Who doesn’t love a good historical comic, especially one with an interesting and fascinating subject? That’s where Mata Hari comes in. The new miniseries from Dark Horse tells the story of this infamous yet amazing woman and the many stories (and some lies) she has to tell. Geek had the opportunity to sit down with writer Emma Beeby and artist Ariela Kristantinato to talk about the history of Mata Hari, the inspiration for their new miniseries and other stars they’d love to adapt.For our Geek.com readers, can you guys tell us a little about yourselves and Mata Hari, the comic?Emma: Before I was a fiction writer, I worked in politics and PR. I was also briefly a horoscope writer, so making stuff up is really always how I’ve made a living! I started screenwriting around 2006, got a gig on Doctor Who audio plays and then went on to write comics. I’ve worked on Doctor Who comics and 2000AD and became the first woman to write Judge Dredd in its 37-year history. My first creator-owned book was Robbie Burns: Witch Hunter co-written with Gordon Rennie and drawn by Tiernen Trevallion (published by Renegade Arts Ent.). I was in the first DC Writers’ Development Workshop and did a fun little Wonder Woman/Catwoman team up story last year.Mata Hari is a true story and the thing I’ve wanted to write almost since I started writing, but I had no idea where would be a good fit for it. Having Karen Berger take it on for her line has been amazing.Ariela: I come from Jakarta, Indonesia, and am now pursuing a career in America. My first comics work was for Marvel in 2014 as cover/interior artist for The Logan Legacy 2. My other works include Wolverine and The X-Men #6, Deep State #1-#8 for BOOM! Studios with Justin Jordan, and Rebels #8 for Dark Horse with Brian Wood. My most recent title Insexts with Marguerite Bennett just wrapped from Aftershock Comics.Mata Hari is about a woman who keeps reinventing herself. I see a woman in survival mode; kept being blamed for floating above the water by the very people who tried to drown her. Mata Hari is, and was, a story about patriarchy at its worst and still very much related to modern life, unfortunately.What drove you to write about Mata Hari? What connected you to her story?Emma: When I first decided to read about her I think I expected her story to be of an unconventional woman saying ‘to hell with Victorian values!’, or something… but I connected with it because it wasn’t that at all.She is extraordinary – she literally runs away to join the circus, and somehow, though born a middle-class Dutch girl, rebrands herself as an Indonesian Princess, adored in polite society for basically stripping.Her story is really a survival story. The things she does are her way of surviving the patriarchal minefield of the time. The men with the most power over her life abuse that power: her father leaves her and her mother penniless (but takes in her brothers), her 50-year-old schoolmaster grooms her into a sexual relationship, her husband beats her, theatre producers expect she sleep with them to earn a role. I read modern accounts of her life that would downplay these, or blame her for them, all because of who she later becomes, and to me, it felt like we haven’t moved that far forward at all. With all the #MeToo revelations, it should be obvious now how much of that minefield is still being navigated by women today. She takes an extreme course, not a conventional or moral one, but the question is how to judge her for that. That’s the core of the series.via Dark HorseMata Hari’s story reigns true today where “unladylike” women refuse to apologize for their sexuality and who they are, yet are always judged. Was this a theme you wanted to explore within this story?Emma: It’s definitely one of the themes, the court case against her was little more than ‘slut shaming’ to justify her execution. The evidence for her being the ‘most dangerous spy ever caught by France’ was mostly based on her being unashamedly sexual. The logic was that a woman who is openly sexual, who abandons her marriage, was clearly a criminal. It was the latest scientific thinking – things unthinkable to ‘normal’ people, such as spying for the enemy, would be acceptable to these women, who were called degenerates. Women could be found criminally insane and thrown in asylums for infidelity at the time. I love how historical yet timeless this story feels. Will you keep playing with the jumps in time from her childhood to jailing and everything in between?Emma: Yes, there’s lots of juggling of timelines! We’ll move through her life and her time in prison in parallel to show her journey to becoming Mata Hari the spy, alongside the set up that leads to her inevitable execution as the prosecution prepares her trial.Mata Hari already feels so unreliable within the story. Her telling her own story, but knowing that she did lie a bit is so clever. Was it your intention to bring this unreliable narrative to the story?Emma: Yes, she lies a LOT. It’s a defining characteristic. It’s part of how she reinvents herself. The memoir that’s going to be told over the course of the story is to secure her legacy as the self-invented Mata Hari, a Javanese Princess who brought holy dances to Europe and became a spy. It’s a story that in reality, she changed so many times it’s impossible to keep straight. The lies are not just to make her look better but to hide the points in her personal history that she’s most ashamed of. I think it gave her a sense of control, but it is a very dangerous strategy when accused of being an enemy spy.What attracted you to this story? Is this different than the other stories you’ve worked on?Ariela: I didn’t really know much about Mata Hari at first. When my editor, Karen Berger, contacted me and asked if I was interested in working on a Mata Hari miniseries, she provided me with a short biography. I also googled Margaretha Geertruida “Margreet” MacLeod and was interested immediately. I was already excited to work with Karen, but after reading about Mata Hari’s life online, I felt committed to do Margaretha’s story justice through my art.I’ve worked on a few superhero, action/horror/sci-fi, and body horror/erotica stories. Rebels and Insexts are probably the closest to Mata Hari time-wise, even though both are fictional stories. The biggest difference is that Mata Hari was a real person and almost every other character in this comic existed. This is a story that really happened and affected not only one person’s life but also a few nations. This story somehow bears different weight and pressure on me.via Dark HorseWhat was it like to create this world?Ariela: It’s very complicated and interesting at the same time! My previous comic was set around the same time period, maybe a decade or two earlier, but it was a fictional story. I had more freedom to create environments and props. In Mata Hari, I rely on photo reference for buildings, environments, and props. I have to show actual landmarks and create likeness for most characters. Mata Hari’s world can easily be found online through old photos and paintings, but at the same time it has a lot of holes I have to fill in with “informed imaginations.”What were some of the inspirations that helped you create this world?Ariela: Emma is so amazing, and she provides me with photo references for all the important characters and landmarks. I love being immersed in Mata Hari’s world. Emma’s references also help me further when I need to do more research on the visuals.Also, I have a bunch of books related to fashion from 1850 to 1930, art book collections of JC Leyendecker, a folder full of Jules Cheret’s art and sketches, and some other comics like Les Quartre de Baker Street (The Baker Street Four) by Olivier Legrand, Djian, and David Etien. I think that video games set in the same era, like Assassin’s Creed, also inspire and enrich my visuals.If you could meet any historical figure and write or draw their lives, who would it be?Emma: I think Joan of Arc or Boudicca. I loves me a tragic warrior queen! They both led armies. Both had to deal with a lot of patriarchal crap, they are both fascinating. I’m really enjoying writing biographical fiction. I get so into the research. I’d love to do more.Ariela: I can’t decide between these three!First, it would be Keumalahayati, also known as Malahayati. She was the first female admiral in the world. Malahayati lived in the period of the Aceh Sultanate during the 15th and the 16th centuries. She was a descendant of the founder of the Sultanate of the Aceh Darussalam. I am not from this part of Indonesia, but I think her story is very bold and interesting. As a Muslim woman in that era, she was able to be a prominent figure amongst the male warriors and royals. That is something to be celebrated!My second historical figure is Tzu Hsi (Cixi). Empress Dowager Cixi, of the Manchu Yehenara clan, was a Chinese empress dowager and regent. She effectively controlled the Chinese government in the late Qing dynasty for 47 years from 1861 until her death in 1908. I love how strong, smart, and at the same time, manipulative she was. There are many books written about her, but I especially love Pearl S. Buck’s portrayal of her in Imperial Woman.Third, I’d love to co-write/draw a story about James (Miranda) Barry or Miranda Stuart (1795-1865). She overcame the legal prohibition on women studying medicine by disguising her gender and dressing as a man. Sometimes, I imagine a world not so far in the future where this happens again in our society, and a modern Miranda emerges (maybe one of her descendants). That would also be an interesting take on a historical figure.via Dark HorseDo you guys have any other work that’s in the works that our readers should look out for?Emma: I’ve got two new series starting in 2000AD – Judge Anderson, a series set in the Judge Dredd universe. She’s pretty unique in comics, being she’s around 50, she’s aged in real time in the comics so has all this history and experience, as well as cool psychic powers. Art is by David Roach and Mike Collins.Also a new series of Survival Geeks, which is an original series I co-write with Gordon Rennie, drawn by Neil Googe, it’s a comedy series about a group of geeks traveling the multiverse with a cute Cthulhu, with lots of affectionate lampooning of geek culture. Our first trade collection came out recently, for anyone wanting to catch up on it.Ariela: I have a few pages in This Nightmare Kills Fascists, a fully funded Kickstarter anthology that was picked up by a publisher. It should be out in February 2018 and available at Emerald City Comic Con. I am also in talks with Justin Jordan and Sarah Stern about a super secret project. Personally, I will have my first ever sketch art book collection, also available in February, which can be purchased from my website when it’s ready.Can you tell our readers where they can find you guys? Social media, website, etc.?Emma: I’m on Twitter @emmabeeby and a newbie on Instagram.Ariela: My Twitter and Instagram handles are ARIELAKRIS. Also, check out my online portfolio. Buy This Comic: DEATH ORB #1The Best in Sci-Fi Books This Week (9/21/18) Stay on target Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.