Savanita, the creator of the webcomic Lord Have Mercy, discusses her creative process and handling “forbidden” romances.
Savanita’s art style, partly influenced by mid-century retro art, melds well with her storytelling. Her webcomics, which you can read on WebToon, take place in American historical periods like the ’50s and ’70s. Her dynamic characters and riveting storylines stand out. I’ve heard of her webcomic Lord Have Mercy for a while before finally reading it. The setting, characters, and the budding romantic relationship between the two leads captivate me throughout. I added it to my July roundup for this reason and more.
Lord Have Mercy — written and illustrated by Savanita and co-written by Brogan Chattin — follows the story of Sister Esther and Father Luke. The two eventually fall in love with each other even though it’s prohibited (nuns and priests shouldn’t break their vows of celibacy). My initial concerns about the main romance dissipated the further I read. Savanita knows what she’s doing, and she portrays Sister Esther and Father Luck as humans with complicated desires.
It’s my pleasure to have Savanita here to talk about her work and handling “forbidden” or taboo relationships, particularly in religious spaces.
TG: Lord Have Mercy and your new webcomic Good As Gold are both overwhelmingly impressive. Your retro art style (dynamic and atmospheric) and superb storytelling have truly exceeded my expectations. I’d like to know about your creative process. How do your ideas come about?
Sav: Thank you! I would say first of all I think there’s a sort of charm and vibrancy to old cartoons and retro aesthetics that have always appealed to me. It’s a reason I tend to do period pieces. More specifically, I’ll start with an image or an idea (like a priest and a sister falling in love) and explore what I personally find fascinating with the idea and why it speaks to me. (I grew up in a religious background and a small town, so I have a lot of ideas regarding what prevents people from happiness.) I talk to my co-author (Brogan Chattin) and we make a script, then I make storyboards and a final draft.
TG: I admire how you handle the central relationship in Lord Have Mercy. “Forbidden” romance is often fetishized or exploited (and I’m not just talking about porn). However, Sister Esther and Father Luke come off as real people with conflicting desires. I understand that it’s a risk to tell this story, but you’ve executed it with grace and sensitivity. Have you always intended to have Sister Esther and Father Luke fall in love with each other (through planning or drafts)?
Sav: So, that feeds into my earlier comment. I think the relationship was the driving force for all of the story, but it was originally steamier and a bit lewder in earlier concepts. I think emphasizing the lewdness, however, removed so much of everything else I wanted to talk about so I ended up downplaying a lot of it in favor of the audience getting to know the personalities and their relationship. If people can understand why these characters make the mistakes they do and I didn’t take “the easy route” for clicks or money, then I think I did my job. It’s a better story, and that’s what matters more to me in the end.
TG: What are your favorite books, movies, TV shows, etc.? Anything that inspired Lord Have Mercy?
Sav: PortoMento by The Drums, Book of Revelation’s starting track. I think music is a really great way to have seeds sown for imagination. There’s so much room for your mind to wander, but there’s a foundation for the aesthetic and feeling that informs your thought process.
Specifically for Lord Have Mercy, I got the idea for a forbidden religious love from the album PortoMento by The Drums. Specifically, Book of Revelation, as a song, informed the aesthetic of the comic, how friendly and familiar it is, but how vulnerable it is regarding love and how it is in spite of circumstance. Those are the kinds of things that music can really provide that can get your mind racing with ideas.
I’m a huge fan of old school cartoons, Hanna-Barbera cartoons especially (like The Jetsons or The Flintstones), and you can surely see later influences like Genndy Tartakovsky (Sym-Bionic Titan and Samurai Jack). Simple line work and bold colors really told me “less is more” and that informed my entire approach to art. Of course, old school Disney (like Sleeping Beauty and Lady and the Tramp) also made me the artist I am today.
TG: What is one piece of advice you would offer to webcomic artists or creatives who are starting to put their work out there?
Sav: I would say don’t be afraid. I think it’s important to know that you won’t have all the answers when you start and everything is a learning process. Even for me, right now. You’ll get better as you actually practice and readers will forgive your amateur or starting mistakes if they see potential in what they read. What matters most if there’s something you’re making that speaks to an audience, and the whole “am I good enough” conversation really doesn’t matter because there’s no better time to start than now. The best way to get better is to hit the ground running.
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives!
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. They’re a submissions editor for Uncanny Magazine. Their various areas of interest include intersectionality in apocalyptic and disaster films, Artificial Intelligence, writing for animation, YA SFF, and LGBTQ+ representation in children’s media.
Location: DC Metro area
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