The sword and sorcery comic is a rarity these days. While a few publishers have fantasy books based on familiar properties such as The Wheel of Time, Game of Thrones, and the Conan licenses, and DC has the anthology series Sword of Sorcery, there doesn't seem to be a lot of original material to fill fantasy fan's quota. Where is the Tellos of this generation, or even something like Battle Chasers? That could soon change with the release of Top Cow's original fantasy epic, Ravine.
Newsarama: Ron, you're no stranger to fantasy epics, how does Ravine compare to anything you've done in the past?
Stjepan Sejic: Ooh, ooh, may I? It has more dragons!
Ron Marz: He's right, more dragons. More everything, actually. Ravine has a large cast and a storyline that really is epic. There's a large cast and a sprawling story, and the scope we're planning is pretty ambitious. If all goes as planned, this will be a series of a dozen original graphic novels.
Nrama: So guys, let's talk about what Ravine is about.Marz: Ultimately, Ravine is about the same things that any good story is about: what characters want, and what they're willing to do to get it. The trappings are very much fantasy-based, but at its core, it's character-driven drama. Our job is to make you care about the characters and what happens to them, whether they happen to be riding dragons or not.
Sejic: Well, Ravine isn’t a quest-driven story like Lord of the Rings. It is a story about people who end up being dragged into the maelstrom and have to decide what is worth fighting and dying for. It is a story about one man seeking redemption for his sins. In the process, he will try to slay an old god. It is a story about wanderers, champions of fate. It is a story about games of power, it is a tale of love and friendship, honor and betrayal. In short, it is a fantasy tale.
Nrama: The two of you together have a history together with Witchblade, and Artifacts, so what's it like working together on something original like Ravine this time around?Sejic: Ravine is pretty much the driving force behind my career. You might say every single technological and artistic advancement I had was for the purpose of making Ravine happen. This was pretty much my game for the last eleven years. Then, about two years ago, I decided to ask a good friend and a partner in storytelling crime, Ron, if he would like to join me on this journey.
See, the thing is, I can tell a story about pretty much anything, but there was one problem that always plagued me, and I knew I was going to have to face it sooner or later. See, I’m pretty eloquent as far as English language is concerned, but a second language is just that. Even the best of speakers will ultimately face the harsh reality that it is translated sentence structure. This ultimately results in stiff dialogue that ranks from overly grandiose to just clunky. Thankfully, my old man had taught me long ago to never hesitate to offer help, and to never hesitate to ask for it.Ron and I had collaborated for years by then. He knew of this monstrosity I was developing. Then by some chance, I obtained a copy of Sojourn, and was blown away. Ron always had this way with dialogue that just made characters, even in relatively boring issues, pop, and save the day. And seeing his handling of the fantasy genre, I knew I had to ask him. Thankfully, he was intrigued.
What initially started as a proposal to have him rewrite my dialogue sketches into finely tuned "word fu" evolved into what Ron and I do best: a fully organic cooperation with Ron, offering insight and suggestions and providing editorial input . Ravine is a complex, layered story with characters that are imperfect. With Ron on board, these traits become wonderfully apparent.
Marz: What he said. Especially the parts that make me look good. Honestly, in this business, when you find a collaborator with whom you click, you stick with that person. Most comics are about a creative partnership between writer and artist, between words and pictures. Who I work with is probably more important to me than what I work on. With Ravine, I have a great collaborator and a great project.
Nrama: Stjepan, what influences went into the imagery and visuals of the characters of Ravine?Sejic: This question is asked often.
See, the easiest answer would be stuff like the Lord of the Rings and "Narnia" movies, but it would be a wrong one. Ravine is a product of eleven years of development with constant searching of style and approach, fine tuning the balance of epic versus quiet.
Ravine is unlike Lord of the Rings, or Game of Thrones, comparatively. It has a high fantasy setting. Magic is omnipresent, but well defined in its rules. Dragons are an everyday occurrence, there are no obvious reader proxies. It is a fully-developed world that you learn about as you go through the story, and it is a result of a lifelong desire to make a full fantasy epic in a comic format.
There is one influence I can speak of though. It is something that's rarely realized without mentioning it. About eleven years ago, I first created Nebezial Asheri. The mood I wanted to achieve from him back then was that of General Thade, as played by Tim Roth in Tim Burton’s remake of The Planet of the Apes. That was the bright spot of that movie that left a huge impression on me in those days.
Nrama: Do you have anybody that you favor to draw more than any other cast member?Sejic: Two characters are, by far, my favorite ones: Nebezial Asheri and Argal Brennand. I love drawing them both for the unusual look, and for the fact that they are people with deeply scarred pasts, who find their own ways of dealing with it. Sometimes it's through aggression, and, yes, quite often by getting drunk.
Nrama: And it's a self-contained story?
Marz: Yup, a self-contained series of graphic novels. Stjepan is completely finished with the first one, he's more than halfway through the second one. If we can manage to sell enough copies, we'll just keep going. But since this is a creator-owned project, and no one is getting paid up front, it's a huge amount of work to do for free. Hopefully, the audience will be there for us, so we can complete the journey we're starting.Sejic: Oh yes. It’s a twelve-issue story, comprising one graphic novel-sized issue every four months, with a final number of around 1,500-plus pages of comic alone, and a whole lot of pages of bonus-world materials. Then, if it sells, and people want more, there is an outline of a six-issue series about Asheri's rise and fall. If people still want it, we get to do the second story. But, hey, optimism aside, let’s just say the first twelve issues are a completely self-contained story.
Nrama: What are you hoping readers take away from the adventure?
Marz: I hope the readers takes away an insatiable desire to return to this world ... and buy future volumes ... so we can keep telling these stories.
Sejic: I hope to leave the reader with the sense of intrigue and wonder....and enough interest for the characters and story to keep coming back, as it truly does only get vastly better
Ravine soars into comic shops February 13th.