New Graphic Novel Channels Folklore of Louisiana Swamp

The location of new graphic novel “Will O’ the Wisp” is inspired by Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Swamp

The location of new graphic novel "Will O’ the Wisp" is inspired by Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Swamp

A will-o’-the-wisp is a natural phenomenon where a pocket of swamp gas is somehow lit, producing a blue flame that hovers a few feet above the swamp. This hard to explain and rarely seen occurrence has different names in different cultures (in Wales, for example, it is known as a “fairy fire”; in Brazil, a “Boitata”), but there is always a strong spiritual mythos behind it. In the new graphic novel “An Aurora Grimeon Story: Will O’ the Wisp,” the story’s namesake not only reflects the setting of the Atchafalaya Swamp in Southern Louisiana but also acts as its sinister and otherworldly villain.

A view of the Atchafalaya Basin waterway

The novel owes its strong sense of place and atmosphere to the experiences of writer Tom Hammock’s father, who grew up in the Atchafalaya Swamp area and learned about its folklore and traditions. According to legend, the will-o’-the-wisp is not a natural phenomenon but actually a piece of hell carried by an evil man, luring travelers to their death in the swamp so he can collect their souls. “Will O’ the Wisp” takes inspiration from this ghost story and explores the swamp’s eerie qualities. The characters themselves also reflect the real-life Louisiana locale with their belief in hoodoo, a folk magic practice in the Southern United States that has roots in West African, Northern European, and Native American cultures.

(Note: To avoid spoilers, lettering has been removed in the above video.)

This is the first in a proposed series about young heroine Aurora Grimeon and her adventures living on the mystical swamp island Ossuary Isle, and it is also the first graphic novel for Hammock and illustrator Megan Hutchison. The novel’s creators are veterans of independent film, working primarily as production designers on recent releases including “You’re Next” and “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.” The fact the protagonist of the story is a young girl is something Hutchison and Hammock hope will draw young female readers who might feel underrepresented in the world of comics and enable the duo to create more stories about young Aurora.

The cover of "Will O’ the Wisp," which will be released January 22

A digital version of “Will O’ the Wisp” is currently available on Comixology in separate issues, but those who wait until the novel is officially released on January 22 will be greeted with a lovely, old-fashioned book complete with a clasp and beautiful binding and paper. Visit their website or follow Ossuary Isle on Facebook for more information. Follow illustrator Megan Hutchison on Twitter at @blackem_art and writer Tom Hammock at @tomhammock.