Gould & Martin on The Wolves of Odin

Gould & Martin on The Wolves of Odin

In the upcoming graphic novella The Wolves of Odin, cartoonist Grant Gould imagines a war of godly proportions as the Asgardian god Odin has transformed three of his followers into inhuman werewolves set on reinvigorating the dying Norse religion of the time. Standing is his way is son and thunder god Thor, who challenges his father's madness with the help of his loyal warrior protégé Tyr.

Unbridling Viking fighting, magical Norse gods and werewolves is the central themes behind this upcoming graphic novel from the new publishing company Super Real Graphics. With the book in this month's Previews and scheduled for a November release, we talked with Gould and publisher Jason Martin.

Newsarama: I'm Joe Schmo, man off the street. How would you describe the Wolves of Odin book, Grant?

Grant Gould: The quick tagline is “Vikings vs. Werewolves.” But to go a little further into detail, the story is about Odin’s frustration with the rise of new religions among the north-men, such as Christianity. In his anger he transforms three of his most loyal berserkers into unstoppable beasts and unleashes them upon his traitorous followers. Thor decides to challenge Odin’s madness by aiding a loyal warrior of his own: the viking Tyr. With the help of Thor, a Norse witch, and two strangers, Tyr must ultimately face the wolves and realize his own destiny. It’s a story that has a lot of magic and mythology – sort of my own spin on the legend of Tyr and Fenrir the wolf.

Jason Martin: That's right, he said it… "VIKINGS VS WEREWOLVES"!!

NRAMA: That's Jason Martin, publisher of Super Real Graphics and long-time Newsarama forum poster. Guys, can you tell us who are the lead characters in this book?

GG: The Norse Gods certainly play a role, but we don’t see much of them. Mostly we follow four main human characters.

The lead character is Tyr, a gruff, battle-worn fighter who’s able to speak with Thor (the gods are treated much like spirits – where some can see them and speak to them; some cannot). Then we’re introduced to two men, Gunnarson and Guthbrand, who seem to enter the story by happenstance, but ultimately they play a pretty big role in how the battle will unfold. Every character has a secret or an agenda, which leads me to the witch Bergthora. She acts as a servant for Thor, helping to carry out his plans and prepare Tyr for the coming battle. So those are the human characters, and then I also have three werewolves. They each have their own distinct look and personality, and are led by Fenrir, the largest and strongest of the trio.

JM: And Grant didn't mention, but as he pointed out to me, one of the key characters, the viking Gunnarson, is actually based on the YouTube clip, Techno Viking! Once you know that, and see him come to life in the pages, it's really damn cool!! [laughs]

NRAMA: In the time period of the book, Norse mythology is more religion, going head-to-head with Christianity. How do you approach that?

GG: Well, I treat all religions and deities in my book as if they were real – I don’t make any kind of statement on whether or not the Norse beliefs are the “right path,” or whether Christianity is the “right path.” I go into it with the mindset that they all exist in the world of this book, and they operate on some spiritual plane that humans can’t really understand. In Wolves of Odin, magic is very real, and the gods are just as prone to childish, unpredictable emotions as people are. I was very intrigued by the idea that Odin would just flat-out lose his cool over the fact that his followers were starting to discover Christianity and turn their backs on the old ways. Here’s this almighty Father of the Norse Pantheon, and he lets petty jealousy consume him to the point of actually attacking his own followers. And I liked the age-old theme of the son having to stand up to his father. This whole scenario set a great stage for both an epic feud between Odin and Thor, and a battle where vikings had to go face to face with werewolves.

JM: See? Vikings VS Werewolves!!

NRAMA: Werewolves vs. Vikings. That's a winning formula – how'd the concept and the book come together?

GG: I was always a huge fan of both vikings and werewolves, but there was a particular day that the idea popped into my head. I was at a Barnes & Noble looking at some books on Norse mythology, killing time (as I often do), and I think I spotted an illustration of Fenrir the wolf – I can’t remember exactly what triggered the thought – but I found myself wondering why there weren’t any comics or movies that had vikings fighting werewolves. It seemed like the coolest idea! (Especially since a lot of people believe that the werewolf legend began during the viking era, when berserkers would wear bear and wolf skins into battle and howl like animals.) A little lightbulb blinked on over my head and I pretty much decided right then and there that I was going to be the one to make it. It was like the stars aligned and I had a nerdy epiphany and it became my personal quest. I knew that I had to do it before someone else came up with the idea. So I ran home, Googled around to make sure no one else had done something similar – and that’s how it all got started. I began to write up story ideas and character ideas. I did a lot of reading on the Norse mythologies and werewolf legends, looking for little tidbits to tie into my story. I decided early on that I wanted to create the whole book myself – mostly because I wanted to plow forward with it and really have complete creative control, but also because I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted the experience of writing it, penciling it, inking it, coloring it, doing the lettering – the whole package. It was – and continues to be – a huge learning experience. You know, it’s tough to dive into something like a creator-owned book, because it’s a massive time investment and you’re not being paid. It’s a tricky thing, but it’s a risk worth taking, and I’m so happy I ran with the idea and made the book happen.

JM: You know, and the thing is, this is Grant's first real work in comics, but, just the teaser image he put up last year, for the story, had me sold. I mean, he's a great artist, but visual storytelling, and writing, are a whole other level to the craft, so I was a bit guarded about what Grant might come up with… After seeing his notes, then his scripts, and finally pages, I was literally blown away by his abilities! He's truly crafted an epic imaginative tale, and executes it with some really strong visuals. It's just amazing!

NRAMA: You're publishing this as a 64-page graphic novella. Is this a stand-alone book, or do you have others planned?

GG: It’s a stand-alone book, but I may do more down the road. Over the next couple months I’ll be focusing a lot on my Clone Wars online comic for Lucasfilm, and then Wolves of Odin will be hitting stores in November. If there’s a good response to the book and I have enough free time, I’d imagine I’ll start thinking about a second volume. Even though the first one is its own self-contained story, I definitely left it open enough to continue the tale and touch on the next chapter of one or two of the characters’ lives. I guess we shall see…

JM: Yeah, it's part of Super Real Graphics Presents, a new line of self contained, creator-owned, affordable 64 page original graphic novels. The idea being, with individual comics pricing getting higher, and full sized trade paperbacks being quite a step up in investment, a hybrid format seems perfect right now. Something quite a bit more substantial than a single issue, and a more satisfying read, but much more affordable than a full sized trade, so readers, and retailers can take a chance on it. All under the SRG Presents brand, so once you discover it, you can trust the name and check out past and future works offered under it.

NRAMA: This has the potential to skew as a mature readers book or a kids book, or anything in between. What is it?

GG: I’ll admit, there were a lot of times that I was tempted to make it a hardcore R-rated book, with lots of boobs and buckets of blood. But at the end of the day, when I look at my cartoony art style, the harder-edged stuff seems a bit out of place, like I’m just trying to be cool by throwing in some extra gore. I wanted this to be a book that anyone could look at and enjoy. I didn’t want it to be something I had to hide from my mom, you know? So I had to find a balance, and I ended up deciding to make it PG-rated. There are heads getting hacked off, there’s some blood – the standard kinds of things you can see on any given episode of Law & Order. But no nudity, no extreme over-the-top violence that’ll make babies cry. Just character-driven storytelling and action that doesn’t talk down to anyone or cater to any specific audience.

JM: Grant keeps saying "PG", and I'd say it skews closer to PG-13. Gnome was definitely all ages, Wolves is pretty close, but it would skew a tad older, content wise. Story wise, both work on many levels, and certainly aren't written down to that audience in any way. Just to be clear.

NRAMA: How would you compare your series with the other Viking series, Brian Wood's Northlanders from Vertigo?

GG: I gotta say, when I first saw the ads for Northlanders, I was a little worried… My first thought was: “Oh, great, now everyone’s gonna think I’m riding their viking train.” But seriously, I’ve been following every issue and I absolutely love the series. And I’m happy that it’s nothing like Wolves of Odin. Northlanders is much more about realistic day-in-the-life characters, whereas Wolves of Odin is more about the otherworldly elements of Norse Mythology. My book is more cartoony and fantastical, and of course deals with things like werewolves. And I don’t drop the F-bomb. So the two books are quite different – apples and oranges.

JM: Northlanders is great, I love Brian Wood's stuff. There's a man who made a mark with his creator-owned indie start. Much respect, but yeah, they're just two great books that use Norse themes. Wolves is definitely more "fantasy" based.

NRAMA: Grant, prior to this you're mainly known as a sketch card artist, Grant. What led to doing comics?

GG: Well, I worked on a bunch of card sets – Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Heroes, Halo, Indiana Jones, Marvel Masterpieces, DC Legacy – and honestly it just reached a point where I wanted to branch out and start doing other things. I wanted to move away from sketch cards, which are fantastic ways to get your foot in the door, but hardly something you can rely on to pay your bills and make a living off of. I don’t think I specifically set out to jump into sequential comics, but when the idea for “Wolves of Odin” hit me, I knew it was time to try my hand at it. I’m very much an artist who wants to try a lot of different things. I’ve been a graphic designer, a production artist, a video editor… I just like to try new creative things, and I guess I just figure one day something will stand out above the rest and I’ll say, “I’ve found my calling!” I’ve always loved comics and I think it was just a natural progression for me. Who knows what I’ll be doing ten years from now – writing stories, drawing comics, making movies, working at a fast food joint. You never can tell. But I feel like I’m on a good path, and I’m excited to see where it goes. Hopefully Wolves of Odin is just the beginning.

For more on Wolves of Odin, check out the website at www.WolvesOfOdin.com

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