A Knight's Quest Gets Personal in MABIGON: THE BLUE STONES (With a Little Help from MICHAEL KALUTA)

Mabigon: The Blue Stones
Credit: Vinton Heuck (Helios Unlimited)
Credit: Vinton Heuck (Helios Unlimited)

Warner Bros. Animation veterans Vinton Heuck and Byron Penaranda are back with their creator-owned sword & sorcery series Mabigon. Whereas they bring superheroes to life in their dayjobs, Mabigon: The Blue Stones has them do the same to classic armorered knights.

Following up from the 2014 Mabigon OGN, The Blue Stones continues on the special forces knight Shrike's quest to rescue his country's princess - for his King, but also for his own heart. This story of forbidden love is doused in magic and might, and launches a full-scale comic company called Helios Unlimited coming up in its wake.

Heuck talked with Newsarama about the upcoming Mabigon: The Blue Stones, which is crowdfunding now on Kickstarter for a hopeful September 2019 release.

Newsarama: Vinton, it's been four years now and you're back with Mabigon: The Blue Stones. This collects the original story, plus a new second chapter. Can you encapsulate what the series is about?

Vinton Heuck:  The story is about the King's champion known as Shrike, leader of an elite group of knights called the Devil's Own, and what happens to them when their mission to save the princess goes sideways. This sends Shrike on journey of self-discovery that starts off small and winds up being epic in every sense of the word.

Credit: Byron Penaranda (Helios Unlimited)

Nrama: And what are the Blue Stones exactly?

Heuck: We would like that to remain a mystery for now. Suffice to say the end of our new chapter ends up there, and it is a place that offers clues to the hidden mysteries of our main character's backstory.

Nrama: Speaking of him, can you tell us more about Shrike?

Heuck: He is the greatest knight the kingdom has ever known, but whose past is a mystery, even to himself. The life he does remember was traumatic and something he has never fully come to terms with. Despite his fighting prowess and leadership abilities there is a hole in his heart and something is missing. Then she comes along, a princess destined to be betrothed to his king, and it changes everything.

Credit: Byron Penaranda (Helios Unlimited)
Credit: Michael William Kaluta (Helios Unlimited)

Nrama: For this new volume you have a new illustration by Michael Kaluta. What can you tell us about his piece, and how you managed to make this happen?

Heuck: Me and my co-creator, Byron Penaranda, knew we wanted the prose short story in our new book to have an illustrated plate. I thought about the artists that most inspired me. Michael Kaluta was on the top of that short list. He was our first choice!

I had seen some of his outstanding comic book covers as a kid. As a teenager I came across his book The Studio, an art book that included work by Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Barry Windsor-Smith, Bernie Wrightson, and Michael Kaluta. It is not an overstatement that it was a life changer for me. They were all comic book artists, but they were also so much more. They were incredible fantasy illustrators, both romantic and horrific with their imagery, and a refreshing departure from what I had been used to.

I asked him if he would be interested and sent him our short story and some artwork. He read it, liked it, and incredibly said yes!

Nrama: This is coming concurrent with you launching your own publishing company, Helios Unlimited. Where'd the name come from, and what are your goals in launching your own company?

Heuck: The name Helios was Byron's. By itself the name was unavailable to own for a company name, so we wound up with Helios Unlimited. The name is mythic, an expression of the sun-god, our guiding light for high quality comics. Ultimate success for us would be to continue to produce more books in the Mabigon series, and eventually branch out to other genres as well like science fiction and horror, created not just by us, but with other talented artists and writers whose work we admire.

Credit: Byron Penaranda (Helios Unlimited)

Nrama: In your animation work you're best known for superheroes, and your first comic was Amazing Spider-Man #133. Any chance you might do some creator-owned superhero stories?

Heuck: Possibly! Don't get me wrong, I love super heroes, and almost my entire professional career has been focused on that. I've worked for Marvel, DC, He-Man, and Transformers for Hasbro. The question I would have to ask myself is what am I bringing to the table that hasn't already been done? Until I can answer that I'll just keep doing super hero work for the established companies.

Credit: Byron Penaranda (Helios Unlimited)
Credit: Vinton Heuck (Helios Unlimited)

Nrama: But Mabigon is your first. What have you learned since launching Mabigon in 2015?

Heuck: The importance of social media in the promotion of our work. We have an awesome book that a targeted audience will love, but people have to know about it. Going forward we will be working on building that audience more through social media. Right now it's still relatively small, that's why interviews like this are so important!

Nrama: So meta, what are you wanting to achieve here?

Heuck: To raise enough money for a limited first printing with an ISBN number so we can sell it through sites like Amazon, and in book stores. Beyond that we hope to raise enough money to invest in future books, not just by us, but with other artistic collaborators so we can come out with books more often.

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