Patrick Meighan has written for Family Guy. He’s written for the Oscars. And now he’s writing about Los Angeles in the 1850s, and he’s doing it for free with She Kills.
She Kills has one knife, one daughter, and zero yū-ah’s to give. Based on historical events of the indigenous southwest, She Kills struggles to survive lynch mobs, lawless psychopaths, and worst of all, her daughter, Joaquin Dos, who is about to turn 13. Dos will soon learn what kind of person her mother really `is. And She Kills will learn just how far her daughter is willing to go to claim her independence. With violence and evil trying to drive a wedge between them at every step, if they survive, will the fury leave deep, debilitating scars?
With art from GABO, She Kills is an entertaining and extremely violent tale that moves at a quick clip. I had the chance to talk to Patrick Meighan over email to ask about how the book came together, how his other writing jobs impacted his comic book work, and much more.
Andy Burns: Tell me Patrick, what inspired She Kills?
Patrick Meighan: An unholy stew. I’m a big history nerd and about a decade ago I started reading Kevin Starr’s series on California, which led to me intentionally drowning myself in every piece of written material I could find on (and from) this state in the 18th century. It was all so violent and weird! I knew I’d have to someday write about it.
But when I finally got going on the project, my daughter went and hit her teen years… which is its own kind of “violent and weird”. Ultimately, I ended up with a story that follows this dysfunctional, unsettling parent-child relationship, set against a very dysfunctional, unsettling historical episode.
Andy Burns: I’m a Canadian who loves California — the music I love — The Beach Boys, The Doors, the Byrds; I’ve read lots of books about the state, even L.A. itself. Can you tell me how you discovered the cultures in the foundation of Los Angeles?
Patrick Meighan: I came to L.A. for college in 1990. I moved here from rural Washington state, and at first, I somehow felt like it was my job to shit on Los Angeles at every opportunity (force of habit, I guess). No sports fan chants “Beat Tacoma”, but everyone chants “Beat L.A.” Anyway, I eventually noticed things shifting for me when I’d go back north to visit friends, and they’d slag L.A. (saying all the same crap I’d always said), and suddenly I’m defending the place. Now I’ll never go back. For all of its faults, Los Angeles is the best city in the world. I’ll go to my grave believing that!
Andy Burns: How did you wind up working with artist GABO on She Kills?
Patrick Meighan: All the credit for that goes to my incredible editor, Ashley V. Robinson. She truly was my sherpa at every step of this process… she had to be, ‘cause at the time, I knew absolutely nothing about the comics world! She and GABO had been in each others’ orbits for quite a while, and when it came time for Ashley and me to find the artist who could build this world up from (literally) dust, GABO was her first suggestion, and it was a goddamn bullseye. She Kills wouldn’t be a fraction of what it is without GABO’s genius, or without the lettering of Taylor Esposito, or Adam Gorham’s covers. I just got so undeservedly lucky with each and every one of those folks.
Andy Burns: She Kills is hyper-violent at times— that’s a compliment, by the way. To me, it has the same sort of aesthetic as Ennis/Dillon’s preacher. How much of that was specifically in your script, and how much was left for GABO to just go wild as it were?
Patrick Meighan: When you’re talking about Los Angeles in 1850, the violence is inescapably baked into the cake. This was an era when L.A. only had about a thousand people in it, and yet it averaged a murder a day. I mean, do the math: within a year, a full third of the city’s population died from a stabbing, or shooting, or strangulation, or from vigilante lynchings in response to the same. On a per-capita basis, L.A. was the murder capital of the planet. For better or worse, any honest story about this place and time will be a violent story.
Andy Burns: Why release She Kills for free?
Patrick Meighan: There’s really only one thing I care about: sharing the story with as many readers as humanly possible. That’s it. That decision was a result of just how much has been poured into She Kills. Starting with all of that reading and research, and then the consultation of an elder from one of the local First Nation communities, who read every single draft and who gave me an even deeper understanding of the times and the people. Then you mix in the incredible bonzo creative work of the comic industry creatives I mentioned earlier… it’s just been an incredible journey for this project!
Andy Burns: How did the work you’ve done on Family Guy or the Oscars inform your writing on She Kills?
Patrick Meighan: Well, in all cases I’m just scribbling something that’s (at best) a ragged piece of a theoretical whole that’ll never actually exist unless or until it’s visualized and depicted by people who are way smarter and more talented than me. The artists at Family Guy are absolute savants. Every single day they’re receiving scripts that are packed full of ludicrous shit that’s logically impossible to create. And every single day, they find ways to create it. After 16 years there, I’ve just gotten used to trusting in genius artists to save my ass, which is a bad habit, and one that I’ve absolutely carried with me into She Kills. But yet again, along comes a genius artist, GABO, who routinely does the impossible and saves my ass. What can I say? I’m a lucky dude.
Andy Burns: What’s your writing process, for She Kills and your other work? Do you have music on? What do you listen to if so? What time of day works best for you?
When I’m trying to get a story worked out, I gotta be moving. I go for lots of long walks with a notepad and pen in my pocket and just jot things down as they come to me. I can’t sit stationary and hope that a story will arrive, because all that arrives is a nap. Now, when it’s time to actually do some actual writing, that’s when I’ll finally sit down at a keyboard, always in different venues (I switch around to different coffee shops and diners), and always with Latin jazz in my headphones. Also mid-century boleros, like Los Panchos or Los Dandys. That’s the most beautiful music in the world, right there. As for the time of day: my writing usually has to happen in the morning time, or it usually won’t happen at all.
Andy Burns: Finally, what are you reading right now that people should be checking out?
Patrick Meighan: At this specific moment, I’m reading The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. It’s about the 1918-19 flu pandemic. It’s obviously a pretty nerve-wracking bedtime read just now, I’m not quite sure why I’m choosing to subject myself to it. I actually checked the last copy out of the LAPL right before everything shut down indefinitely. Looks like it’s gonna be in my possession for a while longer.
She Kills is broken up into a three-part volume, with the first slated for release April 8, 2020 on www.shekillscomic.com, and the subsequent parts to be released May 13th and June 10th. All parts of She Kills are free.
Thanks to Patrick Meighan for talking to Biff Bam Pop! and to Melissa Meszaros at Don’t Hide PR for making it happen.