DC Comics just released their solicitations for all their new comics in June and I am writing Green Arrow #41 with art by Matthew Clark and an awesome cover by Tyler Kirkham!

Cover by Tyler Kirkham

In my story, Ollie escorts a dangerous prisoner during transport for the Justice league, a prisoner he is specifically suited to guard, the dangerous Parasite!

Nothing could possibly go wrong… right? RIGHT?!?

Be sure to pre-order my awesome two-part story at your local comic shop to see what happens when Ollie gets in way over his head.

Be Well,

Earlier this week, I discussed the design process for the three witches, Smertae, Riata and Cait from my new comic series, Toil and Trouble with Kelly & Nichole Matthews. However, what adaptation of Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Macbeth could be complete without Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?

When I approached the design process for the human characters, it was important to me that they be very grounded in reality and match the actual history of the time, so that they would contrast nicely with the supernatural elements of our witches. The real King Macbeth lived in 11th century Scotland, so that is where my research began. I compiled a secret Pinterest board full of all the reference images I could find. Everything from clothes to ships to furniture to archaeological evidence from the time. I even traveled to Scotland to visit museums and castles, taking hundreds of reference photos.

Macbeth design Kyla

Character Design by Kyla Vanderklugt

Remember that I mentioned it can be hard to find images from a specific area and time period and one of my tricks was to look for specific historical figures for reference? Well the people in Macbeth’s area didn’t leave a lot of records about their fashion. But the people that lived to the south of them, the Anglo-Saxons, had a ton of stuff, especially in Macbeth’s time period, where they were fighting the Normans. By looking at examples of their fashion and comparing it to Norman fashion and the few references for Scottish fashion I could find (aided by the local Scottish museums I saw on my trip), I think we were able to come up with some likely outfits for our characters. Special shout-out to the SCA (a group of medieval reenactors who do fabulous research) and the Bayeux Tapestry (a giant, embroidered graphic novel of sorts that shows the Norman Conquest of England). P.S. As a cross-stitcher, I have a special love for this tapestry because a friend told me they got to see it in person and the back is nowhere near “as nice as the front”. In your face ladies who say your back needs to look like your front!

I digress.

So where did we start with Macbeth’s design? Here is my initial description to Kyla Vanderklugt.

Macbeth: A man in his later middle-ages, starting to go gray. Macbeth is still very much a warrior, but is starting to pass his prime (think Eddard Stark from GoT) and his age only seems to compound itself as our story goes on. Still, when he smiles he smiles with his eyes, a dazzling forest green that still look young.

We know that Macbeth was called “ruddy” in descriptions of him, which can mean anything from darker skinned (like you see in Kyla’s design) to essentially tan from being outside, to rosy cheeked, to having red hair. We decided to go with the idea that Macbeth was dark-haired (to contrast with Smertae and Banquo, the two characters around him most often) but tanned from being outside all the time.

Macbeth kickingshoes

Art by Kelly and Nichole Matthews

Also, as I dug deeper, we realized Macbeth was mostly likely born around 1005, so he would only have been 35 at the time he became king. So you see Macbeth got aged down and bulked up a bit in the transition from Kyla to the Matthews’ sisters design. The Scots seemed to make a big deal about their kings being active and physically fit men though, so I think our final designs really fit the bill.

Nitpicker’s note: I did also find reference to Macbeth being “cat eyed” but my sources so completely disagreed on what the heck that meant, I had to disregard it.

Next, to match our lovely Macbeth, we must include our Lady Macbeth to match.

lady macbeth Kyla

Character Design by Kyla Vanderklugt

Ah, Lady Macbeth, one of the most universally hated women in all fiction. Most people don’t realize that she is also based on a real person. The actual Lady Macbeth was named Gruoch and Macbeth was her second husband. She also had a son, Lulach, that she brought to her marriage…and that’s about all we know. No age, no physical descriptions, nada. We can guess she was a bit older than Macbeth (him being her second husband and her being his first wife) and Shakespeare does reference that Lady Macbeth had a child at one point (though he never says what happened to them). Everything else is up for grabs. so here’s where we started when I described her to Kyla.

Lady Macbeth: A middle-aged dark haired woman. Lady Macbeth is the kind of perfect that’s been hollowed out by disappointment. She’s lost  weight at some point and there’s a limpness to her body and her breasts.

And you can see that’s exactly what we got. I love her design and you can see it transition quite well in this flashback from the Matthews’ sisters. She got filled out a bit more, especially in her flashbacks, which are supposed to be Lady Macbeth at her happiest. But, unlike every Hollywood movie ever, she isn’t 18 married to a 50 year old. And while she’s pretty, she’s not a supermodel dropped into 11th century Scotland.

lady macbeth kickingshoes

Flashback Art by Kelly and Nichole Matthews

Some sources indicate she might have had some embroidery on her clothes or more jewelry, but I preferred to give her a slightly more streamlined design so it would stay consistent. Despite my rambley posts, we are a graphic novel, not a history textbook.

Anyway, now that you’ve met the major cast of Toil and Trouble, I hope you’ll come back for more! Stay tuned for future posts looking at background design, cover design, our historical research and the scripting process. 

Toil and Trouble #1 will be available in stores and digitally on September 2nd and can be pre-ordered at your local comic shop with the form below or you can get a subscription at the Boom Studios website.


The central characters in my new comic series, Toil and Trouble are the three witches of Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Macbeth. In the play, these women function as supernatural seers delivering two prophecies to Macbeth that inspire Macbeth’s treachery and eventually lead to his downfall. The premise behind the series is to retell the story of Macbeth from the point of view of these three witches to uncover the true motivation behind their role in Macbeth’s fate.

Smertae rough design

Initial Character Sketch by Sarah Stone

In this series of blog posts, we’ll be looking at the design process for the witches and the thoughts that went into both their look and their characterization in the book. In our initial pitch, all of the witches were going to be completely nude as they are supernatural beings with no need for clothes and a lack of clothes would underscore when our “normal” characters can and can’t see them. (Also, while the entertainment industry seems to almost require partial female nudity, there’s something about non-sexual, full-frontal female nudity that still makes many people uncomfortable. We toyed with the idea of nudity to essentially put our audience on an uneasy footing right from the start). This was later changed to help the book get a teen rating and be more appropriate for schools and libraries. So fair warning, there will be some nudity in these posts.

Our lead character is Smertae who in the play is known as the “Third Witch”. Smertae is sort of the middle sister in our trio of witches and looks like she is in her late twenties. All of the witches are tied to an element and Smertae’s is water. We also wanted to play with the idea of the maiden-mother-crone cycle, so Smertae is representative of the mother. Here were my initial character design directions:

Smertae: the main character.

Element: Water

Smertae design

Final Colored Design by Sarah Stone

Type: Mother

Colors: Red Hair, white skin, blue tattoos. Her tattoos should be almost bruised into her skin. Smertae should have slighty rounded features with wild hair. Her hair should always look like beach hair, like it just dried.

Her familiar, Harpier, is a white crab and frequently put upon, fidgeting constantly.

All of the witches are meant to have supernatural elements that set them apart from the mortal characters in the book. They each have tattoos or magical markings with Smertae’s being done in woad, a blue dye made from plants that the Picts were known to paint themselves with. Smertae also has spikes like a crab that pierce her skin and grow when she uses her magic.

When artist Sarah Stone designed the witches, these were her thoughts behind the design:

Smertae: red hair, loose flowing curls, angular but perhaps the most ‘curvy’, middle height of the three sisters. pale hazel or gray eyes. tiger claw necklace “piercings” built into and around spiral tattoos that look like bruises instead of ink. old scars. Her silhouette is broken by small sharp thorns (like the tiger claws), similarly to a crab they come in threes.

Smertae kyla

Art by Kyla Vanderklugt

Later when we added clothes, we researched how the early Picts wore simple dresses and tunics. Sarah wanted to make sure the dress still felt stylish so she added the cutaways on the arms and legs to show off Smertae’s spikes and tattoos. we also thought it gave her a tattered, more realistic look. If you had spikes coming out of your hips, your skirt wouldn’t last very long either.

One of the coolest things about a character design is seeing how other artists interpret it. After Sarah designed the three witches, cover artist Kyla Vanderklugt and interior artists Kelly and Nichole Matthews had to bring that design to life on the page. The strong elements that were important to us from the start (her hair, her spikes, her dress), are all noticeable in every incarnation even as little aspects may change with each artists’s style.

Smertae preview

Art by Kelly and Nichole Matthews

When the series opens, Smertae is returning to Alba (aka Scotland) after years in exile. She will have to come to terms her fellow witches, Cait and Riata, who have very different plans for the fate of their homeland. Smertae confronts the mistakes of her past, even as she battles for the soul of the man she believes should be Scotland’s king.

Stay tuned for future posts about the designs of Cait, Riata, and some of our other characters. Toil and Trouble will be available in stores and digitally on September 2nd and can be pre-ordered at your local comic shop with the form below.


My creator-owned series The Third Witch is now called Toil and Trouble. Same great book written by me with amazing art by Kelly and Nichole Matthews, but with a new title.

If you’ve already pre-ordered Toil and Trouble under its old title, have no fear. The order code is the same, so your request will still go through. For those of you that haven’t ordered Toil and Trouble yet, we have an updated order form just for you. Procrastinators!Toil_and_Trouble_order_form

Click here for a printable version of the pre-order form.

“But Mairghread,” you might be wondering, “what is this comic all about?”

Toil and Trouble is a perspective adaptation of the classic play, Macbeth, by William Shakespeare. This comic series tells the story of Macbeth from the perspective of the three witches who appear early in the play to deliver a prophecy that Macbeth will soon become king of Scotland. In this story, readers follow Smertae, Cait, and Riata, the fates of Scotland, as they battle each other for the soul of Macbeth and the future of their nation. This is a supernatural horror tale that utilizes the comics medium to delve deeper into Shakespeare’s play and tell an entirely new story.

Pre-ordering is a great way to make sure you get the book, but it also tells stores that this will be a popular book. So if you are looking to support books that you enjoy, make sure to pre-order.

Toil and Trouble will be available on September 2nd. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting some cool behind the scenes looks at the characters, art and writing process, so stay tuned.

Thank You,

SoS-Chaos-Cov-A-Chin-60ce5So do you ever have that dream where one of your professional heroes emails you and asks you to write a book for them? Well, a few months ago that dream came true for me when Gail Simone asked me to write the Chaos special for her upcoming Swords of Sorrow series. Of course, my head exploded, but once I gathered all the pieces I wrote a really cool and nonchalant response email as I secretly said “Yes, Yes, YES!!!”

Swords of Sorrow is a 6-issue event where Gail brings together the coolest heroes of the Dynamite Universe. There will also be special tie-in issues by awesome ladies like Marguerite Bennett, G.Willow Wilson, Erica Schultz, Leah Moore, Emma Beeby, Mikki Kendall, and Nancy A. Collins. I get to write the Chaos special with art by Mirka Andolfo which introduces the antagonists of Gail’s series, Chastity, Purgatori, Mistress Hel, and Bad Kitty. These ladies are deadly and totally out of f*cks to give. They will rip your heart out and smile as they show it you.

Check out the awesome cover by Joyce Chin to the right and check out the full Swords of Sorrow announcement here.

So excited!

Hey everyone!tf 39

It’s Pre-order time. Combiner Wars starts in March and includes the return of Windblade! Stores are now accepting pre-orders for Transformers #39: Combiner Wars Opening Salvo and Windblade #1 which is also Combiner Wars part 1.

To pre-order at your local comic store you just have to go in and ask them to reserve you a copy, if they need the order codes I have listed them below:

Transformers #39: Combiner Wars Opening Salvo –  JAN150434
Windblade #1: Combiner Wars Part 1 – JAN150438

windblade 1Stores have to place their initial orders by January 18th so if you want to ensure you get a copy, pre-order by that date.

If you run into any problems or have any questions about pre-ordering comics, feel free to contact me via the contact button above or on my various social media.

Til All Are One,