In September, Zero Month introduced you to four all-new ongoing series: THE PHANTOM STRANGER, SWORD OF SORCERY, TALON and TEAM 7. With these #0 issues, you got a taste of the new characters and stories that will be impacting the ever-growing DC Universe.
This month, each of these four series will launch their #1 issue. To celebrate these releases, we’ll be putting a spotlight on each of these new titles every day this week on THE SOURCE. Next up is SWORD OF SORCERY #1, which hits stores on October 17. From writer Christy Marx and artist Aaron Lopresti comes the title’s “Amethyst” story, while the “Beowulf” back-up story comes to you from writer Tony Bedard and artist Jesus Saiz. We asked Bedard, Lopresti, Marx and Saiz to tell us a little bit about their creative processes and to tease what readers can expect from issue #1.
How did you use issue #0 to help you launch issue #1? How were your creative approaches to these two issues different?
TONY BEDARD: In SWORD OF SORCERY #0, we are there for Wiglaf's first encounter with Beowulf, and we get our first glimpse of the future DC Universe they live in – a land that has reverted to a feudal, medieval society following some mysterious apocalyptic event. Issue #0 was a chance to set the stage and raise some questions. Is Beowulf a hero or a monster? Will Wiglaf survive his encounter with this guy? SWORD OF SORCERY #1 is where those questions start getting answered.
AARON LOPRESTI: Obviously there was a lot of set up to the series in the #0 issue and only about 6 or 7 pages of Gemworld. I sort of got my feet wet with the design elements and completely different tonality of Gemworld and the characters in the #0 issue, without getting overwhelmed right off the bat. Issue #1 is artistically complex and challenging and I was glad to get the opportunity to ease into it and "warm up" a little before tackling it head on.
CHRISTY MARX: My approach is holistic. In other words, each issue is part of a larger whole and part of an ongoing flow of story. The main thing about #0 is that it needed to provide a large amount of set-up. It had to quickly and efficiently establish the main characters, their worlds, and their fundamental conflicts – plus transition them to the main world where the action will take place from then on. Fortunately, after 25 years of writing for animation, comics and games, I’ve learned a lot about efficient writing.
JESUS SAIZ: There was no difference, really. With issue #0, we introduced the two main characters and the world they live in. Issue #1 is where the adventure really begins. But aside from that, at least on the art side of things, there has been no difference. I've tried to make the atmosphere and tone of one issue a direct continuation of the other, but have also added new elements to the story.
What’s been the most fun aspect of writing/drawing and launching the new series so far?
TONY BEDARD: Without a doubt, it's getting to work with Jesus Saiz and discovering that he's a bigger fan of the sword and sorcery genre than I am! And that's saying something, considering my college nickname was Tonan the Barbarian! This is a real passion project for both of us, and Jesus is knocking it so far out of the park that it's a joy every time new pages come in. I've loved the guy's work ever since MIDNIGHT, MASS. all those years ago, but I feel like “Beowulf” is shaping up into his defining moment. I'm just glad to be along for the ride.
AARON LOPRESTI: The fun part is the same thing that makes it so difficult. Designing and creating everything from scratch. I feel like I am designing something new on almost every page – whether that is a costume or a location or new character. It is definitely rewarding but also very challenging. I’m just glad that Christy Marx and editor Rachel Gluckstern have very clear and specific visions to help me.
CHRISTY MARX: I love to do world-building and craft character-driven stories. “Amethyst” is allowing me to do that to my heart’s content. Part of the fun comes from creating a cast of characters with their own hopes, dreams, ambitions, flaws and goals. The other part of the fun comes from crafting the magic system, how crystals will work within the magic system, what the geography/ecology is like, what the ancient history of the world is and how that affects the present, what the economies are, how the Cardinal Houses hold and use power … I could go on and on.
JESUS SAIZ: Absolutely everything. I've always wanted to draw something like this. I've always been a huge fan of horror and fantasy. When I started drawing comics, I was only interested in drawing warriors, swords, monsters, battles in forests and the ruins of castles. Funnily enough, my whole career has consisted of drawing stories very much anchored in reality, so “Beowulf” has been a dream come true for me. It's the first time I feel I'm drawing something that I believe is in my “home turf.” I've always preferred to draw horses over cars, cabins before apartments, mountains before towns, etc. I enjoy each and every element that makes the graphic part of this comic book. I thank the heavens for Tony Bedard!
Do you have a ritual (music you listen to or something you eat or do to get you prepped) before approaching the writing/drawing for the series? If so, what is it?
TONY BEDARD: My whole life has been preparation for “Beowulf”! I devoured the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock in high school. The whole reason I got into reading comics was because my girlfriend bought me a copy of SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN! I own several swords, a spear and a battle-axe. In some ways this is my easiest writing gig because this stuff is in my blood and it just seems like the most natural thing in the world to spin a ripping yarn about a guy who solves every problem by hacking his way through it. If only all of life worked that way.
AARON LOPRESTI: No, not really. I rarely listen to music, but sometimes I will listen to talk radio. I have a lot of medieval references handy, but my ritual is to get up eat and get to work!
CHRISTY MARX: When I need to write, I put myself in the chair in front of the computer and I write. This comes from a long career as a professional in which deadlines are vital and must be met. Writing requires discipline as much as inspiration – sometimes more than inspiration. Also, I tend to do a lot of the writing in my head before I sit down. I’ll visualize scenes and create dialog over and over in my head (trying not to walk into walls or drive off the road while I’m doing it), so that by the time I sit down, I often have a good chunk of the work already done. Comics are a visual form of storytelling, so having strong visualization skills makes a big difference.
JESUS SAIZ: No, no ritual. Just sit down and draw. The only thing I do differently is to open my eyes very wide and pay a lot of attention every time I find something that I think can help me establish a world as visually peculiar as Beowulf's. Whether it’s a movie set in medieval times, a documentary about Hiroshima, or the Stone Age, I visually devour anything I think can give me some ideas.
Below, take a first look at SWORD OF SORCERY #1 by taking an exclusive look at interior art for “Amethyst” by Lopresti and interior art for “Beowulf” by Saiz.