Preserved Poltergeist That’s Archival Quality

 

by Vince Brusio

Not all ghost stories have you tear your face off in the mirror while scientists are playing with equipment to take pictures of porous people walking down a staircase. That may be one experience you can have with the afterlife, but it’s not symbolic of all encounters with spirits who were once flesh and blood. In Archival Quality (NOV171792) from Oni Press, we see that a ghostly close encounter can be disturbing, rather than deadly. Troubling, rather than terrible. Rather than run for the safety of sunlight, young Cel Walden instead finds a fortress in a library. The power of the pen is truly mightier than the sword in this story, and in this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview with writer Ivy Noelle Weir and artist Steenz, a pestering poltergeist may have you make a prudent pause.

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Vince Brusio: Tell us about Cel Walden. Who is she?

Ivy Noelle Weir: Cel is our protagonist, a young woman in her early twenties. When we meet Cel, she’s sort of at a point in her life where things had reached a breaking point, resulting in her losing a job she loved, and readers enter her story right after that point. When I was writing Cel, I was thinking about being in that place, mentally: You’ve survived, yes, but things are different now. How do you move forward? How do you grow when things still feel so painful? As we follow Cel’s story, we see her grow, and change, and become stronger in ways that she didn’t know she could. Cel’s imperfect, she makes mistakes, she’s very human. Even when I was writing her, there were points where I’d look at the decisions I had her make and just be like, “Oh, honey, no. Come on.” But ultimately, Cel finds strength that lets her not only help herself, but others, too.

Steenz: That’s a big question. To me, Cel is just trying her best. I know she has a lot of issues to work out within herself, but her care about this ghost is also super endearing. She may be a little misguided when it comes to priorities. But that’s something we can all work on.

Vince Brusio: So Cel’s new gig is working at the Logan Museum, which we’re told is haunted. How scary would you say the book gets?

Ivy Noelle Weir: I don’t think it gets too unbearably scary! I’m obsessed with haunted house stories, and I feel like part of my love for that genre comes from the fact that they aren’t really that scary, they’re more about living with something unsettling, a disruption in what is normal. There’s no “jump” scares here, just a deep sense of foreboding, that something isn’t “right” within the walls of the Logan. Guillermo Del Toro’s work, especially The Devil’s Backbone, was hugely influential on this book. He’s the master of creating the ghost as a truly neutral figure, a living memory, more a symbol of ill portent than a monster that’s going to get you. Our ghost is more akin to that.

Steenz: Most of the scarier elements are in the idea of what’s happened to the ghost that Cel encounters. There’s a small amount of bloody noses, but otherwise it’s more atmospherically spooky rather than scary.

Vince Brusio: Cel is a librarian, and so were both of you. Is that where the similarities end? What other parts of yourselves do you see in Cel?

Ivy Noelle Weir: Oh boy, without getting too personal, Cel is deeply reflective of me in my early twenties, in the way she reacts to things and moves through life. But in terms of being a librarian, I’d say my experience definitely wasn’t like what our characters go through (that’s probably a good thing, right?). The role of the archive and the library in Archival Quality is more about the negotiation of interacting with information. Who decides what gets archived? Does what is being archived agree to being archived? There are a lot of questions of power in the concept of a library, and our characters navigate those as they try to solve what’s happening at the Logan. If I ever write a horror story about my real-life career as a librarian, it will be about the time someone returned a book that was literally dripping with Axe body spray.

Steenz: I don’t really see too much of Cel in myself. She’s kind of annoying to tell you the truth. I mean I understand she’s got a lot going on, but I see more of myself in Holly. She’s organized. She’s stylish. And she’s super smart. And humble. Like me.

Vince Brusio: The man in charge of the museum is Abayomi Abiola. He seems to be the exact opposite personality of Cel, but ends up hiring her despite their differences. Have you had bosses or coworkers like this? How pivotal will Abayomi be in the story?

Ivy Noelle Weir: Abayomi is secretly my favorite child. Don’t tell the others. Aba is someone who has a deep desire to meet expectations, and he is driven by a hunger to succeed, but inside, doubts himself and the morality of what he’s doing. He takes a risk on Cel because he sees in her something that reflects that secret side of himself: someone trying to figure out who they are, and what they really want. As their relationship grows in the story, you see their similarities come more to the surface, and we see ways that Aba can use that hunger inside of him for good. Abayomi wants to help Cel because he finally can help someone unconditionally and selflessly, which may be something that he wishes someone else would do for him. He’s very inspired by the manga trope of the cold-and-haughty-but-secretly-kind love interest.

Steenz: I always say when you hire someone underneath you, try to hire someone who has skills you may not have. And I like to think that Aba (as cold as he is) saw the potential in Cel. You don’t have to be personable to see someone of value. And I have definitely had teachers and mentors who were kind of like this. Aba is as vital to the story as Cel and Holly are. They’re a triad of ghost hunters. Except not really.

Vince Brusio: What personal experiences to you bring to this story? Do you make this story mirror some of those experiences? If not, why not? And if so, in what way, and how do those experiences enrich this story for the reader?

Ivy Noelle Weir: Well, I did literally have an internship as an image archivist in a medical library, during my undergraduate degree. However, I don’t know of any library or archive that operates like the Logan, thankfully. That’s purely fabricated for the scares.

Like I’ve said, Cel is such a reflection of me at 21, 22, when I was trying to figure out what to do with my life after a really difficult time. As someone who’s lived with depression and anxiety since I was pretty young, I wanted Cel’s story to not end with her being “cured” or “fixed,” I wanted to end with her learning to move forward and use her support network and the tools at her disposal to learn how to manage. I think that’s a realistic message. I hope readers that see themselves in Cel also see that there are ways to continue on, even if everything feels lost. Archival Quality’s story relies on its characters, I wanted these characters to feel real — to interact with each other in ways that felt authentic, and familiar. Steenz was so beautifully able to give them appearances that fit their personalities so well, and I feel like, overall, they reflect people who have a life and a history outside of the beginning and end of this story.

Steenz: I think the personal experience I bring is the fact that I have a personality outside of my race. There are too many books, TV, movies that have a token POC and then all they talk about or joke about is their race. But there’s more to people than that. I want people to look at Holly and Aba and Cel and think those three are Driven, Caring, and Emotional respectively. And to see that POC can be those things and not have it relate to a story of racial distress is really refreshing.  

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Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.

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