Giving Back Some Happy Lesbians: Talking to the Creators of ‘Honey and Venom’
Imagine, if you will, being a goddess of ancient Rome. You've got power, supplicants, luxurious raiment, a devout young priestess you've fallen in love with. Suddenly it's 2,000 years later, and while you're still doing your thing --- with the horns and the robes and the lack of understanding of electricity --- the rest of the world is all gas station minimarts and doric columns on the sides of 'We Are Happy To Serve You' coffee mugs. You do, at least, find your priestess, resplendent as ever in the denim shorts and crop top she's traded in her toga for. But...she doesn't know who you are. She doesn't understand why you're dressed they way you are. She's lost her memory of what you meant to each other entirely.
Such is the tale of the goddess Axiothea and her priestess Caelia, the subject of Payton Francis and Megan C.'s recently-launched webcomic, Honey And Venom. Eager to get the details on this charming new read, ComicsAlliance sat down with them to talk collaboration, Euripedes, and Dionysian cults.
ComicsAlliance: What do you hope to bring to the world of comics with Honey and Venom? What makes you unique?
Payton Francis: Honey and Venom is a lighthearted romantic comedy about lesbians written by lesbians, and I think that in and of itself is unique to the world of comics! There aren't a lot of lesbian webcomics in general, and we think it's very important that there are more of them!
Megan C: We also wanted to have a story that wasn't focused on "coming out angst." It's super important to us to give back some happy lesbians to the community!
CA: Where did the idea for Honey And Venom come from? Did the premise change as you developed it, or, if you’ll pardon the allusion to a relevant myth, did it spring from your head fully formed?
MC: My niche interest is classical history, but I've always been sick of every movie or series set in the ancient classical world being about war or politics! I was very interested in ancient cult practice, in particular the Dionysus cults. The biggest inspiration for the story was the Greek tragedy The Bacchae by Euripedes, where Dionysus organizes his cult to establish himself as a god, and him and his followers retreat to the mountains. Ancient Greek and Roman society wasn't too kind to women, let alone women we would consider LGBT today, and I loved the idea of a group of women being able to support and find solidarity with each other!
CA: Why ancient Rome? Where there other settings you considered?
MC: I went to college for archaeology and classical studies, and focused on Roman society, so I have more familiarity with the culture and aesthetics compared to Greece, let alone any other setting! A lot of the dynamics of the ancient half of the story have a lot to do with the specific practices and culture of the time!
CA: How collaborative is the creative process behind Honey And Venom? Are the lines between your creative duties strictly delineated — artist does this, writer does that — or is it a more complicated affair?
MC: The process is super collaborative! I write the story and draw the pages and color, and Payton also has a hand in many things!
PF: Megan does most of the writing, but I help come up with ideas and help with dialogue and the backgrounds. We also trade off responsibilities a lot when the other gets overwhelmed.
CA: Webcomic creators have to navigate balancing their comic responsibilities with their work and “real life” responsibilities in ways that are particularly punishing. How do you two manage it?
MC: It's definitely not easy! I manage two jobs, usually 50-60 hours a week, and work on the comic in the evenings and my occasional day off! Sharing the responsibilities helps a lot, we help each other out whenever we're struggling.
PF: The fact that the comic is collaborative really helps. I don't think there would be a comic if there weren't two of us working on it. I also have a full time job and other responsibilities.
CA: Why publish this as a webcomic, as opposed to pitching it to a publisher? Is that something you considered at all? What are the advantages of webcomics and self-publishing as opposed to "the industry" — and its drawbacks?
PF: No, pitching it to a publisher wasn't anything we ever really considered. This is the first time either of us have made a comic, so we figured it would be a good idea to start independently. There are tons of advantages to self publishing! We make our own schedules and we get to make all our own choices regarding the comic! But that doesn't mean that we would never consider it if the opportunity arose.
CA: Tell us a little about your respective journeys as creators. What’s some past work you’ve done? How have you developed to become the creators you are today?
MC: This is really the first piece of work that I've put this much time and work into! In the past I've mostly just done the occasional fanart and doodles! This is my first big step into actively creating something like this, and I'm very excited to see where it will take us!
PF: As for me, I went to college for fine arts, and have done a lot of commission work. I have sold art at several comic conventions and I am currently working on a coloring book for Neeto Tree!
CA: Who/what are some of your biggest influences — in comics, or outside of them? Which ones are coming to bear on Honey And Venom specifically?
PF: There are so many people that inspire me its hard to pick just a few. When I was young I did a lot (a lot) of manga reading and I feel like that was one of the biggest things that made me want to create art (and create my own comic).
Over the years my style went through a lot of transitions, but most currently I think the artists that most influence my art are other webcomic artists. Ariel Ries, the artist that does Witchy, Taylor Robin, the artist behind Never Satisfied, and Victoria Elliot, the artist of Balderdash!
MC: Hiromu Arakawa was so huge to me growing up! I read all of her stuff. Like Payton, I was into a lot of manga series like Fullmetal Alchemist, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, etc, so those definitely influenced me a lot in the past, and still do now! I'm also a big fan of the webcomics Payton mentioned, as well as series like Steven Universe and Bee and Puppycat. Add some ancient Roman/Greek sculpture and fresco paintings, and that's basically the aesthetic we ended up with for Honey and Venom!
CA: Finally, what are your greatest hopes for Honey and Venom? Your wildest, pie-in-the-sky dreams?
PF: I would love to have the comic published, either by just ourselves or through a company. We would also love to grow our reader base, and to be featured amongst all the wonderful webcomics on Hiveworks!
MC: I would love that too! My biggest dream is to somehow get enough of an income from the comic, either through Patreon or whatever, so that I could quit one of my jobs and be able to devote more of my time to the Honey and Venom, and in the future continue to create more historical women comics!