Rachel Smythe is now on hiatus, but she had one important stop to make before her break: San Diego Comic-Con, where she was a special guest and was also awarded her second Eisner for her hit Webtoon series Lore Olympus.
For avid readers of the series, the midseason finale for season three—which dropped July 8—was quite the cliffhanger. io9 sat down with Smythe to discuss the wedding between the King and Queen of the Underworld that fans were waiting for, and the surprises that came with it. Hades and Persephone might have made it through the first chapter of their story, but there’s a lot more of their mythology to come.
Sabina Graves, io9: I am very excited where things are going. We have finally had you know, the wedding—last time we talked, you were building up to it and now it’s happened! What is your favorite part about finally reaching this moment between Hades and Persephone?
Smythe: It feels like a real milestone because, as you know, I’ve been working on the story for a very long time. So it was a very rewarding chapter to write. I think in writing the wedding, it’s always really tough because weddings are very personal, right? And everyone’s tastes towards weddings are very different. And so in designing all the clothes—it was really hard, but I think in the end I was like, “I’m going to go with exactly what I want.” And I did that. And it was really fun and rewarding.
io9: What were the style icons or fashions that you looked to as inspiration for Persephone’s dress? I’m in love with it.
Smythe: I basically went for very A-line looks that were from the ‘50s. I looked at Maria’s dress from The Sound of Music from when she gets married, and I kind of sexed it up a little bit, in the sense that most of the dress is very covered, but it’s got like a boob window.
io9: Oh, yeah, we love a boob window.
Smythe: Like conservative, but a little bit of boob, very sophisticated. Lots of little buttons. Yeah. Oh, that’s super fun.
io9: I love that there’s now this shift—we’re getting into this sort of “leaving the nest” story between Persephone and her mother. What can you share about how that is going to influence this next part of the myth that we know?
Smythe: I think in writing this inevitable friction that is coming up, it’s been very rewarding. What I really enjoy about it is—I think some people do see a lot of Demeter’s actions as villainous. And I think she has the added pressure of being a woman. Women get judged much more harshly, particularly in a fictional context. So for me, it’s really interesting to explore how this is going to affect everyone reaching this drama. And then, how it breaks everything apart and how everything comes back together again—really approaching Demeter’s backstory and her trauma but also how that affects her relationship with her daughter and how they can navigate their way out of it. And I think it will be very holistic.
io9: I’ve also been very intrigued by Hera’s subplot and her trauma resurfacing. Exploring that side of her past, how have you gone about approaching the subjects in that situation very carefully?
Smythe: I’ve gone about it by doing a lot of research and looking at past experiences and myself—that may not be exactly the same, but relatable. I think a lot of the themes are around personal guilt and shame, and a lot of us have those feelings of shame with things that were out of our control. A lot of us have things that have happened to us when we were younger and we didn’t have the tools at the time or the language or whatever, and we couldn’t put names to what had happened. But then as you get older, those things kind of pop back up again and it really can affect you and your mental health. It’s really nice to be able to bring it out and discuss it, and know that things are not your fault.
And for me, the beauty of the story is at the start Hera is helping Persephone. It’s very nice in the sense that it’s Hera helping her, but now she can return the favor. In a way, a lot of the story is kind of a redemption arc for Hera. I think at the start of Lore Olympus she’s very just disillusioned about her situation. It’s kind of been the same for thousands of years. And she’s like, “This is it, I guess.” And for Hera, it’s reaching this point where she gets to her baggage and becomes who she’s supposed to be.
io9: Hey, let’s talk the baby—
Smythe: Oh, yes. Let’s talk about the baby.
io9: I am so excited for that, they’re so cute. I hope that we see merchandise because I am in love. We’re seeing Persephone automatically jumping into a maternal sort of instinct, but I’m more curious in regards to Hades. Are we going to see some big generational healing with him and the baby with how he grew up, versus how this opportunity comes for him as a father figure?
Smythe: Yeah, I think that’s a good question. In the case of Dionysus I was kind of afraid to put him in the story as a baby, because I know people have this really knee-jerk reaction to children. But that’s the mythology, though! Like, he comes into the story as a baby. He’s the youngest one in the pantheon. Everyone’s like, “Where’s Dionysus?” and I’m like, “He hasn’t been born yet, and now he is here.” So it’s interesting for him to join the cast this way.
I think with him in particular, he’s more of a fun character and he’s very chaotic in the sense that he doesn’t require much care because he’s an immortal baby. The surprise will be, what you can expect from him as a baby and what he might do as a baby. I think Hades at the moment in the story, he’s kind of—I don’t want to say completing his arc, because he’s still got little bit to go. But I think in a sense, he’s matured and he realizes that he can have a family and he can have these things. He’s at a point in his life where he’s ready and it may not be in the shape that he originally thought, but he’s up to the task—and I think, yeah, it is going to be part of a healing process for him, where he realizes that he can care for someone and he can be paternal and he can do those things. And I think it will make him confront some of his unaired issues and he’ll be able to be a complete character of who he’s meant to be.
io9: You contribute so much to this fandom as far as being very present online and obviously publishing weekly—it just seems like a very monumental task. You have such an incredible team alongside you. How has that fallen into place for you with with your team and getting a system going?
Smythe: I think in the beginning I was kind of apprehensive and I guess scared about having a team because I don’t know how to manage people. I’m like, “I just know how to draw some people,” right? But I don’t know how to add other people into the mix. So it was kind of a daunting task. But I think that there’s that saying about, “If you want a good table, you need to invite more people to the table.” I do think that’s the case. It’s also better for me in terms of health because if I was still doing all of this, it would be a huge “rinse and repeat, go and go again.” I would not be able to make as much as I have made without people helping me. I think it’s actually become a huge source of pride for me to be able to pay people for the creative work, particularly women, and have them come into the industry and make money and get experience, because this is a very hard industry to break into. They’re all extremely talented. Making comics is a very lonely business so it is so nice to have people to chat with and share my success.
io9: You are always so generous when asked about giving advice to writers and I love all the answers you’ve given. But I want to know what are your favorite ways of decompressing and taking breaks? What’s important to you, when you actually have time off, to make time for?
Smythe: I love spending time with my partner and my dog, it’s great. I love to read and I read a lot of novels. I’ve got a big Kindle waiting. And I like to play video games. I actually really like popping on an audio book and just playing Stardew Valley or something. It’s very relaxing. And I just like really low-key gentle stuff. Yeah, cooking, cleaning, organizing things. Like when I went on hiatus, the first thing I did was I popped on an audio book and I cleaned out my whole closet and I washed everything and reorganized everything. It cleans out the vibes of the house when you do finish a project and then you just clean up, it feels great.
Catch up on Lore Olympus via Webtoon, or buy one of the printed volumes online or at your nearest bookstore.
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