The macabre mysteries within a true-crime subscription game become all too real for a group of teenage friends in the new comic book series Jill and the Killers. Written by Olivia Cuartero-Briggs and featuring artwork by Roberta Ingranata, the first issue of Jill and the Killers is now available from Oni Press, and we caught up with Olivia in a new Q&A feature to discuss society's obsession with true crime, the importance of building believable characters, and teaming up with artist Roberta Ingranata to bring this story to life!
Below, you can read our full Q&A with Olivia, and we also have a look at preview pages from Jill and the Killers #1!
Thank you for taking the time to answer questions for us, Olivia, and congratulations on your new comic book series Jill and the Killers! How and when did you initially get the idea for this series?
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs: Of course! Thank you so much for your interest in the series! I’ve always been into horror and true crime. Like really into it, ever since I was eight years old. Then, about four years ago, now, I got really into subscription boxes, and started hearing about Hunt a Killer, and various other subscription based crime games where each month you get another clue to solve. I thought it was brilliant, and couldn’t help but wonder - what if you got one of these games and suddenly realized it wasn’t a game at all, but clues to an actual unsolved murder. That was the seed that got me excited. I had just recently met some of the folks over at Oni Press through my amazing friend, Adam Glass. I pitched them just that seed of an idea, and an all-female crime-solving crew, and everything grew really organically from there.
I absolutely love how you dive into society’s obsessions with true-crime shows, podcasts, and subscription boxes. What is it about the true-crime genre in particular that made you want to explore it as a central element of Jill and the Killers?
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs: There are a couple reasons I decided to start the story with a school-wide obsession with true crime. 1. It felt real and relevant. As a society, I think we do have an obsession with crime, particularly women and girls. And that’s really interesting to me, because we are most often the victims. There’s something psychologically compelling about that. 2. With Jill having been a victim of crime herself, it felt like a really dynamic character moment - that Jill, still clearly traumatized from the disappearance of her mother, would choose to play this potentially triggering, macabre game, just to get back in her friends’ good graces. To me, it illustrated just how badly she wants to belong, and for everything to feel normal again. And 3, there’s a lot going on in the true crime world that fascinates me, particularly how marginalized groups are preyed upon with little or no justice served. My dream of dreams is that folks love the series, and I get to craft several more arcs for our girls that explore these issues in more depth, while moving their fictionalized arcs forward.
I really enjoy how you write the dialogue for the teen characters in Jill and the Killers—the jargon of Jill and her friends feels both realistic and distinctly unique. How important was it for you to write dialogue that was believable while also being cleverly self-aware?
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs: Characters are everything to me. When I craft really distinct characters with unique voices, wants, needs, and flaws, they tell me their story. All I have to do is write it down. Additionally, in comics, as in narrative drama, you should be able to tell who is speaking without even having to look at where that bubble’s tail is pointing. That’s always my goal in any book that I write. I don’t want my readers to have to do any work in that regard, I just want them to enjoy the read and to disappear into the story.
Roberta Ingranata’s amazing artwork pairs wonderfully with your prose for Jill and the Killers, along with great lettering by Haley Rose-Lyon and excellent coloring by Warnia K. Sahadewa and Rebecca Nalty. What was it about Roberta’s visual style that made her the perfect fit to help bring Jill and the Killers to life?
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs: Roberta is one of the best in the business when it comes to capturing emotion, not just in the facial expressions of the characters, but in the background, and even the layouts. When you are writing a book about grounded, dynamic teenagers, this is absolutely essential. These aren’t girls that necessarily say how they feel. They have egos and secrets and a lot of feels they keep hidden from their friends, but the audience needs to know where they are regardless of what they’re saying and doing. Roberta gets this innately, and brings it with every single issue. Not only that, but she’s a joy to work with. I just adore her to the moon and back.
The characters in Jill and the Killers each feel really fleshed-out and real. How much time did you spend outlining their backstories and personalities before writing this series?
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs: The true and annoying answer to that is, as much time as I needed. Every story has different needs when it comes to development. For Jill and the Killers, Jill took precedence, obviously. Once I fleshed her out to the point where I could feel her - where I felt like I could imagine her sitting across from me and having a conversation with her - I moved on to her father and Ginger. Their characters and backstories were created to highlight, challenge, and inform Jill’s arc. And then, with Cher, Clyde, and O’Brien, I discovered them through the process of outlining and writing the books.
The initial arc of Jill and the Killers is four issues, but do you have plans to expand this series beyond that if given the opportunity?
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs: Hells yes. I love hanging out with this crew, I love working with Oni Press and Roberta… I could write this series for years, and I have so many stories I want to tell. Bring it. I’m so ready!
What has it been like to team up with Oni Press as you prepare to release Jill and the Killers into the world?
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs: So. Much. Fun. Honestly. I could go on and on about how cool I feel having an Oni book out there and why, but you already know how cool their books are and how great their reputation is. What many folks might not know is that everyone in the company is accessible to the creators, from the editors, to the publicity department, to Hunter himself. Whatever you need, they try and do it for you. Oni is a company that truly respects their creators, and I cannot tell you what a difference that makes. Now that I’ve done a book with them, I’m never letting them go. You hear that, guys? You’re stuck with me!
Ultimately, what do you hope readers take away from Jill and the Killers?
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs: Wow… there’s so much… but I’m going to try and distill it… Of course I hope to hook readers, scare them, and keep them on the edge of their seat for all four books… but I guess, more than that, I hope readers gain a sense of belonging. I hope they see themselves in Jill, and Ginger, and Clyde… I hope that reading this book lets someone out there know that their weird is awesome, and that whatever they are going through is okay. You’re not alone. I get you, Jill gets you, and when it feels like everything sucks and no one understands, you can pick up this book and hang out with her and her kooky friends.
What advice would you give to aspiring comic book writers who are just getting started?
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs: Stay positive and keep writing. That’s everything. You can do anything you want in this life, you just have to work for it, and stay positive. Even when it hurts. You can do this. There’s room for you, I promise.
In addition to writing comic books, you’ve also written for film and television. Have your experiences writing for the screen helped your approach to writing comics and graphic novels?
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs: Absolutely. A big part of writing for TV is hitting your act breaks. Meaning, making sure you are consistently moving your story forward with big moments, reveals, and twists that keep the audience engaged. In comic books, you have a big “act break” at the end of each 20 pages, so having that training has been invaluable. I also find that the in-depth process of creating character for film, TV, and stage as well, has consistently informed how I craft characters for comic books. Comics is just another dramatic art form to me. I find the process very similar. The biggest difference in comics is that the stories tend to move a bit faster.
With the 48-page first issue of Jill and the Killers coming out on January 31st from Oni Press, do you have any other upcoming projects that you can tease for our readers?
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs: Of course I do! I’ve been working with the amazing folks over at Maverick on the continuation of the Fate: Winx series, and the first book, Dark Destiny, will hit shelves this summer. I have another unannounced graphic novel project with them, as well as a super fun and creepy 90’s monster story with Humanoids, and an adult comic book series with Mad Cave that I can’t tell you about yet either, except to say that it’s the most violent and personal thing I’ve ever written. I can’t wait to share them all!
Thank you very much for your time, Olivia!
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs: Thank you!
Previous Press Release: PORTLAND, OR - Just revealed at New York Comic-Con 2023, Oni Press, the multiple Eisner and Harvey Award-winning publisher of graphic fiction for all ages, is proud to reveal the variant covers for JILL AND THE KILLERS #1 – a razor-sharp teenage thriller where teenager Jill Estrada finds herself caught in a true-crime subscription mystery box that’s anything but a fantasy. Launching with a double-sized, 48-page first issue on January 31, 2024 from writer Olivia Cuartero-Briggs (Mary Shelly Monster Hunter) and artist Roberta Ingranata (Witchblade, Doctor Who), JILL AND THE KILLERS #1 is the next release under the ONI 2024 banner – five propulsive new monthly comic series from a wide-ranging cast of award-winning creators and fast-rising stars that fully embrace the potential of the comics medium to invert, collide, and reinvent the foundational genres of horror, science fiction, crime, fantasy, and beyond:
INVASIVE #1 by Cullen Bunn & Jesús Hervás in December
JILL AND THE KILLERS #1 by Olivia Cuartero-Briggs & Roberta Ingranata in January
CEMETERY KIDS DON’T DIE #1 by Zac Thompson & Daniel Irizarri in February
NIGHT PEOPLE #1 by Barry Gifford, Chris Condon, Brian Level, Alexandre Tefenkgi, Artyom Topilin & more in March
AKỌGUN, BRUTALIZER OF GODS #1 by Murewa Ayodele & Dotun Akande in April
Returning to school after the unsolved disappearance of her mother, teenager Jill Estrada can’t wait for things to return to normal . . . even as her friends become compulsively obsessed with Box Killers, a true-crime subscription game where each month's "unsolved case" is custom-tailored to the life of its player. There’s only one catch: Jill’s game seems to be all too real . . . and when her clues begin to connect to a series of disappearances in her town, Jill and her friends must uncover the truth behind these mysterious crimes before one of their own becomes the next victim.
“Fans of true crime and murder mysteries will love this exciting new series from rising stars Olivia Cuartero-Briggs and Roberta Ingranata,” said editor Megan Brown. “With powerful messages about the effects of trauma and the importance of friendship, and dynamic art that shines on the page, this woman-driven creative team has crafted a story that is both heart-wrenching and hair-raising. We can’t wait for readers to unbox the first issue!”
“It's hard to adequately express how proud I am of this series and all the incredible women who put their big, brilliant brains into bringing it to life,” said Olivia Cuartero-Briggs. “Jill and the Killers is both a love letter to, and a very direct, female subversion of, the great dude-driven, coming-of-age stories I loved as a kid. It's my gift to my daughters, and all the other kick@$$ chicks (and dudes!) out there who love the macabre and aren't afraid to be weird. And finally, it is the grand debut of my goofy sense of humor on the page. I hope I make you laugh, but if not, you've got the stunning artwork of Roberta Ingranata to admire instead!”
“Jill and the Killers is the answer to the nostalgia and love we had (and still have) towards all the 80s and 90s films of our childhood,” said Roberta Ingranata. “It's a compelling story, full of connections, feelings and emotional depth, with a side of gripping mystery. I loved the plot from the first lines, and I think that Olivia was very good at conveying the love for the past and re-proposing it in a modern way. It's a story that I loved, and I hope that our passion can reach readers!”
Featuring covers by Sanya Anwar (Clean Room), Marguerite Sauvage (Black Panther, Faith), Alison Sampson (Hit-Girl), and Celia Lowenthal (Dungeons & Dragons), JILL AND THE KILLERS #1 is available in stores January 31, 2024.
About the Author
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs is an award-winning dramatic writer, fitness junky, and girl mom, born and raised in New York City. She is the author of Mary Shelley Monster Hunter and Silver City with Aftershock Comics, as well as the upcoming Fate: The Winx Saga graphic novel series with Maverick (2024/2025). OCB is also a film and TV writer, whose most recent credits include Queen of the South and The Arrangement.
About the Illustrator
Roberta Ingranata is an Italian artist who made her debut with several Kickstarters before working with various publishing houses on regular series, including Robyn Hood and Van Helsing with Zenescope Entertainment, Withcblade with Top Cow, and Doctor Who with Titan Comics. She has also collaborated with Aftershock, IDW, BOOM! Studios, and Marvel.
About the Publisher
Founded in 1997, Oni Press has a 25-year history as one of the industry’s most respected and acclaimed publishers of award-winning comic books and graphic novels with titles including Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim, K. O’Neill’s Tea Dragon Society, Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt's The Sixth Gun, Maia Kobabe's Gender Queer, Ezra Claytan Daniels' Upgrade Soul, Brenna Thummler’s Sheets trilogy, and many hundreds more. In 2019, Oni Press merged with Lion Forge Comics – the Eisner Award-winning independent comic book publisher founded by Academy Award-winning producer and entrepreneur David Steward II – to create one of the largest, independent libraries of comics content anywhere in media. The Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group now exists as a publishing subsidiary of Steward’s diversified global media company, Polarity.
The Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group publishes more than 60 original and licensed graphic novels annually, in addition to an extensive list of periodical comics.
Cover Art by Sanya Anwar:
Cover Art by Marguerite Sauvage:
Cover Art by Alison Sampson:
Cover Art by Celia Lowenthal:
Cover Art by Sanya Anwar:
Cover Art by Marguerite Sauvage: