Currently up and running is a new Kickstarter from professional comic book writer John Reppion (Albion, Conspiracy of Ravens) and artist Dheeraj Verma aiming to raise funds to publish a new 40 page fantasy-based graphic novel called Spell Warriors. Rather than have me fill you in on the details, why not read my interview with John and get the lowdown on this new title and a little bit more of what it’s all about?
Olly MacNamee: I suppose an obvious question, John, is: how did this new project come about?
John Reppion: I was contacted by Dheeraj Verma, who was already involved on Spell Warriors, saying that Saul Kramer (the creator of SW) was looking for someone to work off a comic script based in his universe. I had a few emails back and forth with Saul, a Skype call, and the whole thing seemed really interesting and fun. Something I’d never really done before. Saul liked my ideas and approach for the script, so we got going.
OM: It’s a high-fantasy story, judging from the Kickstarter, and seems to centre around a blue-skinned warrior, Dan-Par, the last survivor of his race. What can you tell us about his quest and some of the friends and foes he meets along the way?
JR: Yeah, so Dar-Pan is the leader of the Spell Warriors, which is an eight strong team of magic wielding, kick-ass heroes. Kind of a cross between a D&D party and the X-Men or the Avengers. Dar-Pan is on a quest to avenge his family and save the world of Erridose from the evil forces which have been unleashed by our super-baddie, Balkye. Each member of the team has their own unique set of skills, their own magical abilities, and their own personal reasons for joining the fight against the Balkye and the demonic Pit Lords, whose influence threatens to corrupt the world.
OM: It’s a seemingly very deeply developed world already. How does one approach such a huge world-building project like this? Do the characters evolve from the narrative or are they effected by their surroundings?
JR: Saul has the entire world, and the entire plot – all the character’s back-stories, and their arcs – already mapped out. The whole thing is already there and the level of detail is really impressive. Basically, SW wasn’t initially concieved as a comics idea; Saul has been thinking more along the lines of TV series, and games. So, this was a lot more like working on something for an exsisting franchise. Almost adaptation. However, Saul defintley let me have my own input into the project and it’s been a lot of fun to work on.
OM: You have a unique take on the magic in this world of Erridose? What can you tell us about the sprites that attach themselves onto people? Yet another clue to how well-realised this place is already.
JR: The magical system works like this: you have the material realm (Erridose) and this extra-dimmensional realm called the Maarose. The Maarose exsists outside of regular time and space, but it’s inhabited by all kinds of weird creatures. Some of those creatures are these things called Wisps which are subdived into five orders, or families: Dark, Energy,Mental, Spiritual, and Elemental. Wisps are sometimes drawn to people in the material realm when they experience extreme emotions – danger, terror, etc – and they bond with those material hosts, giving them magical abilities which correspond with the order to which they belong. Wisps become Sprites in the material realm and have a look unique to their order and sub-type. Think Pokemon, but with magic, and you get the basic idea. So, you have Hydromancers with Water Sprites, Necromancers with Necro Sprites, and so on. Sprites can also evolve, making their material host more powerful, so magic users can “level up”.
OM: You’re not limiting yourself to pure fantasy though, are you? You even throw a time-traveller into the mix.
JR: It’s not Tolkien-esque Fantasy, no. At least, not entirely. Like I said, there’s this whole extra-dimensional aspect and there are some magic users whose power allows them to enter the other realm. Our narrator for the comic is called Faelin, and I she’s Chronosteer, which means she can move through time thanks to her Wisp. Which is very handy if you need someone explaining things as they’re happening. There’s also plenty of tech – some kind of steam-punk type stuff, some more straight-up medieval and beyond – which means that guns and bombs and flying machines are all part of the mix.
OM: And, what about this graphic novel’s ‘big bad’, Balkye and his Demon Pit Lords? Seems the Spell Warriors are going to have their work cut out for them with multiple threats along the way.
JR: The idea with Balkye is that he has multiple Sprites – loads more than anyone else – which have bonded with him, and this has made him incredibly powerful, but also unstable. Two Possessing Wisps/Sprites are more or less in control of him, so there’s a kind of battle raging within his body and mind. Because of all that, he’s called forth things from beyond Erridose which are wreaking havok on the world. The Pit Lords are kind of the end of level bosses who the Spell Warriors need to get past in order to get to Balkye. Designing them and coming up with their names was a lot of fun. You’ve got Lord Rot – a kind of zombie, mummy demon, Lord Void – a wraith, Lord Brimstone – a big, hairy, beastly demon, Lady of Bones – a skeletal demon, and their leader, Lord Cerebelum – the, uhm, brains of the operation. Think Masters of the Universe meets Gwar.
OM: Judging from the Kickstarter it’s on the drawing board and halfway out the door. How did you find your artist, Dheeraj Verma? I notice he’d worked previously with your partner, Leah Moore (on Dynamite’s The Complete Dracula), so I’m assuming he was already on your radar? He’s one Hell of an artist looking at the art and the sample pages posted on the campaign page.
JR: Well, as I said, it was Dheeraj who found me, really. Yeah, Leah had worked with him ten years or so ago on The Complete Dracula, when he filled in for a couple of issues and did an amazing job. We’ve always wanted to do something else with Dheeraj, so his involvement was big part of why I was interested in SW in the first instance. He’s a fantastic artist, and brilliant at action stuff especially. The pages I’ve seen look wonderful, and I’m sure people are going to love what he does.
OM: Thanks for your time, John. The Kickstarter’s live now and open until April 6th, right?
JR: Yes indeed. Plenty of time left to pledge (but, you know, don’t leave it too long). Thanks.