Arr! Fans of Dark Horse Presents have already gotten a taste of the new miniseries Amala’s Blade, which combines science fiction, fantasy, high adventure and more for a tale of a teen assassin, swords, seafaring, steampunk, cyborgs, religious war and a ghost robot pirate monkey.Admit it. You’re intrigued.
We got up with the creators of Amala’s Blade, writer Steve Horton and artist Michael Dialynas, to talk about the book with the solicitation of Amala’s Blade #0, which reprints the Dark Horse Presents story and comes out in Febrary 2013, leading into the new Amala’s Blade miniseries. We also have a preview of the book and some of Dialynas’ character designs, including a map of Amala’s world!
Newsarama: Steve, tell us a little about the story of Amala’s Blade.
Steve Horton: Amala’s Blade is about the world's greatest assassin – just ask her! Amala was once picked as a child to be a spiritual leader and unite the two ideological halves of the country of Naamaron.
In the West are the Purifiers, who abhor high technology, run everything on steam power and are people of the earth. In the East are the Modifiers, those who worship tech to the point of implanting it all over themselves.
So Amala was selected at a young age, but, overhearing that she'd be ripped from her family and raised by the State, she runs away. Before she can return home, the leader of a cult of sword orphans kidnaps her and presses her into their order. Since the Modifiers blamed the Purifiers, and vice versa, for Amala's disappearance and presumed death, the war started then.
Twenty bloody years later, Naamaron is locked in a bitter truce. Amala, having mostly forgotten her past, is the last surviving Sword Orphan and makes her way as an assassin, working for unsavory, but officially neutral bosses like the Vizier.
There's just one problem: Ghosts that represent people she's killed are following her around everywhere and bothering her. She doesn't know if there's something supernatural going on, or if she's swiftly going mad.Nrama: How did the idea for this story come about?
Horton: There's a little shop in Schenectady that does mail order.
Seriously, though, as with many of my ideas, I was reading a random Wikipedia article about the Dalai Lama and thought to myself: "What if the chosen one didn't want the job and ran away?" The whole thing sort of snowballed from there.
Nrama: How did you come together on this project?Michael Dialynas: Well Steve contacted me exactly two years ago, he wanted me to do a one-off comic strip with him for his project Spinning To Infinity. After we collaborated on that, he asked me if I was interested in doing a pitch with him. I was recently laid off my day job working as an in-house illustrator, so I had plenty of time on my hands, I read the script – it had sword fighting, steampunk and cyberpunk references, I loved it!
Nrama: What made Dark Horse the right place for this story?
Dialynas: I love and read Dark Horse!
Horton: I had met Senior Editor Chris Warner at the very first C2E2 convention. I've pitched him various projects over the years that, in retrospect, were pretty bad. Finally, I sent him Amala’s Blade. He liked it and his boss Mike Richardson liked it, and the rest is history.
Nrama: Either/both of you -- what's fun about the character of Amala?Horton: I like that Amala is a stone killer – like most of the characters in the story. But you find a way to sympathize with her anyway. Sure, she cuts people's throats out for money, but does that make her a bad person? And why won't those ghosts leave her alone?
Dialynas: She won't clean the dishes, she won't mop the floor but she will kick your arse!
Nrama: Michael, tell us a little about your process for creating the art in this story.
Dialynas: Creating the art for Amala’s Blade has been a weird one I can tell you. Over the past eight years that I have been making mini comics here in Greece, I’ve mainly been playing with different styles more along line the cartoony European. I believe that each story has a style that pairs with it to make it better, so whenever I would come up with a story for a comic, I would also try and find the right style for it.
But when Steve approached me to do a pitch for Amala’s Blade with him, I drew those eight pages for the pitch in a all-ages cartoony way, then when Dark Horse picked it up and we did the "Skull & Crossbows" story, I made the style a little darker to allow myself to draw the pirates and mechanical baddies better, and finally when I started to design various characters for the mini-series, I had found the way I thought Amala's world should look and feel like.So yeah, it look me a year or so to develop how the art should look in this story, and I can't wait for you to see it. Nrama: do you see this as a self-contained miniseries, or an ongoing tale? Horton: Well, we did a serialized story in Dark Horse Presents #9-11 that takes place immediately before the miniseries. And there's an eight-page prequel that has yet to see print. We're doing four issues of the miniseries, and it's open ended, so I could definitely see us doing more. After Michael takes a well-deserved break, of course!
Nrama: Pirates: Why do we love them?
Horton: Pirates are just a small part of this universe. I liked adding technology on to the basic pirate model and the design ended up looking really cool. They make great foils for Amala.
Dialynas:High-sea adventures with booty-stealing, rum-guzzling thugs! What’s not to love?
Nrama: The story deals with a number of spiritual and religious elements. What's intriguing to you about those themes?Horton: I think the idea of a religious leader being picked as a child fascinating. The kid has no idea what's going on, only that he or she is told they're important. This person is keeping the peace by existing, not by taking any meaningful actions.
There also may or may not be real ghosts in the story, and I think sci-fi with ghosts is a good combination!
Nrama: Michael, what have been some of the most fun characters to design for this tale?
Dialynas: I've gotta say the Pirate Rh'eems from the zero issue – red handle-bar moustache and flame-like mohawk, ‘nuff said.
After him though, it's gotta be Smitty, Amala's old friend and personal blacksmith – jolly man, fierce beard, like a bear with an eye-patch.. Plus I'm having a lot of fun designing the various Modifier machines and beasts… like that Pirate Monkey! He's always getting in the way, I love drawing that guy.
I really want to make that robot monkey to have around the house and drink shots.Nrama: What else are you working on?
Dialynas: Well before starting work on the Amala’s Blade series, I contributed a full chapter to the next volume of Josh Tierney's fantasy series Spera, which should see print next year by Archaia, I had a fun time drawing the exiled princesses Pira and Lono with their fire-spirit dog, Yonder.
Other than that I am working on a couple of projects of my own that I tinker with everyday, and a few new mini-comics I want to make to experiment with new styles.
Horton: The contracts aren't signed yet, but I can say that I'm doing another serial for Dark Horse Presents next summer with artist Ryan Cody. This one is very much a departure from Amala’s Blade, which is a relief for me because it means I'm not a one-note writer. I also have a teen-rated historical graphic novel in the works.Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Horton: Amala is for fans of The Princess Bride, Miyazaki and Moebius all mashed together. Michael works in a wonderful European style. Amala avoids the "strong female protagonist" cliche because she'll smack you one if you look twice at her. And there's a ghost robot pirate monkey. How can you possibly go wrong?
Dialynas: Amala’s Blade is a clash of worlds, one with full metal steam-powered tanks and the other with modified laser-sword madness! Only an assassin with a smirk and a bunch of nagging ghosts can stop it.
"You killed my Robot Pirate Monkey, prepare to die!"
We've also made a FB page where we will post updates and sneak peeks in the coming months before the release.
Set sale with Amala’s Blade from Dark Horse in February 2013.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!