Interview: David Jesus Vignolli on Archaia/BOOM! Studios’ A Girl in the Himalayas

A Girl in the Himalayas

A Girl in the Himalayas

A young girl is brought to a sanctuary deep in the valleys of the Himalayas for her protection. But her presence could lead to destruction of this magical place in Archaia/BOOM! Studios’ A Girl in the Himalayas, an original graphic novel by David Jesus Vignolli. Westfield’s Roger Ash went to Vignolli to learn more about his debut graphic novel.

Westfield: How did you come up with the story of A Girl in the Himalayas?

David Jesus Vignolli: Himalayas have fascinated me since my childhood. When I turned sixteen I started to practice meditation. I got to know many folklore stories of sages and different beings living in those mountains and those stories fuelled my imagination. A few years ago I finally got the chance to visit the Himalayas. I was simply overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and serenity expressed by the nature there. One day me and my wife wanted to visit a temple half a day climb from the place where we were staying. We started our journey a bit late and the climb took us longer than expected. While we were climbing what was at times dangerously steep terrain, I realized how insignificant one human life is in the face of those majestic mountains. Nature is a tough and merciless teacher, she teaches us how to be alert and focused for example. A moment of distraction and we could fall off the cliff. But at the same time she is caring and comforting.

I imagined how a small girl who got lost in the mountains would feel and what kind of adventures she could have. A Girl in the Himalayas for me is a story of empowerment about a girl who wants to find her place in a world full of challenges and danger.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the story and who are some of the characters readers will meet?

Vignolli: It’s a modern fairy tale about a girl who gets lost in the mysterious Himalayan valleys and discovers a fantastic new world.

The girl is called Vijaya and is now taken care of by two immortal warriors – Prasad and Vasu. Vijaya starts a new life in this place full of exotic elementals and magnificent landscapes. She loves the Sanctuary and the elemental beings that inhabit it, but she soon discovers that not all beings share her feelings. Some elementals fear humans due to the chaos and destruction they cause. What is this dangerous species doing in their paradise?

Prasad knows Vijaya, an innocent child, is no threat to their haven, but Vasu is concerned that when Vijaya grows up she’ll become just another unpredictable human being capable of making bad choices, capable of bringing the Sanctuary as they know it to an end.

Westfield: How much world building did you do for the story?

Vignolli: There was a lot of world building involved. A Girl in the Himalayas is part of a very rich universe me and my brother, Daniel, created. We were inspired by Himalayan and Indian mythologies. We love these cultures and we noticed there are not many stories based on them.

We focused on creating characters and developing exciting arcs for them. We didn’t focus much on maps or demographics. We wanted this world to be as mysterious as possible. A world that is slowly revealed to the reader.

In short, A Girl in the Himalayas is just the top of the iceberg.

Westfield: Are the elementals and other characters in the sanctuary based on characters from myth and legend?

Vignolli: The water elementals are based on the Nagas from the Hindu mythology and the Yeti is a legend of the Himalayas. Apart from them, the other elementals were not based on any specific culture. I wanted to personify the invisible forces of nature and shape them around Vijaya’s journey. She had fear in her heart so I created an elemental to work that out.

The important thing for me was to show that nature is always trying to purify us. But at the same time, nature is beyond our understanding. It’s wild and cannot be controlled. That’s why the elementals in this book are so mysterious. They are animal-like, beyond the definition of good or bad.

Westfield: Vijaya seems very much like a real child. Was it challenging to keep her “in character”?

Vignolli: I think it wasn’t so challenging. Her dialog and actions came to me very spontaneously as she would be standing behind me dictating what to write. I have a niece also called Vijaya and she’s pretty much like the character in the book.

I was always very interested in psychology and anthropology. I’m fascinated by how people can be so different and at the same time how they can be so similar and repeat certain patterns. Our human attention moves towards certain things based on our culture, families, beliefs, etc…

Children are more free from cultural conditionings, they are much more spontaneous. I love the way they bring “mess” and at the same time so much joy to the people around them. And Vijaya is no different.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Vignolli: If one day you find yourself lost in the Himalayas, call for Vijaya. She might help you.


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