A ComiXology Originals Debut: The Stone King Q&A With Kel McDonald & Tyler Crook

by Hannah Means Shannon

Today, a brand new limited series debuts on comiXology via their Originals line, bringing us a fantasy story written by Kel McDonald (Misfitst of Avalon, Sorcery 101) and illustrated by Tyler Crook (Harrow County, Bad Blood, Witchfinder). Both veteran comic creators who have worked in a number of formats, McDonald and Crook bring us a creator-owned digital first series that is part of a wider line of comics that debut in digital but often include features like print-on-demand to follow.

In The Stone King, we meet Ave, a young thief who hasn’t had a lot of opportunity to consider her choices in life. The world she inhabits is governed by rules and taboos, many of which she breaks, with potentially disastrous results for herself and for her city. When she steals too much magical moss from the Stone King, the city of Stoneport and those Ave cares about are put in grave danger. While the city is wracked by destruction, Ave has to find a rare gem to try to end the chaos.

Each issue of The Stone King will be released monthly on comiXology and Kindle for $2.99 and is free to read for members of comiXology Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading. The collected edition will be available via Print-on-Demand exclusively on Amazon.com.

Kel McDonald and Tyler Crook join us today for a quick Q&A about their gorgeous and thought-provoking new series.

[Cover to The Stone King, issue #2 coming up!]

Hannah Means-Shannon: How did you first hear about working with comiXology Originals and what made it seem like a good fit for this project?

Tyler Crook: Kel told me about it!

Kel McDonald: At a convention, I was talking to the folks at Comixology about different books of mine that had done well on Comixology Submit. That lead to them telling me to email them after the show.

HMS: To what extent have you worked with digital comics before, and how might this project be similar or different to things you’ve worked on in the past?

KMcD:  I did a webcomic, Sorcery 101, for 12 years. So I’m pretty used to comics that are digital first.

 TC: This is my first project that’s intended specifically for a digital release. Outside of a few technical concerns (like avoiding double page spreads), it’s not much different from working for print.

HMS: Working with a four issue series is a really specific configuration. Had you ever created with these storytelling needs before, and did you discover anything about how to pace and present the story working with a four issue arc?

KMcD: Comixology is a little more flexible with the page count than physical copies. So while I originally planned it as a one shot GN, it was easy enough to break it into 4 different parts.

TC: That’s pretty much the format I’ve been working on my whole career so I’m pretty used to it.

HMS: Kel, in The Stone King, there’s such a thing as a Pickpocket Guild! How did you come by that idea, and what about it appealed to you?

KMcD: It’s more of a general thief organization, which is a pretty common trope in fantasy stories. Whether it’s in something older like Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser or a newer book like Lies of Locke Lamora, it’s a staple of the genre. A thief background gives Ave something to motivate her, but also create internal conflict. Because she’s young, she doesn’t quite know if a life of crime is for her.

HMS: Kel, can you tell us anything about the belief system of the people in the world of The Stone King, if that’s not a spoiler? They seem to have certain taboos and superstitions, for one.

KMcD: Well, like a lot of ancient cultures they have a lot of beliefs that tie to blood. Some of those superstitions grew from something true. But a lot of their beliefs started by me trying to figure out what would form around having this giant with magic moss growing on it.

HMS: When creating Ave as a character, what traits were foremost in your mind? Do you think she’s a character who still has a lot to learn about the world?

KMcD: Ave has learned some hard lessons but still isn’t jaded. So she has skills and knowledge do a few different things. But she feels stuck. It gives her a lot of untapped potential.

HMS: Tyler, it’s wonderful to see your artwork on The Stone King taking flight, sometimes literally. What freedoms does working in a fantasy world of this kind afford you as an artist?

TC: It’s kind of a mixed bag. I’m freed from a lot of the considerations that I would have were we working on a story set in our world. But instead I’m constrained by the logic of the world we’ve created. For example, if a character decides to use a hammer, I can draw whatever kind of hammer I want. I’m not constrained by reality. But I also HAVE to design every single thing in the world. So if a character picks up a hammer, suddenly I have to figure out how the people of this world might use hammers and how it might be different from how we use them in our world. So it’s fun, but it’s a lot of work.

HMS: It seems like the city of Stoneport contains so many elements from great archetypal cities of myth and history. Did you draw from any particular cultures or traditions to design it?

TC: Mostly I’ve been referencing Babylonian architecture. That’s why you will see a lot of blue tile and brick buildings. But I’m also trying to make it feel like a unique self-defined place.

HMS: noticed that your SFX in The Stone King are fully painted, and often integrated quite closely with the art. Is this something new to your work? What do you think that brings to the story?

TC: In general I always think the artist should do the sound effects on the page. I mean, the point of SFX is to show that something in the world is making a sound. So the SFX should be built into the environment just like you would build in the lighting. I did my SFX in pretty much the same way for my previous book HARROW COUNTY so it’s not new but I hope I’m getting better at it. It’s also fun. I like hand lettering stuff and SFX are particularly fun.

The Stone King debuts today, November 14th, 2018, on comiXology via their Originals line. ComiXology Originals release on a variety of service plans with Amazon, including Prime Reading, Kindle Unlimited (which you can try with a 30-day free trial at amazon.com/kindleunlimited) and ComiXology Unlimited (which you can also try with a 30-day free trial at comixology.com/unlimited). All titles are also available as individual purchases on Kindle and comiXology.

Thanks very much to Kel McDonald and Tyler Crook for taking part in our Q&A!

The Stone King joins other comiXology Originals including, Grave Danger by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton, Elephantmen 2261: Death of Shorty by Richard Starkings and Axel Medellin, Ask For Mercy by Richard Starkings and Abigail Jill Harding, Goliath Girls by Sam Humphries and Alti Firmansyah., Teenage Wasteland by Magdalene Visaggio and Jen Vaughn, Superfreaks by Elsa Charretier, Pierrick Colinet and Margaux Saltel, Hit Reblog by Megan Kearney, Savage Game by Ryan Kalil, Shawn Kittelsen and Chris B. Murray and more.

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