Ever felt like the cold grasp of death was something that could only be delivered by those whom were already dead? Then you’re probably going to like this wonderful web comic by the name of Vigor Mortis. Join Timlah as we speak to Ella and Jennie, the writer and artist, as well as a review!
Whilst on my adventures on Twitter, I was contacted and asked if I ever did comic reviews. Why yes, I do, I thought to myself when I was introduced to Ella McConnell, the writer for the web comic Vigor Mortis. I had a quick peak and saw the quality of the product for myself, then contacted Ella to see if she’d mind getting involved in an interview. I thought I’d go for a two-for-one special and also ask for the illustrator, Jennie Gyllblad… And they both agreed to the interview. But before that, here’s my honest review of Vigor Mortis.
Vigor Mortis Review
An unscheduled and vast quantity of deaths are found in one location, which sees the arrival of a new recruit for the Revenants. Adapting to his new surroundings and way of existing, the new Revenant, who goes only by the name “Rip”, must ensure that he’s fully aware of his fellow archetypes. After being given a task to complete, Rip is paired with a Ghost and a Reaper and the three of them become companions and furthermore friends.
However, not everything is what it seems. This story really builds from when the audience is introduced to a key character for a second time, where a lot of the questions you may have had throughout become answered. From rumours to monstrous mortals, the three must learn how to use their abilities to allow husks and mortals to pass on correctly into the afterlife. After all, just like the material realm we’re all in, these three have a job to do.
All of the characters are clearly unique in their design and their outlooks. Rip is your typical oblivious character, who has been thrown right into the mix of it all with little to no time to prepare himself. he doesn’t know what he’s capable of, nor does he fully know why people feel they way they do about him and his kind. As a Revenant, he acts as the bodyguard for the team, able to do plenty of damage should he need to. His mentor, Cosh, has to explain just about everything to Rip, which makes him perfect to mould into the Revenant he needs to be – But the struggle within Rip revolves around if he can cope with being a Revenant.
All of the characters have really interesting designs, which keeps them all to their respective class. The Revenants all have a cloth to cover their mouths, which is a clue as to what the Revenants are hiding from everyone else. Meanwhile, Reapers all have a weapon of some description, at least when they’ve learned what it is and how to summon it. Finally Ghosts, like their name would suggest, appear rather otherworldly and, well, ghostly. They become more apparent when they enter the material realm, whereas Reapers and Revenants remain relatively unchained when passing between realms.
The style is very clean and has a clear Eastern influence. It’s not quite a manga, however the art style has a definite influence from them, as illustrator Jennie explains in the interview below. Each of the characters are visibly different and distinctive, leaving you no confusion. I really enjoyed the aspect of how their role in the afterlife is reflected in their art. More senior members of the afterlife have grand appearances, strikingly different at that.
I enjoyed this web comic so much, I wanted to get an interview with the writer and illustrator to learn more. I’m going to be keeping my eye on the series, which reminds me; there’s a new page out since I wrote my interview off to them! I’d highly recommend checking them out, so please do go and read Vigor Mortis. In the mean time, check out the interview I had with them below!
Vigor Mortis – Interview with Ella & Jennie
Q: For our audience, please can you introduce yourselves?
Ella: I’m Ella, and I’m the writer of Vigor Mortis. From 9 to 5ish I’m an editor for a global esports organisation, and when I’m not doing that I can usually be found playing video games or taking photos of my long-suffering cat. Vigor Mortis is my first comic project.
Jennie: I’m Jen! I draw comics for a living and eat a lot of hard-boiled eggs. Alongside illustrating Vigor Mortis, I also create my own fantasy comic Skal, my autobiographical webcomic Jenspiration and short smut comics called Jenitales (yes, I know that name is terrible!).
Q: How did Vigor Mortis start its life (if you’ll pardon the pun)?
Ella: Originally, Vigor Mortis was a live action roleplaying (LARP) game I created and then ran with the help of some of my friends while I was living in Brighton. However, after only a couple of sessions I was offered my dream job in Cologne – so I took it. Obviously I couldn’t run the LARP from Germany, but I really liked the setting and wanted to keep doing stuff with it. At first I started writing up a tabletop version of the game, but around about the same time I found myself coming up with specific characters and stories, and also remembered how I’d always wanted to try writing a comic. I’d been following Jennie since I saw her work as part of the Clockwork Watch project and we started chatting after I got a couple of commissions from her as part of a fundraising drive. After lots of enthusiastic rambling on both sides (mostly in allcaps), I sent her a script for the prologue and we were away.
Q: I’ve noticed the art style is western, but has some very obvious eastern influences. Are you both big anime or manga fans? What helped you settle on the style?
Ella: This is more one for Jennie, but I do like curling up with some good/bad anime and/or manga. In fact, one of the very first pieces of art Jennie did for me was a picture of one of my favourite characters (to my shame).
Jennie: I started out by copying my favourite anime/manga and video game characters as a kid, and my style has just been developing from those early days of drooling over Fushigi Yuugi and Escaflowne – although now I will try to tweak my style a bit, depending on what story I’m working on. When we were doing the concept art for Vigor Mortis, we eventually settled on a style that ended up being a little more towards the manga side of the spectrum as it seemed to suit the characters.
Q: I’ve picked up on all of the terminology used thus far, though the one I’m intrigued by the most at the moment is the most recent entry: the High Reaper. Is it any coincidence these look like our traditional grim reapers?
Ella: There’s a definite similarity, but there’s also a lot more going on underneath those robes… In the LARP, they partially came about as a result of us finding some surprisingly creepy-looking silver skull masks in Asda in the leadup to Halloween 2013, which is when we ran the first game. This also means they picked up the in-game nickname “Silver Skulls”, and I wanted this to carry over to the comic as a sort of homage (and also because of Reasons).
Jennie: If only the silver paint actually scanned, then you’d see that the High Reaper BEATS any traditional grim reaper. Silver is just better than everything. Also, the grim reaper is a loner, whereas the High Reaper has a squad. How can there be any competition on who’s the best here? Uh, what was the question again?
Q: Cosh is an interesting blend of a character; he seems serious in some moments, yet knows how to provide comic relief. Is he modelled after someone you know, or someone you know about?
Ella: I think Cosh is probably the most popular character in the comic! He’s not really modelled after someone I know, but I guess he has elements of a few characters I’ve encountered in various mediums. He’s a pretty friendly guy but he’s also deeply pragmatic – someone once referred to him as a “Papa Wolf” type character and I think that’s a fairly good summary. He also wouldn’t be out of place in something like Snatch.
Jennie: I wanted to design Cosh to look quite different from the rest, so during the concept stages his outfit seemed to just start sprouting belts and buckles. I still don’t know why and I’m blaming Ella for this 100%.
Ella: YOU CHOSE THIS PATH.
Q: One for you, Ella. Are there any writers you took inspiration from during the writing of Vigor Mortis?
Ella: This is a tough one as I flit around all over the place – it’s hard to pick favourites! I upped my comic and webcomic reading list considerably since I started working on Vigor Mortis in order to try and learn about what works best for things like pacing and dialogue (especially as my background is largely conventional prose), but I think I draw most of my inspiration content-wise from various bits of death mythology, pop culture and stuff that’s happened in the LARP.
Q: Next one is for you, Jennie. Are there any particular artists you are particularly influenced by?
Jennie: Well, I’m heavily influenced by my Twitter feed nowadays. Not sure if that’s considered sad or just ‘hi-tech super-modern artist’! I follow a bunch of different creators, some with Japanese lettered names so I don’t even know who they are (I’m a professional, I swear!). But I’ve also been quite influenced by the likes of David Mack, JH Williams III, Becky Cloonan and Juanjo Guarnido.
Q: You post all of the comic for free on the Vigor Mortis website. Have you experienced any difficulty in maintaining the website with all-new pages? Has Patreon helped spur on the creation of this project?
Ella: I think it’s fair to say that, without the Patreon, Vigor Mortis wouldn’t still be going. Jennie works full time as a freelance illustrator, meaning she can’t afford to do something like this for free (artists have to eat!), so the comic’s art is funded by both me and the pledges of our awesome patrons – breaking even per page would be a dream come true! I like the Patreon model as people can give as little or as much as they like, and in turn I try and make sure our patrons get plenty of cool stuff to thank them for their support. We’ve put out a page a week since we started despite illness and a questionable relationship with our buffer – long may this continue!
Jennie: I see our model as a bit like borrowing a book from a friend or the library. You can have a flick through (for free), and then if you like it you can choose to support the creators to keep it going (I have a personal pet hate for comics that are wrapped up in plastic so you can’t read them before you buy).
Q: On GeekOut, we love to talk about everything that’s geek. Other than comics, what do you both consider your main ‘geekdoms’, or geek scenes?
Ella: Video and tabletop games. I started out with the former way back when on the Amiga and Mega Drive when I was tiny and haven’t stopped since. I mostly play on the PC, usually RPGs, RTSs, MOBAs or FPSs, but I also really enjoy a good beat ‘em up if the opportunity arises. As for tabletop games, I’ll run and/or play them whenever I get the chance – I’m hoping to get the Vigor Mortis TRPG prototype up and running in the next few months!
Jennie: Gaming! I grew up on RTS games like Age of Empires, turn-based wonders like Final Fantasy Tactics and Front Mission 4 and lots of other great games on different consoles (RPGs, MMORPGS, horror, DDR, etc.). I have always been more the gaming geek than the TV show/movie geek. Too twitchy! Oh yes, and the classic pen and paper roleplaying scene along with the board game scene is also my thang.
Q: Thank you so much for your time today – where can people find out more, not just about Vigor Mortis, but about other projects you both may be working on? Also, will you be attending any events in the foreseeable future to show off the comic?
Ella: Thank you for interviewing us! You can find Vigor Mortis in its entirety here and, if you enjoy it, please considering becoming a patron over at Patreon.com/VigorMortis! I’m hoping to join Jennie at some events this year if I can – keep an eye on our Twitter feeds (@ECMSquared and @JennieGyllblad) for the latest updates!
Jennie: Currently I’m scheduled to attend Melksham Comic Con (August) and am planning to return to Thought Bubble in Leeds (November) as usual. Other than that, I am keeping the conventions and events to a minimum as my schedule is too full! Here’s what I’m up to other than Vigor Mortis: Skal (powered by Patreon), my autobiographical webcomic Jenspiration, my digital short smut comics Jenitales, Clockwork Watch book three Countenance (created by Yomi Ayeni and adapted by Corey Brotherson), My So Called Secret Identity: Volume 2 (created by Will Brooker, Suze Shore and Sarah Zaidan) and Barbarisms, a horror anthology co-created with Pedro LaBarba. I’m also doing various commissions alongside these. Busy bee!
I’d like to extend my thanks to both Ella and Jennie for their time today. It’s been a really fun read so far and I hope all of you take your time to go and check out this web comic today. If you’ve got a few coin you can spare, please do check out their Patreon page. They’re two highly talented individuals and I wish them all of the success in the world for the near future! That’s it for today, thanks for joining us – Remember to comment below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.