Starting in June 2014, the Blood Queen will rise again. Based (ahem, loosely) off the brutal "Blood Countess" Elizabeth Bathory, this fantasy tale promises swords, sorcery, and a bit of a Metal edge.
Dynamite Entertainment has assembled the rock team of writer Troy Brownfield (a Newsarama alum, of course) and artist Fritz Casas plus the regular Dynamite stable of cover artists. Promising a fantasy story painted with a "colorful nightmare of mayhem," Dynamite will launch the series as an ongoing, a first for Brownfield. We chatted with our old friend for more on the new series directly, including its surprising ties to the metal greats, Slayer. Seriously.
Newsarama: Troy, I'm assuming this isn't just a historical story about the real Elizabeth Bathory – what about the mythology around her makes her ripe for fiction?
Troy Brownfield: I think it would be fair to call it “highly fictionalized.” (laughs) Bathory is one of those historical characters that invites interpretation. Here you have someone that, in real life, is reputed to have been responsible for the death of 600 people. She’s infamous for the notion of bathing in blood to keep her youth. And when tried for her crimes, she was locked away in a tower until the end of her days. It’s a case where the true story is almost stranger than something you’d invent. We’ve taken the basic idea of Bathory and some elements of her history and set it down in a landscape that’s more of a dark fantasy.
Nrama: What are the fantasy aspects we'll see injected into this tale?
Brownfield: First and foremost: magic and sorcery. You see early on that there’s a certain structure to the teaching of magic as it applies to women in particular. It also includes the idea that certain forms have been outlawed. We’ll explore that. This is also a world where it’s common for courts to employ a wizard or to call upon witches for particular services. Past that, there are a lot of other elements that will come in. The first few issues only scratch that surface.
Nrama: Why do tales of swords and sorcery endure for you personally and what makes them a good fit for comics specifically?
Brownfield: I’ve often said that I grew up in a great time for comics, but the same could be said for fantasy. When I was a kid, D&D was booming, Tolkien got passed around like crazy, and there was this mini-explosion of related films, some of which were awesome (Dragonslayer) and some so bad that they’re awesome (Hawk the Slayer, which I love). I found my way into the books, into Weis and Hickman, into Robert Aspirin, and so on.
I’ve always thought that good fantasy keeps the characters believable even if the surroundings got completely unbelievable. That’s one reason why comics work so well for it. A solid artist can draw literally anything that they can imagine, and strong imagination is the engine of fantasy.
Nrama: With modern takes on fantasy stories like Game of Thrones in the forefront of pop culture, how much does that, or any other modern take influence how you're approaching this?
Brownfield: If Martin did anything, it’s that he showed that there was still life and new twists on the old tropes. One of my favorite things about A Song of Ice and Fire is that the novels begin with this kind of firm declaration that magic has gone. And then he slowly peels back the layers to show you that it’s actually returning (or returned), working in the White Walkers, the warg abilities, dragons, and so on. Readers also like a saga that they follow; they want to get into the characters and see the machinations behind everything.
If there’s an echo in Blood Queen, it’s that it starts out smaller and goes toward a wider canvas and a bigger cast with interaction among kingdoms, different agendas, etc. Everyone is after something.
Nrama: You've worked with fantasy stories, and done arcs or one-shots, but this is your first time launching an ongoing series – how much planning are you doing before even getting the book started? Is this something where you've brainstormed a c year in advance, or are you taking it more an issue/arc at a time?
Brownfield: As I’ve said in the past, my main approach to any piece of work is “Man, I really hope I don’t f--- this up.” Kidding aside, we’ve put in a few solid months of work on this. Editor Molly Mahan has been ridiculously awesome and Nick Barrucci has been really supportive. But, in the planning stage, I think it’s important that you lay down a firm foundation. And that firm foundation is character first, and then building things around them. The first arc came together reasonably quickly, in my opinion, but it gives us a lot of places to go.
Nrama: What other specific teases can you give about the story we'll see in Blood Queen – maybe something from the first issue you're particularly excited for fans to see?
Brownfield: I don’t want to give anything away. I think people will be surprised when they check it out. Fritz is killing it on the art; it looks really, really good. I’m excited for people to see his work. My favorite story moment so far might be the end of the second issue, but that’s all I’ll say about that.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to tell readers about Blood Queen before the launch?
Brownfield: The first arc is named “Reign in Blood” after the Slayer album. I want to name every arc after a different Slayer album, because I am troubled. But seriously, I think that we’re putting together a strong dark fantasy series here with some terrific art and some exciting stories. If this is your cup of tea at all, I hope that you give it a look.