'Schitt’s Creek' actor Emily Hampshire makes magic in new comic
Between new TV shows and movies — and years on the clock as Stevie Budd at Schitt’s Creek Motel — Hampshire's book brings yet another relatable character to life.
For a self-identifying "misfit,” Emily Hampshire has really never been more popular.
Between filming new television shows and movies — and several years on the clock as Stevie Budd at the Schitt’s Creek Motel — the Canadian actor recently found herself in a position to bring yet another extremely relatable character to life.
“I was approached to do a comic book, which I'd never thought about in my life,” Hampshire said. “I've been writing a lot for television and stuff, but not comic books.”
Hampshire’s first graphic novel, “Amelia Aierwood: Basic Witch,” (Z2 Comics, April 2023) was born from a juxtaposition of childhood reminiscing and a present-day viewing of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”
“[As a kid] I didn't feel like there were comics for me as much as there were for my brother,” she said. “I liked the misfits in the kind of YA books like 'Ramona' or Judy Blume, so I wanted to take that misfit character and put her into graphic novels for my younger self. Like, if there was a graphic novel I would want to read as a kid, it would be this.”
Amelia the character, the black sheep of her famous witch family, was fully conceived from a night of guilty-pleasure television. Hampshire said that an episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” made her think: If she had been born into a similar situation, she had no doubt she'd be "kicked off the show" — just like Amelia, sort of.
“Amelia is not not me,” she said. “That was kind of where Amelia came from — the black sheep of this very famous family of super witches. She gets kicked out, cut out of the show, and because her magic is a little off-brand, she has to find her own kind of magic that had been percolating.”
With her own magic percolating during the book's early stages, Hampshire was paired with Minnesota’s own Eliot Rahal, an already well-known voice in the comic book world.
“I had a hard time finding my people,” Hampshire said. “Eliot, right away, had a 13-year-old girl inside of him that rivaled my own.”
“I think we both have like, turbo-weirdo energy,” Rahal said. “She's a really driven person and so am I; I think we just kind of connected on that level.”
Rahal, who has joined up with other notable names — like musician and actor Machine Gun Kelly, and comedy duo Cheech & Chong — on comics in the past, spent the last few years beside Hampshire, helping translate her vision from brain to pen to paper.
Transferring passages back and forth in the process, a team of talented artists and illustrators would also go on to back the project.
Artists like Kristen Gudsnuk, who went from panel to panel hiding so-called “Easter eggs” in her illustrations, drawing inspiration from things like “Schitt’s Creek,” and Rahal’s daughter, Olive. The pair was ultimately looking for someone with the “right kind” of humor to join the team, unequivocally meeting that match in Gudsnuk.
But as they say, “It takes a village,” and the same is true for building comic books. Rounding out Amelia’s team of artists were Ames Liu, Fred Stressing, Jarrett Williams and Stephanie Mided.
“The joy of comics is that collaborative process,” Rahal said. “There's little jokes all over the place. That was really fun to do, especially with a book that's geared toward a younger audience where you can be kind of silly and fun in that way.”
Rahal has written comics all across the genre spectrum, but “Amelia” was the first opportunity he’s had to dip his toes into more young-adult content.
“I've been working in comics for 10 years,” he said. “I've done a lot of really weird and strange work, creator-owned work, so I just have a lot of understanding of working with a person's vision and helping translate that to the medium in a way that allows the artist to also grab hold of it.
“At the end of the day, ‘Amelia’ is Emily's story and these are her characters. She's so unbelievably passionate about telling the story and you can see that bleed through the pages. That, for me, only made the process more enjoyable.”
it was always in you:
Luckily for Team Amelia, the Aierwoods' story isn't quite over yet. Hampshire said they're already tossing around ideas for the next book, with aspirations to spread Amelia's story even further.
"I want it to be a show. I want it to be a musical. I want it to be, like, 'Matilda' meets 'Wicked.' I want everything for Amelia."
But first, Hampshire and the crew at Z2 are trying to slow down enough to revel in the success of "Basic Witch." Although having planned an extensive book-signing tour across the U.S. before leaving for the UK to film the second season of Amazon Prime's "The Rig," Hampshire's plans were ultimately foiled — but, she admitted, in the best possible way.
The first batch of books sold better than either Hampshire or Rahal could have imagined. Essentially selling out on some online retailers, the writers had to wait for more copies to be printed.
"Comics is a fast-growing market, but it's hard to discern what success is," Rahal said. "When the book is doing well — it's wild. When you work in the independent arts for as long as I do, you're like, 'Are we actually doing a good job?' And then it's like, 'We are.' We can say that out loud — and that's OK."
"That's OK": Two simple words that fittingly, might just sum up the showrunner's message, which is all told through the lens of a misfit, who in some ways, could be identified in all of us.
"By the end of the book, I felt like I got to go back and tell my younger self, 'Everything you think is wrong with you, and that you're trying to hide or fix, that's your magic,'" Hampshire said. "That's the thing that when you're older, is going to be your special thing. It was always in you — you just had to see it for yourself. Anybody reading the book, if it makes them feel braver to be their authentic self, that's the goal."
"Amelia Aierwood: Basic Witch" is available via Z2 Comics, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and several independent bookstores across the country.
To keep up with book signings, other appearances and forthcoming projects from Hampshire and Rahal, visit them on Instagram at @emilyhampshire and @eliotrahal.
Editor's note: Eliot Rahal is the husband of KARE 11 reporter Heidi Wigdahl.
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