! When the book debuted at Fort Collins Comic Con 2018, there was a throng of people gathered around their display and I heard several rave reviews from fellow artists at the show. I had to speak with the creators behind these catastrophe causing cake-monsters. The pair told me about how they got together for the book, the project's past (and possible future) in film, and what we can expect to see from them next.
Neil Greenaway: So first for Elisa, I understand that this idea started as a short film, is that correct?
Elisa Sargent: Yes, that is correct. It actually goes back to when I was hanging out with my younger brothers and they were having little battles, so I decided to calm everything down. We actually got the family camcorder and we made the movie When Baked Thing Attack. We used things like pillows and sheets and everything; we sort of taped up Nilla Wafers on fishing wire to the ceiling fan and flipped on the fan and it would come and smack you in the face. (laughs) So, we just made this goofy little thing and then I ended up going to film school. I’d been doing a lot of sewing; I was a seamstress from the time I was a child. But I was doing a lot of sewing for my brothers friends who went to film school and I eventually said, "I really want to go to film school". So I got a chance to formally write that up, and instead of the baked things coming from outer space it sort of morphed into a heart broken chef - sort of enchanting his culinary creations.
NG: And Laurissa, how did you get drafted in as the artist?
Laurissa Hughes: It was actually at Fort Collins last year and it’s a very strange story. I was standing talking to our friend Joe and then Elisa came over. She had a little Halloween monster (that I had drawn years ago) and she says, "Look I found this, some guy sold it to me!" That was my boyfriend - it was one of his favorite drawings, too. So she said, "I think I found the person that I want to do the comic!" I was standing right there, but she had no idea. Joe and her were talking about it and it was a very surreal experience. I was like, "Um, wait, that’s mine..." and so then we started talking about it.
NG: Very cool. How long have you guys been working together to get the book out?
LH: Like seven or eight months.
ES: We started in January. We did a project plan and we decided that our start date was going to be January 1st and we just worked it out that July 15th was going to be the end date.
LH: Close to there, yeah. Then trying to get the inside cover and everything done took a little time.
NG: Now is this a standalone graphic novel or is this beginning of a series of stories?
ES: I think it is probably standalone. It could be fun to do other ones and I definitely want to explore it, there’s so many more places. But I don’t know if we could do it with film or you know we could do it with other media.
NG: Now that you have had the experience of seeing as a comic do you have any wish to make it a film still? Or are you happy with it as the graphic novel?
ES: Oh definitely, because there’s so many more things that go into it. Just the characters and personalities of each of the pastries as they come to life and become murderous. There’s so many more characteristics I definitely want to expand upon. Especially working with the automation of these puppets that have come about to do the promotion for the comic book. It’s actually been really inspiring because a lot of people have come together with some really unique skills that we weren't able to use the first time for the film.
NG: Noticing at your table that you have animatronic cupcake monsters, that is something most folks don’t have.
LH: They are so cute. I love them so much.
NG: They are an awesome attraction I would say. I have heard around the convention floor a couple people are saying (jokingly) that you ladies have no right at all making a first effort this strong together; that most teams take a little longer to coalesce. How do you feel about getting a positive reaction to the book?
LH: (Laughs) I think it’s awesome. My favorite thing in the world is to tell stories and to make people smile and to make people laugh. That’s why I went into – well I have been drawing forever, but when I decided to go to art school it was because I wanted to tell stories. So, getting a positive reaction to the story Elisa wrote and that I got to help bring to life is really cool. It makes me really happy.
NG: Now for you Elisa, this is your first published story correct?
NG: Do you see yourself moving forward in other comics?
ES: Yes definitely. My boyfriend is Dan Crosier and he has wanted to do another comic, so we have devised another comic it’s called Stanley Kaiju and the Subterranean Bunny Defenders.
NG: (Laughs) Naturally, naturally.
ES: Yeah, it’s kind of where you go after pastries, subterranean bunnies.
LH: That feels like a natural progression.
NG: When you do that one, would you be writing, and Dan would be doing the art? Or would you guys be cowriting?
ES: I think we would be doing a little bit of cowriting. It kind of comes from a mural that he did on the back of Mutiny Café. It was something that we were talking about - trying to figure out a mural to do, bouncing ideas back and forth and Dan says, "How about a kid in a bunny costume?" So he ended up doing it and, the face on this kid is just weird! The story for it became this alien defender that was going to save the planet - he’s really little, he’s addicted to bananas, he grows really quickly and eats spacecraft out of the sky. He’s this ancient, genetically modified creature that is so terrifying to look at that they put him in a bunny outfit - which makes him cuter. (laughs) But that’s all down the road a bit. You are working on your other series, too. Are you on season 3?
NG: Yeah tell us a little about Tess & Jack.
LH: I have a comic called Tess & Jack.
NG: Tell us a little more about Tess & Jack (Laughs)
LH: Yeah, it’s about a cowgirl named Tess and a robot named Jack. They live in sort of a futuristic cyberpunk wild west and they take odd jobs to make a living. Each issue is a different job. Right now, I am about halfway through issue 3. I have it planned through issue six or seven. But they are just really like silly, out of the ordinary jobs. I like comedy. I like really sarcastic, crazy sci-fi stuff. The series actually started out as an illustration I did a long time ago for a show. Then I was thinking about redoing this illustration, and I thought, "I’m going to do it in a way that is different. I’m not going to do an illustration, I’m going to do it as a comic because that’s what I have been doing." Then it turned into a whole thing. But I really like doing it, it’s really fun.
NG: Aside from Tess and Jack do you have any other projects you are working on?
LH: Yeah, I have a longer project that I’ve been working on for about ten years, it’s been a long time. It’s sort of one of those magnum opus stories, is what everyone calls them. I was going to do it as a comic, but I am thinking I might do it as an illustrated novel - or maybe a series of a few. I think if I do it that way it will help me get it out quicker, and I’m having so much fun with Tess & Jack. Originally I was only going to go through issue 4 and stop to do my longer story, but now I think I want to keep doing Tess & Jack.
NG: Coming back to When Baked Things Attack: Elisa, you already had the story more or less in your mind - since you had been planning this short film and building animatronics and such. Did working with Laurissa add anything in terms of story elements? Were there things that changed along the way in your collaboration?
ES: Quite a bit. The spirit of collaboration changed things, because Laurissa came by the house and saw a lot of the props and she was able to just absorb it. She saw the props and the costumes and she just absorbed it automatically. The collaboration was just really inspiring, it made me want to do the movie even more because I had so many roadblocks before. I liked not only how the comic turned out in the end, but this collaborative process where you could just explain something briefly and to the point and she just got it and ran with it. So, it was that level of collaboration - and then getting something that is so magical straight off the bat was really encouraging.
LH: Thank you!
NG: Because it is printed, it has an ISBN, where can people buy it?
LH: Well we have an online store at WhenBakedThingsAttack.com, and several of the comic shops around Denver have agreed to carry it.
NG: Ok, awesome. On an individual level, if people wanted to find more of your work online where would they follow you personally?
LH: I’m on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr and my user name is @WhimsyInk. Then Tess & Jack is at SmackJeeves, Topastic, and Webtoons. I also have a portfolio website which is laurissahughsportfolio.wordpress.com.
NG: All right I think that about wraps it up for us. Is there anything else about the comic that folks need to know?
LH: It’s fun and you should read it.
NG: I think that will do. Thank you ladies for your time.