Luana Vecchio’s ‘Lovesick’ TPB remains unmatched while delivering a dark, daring tale of kink, incel culture and violent eroticism.
The Lovesick TPB, from rising comic book cartoonist sensation Luana Vecchio, is a story about a dominatrix on the dark web who recruits willing participants to star in a sadistic livestream with their beloved Domino and her girls. While she’s filming these consensual live streams, ranging from degradation to “snuffies”, incels flood her chat with vile and misogynistic insults that only seem to fuel Domino more.
On the absolute surface of the story, there are strong themes of female sexual empowerment, consent and how women are demonized for having fantasies that go beyond societal norms. It is a comic that holds nothing back and pushes the boundaries unlike anything you’ve ever read. With each additional issue, however, the themes go deeper and take root in the darkest recesses of the reader’s mind.
I am excited to pick up the Lovesick TPB, available July 19th from Image Comics, which features a brand new cover by Luana Vecchio. Her English adapter, Edward Caio, does a stellar job of translating the story from Italian. Nothing seems to be lost in translation.
Editor’s note: continue reading below to check out our interview with Luana (translated by Edward). Thanks Edward!
The story of Domino aka Mother Demon unfolds in two arcs.
‘They Call Her Domino’
In this first arc, we are introduced to Domino, her masked girls, and the Lovesick Club. Graphic liner, black leather, fishnets and heart shaped pills are on full display to the tune of Joan Jett, giving you a sense of playful fun before a disturbing, sickly turn.
Lovesick is not for the squeamish as it opens with a snuff livestream. The leading character Domino crawls onto the page and beckons you into her world of shiny leather, unsettling chat rooms and baths of blood. While the beginning is drenched in gore and leans into the shock factor, we begin to see there’s more beneath the surface.
Down the rabbit hole we go…
In an almost perverse way, we are given a voyeuristic look into Domino’s world and what she does with her “piglets”. Her “piglets” being those willing participants who find themselves on the chopping block to be her next “Snuffie” star. This gives the reader the notion that there is more to Domino and this club than meets the eye.
The first arc puts a spotlight on consent and agency. Women are demonized for having fantasies that go beyond the boundaries of societal norms. Domino gives the reader a glimpse into her past, her own dark and dangerous fantasy, and where it all began. Should there be limits on consent, and who can give it? Vecchio is constantly asking us to look inward to find out where our own lines are drawn and where our own judgments begin.
The backmatter of each issue dives deeper into Domino’s personal paraphilia and Vecchio’s extensive research into the dark parts of the internet and the true crime we consume.
The first arc concludes in an explosive showdown which forces Domino to fully realize who she is and take the control she has long desired for. We are also taken further into the underbelly and funding of the Lovesick Club. The shocking reveal made the second arc an absolute necessity.
‘They Did The Monster Mash’
This arc focuses on Domino’s past through flashbacks and elaborates on Jack—the man who seems to be at the center of the live Red Room events. He also happens to be the toxic ex that you can’t let go of.
Questions will surely arise for Lovesick readers. What is a perfect victim? Do we feel less sympathetic to those who don’t fit the quintessential role of the bubbly girl who’s gone missing? Vecchio makes consumers of true crime take a good look at what they watch to ask themselves where their empathy begins.
Jack and Domino…this generation’s ‘Natural Born Killers’?
We are given a glimpse into Domino’s origin as well as Jack and how their paths crossed in an unlikely way. Slowly and somewhat painfully she is turned into the creature of Jack’s creation. Is she a monster? Is this her true self?
We learn more about Jack, his friend and partner in madness, Vic, and their own underground fetish society. It is within this society that Domino toes the line of defiance and compliance, and Jack discovers that his pet might be too much to handle. He is torn between his perfect little monster and the society he aims to inherit.
Jack also discovers that Domino is not so easy to let go of. She finds her own strength as a dominatrix and Jack seeks her out once again to partake in her vision. The two embark on a toxic push-and-pull relationship where she is kept at arm’s length, but constantly drawn back for her talents.
This is not a love story of “will they/won’t they” but more of “should they?” You should be questioning how much of Domino’s feelings are Stockholm-esque. While they share a common bond in the world of fetish, is that enough to create something good for the both of them?
The story concludes in the most dramatic of ways. It should be said that Vecchio’s art, storytelling and symbolism are on full technicolor display. The blood, sex, gore and haunting ghosts are cranked up to eleven when revealing truths about Domino and giving our lovers a fitting ending.
I have not been this affected by a comic in a long time. I went into it thinking it was going to be nothing more than a kinky gore-fest, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Not only is the story gripping, but the art is engaging, symbolic, vibrant and sexy. The more delicate moments in the quiet dark are bathed in cool tones and a feast for the eyes. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be on your feet for spit takes and swooning over the few tender scenes we get.
This story took me by surprise in the best possible way, and if you give it a chance, I think it can do the same for you. Run, do not walk to grab the Lovesick TPB that releases in comic shops July 19th.
Ok here it is! Our interview with Luana Vecchio! Hope you enjoy!
Congrats on all the success for Lovesick and getting a much desired by fans trade paperback release. There have been strong emotional reactions to this comic overall. Would you say it was received better than you expected?
Luana: Yes, I have to say that it was VERY well received despite LOVESICK being a niche comic made by a new, semi-unknown author. But it was wonderful to see how the consensus from the readers grew as new issues came out, this really helped boost my self-esteem as a comic creator and especially as a writer, because it means that not only the art has improved, but also the writing. When you publish a monthly miniseries the big challenge is to be able to keep the interest of the reader and not to let sales drop, which was what scared me the most… American comics are really hyper-prolific, readers can drop your series at any time, and when you’re a new author I have the feeling that readers are more demanding of you, but on the other hand it’s a fascinating relationship because a kind of relationship is created between author and reader, if you’ve conquered them they’ll stay with you.
Was there any pushback from Image? Were they at all concerned that it might be too controversial?
Luana: I have published 3 comics with Image: Bolero, Gospel For a new Century and Lovesick, and under no circumstances has anyone from the Image Comics team ever faulted anything, usually their job is to take on a project and after that it’s up to you finish everything in time. In the past I just had to redraw a cover for Bolero a lot of times because according to the publisher, it didn’t work, but for Lovesick I didn’t get any kind of directive. In my individual experience, Image is very close to self-publishing, you manage your work, they make sure it prints correctly and makes it to the shelves, it’s the kind of method I prefer, but which for various reasons is more challenging because if you are a control freak like me, you end up doing EVERYTHING by yourself.
What has been the weirdest message or comment you’ve gotten since the book came out?
Luana: Not a message or comment but a review from a Youtube show where one of the hosts called me an author who tries to make killing people look glamorous and as a result, anyone who reads Lovesick might end up thinking it’s ok to kill someone because of me and my comic. Basically from his point of view, my comic was dangerous and tarnished the reputation of comics … But I mean, these problems arise only when the killer is a woman, but it doesn’t seem like the same people are equally indignant about characters like Michael Myers or Leatherface… So, what’s the difference between them and Domino?
The vibe of the book feels very 80s at times with the song choices and the styling of Jack and Vic. Did you have a particular era in mind for artistic inspiration?
Luana: No, I just liked that kind of aesthetic, Vic and Jack in the flashback are heavily influenced by characters like Kunzite and Zoisite from Sailor Moon and Griffith from Berserk, so maybe that’s why they have a bit of an 80/90 aesthetic, I wanted them both to be gray characters that were complicated to decipher and with an undefined sexual orientation, just to pay homage to some of my favorite characters.
Domino had such a fun graphic liner look for each issue. Where did her styling inspiration come from?
Luana: Domino’s makeup, as well as the masks of the Domino girls, is inspired by the Pierrot mask, but I also think a little of the makeup of the band Kiss. Domino’s makeup is often smudged as if she had just cried, just like Pierrot’s mask, the tear signifying Pierrot’s melancholy for a love he cannot have. Also Domino is a very dramatic character and the makeup under her eyes makes her look even sadder.
The feel of the comic and your Instagram reels beg for a soundtrack. Have you considered creating a Spotify playlist for fans?
Luana: I really should make one, maybe to celebrate the Trade Paperback release! Music in general is a very important part of my creative process, there are tons of songs and albums that have helped me build the world around Lovesick, and I would love to share them with readers.
Editor’s note: yes please Luana, for the love of all that is Lovesick, give us fans a playlist!
The back matter was excellent for fans. Was it a difficult decision to be so candid? What can fans and readers expect in terms of bonus content for the Lovesick TPB?
Luana: It was very difficult to write them and I didn’t want to include them in the TP just because on the basis of those letters some readers were saying that most likely my research had messed up my brain and I needed some help, LOL… This bothered me a lot, since strangers were trying to psychoanalyze me based on a small period of my life, but I continued to write them and many readers appreciated it, it was important for me to share with readers that writing Lovesick, for me, has been much deeper than just writing a comic. For the TP I have not included exclusive material outside the gallery of the covers and an high quality interior paper since I had to be careful not to raise the printing costs too much, but for the fans of the series, with Image Comics, we have created something very special and limited to be announced at SDCC 2023!
The variants were unmatched this year! You took care of fans and made all these great covers accessible for those who can’t afford expensive ratios. How was that decision made?
Luana: The decision was mine, but I was able to make such a choice because I work alone, I can take risks and therefore I didn’t feel the pressure of having to cover the work of an entire creative team with Lovesick’s sales. As a few people know, with Image you ONLY earn from sales, the percentage of the sale is completely yours, Image only keeps a fee per issue, for the rest you have to try to cover the printing costs, the costs of the variant artists, and for me, Edward’s adaption. Many creative teams use Incentives or ratios covers to try to increase sales since they have to cover the costs of at least 7 or 8 people who worked with them. I on the other hand did everything by myself, I didn’t have this pressure on my shoulders, and in this way I was able to offer Virgins for $3.99, unfortunately a creative team couldn’t do this…Making comics is very expensive.
Even though their relationship isn’t exactly healthy, were you rooting for Jack & Domino?
Luana: I have a special love for Jack, he’s the type of male character that usually drives me crazy in comics or movies and with him I created the type of character I’ve always dreamed of creating, and put him next to Domino, and for me and my personal tastes they border on perfection. They are not inspired by anyone in particular, but I would compare them to the protagonists of Buffalo 66 and Natural Born Killers, two films that represent the kind of romance I like to see in the cinema, so it does not surprise me that at some point my head created a couple like Domino and Jack, which I loved writing. And it’s precisely because I adore them that I decided to separate them, this type of couple works best when they can’t achieve balance, much less happiness.
As I’m sure many of your fans are, I am a consumer of true crime. It was heartbreaking to see Domino refer to herself as a victim who was asking for it. Was it intentional to put a lens on the genre and try to up-end what we consider a “perfect victim”?
Luana: It was all intentional because for me it was important that the reader wondered whether or not what they were reading was right, I think the most disturbing thing was Domino’s age in the flashback, an 18 year old looking like a 16 year old asking to be eaten voluntarily is an extreme and absurd situation but not so far from the fantasies that a person who needs help and has fantasies of self-harm would have. My intent in creating the young Domino was to create compassion also for the victims who are “asking for it”, because it’s true, there are people who get into trouble in absolutely stupid ways, yet it seems that for them there is never enough compassion, as if there were A-tier victims and B-tier victims. Let’s face it, victims are asked too many questions, as if before saying that someone is a victim we must first ascertain how much they deserve our compassion…
We all love a morally grey leading man. Where do you fall on Jack? Is he too far to the dark side of the spectrum to be liked?
Luana: Jack in my opinion is a bit of a demon in issue 5, but we can see that he softens as he grows older, I’m hard on him because in the flashback he is a grown man while Domino was just of age, he knows Domino’s family situation but he still chooses to kidnap her, he definitely took advantage of a vulnerable girl, a girl willing to do anything to not go back to that house, and I think that makes Jack a real piece of shit. But I think his trouble is that although he is older than her, throughout the flashback, Jack has really struggled to tame a little girl like Domino, and even when they both grow up Domino will remain somewhat indomitable. But I think how people see Jack is really subjective, and I really like that!
The dark web, gore and true crime research done for this story must have been completely draining. How do you manage your mental health during the creative process?
Luana: I wrote Lovesick between 2019 and 2021 so for me it’s been a long time since I did those searches, most of them were on shocking sites that are reachable by google, I think knowing the context of what you’re looking at is important, if you see a gory photo you are left traumatised, but if you see the same photo where it explains where in the world that shot is from and what happened, it is another experience altogether. It may sound strange, but if you approach those types of content you have to understand what you’re watching, because bodies are stories, but honestly it’s better to think twice before entering those sites.
Have you considered doing a book of your NSFW art?
Luana: There are so many things I would like to do, one-shots, NSFW artbooks, new mini-series, but sometimes it’s not easy to know where to start, also writing scripts is a really long process, for now I write on the weekends and do covers and original art, but I can’t wait to pause all this to go back to working on comic pages, but to do that I need the right script.
You originally concluded Lovesick with issue 3, but knew there was more to tell. Was issue 7 a satisfying conclusion for you, or do you think there’s still more to tell about Domino, Jack and her Girls?
Luana: I think I’ve only told 60% of Lovesick, there’s a lot I’ve left aside that I can’t wait to tell, but I want to do it at the right time without rushing anything even if the end of issue seven for me remains perfect as it is, but I’ve left too many questions open that I want to close and so many themes that are close to my heart that I want to explore more deeply.
There you have it folks! The Lovesick TPB arrives in comic shops July 19th!