Smythe retells the myth of Hades and Persephone in a gossipy modern style in Lore Olympus (Del Rey, Oct.), a hit webcomic now in print.
When did you first get attracted to the particular myth of Persephone and Hades?
I became fascinated with these characters as a child. My little 11-year-old brain found it deeply compelling. Everyone has their problematic fave when you’re dealing with Greek mythology, so I’m not going to deny that this is deeply problematic.
What elements did you update?
Traditional myths often sideline Persephone. Her story’s typically told from the perspective of Demeter; in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, you don’t hear much from Persephone. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Persephone is a fragile flower goddess who’s having a really terrible day. And then you read The Odyssey and she’s this dread queen who frightens Odysseus and his pals. What happened from point A to point B? That led me in my writing into the development of the character. How did this goddess of spring who is always talked about as being so nice turn into someone who is so feared?
The comic tackles difficult subjects like sexual assault. How do you approach this material?
I try to go about it in the most authentic way possible. Some people are going to find it uncomfortable, and I’m not going to say that’s wrong. But this is my authentic way of expressing myself and being vulnerable. That’s the nature of storytelling, it’s personal. When I started Lore Olympus, I had no idea so many people would be engaged with it. It’s not a perfect example. It’s just a point of view, and hopefully it’ll encourage other creators to write from their different perspectives.
Were there challenges to adapting the online comic to print?
Well, I would love to go back and redraw everything—I want to fiddle with all the panels and update things. But it’s also cool we decided to leave it as is and let readers see the progression in the art style and treatment as it published over time. Online, you do get feedback quite quickly. Sometimes the feedback isn’t great, but for the most part you can use it to strengthen the story.
What do you hope people take away from your comic, whether they’re current web comic readers or just picking up the new book?
To feel something about these characters—to bring out emotions. I’d rather they’d be super annoyed at some of these characters if it means they feel strongly about them.