Oscar award winning actress—and now comics creator—Jamie Lee Curtis has been dreaming up the ecological horror story that became Mother Nature (Titan Comics, August) since she was a teenager.

The action unfolds in the New Mexican town of Catch Creek, built on uranium and oil mining from the Cobalt Corporation. Cynthia Butterfield, the new head of the corporation, announces plans to rebrand as a green company promoting experimental water purification technology. But activist Nova Terrell, whose father died in an industrial accident while working for Cobalt, doesn’t trust this PR-friendly pivot. Meanwhile, the Earth itself, personified by a Navajo spirit, rises up against the decades of abuse, killing locals in terrifying natural disasters. As PW’s review puts it, “character-driven horror fans will find plenty to dig into.”

Curtis first conceived Mother Nature as a film, bringing writer Russell Goldman on board first as a stenographer and then as a cowriter. New Yorker cartoonist Karl Stevens (Penny: A Graphic Memoir), whom Curtis met while buying the original art for one of his New Yorker cartoons, suggested developing the story into a graphic novel. Stevens distinctive painterly art style contrasts with the cinematic scale, rendering the script in “photorealistic watercolors [and] shockingly bloody moments of gore,” per PW’s review.

Although Mother Nature is still also planned as a film, with a release date from Blumhouse to be announced, the graphic novel gives the characters and setting room to unfold expansively, fully developing the town of Catch Creek and its network of cultures, agendas, and needs.

Curtis is well-known from such films as Halloween, A Fish Called Wanda, True Lies, and last year’s Everything Everywhere All at Once, for which she won her first Academy Award. Although Mother Nature marks Curtis's first foray into comics and graphic novels, she’s published many books with pictures before:—her some dozen children’s books with illustrator Laura Cornell include Today I Feel Silly, and Other Moods That Make My Day and Me, Myselfie & I: A Cautionary Tale. Now, she turns from charming read aloud titles for kids to a terrifying vision very much intended for mature readers.

PW talked to the whole three-person creator team about how they collaborated on adapting a script to a comic and the research and art that went into the world of Mother Nature.

What made you decide to write Mother Nature?

Curtis: I had the idea when I was 19. The setting was a mining town where they were blasting through a mountain, which exposed the soul of the mountain, the heartbeat of the mountain, and then bad shit started to happen. Some years went by and I made a movie with David Gordon Green called Halloween—I came home with a renewed mojo and decided to hire somebody to write Mother Nature. My husband said to me, “Why don’t you write it?” I literally did what you’ve seen in the movies. I put up index cards with characters and deaths and connected the dots.

Originally, it was about a man who ran a mining company. Russell came on as cowriter and realized it was a story about mothers: a woman boss and her daughter, and a Native American woman and her daughter. Russell put the Mother in Mother Nature. I mentioned the story to Karl, and he suggested that it be adapted into a graphic novel. The person who spent two years drawing this, conceiving this as a graphic novel, is Karl Stevens.

Russell, what made you decide to center women in the story?

Goldman: We were thinking about the title Mother Nature. We settled on the question: What kind of planet are these two mothers trying to leave for their two daughters? That distilled the driving forces and made Kai and Nancy clear as mothers, in their perspectives, and in how they work together. After that, it felt natural to make the heroes and villains women.

What research was involved in creating the town of Catch Creek?

Curtis: When you’re dealing with cultural history, we have to be very mindful about cultural appropriation. We’re all living in a world where we’re aware of how we’ve gotten it wrong.

Goldman: It was a mixture of on-the-ground research trips and generating earnest, authentic connections with the Navajo community. Jamie and I were concerned because we have an Indigenous spirit at the center of this. Our advisers steered us.

Stevens: I traveled to the region and used a lot of visual references, trying to design characters who looked like they lived in New Mexico. The sense of space and landscape was important. I also stumbled upon the book Diné Bahaneʼ: The Navajo Creation Story by Paul G. Zolbrod. Reading about the oral history helped me think about the spirit characters and how to depict them.

What was the most surprising thing you learned while researching this book?

Goldman: How violent Jamie’s imagination is!

Stevens: Yeah, I’ll never forget the conversation we had where you were telling me to look up realistic murders...

Curtis: I don’t know about you, but my entire life, whenever I’ve seen a hydraulic lift, I’ve always imagined a dark, gruesome crunching. Had I had my way, that would have been the cover of the book. For somebody who doesn’t like horror movies, whose basic daily juju is peace, love, understanding, sobriety, rescue dogs, children’s hospitals—somewhere deep down inside me is a really dark person.

What do you think is key to making a scene scary?

Stevens: Giving the reader the idea that something bad is going to happen. It’s more the suspense than the actual, visual blood of it.

Curtis: On my index cards, I had “hailstorm death,” “gravel death,” “icepick through the head because of the icy road,” “fissure death….” We struggled for a while with the hailstorm death. I don’t know if you follow the news, but every day this storm season, there’s been a story of bucket-size hail.

Stevens: It was such a left turn for me. I mean, my last book, Penny, was about my cat. After I agreed to this project, I had some trepidation. I was drawing things I’d never drawn before. It was like going back to art school. I’m glad I had the chops to pull it off. If I’d done this ten years ago, it wouldn’t have been as good.

What do you hope readers take away from this story?

Curtis: That we’re blowing it. The cataclysmic climate events we’ve been seeing all around the world are a direct result of the warming of the planet. This is a really gruesome, visual, and specific way of saying, “Pay attention.”

This article has been updated with further information.