It’s not easy being the great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Mary Shelley.
And it’s really not easy being a teenager when monsters start begging for your help.
But that’s the story of Mary, a new graphic novel from actor/writer Brea Grant.
“I read Frankenstein in high school, like most people. But I didn’t find out too much about Mary Shelley until more recently,” said Grant.
Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Her parents were noted philosophers and writers Mary Wollstoncraft and William Godwin. She famously wrote Frankenstein, inventing the science fiction genre by age 20.
“I was really fascinated by her life. She had a lot to live up to early on because of her parents, and that struck me as something interesting,” Grant continued.
In creating Mary, Grant wanted to preserve that notion of struggling to live up to expectations, but combine it with the difficulties of being a modern teenager. That’s why we see the title character Mary get pressured by her family to pursue a writing career – the job that made Shelley famous. But this Mary doesn’t want to write.
“I think it’s a really interesting time for people coming of age right now. Fifty years ago, you would go to college and come out and get a good job, and now that’s not a guarantee,” explained Grant. “I wanted Mary to reflect modern day issues about what teenagers are going to do with their lives. I wanted to write a story about a teenager who was struggling to figure out what she wanted to do with her life, who felt like her life had already been set up for her, who thought maybe the world was bigger than what she had been told it was.”
All in all, the graphic novel took Grant and her artist Yishan Li about three years to complete. Grant described the artist joining the project as “kind of a dream scenario.”
“I wanted it to have a gothic feel to it, and Yishan’s art 100% captured that in a way that gave you the tone of what I was looking for, without even reading a word.”
At The End Of The Day, It’s About The Monsters
And of course, it’s about the monsters.
“Mary is so big. We have Loch Ness Monsters, we have harpies. We really run the gambit of monsters, science fiction, and fantasy,” said Grant.
Mary does indeed show a great range of creatures and spirits, from demons to wolf creatures to ghosts. Oh, and another favorite gothic author makes an appearance. The ghost of Shirley Jackson turns up – and possesses a stuffed rabbit.
“Shirley is my favorite. I hate to pick favorites, but…she ended up being so cute!” Grant joked. “Yishan is so good. The first time I saw her depictions of the bunny I was like, wow. This is gonna be my favorite character. My editor and I would just talk about how adorable Shirley Jackson’s ghost was.”
Monstrously Big Plans
Ideally, there will be even more monsters to come. Grant hopes Mary will be picked up as an ongoing series, with even more creatures making an appearance.
“I love swamp monsters! Or water-related monsters. So something like that would be really fun for me. And I want to have some real dark bad guys,” teased Grant.
There’s certainly a lot of room for Mary to grow into a series. It’s not strictly one thing – there’s a little bit horror, a little bit sci-fi, a little bit fantasy.
“I want to play with blurring the genre lines. There are no rules right now, really,” Grant said.
And of course, the story also has romance. Mary’s falling for a monster, Adam. (He’s sort of like Frankenstein’s monster, but way cuter.)
“I’m a big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. And I loved the Angel/Buffy romance storyline,” Grant explained. “It’s very complicated, because Angel has been around for so long and he thought about life very differently because of that. So I want to play with that element with Mary and Adam.”
But underneath the creatures and magic and monster romance, Mary is a coming-of-age story about personal growth and finding your place in the world.
“There’s so much to explore here and I think we’re just getting off the ground, with Mary discovering the world and realizing how she belongs in it,” Grant said. “To make these sort of big life decisions is huge. But then to actually have to stick with them is hard. I’d love to follow through and see her navigate this brand-new universe she didn’t even know existed.”
As Shelley herself said, “The beginning is always today.”
Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandaughter is available now from Six Foot Press.