Kate Leth is a writer and cartoonist from Canada who now resides in Los Angeles. She is perhaps best known for her work on Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat, as well as her recent stint at Dark Horse Comics with Spell on Wheels.
A self-taught creator, Kate was discovered after creating her own web comic series Kate or Die, and because of her Adventure Time fan art on Tumblr.
Recently at New York Comic Con, we had the chance to talk to Kate about her career, and, more specifically, about her work on BCP favourite Spell on Wheels.
BIG COMIC PAGE: Alongside the supernatural, fun side to Spell on Wheels, it also focuses on a lot of real life issues such as homophobia, abuse and misogyny. How important was it to you that the story has something to say, and that it wasn’t just for fun?
KATE LETH: It’s a part of everything I do. Even when I did Hellcat, which is a really fun super vibrant colourful comic, it dealt with things like abusive relationships. When you’re doing something really fun, it’s important to have something in it that has something to say. It was really inspired by shows like Charmed and Buffy. As goofy and as supernatural as that was, that very frequently has something to say about real-life stuff, so it felt like a natural thing to do.
BCP: You talked a little bit about the shows that Spell on Wheels was inspired by, but you book is a lot more diverse than some of those shows – shows that don’t necessarily always deal with that kind of thing particularly well. Was that a motivation for you when writing the story?
KATE: It was really important to me, and continues to be. I grew up on shows like Buffy and Charmed and Practical Magic is my favourite movie, but they are really white and straight and so I wanted it to be like those shows would be now, like if they were on CW. I wanted it to reflect the real world and the characters to be not the kind of thing you see every day, and more of a reflection of the people that I know and the people that are in my life.
BCP: What do you think your artistic team brought to the comic, and how hands on were you with developing the visual style?
KATE: Megan came from the Buffy comics so she was a perfect fit for it from the beginning, and we had really goof back and forth about the styles of the characters. Megan and I are both tall and bigger, so we wanted the main character to be an influence from both of us. It was very collaborative in terms of finding the looks for the characters styles and outfits. Megan and Marissa worked really closely on colour palettes and designs for the world and the characters. Marissa did a lot of work on the magic in the book, with the different colours meaning different things. It was a very collaborative book which is awesome.
BCP: When you were in Scotland recently at Glasgow Comic Con, you got to be part of a panel on music in comics, showing your passion for music. With that in mind, what artists and tracks would you have on a Spell on Wheels playlist?
KATE: I need to make one. I did it for Hellcat and a couple of other books I’ve worked on. Obviously there would be a lot of Stevie Nicks, but some more modern stuff too like F.K.A Twigs and Chvrches. I would have a little bit of both because I think it’s very much a book that acknowledges its roots of all those witch movies of the 90s, but definitely with a modern influence. Sleigh Bells would be on there, because it’s been on every playlist I’ve made, but I’d have to put some more thought into it.
BCP: Talking about Hellcat, what did you think to the way she was portrayed in Jessica Jones?
KATE: I really liked Trish, she’s cool and I loved her in Jessica Jones. Jessica Jones is my favourite Marvel show. Trish and her relationship with Jessica was incredible, and it was a different character in a different world. It was a totally different tone, and we didn’t know she was going to be on Jessica Jones when I started writing Hellcat. Our book is for all ages, and it is definitely goofy and not incredibly dark like the show. I know the actress has read at least the first issue of the comic, so that’s very satisfying.
BCP: Can you tell us a little bit more about your current projects?
KATE: I’m working a lot in animation right now with Hasbro. I’m doing a lot of different stuff, but none of it I can talk about yet. I’ve been doing a lot of jack of all trades work in animation to get my foot in the door. I’ve also been working on another graphic novel that hasn’t been announced yet. If you check my Patreon, that’s where I update what I’m doing, including personal comics and autobiographical stuff. I took a year to get really into animation, and now I’m stepping back into comics.
The collected trade paperback of Spell on Wheels is available now from Dark Horse Comics, and you can (and should) check out Kate’s Patreon by CLICKING HERE.