I remember watching Phantom Menace in the movie theater wondering what the movie was missing. There was awesome Jedi action (and way better choreography than the original trilogy). The music was fantastic. Tatooine looked pretty much the same, and pod racing was pretty nifty. (It was even more fun as a segment in later Star Wars video games). But there was some core element of Star Wars I felt was just absent.
It didn’t take me more than a few times watching it to realize that what the film didn’t have was Han Solo.
I don’t mean Han Solo literally. What I wanted was a loveable rogue. (You’ll note that I found a TV Tropes link for the character type–that’s how common it is). It’s all well and good to have the earnest hero in the center of things. That’s kinda their job. But there needs to be someone around with a smirk and a wink and a hard edge—a little too cynical to believe in the mythic importance of everything around them (even if they’re later proven wrong). Sometimes it’s their job to undercut the narrative, to give it a little breathing room so the audience can laugh. Pretty typically, their witticisms are the ones people leave the theater quoting. They’re not in this story for the higher mission of the plot. They’re in it for some selfish reason.
But not really. Because when the chips are down, they show up to help save the day.
Or, actually, they don’t.
Even though I grew up with the Han Solo type of scoundrel and grew into the Malcolm Reynolds kind of scoundrel (as a freelancer, “I do the job, and then I get paid” became a mantra for me), I’ve developed a bit of a taste for the varied palate they can offer. Around the time I was loving Firefly, I was also reading Steven Brust’s “Vlad Taltos” series. Which centers on a character who is, effectively, a crime lord in at least a portion of his novels. He’s an assassin. He’s not a nice man. But he’s affable, the kind of narrator you want to follow on whatever mission it is he’s undertaking. And, even when it’s not really the right thing, you want him to win.
I followed Mark Henry’s “Amanda Feral” series, which is narrated by a zombie socialite. Who eats people. Sometimes they’re not even bad people, it’s just that she’s a zombie, and. Well. It happens. And while the whole experience of hanging out with Amanda is kind of like being a spectator to a train wreck, it’s a glorious spectacle.
More recently, there’s Marvel’s Loki, whose Road Movie-like dialogue with Thor was the best thing about Thor: The Dark World. Never quite knowing what side Loki is on is a big part of his appeal—but, even moreso, that he’s ambiguous with charm. If you want to talk about a fan favorite character—I think it’s probably a safe bet that there’s more fan fiction about Loki on the Internet than any of the Marvel heroes. (I’m not going to actually go count them, but I stand by my suspicion).
And while characters like Kate Daniels and Curran Lennart from Ilona Andrews’s “Kate Daniels” series are absolutely the heroes—they’ve got a bit of a edge on them as well. Kate, a former mercenary, private investigator, and also the daughter of one of the universe’s big evils, isn’t always good at playing nice. Curran, who for much of the series is the leader of all the shapeshifters in Atlanta, creates a code for his own people, but doesn’t always play nicely by the rules of non-shapeshifters. They’re a pair for whom the default response is to hit the problem with a sword, and to do so with a gleeful, maniacal smile that makes bystanders scared for their lives.
Fantasy and science fiction thrive on the morally ambiguous characters who can reel you into their stories and make you want them to win, even when they’re the bad guys. While I’m no psychologist, I suspect there’s something cathartic about rooting for the scoundrel. When you’re part of a community (a family, a town, a nation), it’s important to follow the rules—but it’s not always fun. Diplomacy is hard. Sometimes just getting along with other members of your community is hard.
Rooting for the guy who doesn’t have to follow those rules? Sometimes, that’s exactly what we need. In all the varieties possible.
As Han says, “There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.”
Anton Strout is the author of urban fantasy, including the Simon Canderous paranormal detective series and the Spellmason Chronicles. He’s also the host of the Once and Future Podcast. He’s going to have a story in the fantasy anthology Knaves from Outland Entertainment, now on Kickstarter!
There are words and phrases from what one reads that stick with you throughout your entire life. From the moment you read them they inspired or changed you. As a teen, the now clichéd “Carpe Diem, Seize the Day” from the film Dead Poet’s Society was life changing, but it was reading that always struck to the core of my heart when it came to shaping who I was as both a person and as a writer of the fantastical.
No one was as pivotal to who I became in both respects than Douglas Adams. My first exposure was to the PBS import of the BBC television series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Immediately I HAD TO HAVE the books and made my mother take me to buy what was then just the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. I still have the broken spined, falling apart hardcover, coated in dried green slime from a toy accident years ago. Then I consumed the radio plays on cassette, and bought the annotated transcripts to read along with.
There are a million turns of phrase that the late Mr. Adams wrote over the years that stick with me:
- “Don’t Panic.”—the words inscribed on the guide itself, and an obvious choice as a life motto.
- “Life. Don’t talk to me about life.”—Marvin the Paranoid Android, moping about in his usual depressed state
- From the planet builder Slartibartfast, best known for winning an award for designing Earth’s Norwegian fjords:
Slartibartfast: I’d far rather be happy than right any day.
Arthur: And are you?
Slartibartfast: No. That’s where it all falls down of course.
But the one that has always stuck with me is:
This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
To a 12-year old kid, it just seemed funny, but it also made me think. Adults were weird, anyway. Why would they obsess over these little green pieces of paper? The idea was absurd—later causing me to strive in my own fiction to capture even just a fracture of Mr. Adam’s genius/humor—but his words were also spot on about the human condition. These were IMPORTANT WORDS, important thoughts! As I grew up and became an adult myself (a debatable point, I know), I found the words stuck with me.
I’ve been financially stable as well as pathetically poor, but rarely have I suffered at the hand of that ebb and flow. Money is always welcome and nice to have and all, but I’ve never let a lack of it determine my happiness. It’s been a pretty healthy attitude, focusing me instead on what truly makes me happy—family, writing, rampantly consuming all manners of nerdery…
Such a complexly written yet simply logical line transformed my entire attitude about the true answer to life, the universe, and well, everything. Words…powerful stuff indeed.
There are only a couple days left to back Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology on Kickstarter!
Featuring stories from Cat Rambo, Mercedes Lackey & Dennis Lee, Maurice Broaddus, Anton Strout, Anna Spark Smith, Cullen Bunn, Walidah Imarisha, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Clay Sanger, Kenny Soward, Linda Robertson, Lian Hearn, Toiya Kristen Finley, and Shanna Germain, Knaves contains stories about people on the wrong side of the ethical tracks, folks whose moral compasses don’t quite point north, and those who have to make hard decisions that are in that gray area between good and bad. While many of the stories are traditional fantasy, others are on the edge of cyberpunk, horror, and urban fantasy.
Backers have the options of having characters named after them, getting their query letters or their fiction critiqued by the authors or editors, and getting an original piece of artwork from artist Nicolás Giacondino, and of course, getting eBook and print copies of Knaves. Backers will also have the option of being the first to receive new editions of the original Blackguards anthology stories, divided into two volumes and re-branded with the Outland Entertainment logo, These volumes will have new covers as well as one new story in each.
Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology was selected as a Kickstarter Staff Pick, and editors Melanie R. Meadors and Alana Joli Abbott have seen what a special collection of stories this will surely be. Fantasy fans of all types will find something to love. But don’t wait to back it—there are only a couple days left!
Last year, some of us discovered the irreverence of Deadpool and are eager to view the sequel. This year, some of us are working with one of the writers from his comics: Cullen Bunn.
But we’re not the only ones fangirling/fanboying. Cullen is wearing his fanboy hat himself as he has love Warlock 5 for more than thirty years.
How did you stumble upon Warlock 5 for the first time?
I discovered Warlock 5 at my local comic book shop (Heroes Are Here in Goldsboro NC) when I was a kid. I picked the first issue up off the shelf.
Why did it capture you?
Right from the jump, that awesome cover of the first issue, featuring the 5 warlocks, had my attention. Then, reading the issue, I fell in love with the interesting, sort of hard-edged cast of characters, the fusion of horror, science fiction, and fantasy was right up my alley.
Did you have a favorite issue?
I think the first 5 or so issues were all pretty great, but that first issue will always be my favorite in the series. It did such a nice job of introducing all the characters and giving me a feel for the tone of the series.
How about a beloved character?
Savasthar, the shapeshifting dragon, has always been my favorite of the bunch, but I have a soft spot for Zania, too.
Did these change once you picked the books up to work on the project?
Not too much. If anything, I like both Savasthar and Zania a little more. In this project, I get to write Savasthar as sort of a brooding hardboiled detective… who can turn into a dragon… so that’s pretty hard to beat.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have?
As with all my projects, I draw inspiration from many different places. Novels, movies, TV, other comics… It’s hard for me to pinpoint any one source. Those original few issues of the Warlock 5 comic were definitely the most vital influence.
The writing process is a collaboration between you and Jimmy Z Johnston. How is it to collaborate with other artists? Is there too much compromise?
I enjoy collaborating with others. Sometimes, writing comics is too solitary. Working with other creators helps to keep me sane.
This is not the only project you two have partnered up for. Why did you start working together?
I’ve known Jimmy Z for a long time now. Ten years, I guess. And we’ve always talked about writing something together.
Are there any specific scenes or narrative developments you want to include in this continuation of the 80’s comic?
We looked at the weird relationships between the warlocks as they were presented in the original comic, and we wanted to honor the way their interactions were depicted. But we also wanted to expand on what we had seen before and deepen those connections.
What are you most looking forward to work on?
I chuckle to myself every time I think of the interactions between Zania, the punk rock necromancer, and Argon, the Terminator-like robot from the future. But from a “big story” perspective, we’re getting a chance to really explore the idea of defending multiple realities from outside threats. And we’re introducing a really, really big outside threat.
The five main characters are extremely different and layered. What was the biggest challenge bringing them to life?
We have to make sure to give each character plenty of “page time.” This is an ensemble cast, and no one character needs to hog the spotlight. That can be a challenge at times.
Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?
For the most part, yeah. Any time you work on a comic like this, especially with a co-writer, there are changes and new angles that arise as you are working on the project.
In these shaken times do you try to embed your work with some subliminal criticism or do you keep it detached from the outside world?
I think people will read something more into the book whether or not I try to include something. But my primary objective with these stories is to entertain. Sure, there might be some subliminal ideas that I’m working into a story based on things that I’m thinking about, but I’m not going to try to hit the reader over the head with any of that.
Anything you can tell us without giving out major spoilers?
Well, I always wondered what would happen to the five warlocks if one of them died.
For Immediate Release
Contact Melanie R. Meadors
Same Assassins, Thieves, and Mercenaries, Different Packaging
Outland Entertainment Gives Blackguards a Facelift
May 9, 2018—Topeka, KS—Outland Entertainment is please to announce a new look and edition for the anthology Blackguards, dividing the book into two volumes and including two never-before-seen stories.
Blackguards, originally published by Ragnarok Publications, was a massive volume containing stories from some of the best dark fantasy and grim dark authors in the industry. It was so big that there was an e-book only supplement, The Blackguards Blacklist, containing stories from talented authors that were not available in print.
“Because of the large page count of the book, printing this book became prohibitively expensive,” says creative director and owner of Outland Entertainment Jeremy Mohler. “Dividing the book into two will not only allow us to release it in a financially feasible way for both readers and publisher, it will let us make room so that all the Blackguards authors interested can be included in the print editions.”
The new volumes, entitled Brigands and Scoundrels will have all new cover art by Daniel Rempel, and editing will be done by Alana Joli Abbott and Melanie R. Meadors (with first edition credit going to JM Martin). The books will have stories in them by Bradley P. Beaulieu, Lian Hearn, Rob J. Hayes, Anthony Lowe, Anthony Ryan, Linda Robertson, Cat Rambo, Erik Scott de Bie, and many more. Not only will the books have stories that appeared in the original anthology, but each volume will feature a brand new story from fantasy authors not included in the original volume or the ebook companion.
Backers of the upcoming Knaves anthology Kickstarter (May 15) will have a first chance to see the new books. Ebooks and physical copies of Brigands and Scoundrels will be offered as backer rewards for Knaves. Afterwards, both Brigands and Scoundrels will be available online and in bookstores.
Contact: Melanie R. Meadors For Immediate Release
Announcing Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology, Coming to Kickstarter in May!
Outland Entertainment to Publish Collection of Anti-Hero Stories
April 18, 2018, Topeka, KS—Outland Entertainment is pleased to announce they will be publishing a new collection of stories where protagonists’ moral compasses don’t always point north, and where villains are the heroes of their own stories.
Edited by Alana Abbot (Kaiju Rising 2), and Melanie R. Meadors (Hath No Fury), this collection of fourteen short stories will include authors Mercedes Lackey and Dennis Lee, Anna Smith Spark, Cullen Bunn, Cat Rambo, Shanna Germain, Anton Strout, Walidah Imarisha, Linda Robertson, Clay Sanger, Kenny Soward, Maurice Broaddus, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Toiya Finley, and Lian Hearn, with an introduction by Howard Tayler. The editors sought out some of the best authors in the business, making sure their list was as diverse and representative of their readership as possible. Outland Entertainment is dedicated to making a difference in publishing by trying as hard as they can to have everyone’s voices heard.
This anthology will be funded through Kickstarter, with backer rewards that include print and digital copies of the books, “Tuckerizations” of readers (where the author includes their name in some way in the story), copies of other Outland anthologies, and more. As the campaign funds, stretch goals such as granting a pay raise for authors and creating interior artwork for the book, among others, will be announced. Outland has had several successful Kickstarters in the past, including the recent Kaiju Rising 2: Reign of Monsters, which is currently heading to the printer and will be sent to backers immediately after. Outland’s goal is to keep the campaign as simple as possible in order to make fulfillment to campaign backers fast and streamlined.
Outland Entertainment is a publisher of fiction, games, and comics. They also provide creative services, helping creators focus on the fun part of their job while they take care of business needs, hiring artists/writers/colorists/etc, and other things to help make projects run smoothly. You can learn more about them and their team at http:// outlandentertainment.com.
A fast and fun Lovecraft-inspired dice game played in the pubs and bars of Innsmouth. Roll the Bones, pray to Dagon.
Utility Games, LLC is proud to announce our first game, debuting on Kickstarter, Dagon’s Bones.
Dagon’s Bones can be taught in minutes, is designed to be played casually, yet players have to make quick decisions to win. It makes a great warm-up for Game Nights or as a fun mini-game in Lovecraft-themed RPGs. Either way, it’s a fun and fast beer-and-pretzels game that’s easy to play while plotting to overthrow the accursed land-dwellers.
In the seaside pubs of Innsmouth they play a game of chance and fortune called Dagon’s Bones. It’s a dice game that requires both luck and daring and maybe a small blessing from the Elder Gods.
Will you steal from the other players, rob Cthulhu himself, or be granted, however fleetingly, Dagon’s blessings? Roll the Bones…and pray.
Included with each game are three dice with unique combinations of Innsmouth inspired symbols and 25 plastic replica coins from The Marsh Refinery, all packaged in a sturdy storage tube. Backing begins at $20.
Shipping for each backer will be determined after the campaign has ended and will be added to the bid amount. We will always strive to find the lowest cost shipping solution possible.
About Utility Games, LLC:
Our gaming passions span the gamut, from dice to board games, RPGs to minis, simple to complex. Together, we have over 80 years gaming experience.
Brian S. Roe is a graphic designer, sculptor, and writer and the creator of Zombie Plague and Trash Bash Bits.
Cinda Lybarger is a gaming hobbyist, with a background in production, logistics/shipping, and technical writing.
Ryan Lybarger is a scientific/technical writer, project manager, and lifetime gamer who has decided to apply his skills to game design and production.
Visit us on Kickstarter, Facebook, and Instagram:
From Batman to Star Wars, Jeffrey has tackled numerous fandoms. Now, he faces the Warlock 5 Grid!
Did you read Warlock 5 before joining this project?
No, unfortunately I had never even heard of Warlock 5 before signing on to work on this project. I was given a .pdf containing all the images of all the books after signing, however. So, I’m working my way through them as work on the book. Amazing stuff!
Do you have a favorite character?
Honestly, my favorite character is Zania, full stop. From the very first description of the character, I loved her. Then, when I was told we would be making some small changes to her as well as updating her look, I loved her even more! I grew up loving characters like Wonder Woman, you know? Powerful females, but also beautiful women who could not only beat the snot out of a snarky kryptonian, but could also capture the gaze of every eye at the high-class gala! So when Zania came along, I gravitated towards her.
Did these change once you picked the books up to work on the project?
Not at all. My favorite character is still Zania. Hands down. But what has changed since taking on the project is the amount of distance between my favorite character and the second place finisher. Zania was my fave by a long shot at the beginning, but I have really come to love others! Savashtar and Doomidor are at times the perfect picture of brotherly bickering and banter! Then, you also have the super dry mechanical wit of Argon. He’s not a sarcastic character by nature, but the fact that he takes everything said around him literally lends to a lot of funny interactions. He is super literal, but surrounded by a quartet of smart-mouths. It’s great! Tanith could easily have been a simple character summed up with one word: sexy. Yet, she is so much more than attractive. She has insanely powerful magic and is a natural leader. She’s great. All the other four guardians are and I’m getting to see that more and more as I work on the project. That’s the only change.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences do you have?
The original work cast a shadow the size of a mountain! Those pages are beautiful! I wanted to try and keep the core of the characters alive, but I have a style that is much more linear and graphic. I grew up drawing panels from the books I was reading. I’m talking Todd MacFarlane, Jim Lee, John Romita Jr., Mark Bagley, to name a few. But as I grew older, I started looking at a lot of different artists from the laundry list of ridiculously talked artists working today, and the ones that influence me the most would have to be Ryan Ottley, Ed McGuinnes, Sean Gordon Murphy, and Jim Lee.
Are there any specific scenes that stand out?
Absolutely! I love action scenes, but so often the most impactful images, at least in my opinion, aren’t action-oriented, but drama-oriented. I mentioned Sean Gordon Murphy earlier, and now more specifically, his work on Joe the Barbarian. In that book, the ending is so powerful, it would bring tears to your eyes. I know it did to mine. It wasn’t the usual action scene capped by the shot of the death of a beloved character, for example. I won’t spoil the ending, but take my word for it. Buy the book, read it, and you’ll understand why I love dramatic scenes.
In Warlock 5, there is a great one. It takes place in Tanith’s chambers. She’s searching for something and is visited by Savashtar. They’re both detectives of a sort, and they have a kinship. Nothing tawdry, more of an unspoken connection, but in this scene Cullen wrote the dialogue in such a way as to be uncharacteristically unsnarky for Savashtar, as well as uncharacteristically affectionate for Tanith. It made for a scene that needed some subtlety. So, I arranged the camera angels and the composition to try and imply that they were engaging in a verbal dance. A back-and-forth spinning waltz that grabs you and takes you along with them. The best part is they never take a physical step in any direction in that entire scene! But they do move with each other just like a dancing duo reading the flow of each other’s moves.
I have to say that I’m more inspired by this script than any other I’ve ever worked on and its the depth that Cullen puts into it that makes scenes like this one happen. It happens to be my favorite scene so far!
The story is really diverse, ranging from fantasy settings to hi-tech scifi. How does one keep aesthetic coherence between this blend?
I think the best way to maintain coherence is to boil down the different genres to what’s at their respective cores. Once you do that, the job is to remain true to them. Remain true, but blend them. I think of it in terms of colors of paint. Imagine that Sci-Fi is red. The most intense, vibrant red you’ve ever seen. The same is true for Fantasy, but it’s yellow. Now, they seem like such different genres. Different colors. They both have bodies of works ranging from iconic movies to comics that inspired generations. Each one is a slightly different take on their original respective red and yellow. Perhaps the iconic movie Star Wars is a vermillion. That would make Star Trek: The Next Generation a scarlet. The comic book Conan is a goldenrod, while the movie by the same name is a canary yellow.
Both of the genres are filled with millions of iterations, but when you strip away all the subtle differences, you get back to the core of the genre, the yellow and red. Then, the job is to blend those colors to make orange. It’s understanding the two genres well enough to know what makes them unique and then blending those aspects together.
The five main characters are extremely different and layered. What was the biggest challenge bringing them to life?
The biggest challenge in bringing them to life is to try and constantly do justice to that depth of character you mentioned. We are all affected by our environment and so are the 5 warlocks. In order to do them justice, I must push to show the depths of the worlds that they hail from. When you’re trying to show, at minimum, five different worlds full of living beings, as well as their guardians, it is a super challenging task. You have to know these individual characters both inside and out. And when you can do that, then the real fun part kicks in. If you were from a different planet within a different solar system within a different galaxy, well you might have an entirely different response to a common occurrence/question than I would. Makes sense right? Right. But what is that response? Exactly. What IS that response? You have to know the answer to that question a million times over. And that’s just for one warlock. Now do it 4 more times! Ha! But basically you have to know seriously everything about the 5 guardians! It’s a challenge for sure!
Did the fact that a previous artist had already given them a face help or harm your creative process?
Oh, it absolutely helped! You hear it all the time as artists, ‘we needed somewhere to pull from. We need a starting point. And then we can go from there’. But lucky me, I already had a starting point, and amazing one at that. From there it was just a matter of breaking down the characters to their core, and keeping the most important stuff while playing around with the rest! The push and pull of reshaping these characters was made much, much easier with having already had such an amazing foundation to pull from!
Has it turned out as you’ve envisioned it so far?
Truthfully, it has turned out better than that. I have worked on projects before that got me certain positives but would come at the cost of certain negatives. You know how it is. And one project in particular had supremely tight deadlines. But I did it. I did the work. I even learned to get faster at interior pages. Big positive! But it turned out to be at the cost was the final art. I hated it. I still do. It doesn’t represent my skill set as an artist and it doesn’t feel like I improved at all during the production phase. And most importantly, it doesn’t look cool! So I hate that project.
But Warlock 5? Well this project is a completely different story. I feel like I am constantly learning and improving, I feel like it is easily, far and away the best storytelling I have ever put out and most importantly, it is the coolest looking interior pages I have ever made! And that’s not me bragging, I don’t do that. That’s just the results of me taking a cold, objective look at this project versus my previous ones. It’s the best storytelling I have ever created. And its the most fun I have ever had working on storytelling. It’s just way better than I ever could have hoped for! I truthfully hope this never ends!
Thanks Jeff, for giving us a sneak peek into your work and the future of Warlock 5!
Thank you so so much for talking with me! It was a blast! I hope you all love the book!
Andy Poole says that one of the reasons that attracted him about being a colorist is the satisfaction of “seeing black and white art brought to life with color, under your very hands.” In a previous interview, we have also learned he enjoys playing with conventions when it comes to coloring comics. But how did Andy face the Warlock 5 challenge?
Did you read Warlock 5 before joining this project?
I’d never even heard of Warlock 5 before joining the project, as comics were not an interest of mine up until maybe ten years ago, so a Canadian comic from the 1980’s was completely off my radar. I did get myself into gear and do some research on the series however, reading reviews and finding what books I could.
Did you discover a favorite issue?
Not a particular issue, no. The original Warlock 5 had a cliff hanger at the end of issue #3, which I won’t ruin here, but it’s a pretty good one. Unfortunately, it was never resolved in later issues, so despite the writing continuing to be good and fun, I kind of gravitated towards the artwork instead of the story. From that point of view, any issue from #4 onward is a favorite.
While the first three issues had great artwork, the later issues kick it into overdrive with some of the most incredible black and white paints and inks I’ve ever seen. A page in issue five is especially nice, with the Robot Warlock Argon’s ship moving through space in front of a rocky, crater marked planet, with bright sun and ethereal nebula behind it all. The lighting is fantastic and makes the entire scene both dark and mysterious and beautiful too.
How about a beloved character?
Tanith. I find that the other Warlocks know their positions, powers, responsibilities and conspiracies well, but Tanith has had a lot of growth as a messenger of peace and harmony realizing that her standing as one of the Warlock 5 means performing acts that are far from savory. She’s straddling the line between her personal views and philosophy, and the corruption and violence that dealing with The Grid and the other Warlocks is pushing on her. Personal conflict is the most human story, my favorite kind of story, and she fits the bill the most.
Warlock 5 is tied to this 80’s view of a dystopian multiverse. How is it to work on such a setting?
The setting is interesting because it’s not a single setting at all, it’s like being thrust into 80’s Horror, or Urban Fantasy, Cyberpunk and I even get a Masters of the Universe vibe every now and then. These are all different worlds that rather than make the book feel convoluted, they make it work. They’re defined as individual worlds, not a mish-mash of genres. Working on that is interesting, it gives me the opportunity to join in on defining those individual worlds and genres using the colors, which is quite obvious when you see the color theory in practice.
The series has a – quite large and – faithful fanbase. Did that put any different kind of pressure onto you?
Not at all, mostly because I’ve remained blissfully ignorant of the fan base. But now I know… I did put pressures on myself though. When I saw the artwork from after issue #4 of the original run, I assumed that anyone who saw the art would pretty much instantly fall in love with it the way I did. As a Colorist I have to live up to that standard, and that is not easy at all.
The greyscale art is detailed and rendered expertly, and is something I would personally love to see the new series of books rendered as. But I’ve been brought on to modernize the story along with Cullen, Jimmy and Jeff, the writers and artist respectively, so I had to color the thing in a more modern style. I wanted to keep an eighties vibe, so I limited the color palette to suit that, but it’s still obviously a modern take.
Warlock 5 has always stricken me as having these bright colors. There seems to be something nearly violent about that approach. Do you agree with that? Or is it a misconception?
I can certainly agree. The original four issues had a very, I guess you could call it a sharp style of inks. They felt very in place with a violent story. Denis Beauvais, the artist, could reel that style in when the story required a softer touch however. I’ve tried to live up to that myself.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have when tackling this project?
I’ve tried not to be influenced by anything but the original source material and the creative team around me. If I feel I’m capturing the atmosphere of the original, I’m happy. If the Writers, Artist, Letter, Editor, Publisher and Creative Director are happy with it, I’m happy with it.
Are there any specific scenes that stand out?
Tanith using her magic stands out the most. It’s bloody brilliant, in the literal sense. Bright blue and white glowing power, taking the form of butterflies that Jeffrey Edwards must have killed his knuckles drawing. But he pulled it off excellently! I hope that I lived up to his efforts in those scenes, because he deserves nothing but the utmost praise for pulling them off.
Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?
Yes and no. You come into projects like these, with very rich and detailed artwork, with a style in mind, but the work grows and changes all on its own, and you have to flow with it. I’ve found it both to be good and difficult for me to render, and it’s fallen away from my original vision, or perhaps my need to honor the original artwork. That aside, it looks quite nice, I’m pleased with how it’s turning out and can’t wait to see the printed pages. That’s when it all comes together, the experience of reading the finished product and holding those floppies or trades in your hands.
Thanks, Andy, for leading us through the colorful multiverse of Warlock 5!
This post was originally posted here on Books of M (www.booksofm.com).
When Marc Tassin invited me to write a story for the anthology he and John Helfers were editing, Champions of Aetaltis, I was over the moon. I had always wanted to work on an RPG tie-in project, and since this had a sword and sorcery type setting, it seemed right up my alley. Some of the first fantasy novels I read as a teen were Dungeons and Dragons tie-ins, and I’ve enjoyed the Pathfinder Tales books from Paizo as well. It didn’t take me much thought at all to agree to work on this project with two editors I admired.
When I got the setting guide to the world of Aetaltis, where the stories of the anthology were to be set, I started reading it with glee. I couldn’t wait to get started, and I was sure inspiration for a story would hit me as I pored over the pages. There were two hundred pages, to be precise, with details about races and classes of characters, facts and maps about the settings, and everything I ever wanted to know about the history and gods of the world. But when it came time to actually write the story, aside from having a little struggle coming up with the proper “champion” (and you can read more about my struggle with that here) I became really worried. There was so much stuff in the world guide, so much of it was already established. What if I completely screwed something up?
Thankfully, I’m not a shy person and went straight to Marc with my fears. Not that I asked him to hold my hand or anything, but I pitched my story idea to him as specifically as I could, and asked him to please verify that the world stuff that was involved with my story seemed accurate. I told him straight out, “Hey, I’m new at this shared world stuff. I just need your OK that I’m going in the right direction.” Sure enough, I was fine. I wrote the story and submitted it to him by the deadline.
Then things started to get really cool.
I hadn’t thought much beyond needing to get my story written and then taking care of edits when they arrived. To me, my characters existed in Aetaltis, and there were creatures and mention of other places in the story, but that was it. It was self-contained in my mind. But of course, to the world developer, this one story was a piece to a much bigger puzzle. My story’s characters and the events in it would become the stuff of leg-end in Aetlatis. And possibly most awesome of all was finding connections between stories in the anthology, things that were completely unplanned but just coincided. Two stories, for example, that had a staff in them. When Marc emailed me one day and asked if I could fiddle with the description of a device in my story to make it match one in another story, which would actually be a legendary weapon, I realized for the first time just how cool writing in a shared world really was. My story was more than just a story, it would become a bit of the mythos of the world. People could read my story and create a game out of it, just like the Aetaltis role playing game world was the basis for my fiction story.
The same goes for pretty much any tie-in. When you write a story based in the world of a video game, RPG, or movie franchise, your story becomes part of that world’s cultural literacy. Something small in the world might have inspired your story, but something small in your story might inspire someone to write another story, or game, or even movie. Your work becomes part of something bigger than it would have been if it was just a stand-alone tale.
A simple story becomes legend.
About the Author
Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy and science fiction stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her work has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and she was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. Melanie is also a freelance author publicist and publicity/marketing coordinator for both Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse. She blogs regularly for GeekMom and The Once and Future Podcast. Her short story “A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, available on Amazon.