Vinton Heuck and Byron Penaranda have spent the past decade animating and orchestrating the world’s biggest heroes, but now they’re looking to create their own. The California duo are working on Mabigon, a creator-owned comic series set in the realm of epic fantasy with knights, maidens, and adventure.
Mabigon starts an elite knight named Shrike who leads the king’s personal troupe of warriors, dubbed the Devil’s Own. Shrike is content being the best of his kind until he falls for a woman who happens to be promised to another – his king. At its heart Mabigon is a tale of forbidden love, but set in a world of swords, shields, castles and chivalry. And Heuck and Penaranda are asking for a bit of chivalry from comics fans to make Mabigon a reality -- $4,800 of it. Mabigon is currently in a crowdfunding drive at Kickstarter.comto secure funds to publish the oversized first issue – which is already penciled and lettered.
Newsarama: Vinton, what is Mabigon about?
Vinton Hueck: Mabigon is medieval fantasy set in a mythic world about its greatest knight, Shrike, and how his forbidden love of a princess sets in motion events that shake the very foundation of that world, dragging into conflict the forces of light and darkness in an epic struggle that will decide the fate of not only Mabigon, but our own.
Nrama: What does the title of this, “Mabigon,” mean?
Hueck: Mabigon is the name of the world that Shrike inhabits. Like many of the names they are derived from Celtic origins since the world is connected to that mythology.
Nrama: What time period is this set in, if any?
Hueck: That is part of the mystery that slowly unfolds throughout the story, and we don't want to give it away completely. Let's just say it’s a medieval fantasy.
Nrama: Can you tell us about the knight in this, Shrike?
Hueck: He is a young knight who has risen through the ranks quickly to lead an elite group of knights called the Devil's Own. They are the best of the best and take on missions for the king that are too dangerous for anyone else. Beyond that he is a bit of mystery. He has inhuman powers that he tries to downplay, and weird dreams. Part of what the story is about is his voyage of self-discovery; about understanding his origins and his purpose.
Nrama: Shrike’s armor design really stands out – how did you and Byron develop it?
Hueck: That is all Byron. He has a brilliant sense of design, and has been called upon to apply that skill on various animated shows he has worked on over the years. Shrike's armor is patterned after a bird, specifically a Shrike.
Nrama: Back to the story – who is Drake, Shrike’s second-in-command, and how does he come to be at odds with Shrike?
Hueck: Drake was bred his whole life to be the best knight of the realm by his father who himself once led the Devil's Own. He admires Shrike, and has been friends with him since childhood, but his heart is also poisoned by envy. He is what Salieri is to Mozart. When he realizes that no matter how hard he tries he can never be his equal it becomes easier for his love to turn to hate when Shrike becomes at odds with the king.
Nrama: General comics fans might not remember your name, but you’ve directed animated episodes of both Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and The Batman, and you’ve even written and drawn some comics, including a story in DC’s Wednesday Comics. How’d you come to decide to return, and do creator-owned and crowd-funded stories?
Hueck: It was really just a desire to do the type of art and story I always dreamed about growing up without having it be part of some giant corporate entity or license. In this case it’s with my fellow brother-in-arms, Byron.
Nrama: This is squarely in the realm of sword-and-sorcery type fantasy material, something that’s sorely under-represented in comics – perhaps with Conan being the only one that’s stood the test of time. What do you feel about this genre, and what do you think comics offers for it in terms of storytelling?
Hueck: I definitely agree with that, which is why I think our graphic novel is so worthwhile. I'm actually a huge Conan fan, and the works of Robert E. Howard were very inspiring to me along with other fantasy visionaries like Michael Moorcock, and of course J.R.R. Tolkien. One of the things that impressed me was how fully realized their worlds were, down to the last detail. They felt lived in and inhabited by real people now matter how fantastic the settings were. We have tried to do the same with Mabigon.
Nrama: You have several levels of support in your Kickstarter campaign, but it seems the big one for readers is the $20 one for a soft-cover edition of Mabigon: Book One. Can you tell us about this book, and what readers can expect with the finished product?
Hueck: They will get 47 pages of pulse-pounding, fantastic art and story by a select group of industry pros who have poured all their creative juices into transporting the reader into another world, filled with armored knights and an intriguing set up for an epic adventure that starts small and will keep escalating into something very grand and epic as the story progresses into future books. They will also get a special ashcan edition we used to sell exclusively at cons that also includes the origin of Shrike as a character and will help explain his actions and motivations as an adult in book one. They will also, along with everyone that pledges, get a QuickTime video of our amazing color artist, Coran Stone, showing how he does his digital paintings. That is one I'm personally looking forward to since I have no clue how he achieves things no one else seems to be able to do.
Nrama: Speaking of art, let’s talk about the series main artist -- how’d you come to connect with Byron Penaranda to tell this story?
Hueck: We worked together years ago at Sony animation on shows like Jackie Chan Adventures and Big Guy and Rusty, and we just connected with similar interests. He knew of my desire to write and create original stories, and he had an idea for one he wanted to draw that involved a knight named Shrike that led a group of other knights called the Devil's Own. We just went from there. I began creating the world and story for them to inhabit and met regularly with Byron to get his input.
Nrama: Last question – since this is dubbed “Book One,” how long to you foresee this story to be, if interest persists from readers?
Hueck: We have designed it so we can tell the short version in about six books, but ideally we would like it to go considerably longer. It all depends on how much the reader wants it! We have lots of story to tell.