Fans of Steven Horton and Michael Dialynas' Amala's Blade were treated to a double-dose of her last year with the with the zero issue which reprinted her Dark Horse Presents debut, as well as a brand new mini-series. Even better for fans, 2014 is already looking good for Amala and company since coming January 22nd, they will be treated to the release of the Amala's Blade trade!
Newsarama recently spoke to Horton about the upcoming trade, as well as some of the bonus features it contains (which you’re treated to a peek at here), the process of creating Amala's world, some of the back story for the readers who didn't catch it the first time, and what he has in store in the year to come.
Newsarama: So, Steve, I'm sure fans are delighted to finally have Amala's Blade in trade form, what all does it contain? Because you have all the Dark Horse Presents stuff and the mini-series as well.
Steve Horton: It contains an eight-page pitch story that Michael Dialynas and I completed, even before we approached Dark Horse. It's a flashback story that fills in a lot of Amala's past, but ultimately didn't fit the story after we got the gig. Yes, we started from scratch after the greenlight. What can I say? We're crazy.
Nrama: For those that aren't familiar with Amala's Blade or the lore, who exactly are the Spirits of Naamaron?
Horton: Naamaron is a large island nation divided into two warring halves in the middle of a tenuous peace: the Purifiers, who use steam power and a simple life to get by; and the Modifiers, who worship technology and have it implanted throughout their bodies.
The Spirits are a horde of ghosts who live apart from Naamaron, except under extreme circumstances. They're all people that Amala has known that have died, whether she killed them herself or not.
And Amala is the world's greatest assassin, in the middle of it all. She ran away from her destiny long ago, and makes her way by killing people. And she has a ghost monkey.
Nrama: What has the response been for Amala's Blade so far?
Horton: The response from critics, peers and fans at large has been extraordinary, far beyond anything else I've ever done. While it's true I'm a much better writer than when I started, several years ago (in fact, I'd prefer you assume my career started with Amala and not seek out my old stuff as it's all terrible), much of that has to fall on Michael's shoulders. He's, by far, the best artist I've ever worked with and is as much invested in the characters and stories as I am.
Nrama: Were you surprised by the positive reaction?
Horton: Yes! Honestly we weren't sure how Amala would be received as it's brand-new territory for both of us. We have never done a story like this before. And that translates to there being nothing like Amala on the shelves, which suits us just fine.
Nrama: Was the level of violence ever supposed to be in contrast with the cartoony style?
Horton: Yes! I'm inspired by European comics, as well as manga, that contrast a cartoony style with more mature themes like violence. We're used to seeing violence paired with photorealism in Western comics, so this might appear jarring, but it really works.
Nrama: You had modern master Guy Davis do some cover art for you. What was that experience like, coming from a fan's perspective?
Horton: Guy did our sole variant cover-- it was mind-blowing. To land the guy who did BPRD and The Marquis and storyboards for Guillermo del Toro ... that was an unbelievable coup. Plus, he's a super nice guy. I should also point out that Dave Stewart's covers really make that cover work as well.
Nrama: What do you look for when looking for an artist to work with? Style-wise that is.
Horton: A few things! I want an artist who is invested in the story and characters and really seizes half ownership. Not interested in a hired hand. I want an artist who bring something different to the table as far as their art ... it has to be different from anything else. Also, artists who have radically different life experiences than me really help.
Nrama: What sort of mindset did you have going into writing Amala's Blade?
Horton: The same mindset I have when I write any creator-owned book ... I want to do something that I would like to read, if I weren't writing it. Does that make sense? I do the kinds of books that appeal to me as a reader, and hopefully they appeal to fans as well.
Nrama: With this release of Amala's Blade coming out, how do you see 2014 as a creator? Do you have anything else lined up you'd like to share?
Horton: I just finished up a three-part serial for Dark Horse Presents called "Monstrous", about the last survivor of a monster invasion being the last person you'd want. I'd really like to do more with that character. Other than that, I have some secret stuff that will be announced shortly, and numerous pitches in various stages, like always. One of which, in particular, I'm really excited about and hope gets greenlighted!