Webcomic Formula: An Interview With Hayley Mulcahy

Writer / artist Hayley Mulcahy is a big fan of Formula One and has recently funnelled this passion into her new webcomic Paradiso. I ask her about her Formula One fandom and comics branching out into new areas.

How did you become a fan of Formula One?

I’ve never really been a stranger to it. I remember having Sunday dinners at my nan’s house when I was 5, and in front of me I would see cars flying left, right and centre on the screen. The names Schumacher, Barrichello, Coulthard and Trulli echoed. My dad would often watch a Grand Prix whenever broadcasted and I would look in, but never fully paying attention to it. It would be in 2008 when my interest piqued a bit more from having witnessed Lewis Hamilton take his first title. He was the youngest and first black World Champion, and it was an exciting moment to witness. That same year incidentally, I went onto actually create a race car driver character, but I ended up not doing anything with her for years, despite some attempts to try work her into an F1 related story. Only last year I got the inspiration I needed, and then the true research on the sport begin. And, in turn, I fell in love with the sport in a way I hadn’t previously.

What appeals to you about the sport?

I suppose to me, as an artist, it’s one of the more creative and innovative sports out there. The teams are constantly trying to create a machine that keep on pushing the limits of speed and aerodynamics. There’s a lot of work, care and passion into the cars they create, and it’s ever evolving. Mix that with some incredible human strength that’s needed to pilot these challengers, and also some of the most intense sagas of some of the most extraordinary people to have graced the sport: the early days where there was no fear and ridiculously stupid safety standards; the rivalries which put your skill, career and relationships on the line; and the legends, one of whom we know had even claimed he’d seen God when driving… it’s like an never ending epic of champions.

The characters in Paradiso are big racing fans, is the an autobiographical element to the story?

You could say so! Those early moments would’ve been inspired extremely loosely by the Grand Prixs me and my dad would’ve sat down and watched together, and the times he gave me a try of playing Gran Turismo. But these characters are ultimately different, fictional people. They contain different aspects of life and emotions I’ve experienced and grew from, and mostly my own passion of the sport. I never went on to become a race car driver myself, but who knows. Maybe by the time I’m midway or finished this comic, I’d love to get myself into karting for fun! In that way, it’s like my creations end up influencing myself, like we go hand-in-hand and are an extension of myself. It won’t be cheap but I’d definitely love to try in the future if I can!

The comic is just beginning, do you have hints of some of things we might see storywise?

While my own spin, it’s largely going to be everything inspired by and what you can expect from real life Formula 1. There’ll be growth, failures, deep rivalries, strong expectations, facing inner demons, pushing on despite any obstacle, intense racing and battles, and the bonds of friendship and camaraderie that makes a team strong. I also wish to make this comic accessible for people who may not necessarily know anything about Formula 1, and be an easy enough read for them.

You have used a few different art styles from the painted logo to different elements in the strip. Who are the artists that inspire your work and these choices?

I’ve been inspired by a few different artists. I love the ethereal and symbolic emotion that Naoko Takeuchi captured in her manga Sailor Moon. Hirohiko Araki opened my eyes to a sense of flamboyance and larger-than-life characters that I wish to unapologetically portray. Western artists like Steve Purcell, André Franquin and Janry have inspired my sense of movement and expression also. All of these artists have an extremely strong sense of character design, and it’s my goal to make instantly recognisable characters. The look and feel of a lot of 80s and early 90s manga and anime are hugely inspirational also, because they give me a dreamy, nostalgic feeling which I find very soothing. I also just love to experiment and try new techniques. And anything to help ease the chronic pain I get while drawing!

Your strip reminds me of Manga as you see a huge variety of genres tailored to. Do you think western comics need to move in this direction? Maybe to connect to different people?

I think Western comics have been branching out more and more into numerous different topics in the last decade. And if you consider European comics Western too, they’ve been doing it for years! But I think it’s more so the exposure that these types of stories get, and they’re often independent works or webcomics. It’s because there’s no set requirements for what you wish to create when you go indie, as oppose to the bigger publishers. But even publishers like IDW, BOOM! and Dark Horse have already a great selection of varied stories and different art styles. I wish just for the mainstream audience to consider these the norm as well, instead of just thinking of superhero comics. While those are largely important and have paved the way comics as an art form in general, I wish for people to realise the sheer amount of stories covered elsewhere and that there really is something for everyone. They are out there, they just need to get more recognition. Creators should create from their heart and what they love above anything else.

Hayley will be appearing at Cork Comic Expo 2 on April 14th at Mahon Point in Cork. Not only will she be selling cool stuff, she will be doing art classes for children. You can check out her webcomic here.