Elflord – Issue 01 Preview

Elflord – Issue 01 Preview

Hello folks!

The next Kickstarter project we’re in the middle of running is for the continuation of Barry Blair’s fantasy epic, Elflord. Being closest to Barry and his projects, Mat Nastos is the mastermind behind the writing. Tony Vassallo is handling all the pencils, Sian Mandrake on the colors, and Ed Dukeshire on letters.

This is an outstanding team we’ve got on this book and it’s turning out amazing. So seriously, go check it out and help us fund it!

Here’s the video about the Kickstarter!

You can also check out the first ten lettered pages below!

And please, ask questions and let us know what you think!

Steven Dudley – Nightfell Producer

Steven Dudley – Nightfell Producer

Down to earth, but with a flare for fantasy, Steven Dudley explains how he got himself producer of a fantasy webcomic.

How did you find yourself producing Nightfell?

I was approached by my friend Jeremy MohlerHe’d asked roughly a year before the Nightfell project began if I was interested.

 

Did you always envision it as a webcomic?

Not always.  Jeremy told me the project would be presented as such early on.

 

There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?

Yes.  Everything is going digital.  With that said, I don’t believe web comics will ever phase out hardcopy, but, will act as an extension – a compliment.

 

Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre(s)? Which one(s)?

Yes, I lean towards fantasy. 

Why?

I was the typical kid who was awestruck by the Hobbit.  I do like other genres though, but, yes, fantasy is my favorite.  I’d also started playing D&D early on and so many good memories from that.

 

Was it always your intention to work in this creative field?

No.  I never thought I’d be a part of a project in this way.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised since I have so many very talented artist friends.  I feel lucky.

 

What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

A book about bigfoot.

And comics: which were your favorite ones?

Spiderman and Batman.  I’d also read the Savage Sword of Conan from time to time.

 

Nowadays, what can we find you reading?

Books regarding the nature of reality and primitive living skills.

 

Are you a person of idols?

If you mean “do I idolize people”…. Nope.  But, I admire great art and people can be great works of art if they choose to be.

 

Who were your childhood heroes?

My dad, my grandpa and my uncle.

And today? Who do you look up to?

I can’t say I look up to people.  I can only say there are a few I highly respect.

 

What was the first thing you ever wrote?

A short story about a mech warrior.  I’d written it for a programmer friend of mine who was getting some of his code placed in a magazine back in the 80’s.  The short story was published with it as an introduction.  Was an exciting event for me since I was only a kid.

 

What kind of games do you play? Board or Computer games?

I play both.  Not big into first person shooters though I’ve played many.  I’m looking more for computer games that create randomly generated worlds and can be delivered from private, dedicated servers.  I’m bored with the way marketing has dictated how computer games are created.

As far as board games go, I own many and like various kinds, though War of the Ring and Battlestar Galactica are a couple that have me hook-line-and-sinker.

 

So… can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward in the short run?

NightfellIt’s the only project I’m involved with at the moment and I think it’s an absolutely great story.  The world needs Nightfell.

 

Thanks Steven for telling us about your story!

S.G

P.S.: If you enjoyed reading this interview take a look at the other ones we have from illustrators to writers, passing through game-designers and authors.

Aegisteel – Issue 00 Preview

Aegisteel – Issue 00 Preview

AEGISTEEL is the first wholly original property published by Outland Entertainment, written by Mat Nastos, illustrated by Alan Gallo and myself (Jeremy Mohler), and lettered by Ed Dukeshire.

I can’t begin to express how excited I am to have Outland publishing this beast and to have helped design and bring Mat’s world to life. It’s been a lot of fun having the chance to play in this world and I’m looking forward to sitting down and digging into the actual main series. I’m just now getting started on layouts for the first issue and man, it’s going to be fun!

AEGISTEEL has had something of an interesting course to life. I talk a lot about it over here, actually. I also share a lot of the character designs and concepts that I worked on with the writer, Mat Nastos, so be sure to check out that blog post.

A little bit about the world –

AEGISTEEL is a spellpunk adventure set in the world of the Aegisteel Empire, a society of steel and magic built on the backs of its soldiers and terrible war machines. Think of it as DIRTY DOZEN meets SMOKING ACES set in a war-torn SPELLPUNK world.

When the Theln Empire captures the ancient Aegisteel forges at Nelvynnal, veteran marksman Broderick Longbarrel is released from Blackgate Prison and given one last chance for redemption. Tasked with infiltrating the ancient and impenetrable fortress, Longbarrel ans five former death row inmates must succeed before the Theln can begin production of the giant war-golems that could shift the balance of the war.

Below are the layouts and some additional designs I did for the project –

And below are the first eleven pages, fully colored and lettered!

The book is also now available digitally over here!

You can also purchase the limited edition Amazing Las Vegas Convention cover in print here!

And you can also get a 14″x20″ poster over here!

Hope you like it!

JM

Elflord: Past & Future  by Christopher Helton

Elflord: Past & Future by Christopher Helton

Let’s talk today about Elflord a little bit, since a relaunch of it is currently being Kickstarted by the people here at Outland Entertainment. This was probably Barry Blair’s most popular project, I think because of the popularity of the fantasy genre.

Tonally, this comic had a lot in common with the old Rankin-Bass adaptations of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There is a general feeling of lightheartedness to the story, but there is a great deal of darkness that lurks just beneath the surface. Like Tolkien’s hobbits, the elves of Blair’s stories reflect a childlike innocence that becomes corrupted by the world around them. It is almost as if this is a metaphor for adulthood or something   Elflordoriginal_3.2Elflor_original5

I will freely admit that there are some uncharitable reads of the Elflord stories, due to the youthful and androgynous manner in which Blair drew his elves…and the situations that he sometimes put the characters into, but I think that is being uncharitable to Blair.

Fantasy was in the air for comic creators at this point in time, probably due to the rising popularity of the Conan and Red Sonja books and magazines put out by Marvel, in addition to the above mentioned Rankin-Bass cartoons. DC Comics was also doing new fantasy titles like Arak or Amethyst over on their side of things. Not only was Blair doing Elflord, but there was the humorous Trolllords comic from Apple Comics (also one-time publisher of Elf Quest) and The Realm from Arrow / Caliber Comics. Not to mention the granddaddy of elf comics: Elf Quest. Much like in fantasy literature, each of these comics had their own approach to fantasy. Elflord blurred a lot of the genre lines by taking parts from more Tolkien-esque high fantasy and the more swords & sorcery approach of writers like Robert E. Howard (the creator of Conan).

A lot of the visceralness of the Elflord comics are taken from the swords & sorcery tradition. Characters get drunk in taverns and find themselves in brawls, taking a page directly from the works of Howard. While at the same time, there are immensely huge events happening with kings and nations and powerful magics that provides the backdrop for the stories of the individual characters. Yes, Elflord did draw heavily upon the inspirations of Elf Quest for this, but at the same time Blair filtered all of these concepts through his own imagination to create something unique from its inspirations.

Whether in the classic Elflord stories, or the upcoming Elflord Reborn comics, fans of comic fantasy will find something of interest in the worlds of these comics. There are well-developed characters, with unique personalities, and a rich world with a deep history. There is action. There are intrigues. There are stories that draw in the reader and suck them along through the adventures of the characters. If you are a fan of fantasy literature in comics and you haven’t yet read Elflord, you are certainly missing out on a great adventure.

 

Christopher Helton writes about pop culture, comics and gaming at his long-running Dorkland! blog, and as a writer for the Bleeding Cool website.

 

Check out last weeks’ posts: Barry Blair 101 by Christopher HeltonBarry Blair: What to read first? by Christopher Helton, Barry Blair’s Samurai by Christopher Helton!

 

Scott Colby – Co-Writer of N0.1R

Scott Colby – Co-Writer of N0.1R

Finding a creative outlet in writing from a young age, Scott Colby is already releasing his 3rd novel later this Summer. However, N0.1R was his first comic book venture!

 

Where did you come up with the concept for N0.1R?

N0.1R was originally the idea of the book’s artist, Nic Giacondino. He had a heck of a world and an idea and just needed someone to help flesh it out a bit more. That turned out to be my job. His concept left me with a few questions about the world and the characters, so I got to work answering those myself and the final product was born.

How is it to collaborate in the creation of a story? Is there too much compromise?

I really like collaborating on a story. Sure, there’s compromise, but more often than not something really cool comes out of the combination of two disparate ideas about something. It’s rarely one side or the other coming out on top.

Did you always envisioned it as a webcomic?

That was what I was told it would be.  🙂

There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?

Definitely. The great thing about the internet is it’s a giant, never-ending rabbit hole. You never know what you’re going to find—or who’s going to find what you put there. Combine those traits and you’ve got a great platform for comics moving forward.

Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre(s)? Which one(s)?

A lot of what I write is fantasy, but I try not to get stuck on any one genre. I’ve done a little bit of everything.

Why?

I was just thinking about this the other day. I enjoyed the fantasy genre when I was younger, but lately I feel like it’s lacking depth. Working in that particular genre is a great chance to really challenge accepted norms and build something surprising and new—which are things I feel like a lot of fantasy authors just don’t do.

What was the first thing you ever wrote?

I was always that smart kid who finished his work first, so I needed a way to pass the time in school. I couldn’t draw at all, so I started writing. I can’t remember my first story, but I’m pretty sure it happened in third grade.

What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

No idea.

And comics: which were your favorite ones?

I haven’t read a ton of comics, but I was always partial to the X-Men. Such a cool universe with a great cast of diverse characters.

Nowadays, what can we find you reading?

Lately I’ve been on a science fiction kick—Marko Kloos, John Scalzi, Iain M. Banks. And I read nerdy baseball websites like it’s going out of style. Not that it’s ever really been in style.

Are you a person of idols?

Not really.

Who were your childhood heroes?

Optimus Prime and Bret “The Hitman” Hart.

And today? Who do you look up to?

Anyone who can make a living writing his or her own stuff.

What made you enter the comic universe of storytelling?

I wrote some prose for Jeremy Mohler way back when, and he offered me the chance to write some comics, I decided it sounded like fun.

Of all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out from rest? Why?

Probably my first novel, Shotgun. That thing took forever. My style’s changed and improved (I hope) since then, but you can definitely catch a few glimpses of where I was going.

And now a peek into the Future. Can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward to?

I just finished the first draft of my third novel, Diary of a Fairy Princess. It’s the most absurd, ridiculous thing I’ve ever thought of. It’s great. It constantly makes me laugh while I’m revising it. Half of it’s written in a spoiled princess voice I had a ton of fun working with. I suspect readers are either going to love it or hate it with few opinions in between—and I really can’t wait to see which way it goes. Hopefully it’ll be available by the end of the summer.

Thanks Scott for giving us access to your creative universe!

S.G

P.S.: If you enjoyed reading this interview take a look at the other ones we have from illustrators to writers, passing through game-designers and authors.

Nicolás Giacondino – Creator & Artist (Mars2577, Nightfell, N0.1R, …)

Nicolás Giacondino – Creator & Artist (Mars2577, Nightfell, N0.1R, …)

Nicolás Giacondino is a talented Argentinean artist that has taken Outland Entertainment by storm. His unique style fits unseemingly into a vast array of projects without ever losing its authenticity.  

You’re working in several comics here at Outland Entertainment. From being the artist in Mars2577 to co-creator and illustrator of Nightfell and N0.1R.

How is it to collaborate in the creation of a story? Is there too much compromise?

Collaborating with other authors (be it writers, artists, colorists, etc.) has to be an organic and loose experience. You have to be open to the ideas sent your way and offer what you think are valid points to improve the story. And yes, there’s a level of compromise, but always to the work itself; you never have to become too attached to your own conceptions and ideas so much so that they’ll clash with the others’ or create tension. If it’s better for the story, then you have to incorporate it.

Speaking specifically of the projects I have here in OUTLAND, the back and forth between all the parts involved in the creation process has been amazing. Everyone’s extremely professional and at the top of their game in their respective areas, offering great advice and also knowing when to give the other the upper hand if something will work better for the saga. In my case, being the artist, I will provide visual cues and ideas for the writers to interpret and reimagine. They then send me their own takes and I’ll assess the suggestions and improve the material so that we’re all on the same page.

It’s my opinion that collaboration is the best experience when making comics. It forces you out of your comfort zones and exposes you to new and radical ideas, which help you to evolve your artwork.

Does it help or hurt knowing in advance that you’ll be the one giving a concept its visual life?

Definitely helps. I’ve dabbled a bit in writing (I have a published graphic novel penned by myself), but my primary concern has always been the artwork. So, being able to focus and work solely on the visual aspect lets me do my best knowing the other parts of the project are taken care of.

I also love to give the writers or collaborators in all the projects I tackle the utmost respect to their vision. I have a very unique style, but I’m open to it bending to the requirements of the story. You can never get something illustrated 100% as the writer imagined it; but I try to come to at least 99%.

Did you always envisioned these projects as webcomics?

Well, I always envisioned them as comics.With the climax of the digital age all around us, webcomics were the default option to get the project out there in the world. That said my intent is that we may be able to see these stories in print too.

Ours is such a strong medium, so full of possibilities that I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

 

There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?

Webcomics have taken things a step beyond in that they allow a larger number of artists and writers to express their vision without having to go through the filter of a major publisher or a ‘house style’. For me, personally, that’s been very advantageous and liberating. My style isn’t what you’ll usually find in the cover of the big companies, but published independently it has found a great audience that luckily grows larger every day.And I’ve seen the same happen to other artists and creators, who are able to reach a much more massive audience than they could’ve dreamed of.

Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre(s)? Which one(s)?

I’ve always been very passionate about science fiction and have been fortunate to be able to tackle projects related to it through the years.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy working in other genres, such as Fantasy or Steampunk. I’m always curious and willing to try things out and my style is very adaptable to many different kinds of stories. Horror, for example, isn’t something I’d done. But through Outland, I was able to illustrate two tales in that genre that were very exciting!

Why Science Fiction?

Science Fiction, for me, allows you to contemplate very interesting, radical ideas and philosophical issues with more ‘purity’ than in any other genre. The far future or the dystopian near future peels our preconceptions on any given subject so that the message is carried across with more strength, allowing the reader to think about the implications of the narrative devoid of his personal stakes in it. For example, cloning is a very tricky subject in the contemporary world; there’s lots of ethical and moral questions being addressed and everyone has a political, human or religious view. If I transport them into a distant planet or time, cloning then becomes something abstract, an idea that can be dissected within the boundaries of that new world. Yet, the consequences and realizations that you bring back with you when the reading experience is over are carried into our contemporary world, hopefully giving people a new perspective on the matter.

When did you begin to show your artistic capabilities?

As I always say, I started drawing as soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil. And, asking my parents about my passion, they tell me it goes indeed that far back. I had a few other interests during my teenage years, but drawing is what’s always driven me.

What’s your favorite childhood moment related to comics or drawing?

Well, living in Argentina, sometimes we didn’t have access to all the latest material being published in the US. But there was a point in the 90s, when the arrival of comics would be almost instantaneous upon release, which caused me to open up to some major influences.

I remember a day in particular, when I was walking down a street from school and came across a newspaper stand and amongst the magazines and usual comics, there was the first issue of Jim Lee’s run on X-Men. I flipped quickly through the pages and dredged up whatever money I had in my pocket and bought it. Inside, there was an interview with Lee himself, talking about his process and whatnot and that’s when I decided I’d wanted to do this for a living. Up until that point, drawing comics was a hobby, but that issue of X-Men and Jim’s words changed my mind completely and set me on my path to become a professional.

Growing up, did you read a lot of comics or were there other activities that you preferred?

Like I said, there wasn’t a lot of material back when I was growing up. Mostly old DC paperbacks and some indie stuff. Argentina once had a huge comics industry and a lot of amazing talents came from here south into the international market, but after the dreaded dictatorship of ’76, it was all but dismantled. In fact, my hometown only had one comic-book store, which I discovered when I was 18 years old. But I was always interested in whatever I could find, so yes, I did read a lot of what was available.

As for other activities, I also enjoyed music passionately. I played the drums in bands all through high school and considered it a career option at some point, but as I said earlier, drawing always kept me coming back. Whenever I’d have to design a poster or CD cover, I’d remember why I loved it so much.

What about beloved artists? Any childhood idols?

Jim Lee was my absolute hero, as I mentioned before. But I also followed the work of other classic artists that helped me shape my style a lot, including Jack Kirby and Bruce Timm, two of my most important influences.

Later in life and as I found more and more material to read, I found the likes of Frank Miller, Neal Adams, John Romita and so many others. From my country, I also loved the work of Carlos Meglia and Enrique Breccia, both of whom I had the chance to meet personally. The latter became my mentor when I participated in one of his illustration and comics seminars.

Did you always want to work on this creative field?

At first, I didn’t even know that was possible. I’m not sure it is now either, haha!

I always sort of took comics for granted. I mean, I knew they had to be drawn and written by someone, but I never dug deeper into what professionals in the field actually did; I just enjoyed them and figured there were a few lucky fellows who were able to work on these amazing magazines. It wasn’t until the boom of Image Comics and artists making a big splash away from the major publishers that I realized this was something you could do for a living. So, upon that discovery, I started reading and studying more and more, trying to find ways to make it as a professional comic artist.

Going back to your own work: illustrating, coloring, lining,.. Do you have a favorite?

I enjoy the whole process, from pencils to colors. But inking has always been the part that I enjoy the most. In fact, Outland has given me the chance to work a lot in black and white and showcase my artwork as such, which has been a huge pleasure. Line weight, spotted blacks, crosshatching… those basics of inking make me truly happy when I’m doing a page.

 

And projects? Is there one that stands out from the rest?

They all have unique qualities that I think make them amazing, but if I had to choose one in particular I’d say Nightfell is the one that stands out the most.

Why is that one different?

Because it flips a common trope which we all know: that zombies eat the living. In Nightfell, the undead actually protect us and are our last line of defense against darker, more sinister creatures from below. That basic premise brings about uniqueness to the work that I think makes it truly original.

Also, it has deep roots in the Sword and Sorcery genre and it was conceived to be read as either a regular comic-book or a strip (which is how it’s being released in the website). That is also something that hasn’t been seen for quite a while and a format that both Jeremy Tolbert the writer and myself enjoy enormously.

From making the pencil sketch to applying the last smear of color what is your process?

My take on a page usually starts with reading the script and making a mental image of how the composition should work. I visualize the panels and what the writer’s vision is and then I map that out in panels across the page.

Once the panels are laid out, I go in very quickly and sketch out the basic perspective and character interaction and make sure everything works and is where it should be. When I’m satisfied with the storytelling, I tighten up the pencils and send them to the Editor and writer for approval.

If approved, then I move onto the final inks. With Outland, this has been the final stage in many projects and so once it’s done, I send it as a hi-resolution scan for it to be colored and lettered.

If I’m illustrating the whole, then I take special care to not outline certain things I will leave specifically for color to define. I then go in and add the volumes with grayscale and once that’s done I’ll put in the colors and details.

Do you follow a painfully strict plan or is it a more of organic process?

I’m very strict in the process. I found out that it is the best way to meet the deadlines and focus properly on every step.

So… can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward in the short run?

I’m very much looking forward to showing audiences the projects we’ve been working on so hard. Especially Nightfell and N0.1R, a crime story set in a world where organic life is nonexistent and robots rule in a mimicry of our 1940s.

There’s always something else in the pipeline, but I can’t really reveal much other than there’s exciting times ahead!

 

Thanks Nicolás for giving us a small peek into your creative world!

Thank you and I hope you enjoy the stories we’re working on!

 

S.G.

Mat Nastos – Artist & Author Interview

Mat Nastos – Artist & Author Interview

Mat Nastos is a versatile artist who always manages to infuse his unique sense of humor into the countless projects he is involved with. He is known by his work as an artist in the cult-classic independent comic book, “ElfQuest”, and as a writer for film & TV as well as for his own novels. Fan of action packed stories with a sci-fi or steampunk twist, you won’t be surprised that from all the children shows out there, he worked for Disney Channel‘s “Phineas & Ferb”.

 

Mat, the big question: what did you want to be when you grow up?

My goal in life, from as early as I can remember, was to be a comic book artist when I grew up. Comics in general were my life: I read them, collected (read: horded) them, drew them…I started and ran the first comic book conventions in Hawaii in the 80s back when I was 11. Comics were my life and my driving goal had been to draw them. That spurred me to go to comic book school out in the middle of New Jersey when I graduated from High School.

I drew comics for a lot of years before transitioning over to film/TV and, eventually, to writing.

 

What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

I remember my mom reading a lot of Dr. Seuss to me as a child, but nothing specific. I still have the very first comic I was given – “The Power of Warlock” #14. The first real book I remember reading was “The Hobbit” when I was about 6 or 7. That really stuck with me and opened the door to fantasy/sci-fi fiction for me. After I read that any the “Lord of the Rings” series, I went nuts and started reading everything I could get my hands on. Luckily, I had an older brother and mom who were also into that material and I’d read a lot of things they were.

Right around the same time, my family discovered the early Dungeons & Dragons game (late 70s) and I’ve been playing ever since.

 

And comics: which were your favorite ones?

I read EVERYTHING as a kid. Pretty quickly my collection of comics bloomed up into the thousands and then tens of thousands (now it rests at somewhere around 150,000 comics). When I was younger, my favorites were Elfquest, X-men, 2000AD, and Legion of Super-Heroes, but I wasn’t picky beyond that.

 

Nowadays, what can we find you reading?

I don’t read much in comics these days, and when I do they are generally trade paperbacks versus singles. The art of writing comics to actually be read as singles has become a bit of a lost art over the past 20 years or so and I find it a waste to attempt to follow series in that format. I pick up a lot of omnibus collections of material I was a fan of as a kid.

Outside of comics, I read an insane amount of things – tons of non-fiction, and at least 3-4 novels a week. Still a lot of sci-fi/fantasy more than anything else, although thrillers and any sort of action stories are finding their way onto my reading list as I begin to write more and more in those genres.

 

Who were your childhood heroes?

Most of my heroes were the men (and women) creating the material I was a fan of: George Lucas, Wendy Pini, John Byrne, George Perez, Stan Lee, Piers Anthony, Jim Kelly, Gary Gygax, Ed Greenwood, Chris Claremont…my dad.

 

And today? Who do you look up to? 

I’ve been lucky enough that I still have a lot of the same heroes I did as a kid. I still have most of that sense of wonder and love I had as a kid.

 

Your first published work was in “The Big Book of Urban Legends” from Paradox Press in 1993. But what was the first thing you ever wrote?

My first published writing was a short fantasy story I wrote back in high school. I had an English teacher who was truly a terrible human being who went out of her way to put me down. Her abuse turned out to be a driving factor for me and I submitted a story I’d written in her class (and been given a “C” on!) to Fantasy Digest Magazine. They bought it and I was on my way!

After that, my writing was for my own comics – things like the Cadre, Elfsong, and Fionn.

My first “real” gig as a writer was the screenplay for the low-budget horror flick, “Stinger,” in 2002. Since then I’ve had 8 films produced.

 

Your writing spans from comic books to novels, video games to film and TV. Do you have a favorite?

Writing, in general, for me is a lot of fun. The most satisfying for me as a creator is probably novels because I have complete control over there. Good or bad, with a novel every aspect of it falls onto my shoulders. If it succeeds or fails, things are all on me.

The rest of the mediums all have their own positives, though, and comics will always be my first love. Working with a fantastic art as a collaborator is an incredibly fulfilling experience.

 

You have done the artwork, including the cover art for all your own books. Why?

I think it all goes back to control. So far, I’ve had very specific ideas of what I wanted on the novel covers and the easiest way to get those ideas out was to do them myself.

Does it ever backfire?

Not yet, knock on wood!

 

Your work in the comic world started with “Elfquest” comics for Warp Graphics, right? What made you enter this new universe of storytelling?

Well, my first comic work was on “The Big Book of Urban Legends,” and I had done quite a bit of indy comic work before Elfquest, including working as an assistant to Joe Orlando at the DC Offices while I was in art school.

Comics were my life-long love. Elfquest specifically was my favorite comics. Funnily enough, my biggest goal in going to art school was to draw Elfquest. I had always figured it would take me years (5, 10, or more!) to get a chance to work with the Pinis on Elfquest – they had never let anyone else draw the comic back when I was reading it, so my goal was a crazy fantasy at the time. It was mind-blowing to get a call from Barry Blair asking me if I wanted to work on Elfquest. I was still at the School of Visual Arts when he contacted me and it was easily one of the best days of my life.

There was never a doubt in my mind that I wasn’t going to work in comics.

 

“The Cestus Concern”, your first novel, was the #1 best selling Cyberpunk & Sci-Fi Adventure novel on Amazon for 7 consecutive months in 2013. How does it feel to have your work on the spotlight?

It was pretty crazy. Novel writing wasn’t something I had ever set out to do…in fact, when I started writing “The Cestus Concern” I’d never written more than a couple of short prose stories. Sure, I had written a bunch of material for TV/film and comics, but prose was so alien to me I wasn’t convinced I could even do it.

My whole goal with the book (and each once that’s followed) was to write something that I wanted to read. To write something fast, fun, and crazy. It’s been a great to see that so many other people have enjoyed the work as much as they have. As a storyteller, nothing is better than connecting with fans the way the Cestus books have.

 

Of all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out from rest? Why?

I’ve been lucky to work on a huge number of fun projects, so it’s hard to pick. Right now, the thing I’m the most in love with my Donner Grimm books. The first, “Man With The Iron Heart,” came out at the end of 2014 and I am finishing up the sequel, “The Unweaving,” right now. I love the action-adventure/pulp/weird war universe I’ve created for it and the characters are a lot of fun.

In comics, it’s the new Elflord series I’m working on. The artist, Tony Vassallo, is insanely good and the material we’re putting together isn’t like anything else being done in fantasy comics right now. The series is crazy good.

 

You own the license from Barry Blair’s projects. What made you take that leap?

Barry himself was the reason behind me picking up the rights to all of the material. We had been friends since the early 90s when he hired me to work for Warp Graphics on the Elfquest material, and we had very similar sensibilities . We started talking in 2007 about working together again and one of the things that came up was my love for so many of the characters he’d created, especially things like Elflord, Dragonforce, and Samurai. He said he was done telling those stories, but asked if I wanted to carrying on with their tales on my own. He turned over the rights to all the material to me in exchange for my promise to treat them like my own children.

We had been well on our way to doing a ton of new material together when he passed in early 2010. It was a crushing blow for me and it took almost 5 years for me to get back to the point where I felt like I was ready to start again. To be able to put the work out FOR Barry since I couldn’t do it WITH him.

 

Outland Entertainment is working closely with you not only to bring several of Barry Blair’s titles into digital format but to actually reboot some of them.

What are you most excited about this endeavor? 

The most exciting part of working with Outland is having the chance to bring Barry’s work back out into the public eye. Barry was a creative dynamo who generated a ton of fun material in a dizzying array of genres. He worked in every possible genre you can image: sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, horror, satire, action/adventure, erotica…you name it and he produced work in it.

It’s been a shame that his work has disappeared from the comic industry, especially since his work and company (AIRCEL) was such a huge force in the 80s and early 90s.

Having the opportunity to make that work available once more is a thrill and an honor for me because I was a huge fan of Barry’s work, as well as having been his friend for more than two decades.

 

And now a peek into the Future. Can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward to?

I’ve got a lot of work coming out this year. Right now I’m finishing off sequels to both my prose series with “The Cestus Corruption” and “The Unweaving.”

In comics, I’m writing Rob Liefeld’s new “Brigade” series for Image and “Blindside” for Marat Mychaels. For Outland, I’m writing a series based on my Aegisteel fantasy stories with Alan Gallo as the artist; Elflord with Tony Vassallo, and a brand new Dragonforce series that will be drawn by Richard Pace (you heard it here first!).

It’s going to be a fantastic year!

It sure looks like it! Thanks Mat for taking time to let us get a glimpse of your vast creative work!

S.G.

Cons : A Melting Pot of Genres

Cons : A Melting Pot of Genres

(I would say ‘conventions’, but as Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk state, Con sounds much cooler)

Cons are a constant in a geek’s life. Whether you can afford the money and time to enjoy them in person or live through the photos and videos made by fellow fans.

Cons have the power of bringing a miscellaneous group of people that, no matter what their costume is or if they are not wearing one, will rejoice to discuss pretty much any comic / TV show / movie / videogame / RPG /…

You are sure to get out of those three days with a heavy sense of geek enlightenment. But beware: it will just last until you take off your costume and lumber into your everyday routine.

Everyone has opinions, theories, favorite characters, suggestions of things to try. Some have travelled a long way just to be there, others a mere five minutes journey.

No matter what, everyone is united in helping others get their idols autograph or simply walk past them. Saving seats, taking pictures, offering a kind word when someone cries their eyes out just because they missed their favorite actor: it’s a healthy comradeship.

 

For the sake of Cons everywhere, I’m leaving out the jump the queue acts, the rudeness in discussions and some costumes that are appalling offenses to the original characters and their creators. What? It’s not all lightsabers battles and cheering.

 

Anyway, talking about cosplay you’re bound to brush shoulders with any character from any fandom, from the more straightforward references to the more obscure ones.  The point is you are surrounded by allusions to all genres: sci-fi, fantasy or steampunk.

Unless it has a specific fandom at its core say the Star Wars Celebration or the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Celebration . Then you’ll only see Chewbacca and Princess Leia or on the second case, walking TARDIS and countless Doctors.

 

Stay tuned for personal convention stories as we enter the “Convention Season”!

(Don’t worry: we’ll let you know where to find Outland Entertainment!)

 

S.G.

Time travel: a purely sci-fi element?

Time travel: a purely sci-fi element?

I’ve never been sure of that. I’ve always been attracted to the idea of time travel, even though, going back a few years, I didn’t see myself as a sci-fi fan. It appeared in the books and movies I avidly consumed, but was it science-fiction or fantasy?

How much scientific accuracy there needs to be for a narrative to be considered science-fiction? Is that even at all relevant? Sure you have time travel that is so technical and scientifically structured that you don’t hesitate in calling it sci-fi – in perceiving it as such. Take H.G. WellsThe Time Machine, for example.

But then the lines start to get blurred. And a detective story – the movie Memento – or a love one – the novel & movie adaptation The Time traveler’s Wife – get’s you thinking. You even have a time-turner in Harry Potter, which there is no doubt of being Fantasy through and through.

So what does it take for time travel to be freed from the sci-fi spectrum?

Time travel is more often than not associated with the sci-fi universe, but it surely is not confined to it. Do you find it more often there? Is it more cohesive or realistic (if we can call it that)? Maybe, but it finds place in all kind of narratives.

From fantasy to romance to science-fiction, it can appear in any of these genres. The main difference is perhaps the level of imagination or scientific norms that rule that possibility: the paradoxes, the multiple timelines, what can or cannot be changed.

Through the Doctor in his TARDIS to Dr. Emmett Brown in his DeLorean we’ve been taught a lot about this matter, even if some of it is contradictory. We have seen a myriad of theories and rules, from the unchangeable force of the fixed points in time to the dangerous repercussions of changing the slightest moment in history.

We may question how something takes place, we probably don’t even agree or think that some theories are simply too farfetched.

Nevertheless, I dare you: have you never dreamt of travelling through time?

And that’s it. The universal force that binds us all to this story element, no matter the genre it is wrapped in.

 

S.G.

Matt Forbeck: The Writer

Matt Forbeck: The Writer

Last time we got to know a little bit about who Matt is. Today, were looking to get a further insight into “Matt the writer”.

What was the first thing you ever wrote? Was it a school assignment or something you did on your free time?

Do you mean as a story? It was probably “Food Wars”, a Star Wars parody I wrote in 4th grade. I won a prize for it, and it was, I think, the first time I realized that there might be something to this writing well thing.

You told us you always wanted to be a writer. But when the moment came, did you need someone else uttering “You are a writer.” or did you know it already?

I don’t think that being a writer is a matter of knowing it so much as wanting to do it. I never needed anyone to tell me to write or create or whatever. It’s wonderful to have validation for it after the fact, but the fun of it comes in the work itself.

 

In 1989, you edited and wrote selections of White Dwarf Magazine (issues #119-123), with emphasis on the two Space Hulk articles. Until then you hadn’t had anything published.

Seeing your words printed for the public to read was an incentive to write more outside the game world?

Actually, the first thing I had in print was a short piece in Polyhedron #9, the newsletter for TSR’s Roleplaying Gamers Association (RPGA). I’d submitted this gadget for a contest for their Top Secret spies roleplaying game, and it came in as first runner-up.

This came out way back in 1982, when I was fourteen years old. I didn’t get paid a dime for it, but it thrilled me to my core. It’s probably the reason I took up writing for RPGs long before I turned my hand to fiction.

 

In most places the short story “Crocodilopolis”, which was part of the “Strange Tales From the Nile Empire”anthology, from West End Books in 1992, appears as your first published fiction piece.

Would you change anything about it?

Probably, but I wouldn’t. I’m a different person now than when I wrote that story, and I had a wonderful time working on it. Legendary game designer Greg Gorden was my editor on that, and he taught me a lot about the differences between great fiction and great games as I wrote it. I still treasure that lesson to this day.

You now have a more than 25 books available online and these are just the ones on your website, not even counting your participations in anthologies.

Between the fiction and nonfiction do the numbers speak for themselves or would you like to venture more into the nonfiction genre? 

I’m probably a bad self-promoter in this way, but I haven’t gotten around to listing all of my books on my site. I’m usually more concerned with doing the work than telling people about it. At the moment, I have 27 novels published, several nonfiction books, and countless games and gaming books.

I enjoy writing nonfiction, as it scratches a different creative itch for me. I had a ball revising The Marvel Encyclopedia for 2014, for instance, and I’m proud of how well it’s selling. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, it hit #5 in all books on Amazon, and just this week, it became my first book to ever crack a Best Sellers list in the New York Times.

 

The majority of your work has been deemed YA. Do you believe in genres to describe books or do you think we could ditch those labels?

Actually, most of my work is for adults, although I try to write things that people of many ages can read. I’ve written five or six books for younger readers, but the vast majority of my fiction—especially my own original material—fits into the genre category and is mostly read by adults.

All that said, I think J. K. Rowling obliterated the meaning of the YA label, and bully for her. We shouldn’t be afraid to read good stories, no matter if they’re meant for people younger than us or not. As for other genre labels, they serve a purpose for marketing, but creators shouldn’t feel constrained by them. Great stories transcend such things.

There seems to be a dystopian quality to the stories you tell. Do you agree with that?

Maybe. I tend to favor stories with a dark streak through them, and that’s most obvious in books like my Brave New World dystopian superheroes series. Partly that’s because my tastes run that way, but I also find it easier to produce dramatic situations in darker worlds—or at least ones that I find most interesting.

 

Your work has been translated into 13 languages, which obviously means you have a global fan base. Does that influence your writing in any way?

Not really. I don’t have any control over the translations in the sense that I can’t read them once they’re published. I can’t tell the translator that they’re doing it wrong. I can only cheer them on and hope for the best.

 

Your body of work has inspired many to approach you to adapt your narratives into other mediums.

Your book series Brave New World: Revolution is being adapted into a TV series. What are most looking for in this project?

Actually, that’s been optioned for a film, but it’s in limbo at the moment while the producers pursue other projects and try to ramp up for the kind of budget a dark supers film needs. I’ve also sold film options for both Amortals and Vegas Knights, though, and I have high hopes for those. I’ve even read a first draft of the script for Amortals, and I’d love to see that book on the silver screen.

And…

The Shotguns & Sorcery book series is going to be turned into an RPG by us, here at Outland Entertainment.

What can you tell new readers about this series?

It’s a fantasy noir series in the sense of what maybe Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy would write if they’d been inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien. It’s set in Dragon City, a metropolis ruled over by the Dragon Emperor, an autocrat who protects his people from the ravening hordes of zombies roaming outside the city’s walls—but at a price.

Is there a favorite character you really enjoyed writing?

Max Gibson is the hero of the story, and he’s my favorite by far, which is good because I spent a lot of time in his head. I love a lot of the others too: Yabair (the sneering elf captain of the Imperial Dragon’s Guard), Kai (the gun-toting orc pal with poor impulse control), Moira (the addicted halfling who can’t ever seem to keep out of trouble), and many more.

 

And how about a special scene or chapter?

I think the opening chapter of “Friends Like These” nails the feeling of the world like a stake through a vampire’s heart. It’s full of world-weary heroes, treachery among friends, and jackbooted thugs, and it’s just what I wanted.

It’s also the first fiction I ever wrote for Shotguns & Sorcery, so it has a special place in my heart.

Perhaps not coincidentally, all backers of the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG Kickstarter get this story for free.

The whole world is set in this fantasy noir environment. What led you to that creative choice?

I grew up reading both Chandler and Tolkien. I love epic fantasy and its amazing worlds, but the grittiness of noir always grabbed me harder. This was my chance to come up with my own cocktail from two of my favorite ingredients. I did my best to make sure it packs a punch.

Besides the series of projects already mentioned on your website, can you give us a small peek at the writing ones under the cryptic slot “all sorts of secret things in various stages of conception or completion”?…

Nope.

I have lots of projects in the works at any given time, but I also sign many non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with the people and publishers I’m working with. Giving details about those projects before they’re ready to go would be cheating them of their chance to make the biggest splashes.

That said, I do have a science-fiction tie-in novel I’ve been working on that should be announced soon. Stay tuned.

Thank you! And we will talk to you soon to find out a little bit more about your work on the games industry!

 

S.G.