NUTMEG is a coming-of-age culinary crime comic published by Action Lab Entertainment, which originally debuted in April 2015. From creators James F. Wright and Jackie Crofts, the story is about a pair of junior high school girls, Poppy Pepper and Cassia Caraway, who get in way over their heads when they concoct batches of super addictive brownies. When the girls prank a pompous rival, they find themselves building a criminal empire with their irresistible brownies. Walking a line between Mean Girls meets Breaking Bad, this is a book primarily aimed at readers aged 11 and up.
The series is 15 total chapters, and is available in comic shops domestic and international, as well as digitally via Comixology. There are three trade paperback collections, Early Fall: Taste Buddies; Late Fall: Brownie Points; and Early Winter: Femme Brûlée compiling issues 1-3, 4-6, and 7-9, respectively. After a brief hiatus, the series will return in early 2018 with the release of issue 10, “350 Degrees of Separation,” followed by issues 11 and 12, and a fourth trade paperback collection, Late Winter: Coven Cleaner, thereafter.
The Fall arc of NUTMEG (collecting the first six issues) is now on Kickstarter in a brand-new hardcover format! PopCultHQ had the privilege of chatting with the creative, culinary crime comic couple about the series and this new compiled hardcover that’s a must-have for bookshelves everywhere!
What people are saying about Nutmeg:
“This is the kind of comic we need more of; intelligent accessible and creative that is perfect for getting young adults into reading comics.” – Comic Spectrum
“Nutmeg is exactly what we need more of in the comic industry, and hopefully this series becomes the hit it deserves to be.” – Graphic Policy
“It’s an all-ages tale that is willing to have over the top fun while taking just a light and intriguing walk on the mysterious side.” – Comicosity
“The spice puns will never not be funny.” – PopOptiq
PopCultHQ’s Creator Spotlight:
James F. Wright & Jackie Crofts of NUTMEG
PopCultHQ: NUTMEG is your “YA culinary coming-of-age comic about crime, baking, and growing up.” For someone new to the NUTMEG title, can you explain briefly about the narrative and how you’ve made that combination a successful recipe?
James F. Wright: NUTMEG is the story of Poppy Pepper and Cassia Caraway, a pair of 8th graders who plot to undermine the brownie-baking event of their rival, rich girl queen bee Saffron Longfellow, and develop an illicit brownie empire in the process. Jackie, my collaborator and friend, and I talked a lot about what we wanted this book to be, and incorporating elements from teen detective stories while focusing instead on the criminal side of things made the most sense. A Girl Scouts-esque pastry-centric event was the perfect setting for things to unfold, and then get well out of Poppy and Cassia’s control.
PopCultHQ: How do you (personally) feel that NUTMEG connects with the YA audience?
Jackie Crofts: Nutmeg is a story about friendships, growing up, and sometimes making hard decisions (and not always making the right ones) and that relates to everyone’s experiences. I think a young adult readership can connect because they might be going through those things now, and it’s always nice to see yourself in something.
James F. Wright: This is a tricky one to nail down, but part of it I think is that we never talk down to our audience, or at least we try not to. We’ve also worked hard to create believable, flawed characters, both from our own experiences in adolescence, and talking to friends about their own upbringings. None of the girls is perfect, but they’re not monsters either. That’s true of pretty much anyone navigating their burgeoning teenage years. And we hope our readers appreciate that.
PopCultHQ: James, what is your favorite part of writing NUTMEG?
James F. Wright: The best part about writing NUTMEG for me is seeing what Jackie will do with the art. Even though we talk about the issues beforehand, I’m always pleasantly surprised by what she comes up with. But my other favorite part is watching the decisions the characters make. Even though it changes with each issue, my favorite character to write has been Marjorie. The full arc of her journey was something I had never planned on at the outset, but the more I worked with her the more sense that journey made to me and to the story we were telling.
PopCultHQ: Jackie, what is your favorite part of illustrating NUTMEG?
Jackie Crofts: There are a couple of characters that I always get really excited to see pop up in the script. Ginger — the teen detective, and Anise — the editor of the school paper. They have a great dynamic and they make me laugh. I like detective stories and these two are the ones trying to ‘crack the case’ behind the brownie empire Cassia and Poppy have been building.
PopCultHQ: What has fan response been to your art in the series? What does it take to spice up the artwork in NUTMEG to appeal to readers?
Jackie Crofts: People seem to like the art, and I get an awful lot of comments on the color palette. It’s very flattering, because I don’t consider myself to be a fantastic colorist! I think it works and appeals to people because of the content of the story. It’s easy to look at the book and think it’s a very sweet story, but there’s some darker undertones going on when you dig in.
PopCultHQ: The Kickstarter will collect the first six issues of NUTMEG into a hardcover, mentioning that you “feel this represents a fuller realization” of your goal for the book. What can fans, collectors, backers, and new readers expect when they get this HC into their hands?
James F. Wright: The first six issues of NUTMEG, collected here, will be the complete Fall arc in a single, handy volume. Previously, this was published in two separate trade paperback editions, which also included house ads for other series from our publisher. While we don’t fault those editions, we believe this version here is a cleaner representation of our dream for the book, and I think readers will agree. It will also have a few bonus elements, like our Halloween short story, “Trick Others the Way You Want to Be Treated,” which was previously only printed in our self-published edition of Nutmeg #1 way back in 2013.
Jackie Crofts: I think this book will give readers a chance to read the first arc of the story uninterrupted. Our regular trades have ads, and this one will just be pure story with some bonus content in the back. Some of that bonus content will be a fun Halloween story we did for our original Kickstarter to get the first issue printed! That will be fun for readers who didn’t back the original run. And, of course, it will have a hard cover with new art by myself!
PopCultHQ: James, what has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a comic book writer?
James F. Wright: There are so very many, but the one I’ve come back to the most lately is: Write for an audience of one. Sometimes that audience is yourself, and that is perfectly fine. Sometimes that audience is your collaborator; think how many wonderful things have come into being because someone believed that their friend would think it’s cool. I wrote NUTMEG for my goddaughter, who was too young for it when I started, but I wanted her to have it waiting for her when she was ready. You’re not going to be able to please all the people all the time, but if you can aim to make just one person happy, that’s a worthwhile goal.
Oh, and don’t step on your collaborators’ toes. They know what they’re doing, give them the space to do it.
PopCultHQ: Jackie, what has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a comic book artist?
Jackie Crofts: I’ve learned SO many valuable lessons in my short time doing this, it’s hard to choose just one. So I’m not! I’ll give you two: 1 – Not underselling myself. Being more confident in the work I do, and accepting that over time it’s going to be better and sometimes I’ll just have to look at printed stuff that I wish were different. I can’t always be so hard on myself because it’s exhausting and it isn’t going to make me any better at drawing. 2 – There are so many amazing artists and writers out there, and learning to just ask questions and listen is always making me a better artist and person! It’s all about the people, whether it’s fellow creators or readers.
PopCultHQ: Jackie, what’s your favorite thing about working with James? And James, what’s your favorite thing about working with Jackie?
Jackie Crofts: There are so many great things about working with James (Jambles as I fondly call him)! He’s not just a collaborator, he’s also a great friend. When you’re working in comics or similar industries it’s the best feeling to find someone you can be open and comfortable with no matter what! I think it’s helped me get as far as I have and I feel really lucky to be working with him. His scripts are fun, funny, and witty. Oh, and he is basically the best at puns.
James F. Wright: Can I say, “Everything?” In all seriousness, in addition to excellent art chops and a killer work ethic, Jackie also has a wonderful sense of humor and great taste in music. All of those things in one package make her the best kind of partner. She’s open to suggestions and offers plenty of her own, and all the girls of NUTMEG would not exist without her. But more than that, she is someone I consider a true friend, and I can talk to her about almost anything, not just comics stuff. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Special thanks to Jambles and Jackles for taking the time to be interviewed by PopCultHQ. Add some “spice” to your life this “season,” check out the NUTMEG HC Fall Edition LIVE on Kickstarter. And to stay up on the latest, be sure to follow the creative team online!