Today marks the 10th anniversary of HeLL(P), an incredible milestone for the indie comic book series from Oliver Levang and C. Vinter! Taking its readers to the depths of hell one page at a time via Tapas, HeLL(P)'s unique vision for the afterlife will have you instantly invested in this world, its characters, and the competition that ties them all together.

In my Q&A with Oliver Levang, we dive into the origins of HeLL(P), reflect on the journey the series has taken over the last decade, and discuss what's next. To celebrate the momentus occasion, we have two brand-new HeLL(P) illustrations and we also have two videos: one that gives a behind-the-scenes look at Oliver's illustration and another video that provides new readers with a look into the series!

Congratulations on ten years of HeLL(P)! For those who may be new to HeLL(P), how did you and C. Vinter come together to create this series?

Oliver Levang: Thank you! Teaming up with C. Vinter happened quite naturally. She’s my girlfriend and we always discuss stories and characters. In fact, it’s probably a big reason why we ended up dating in the first place. 

Anyway, the longer explanation and how HeLL(P) was born comes here: Most old readers may not know this either, but HeLL(P) started as a mash of a couple of things. In high school I made some drawings of a couple of new characters. One with knife blades poking out of his skin and one who would always wear a hoodie to hide a smashed back head (an idea that came from a really bad hair day, hah!). Unrelated, I wrote a short story for a school assignment that I thought was quite interesting. I later combined the story with these two weird characters and suddenly I had the start of a comic idea. 

I started making some comic pages, similar to the beginning of chapter one, but I had a lot of trouble with the PC I was using at the time, and I wasn’t really sure where the story was going, so I abandoned it. 

The story never left my mind completely though, so a few years later, during my university years, it started gnawing at the back of my mind. 

I was really intrigued by the idea of making comics, but I also found it very intimidating. As many other artists, I thought I had to improve anatomy, backgrounds etc etc before heading into a comic. I kept making excuses until one day I read something really simple and obvious by a webcomic artist I was following at the time. I don’t remember what it said word by word, but the point was “The only way to learn how to make comics is by making comics”. In that moment, something just clicked and that was the final push I needed. JUST DO IT!

Many webcomic artists get stuck in a loop of making 10 pages, then redoing them over and over because they improve and get caught in an endless loop. I wanted to avoid that, so I decided to live by the rules “The next page will be better” and “The show must go on”, and I still do! 

Most of the ingredients for a comic were settled, but I wouldn’t let myself start until I knew a possible ending. Then after forcing (just kidding… or am I?) Vinter and another friend of us to discuss this new story for a WHOLE DAY UNTIL WE KNEW WHERE IT WAS GOING, we finally, after hours and hours, came up with the idea of Hell and that they were competing for a ticket to Heaven. 

Now I had characters and a sense of direction for the story, but my mind is easily distracted and I have a tendency of overthinking, so I soon after asked if Vinter could do this with me. Somehow it felt easier if it was something we would do together, and she had already been so involved with the story up until this point, so it felt very natural to have her as part of the team. 

I find it easier to work on a project when there are some expectations. I also knew that if I at some point got completely stuck, which happened a few times earlier in the story, she could help me storyboard and so on. She also designed a looot of the characters. 

Nowadays I do most of the work on my own, but all of the storyboarding aka writing part goes through her a few times before anything is set in stone, and we always spend a few evenings discussing possibilities and plot points together before I start working on a new chapter. 

Being an episodic series that is released every week on a per-page basis, why did you feel that Tapas was the best format for this story?

Oliver Levang: Honestly it’s more about habit and a result of posting over so many years, than a conscious decision. 

It started on deviant art and smackjeeves. I also used a website called MangaMagazine, which changed its name to Inkblazers… then it died… 

I liked Smackjeeves, a friend even made a HeLL(P) themed template for it and it looked awesome! But suddenly one day I couldn’t log in anymore and later the website was dead too…

I’ve been thinking that I should start posting HeLL(P) to webtoons too, and what’s a better fitting date than on the 10th anniversary?! This might also be a good opportunity for new readers to jump on board!

How has your creative process changed over the course of HeLL(P)'s release?

Oliver Levang: Not much actually! The process is almost the same. The only significant difference art wise is that in the first few chapters I wrote the dialogue by hand, directly on the original page. It quickly became tiring and hard to edit, so I started adding it digitally. 

For each chapter though, I like changing up the colored textures I add on top of the originals. This process may make some chapters seem more complex color wise than others. 

When the comic started, one of my main goals was to find a drawing approach that looked cool but was easy and didn’t require too much effort. Usually I try to have a buffer of a couple of pages, but if I don’t, the idea was that I should be able to finish a page in a day if I had to. 

You have a dedicated following for this series. Can you talk about interacting with readers over the years over social media and directly on Tapas? Has that informed the direction the series has taken?

Oliver Levang: I always wish I was better at interacting with the readers. Tapas isn’t great for that, but I always read and respond to comments or questions! I also try to make extra artworks for other occasions like valentines and halloween. 

I’ve made a few friends through the comic, and one friend especially turned into a proper buddy who I hang out with regularly online. Now our conversations are normal hah, but in the beginning when we started hanging, we could talk about HeLL(P) and the characters for hours and hours. 

If anyone outside Vinter and myself has influenced the comic, it’s got to be him pointing out things and putting them in a different light. There’s not been any huge changes, but there’s been times I’ve kept his comments (and complaints! Haha) in mind if similar situations have appeared in the comic, to avoid it repeating itself, or if something’s been unclear in previous scenes. 

Your vision for Hell is a welcome departure from traditional Catholic depictions of hell that we usually see in movies and other media. Can you talk about your inspirations and vision for the world of this comic book series?

Oliver Levang: Oh lord, I need to reflect on this. There’s no specific sources of inspiration, at least not that I can think of right now. Both Vinter and I have always been interested in the afterlife in different mythologies, but I personally never delved deep into research about this. 

In general we liked the idea of an overpopulated Hell, to the point where they couldn’t process more people into the punishment-system. That’s basically what our Hell is. It’s divided into inner and outer Hell. The inner Hell is, according to the stories and rumors, where people receive their eternal punishment (Which is what will happen if the contestants in HeLL(P) die during the game), and the outer Hell is where people try to live their best lives, similarly to on earth, only shittier. It’s smelly, the wifi sucks, things are overpriced, you never know if you’ll get food poisoning etc. There’s also places that are way worse, and places that are a lot better, pretty even. 

Another thing about our Hell is that it’s unfair. When they come to Hell everyone get a power. Some people have really cool and epic powers (laser bomb eyes! Super strength! Fireproof!) while some people get really weird and maybe silly powers (like making bubbles, or transforming your fingertip into a hand). 

Most people also have a wound that never heals. These can be as small as a little scratch, or so big that they can’t really do anything (Not really shown in the comic, but that’s also because these people wouldn’t be able to join the contest) 

I think the only specific inspiration I can think of is Beetlejuice, hah. I really like how disturbing and gory the afterlife is there, but how mundane it seems to those who are there. 

Oh wait, who am I kidding. Dorohedoro has always been a big inspiration to me. I think the roughness of that manga is a huge inspiration to the visual language and the design of our Hell. I also think Dorohedoro, and other manga in general, is what inspired the balance between humor and seriousness. 

Another weird inspiration is how crazy news, gossip magazines and tv can be sometimes. I honestly don’t really consume this, I live under a rock most of the time, but I’m fascinated by it. Because the competition is aired on the main tv channel, HOB, we have a lot of fun playing with exaggerated (and sometimes made up!) reports on what goes down in the game. 

Like all good stories, this series takes place in a fantastical world, but is rooted in great characters. With longform storytelling like this, how has the development of the world and characters changed in ways that you may not have expected when you started this creative journey?

Oliver Levang: When making stories it’s always interesting to see what happens when the characters come to life on paper. I think as the story has progressed, No1 has gotten more complex than I imagined in the beginning. This isn’t something that shows much in the comic as he’s quite an expressionless character, but it’s more a sense I have when I draw and write him. Come to think of it, this applies to several characters. 

The most surprising character development has got to be George on Team 3, and how he grew into a proper character. Some characters have been created at random when we needed them, but most of the characters in the main teams were made in advance. When we worked on chapter 4, we just quickly designed team 3 and didn’t think much of it. Then while making the chapter, I quite liked George and I quickly got a sense of what he’s like. Later we decided to have George appear in chapter 6, and then he really grew on us. 

World wise, I always intended to balance the brutality of Hell, but also the wonders and beauty of it. I love mountain hiking and nature, and the idea of the characters passively reflecting on how nature in Hell, outside the big cities, can be beautiful too is something I wanted to bring into the comic. I hope people can pick up on this, but I also hope to bring some even more powerful scenes like this later. 

Now having reached the ten year mark, can you talk about what's next for the world of HeLL(P)?

Oliver Levang: Recently we had a more serious talk about the coming chapters. We know the ending of the story, we know most of the challenges they’re facing, and we’ve had some specific scenes and places we wanted them to go. 

They’re now in the 4th out of 7 challenges. They’ve been through a lot of the places and situations we had planned. 

There’s a lot left, but(!) suddenly we realized that we can’t just keep playing forever. We’re at a point where we have to plan the coming events of the story more carefully. It’s time to pick up some of the leads we’ve put out there and reel them in. 

The story has also progressed slowly, but as I’ve gotten more experienced as a comic artist and writer, it’s time to pick up the pace a bit. 

Again, there’s a lot left of the story, but as the competition gets tighter, the stakes will be higher and I think it’s inevitable that the story will get a little darker as it continues too!! I’ll make sure to throw a good handful of comedy in there too. HeLL(P) will never just be doom and gloom.


Make sure to check out both HeLL(P) 10th anniversary videos and illustrations below! To catch up on ten years of HeLL(P), visit:

And as Oliver mentioned, HeLL(P) is now starting to be posted to Webtoon:

By Oliver Levang: 

By C. Vinter:

Additional illustrations, including the very first drawings of No1 and No4: