Todd Black is getting to work on his second foray into comics with a new mini-series called Home. Todd took some time out of his busy day to chat with us about Home and let us know what it is about.
BiC: Hey Todd, thanks for taking the time to chat with us about your upcoming new project, Home. Your main character, Elysia, is somewhat of a loner and it sounds like she is shunned due to her physical qualities. What was your inspiration for creating a character like this?
Todd: I like that you say that she’s a loner, cause she is in a large way. However, it’s not because she “chooses” to be, or “wants to go against the grain”. It’s because no one wants to be her friend, or be close to her, and thus she is truly alone.
As for my inspiration, it was based both off of personal experience with being bullied, and knowing people who are shunned. It happens all the time, and it’s done for the smallest of reasons. So now imagine that there’s this glaring “oddity” that everyone sees, and that person is shunned because of that oddity. It’s something I think a lot of people will relate to.
BiC: How do you anticipate readers will connect with Elysia? Will they see something of themselves in her?
Todd: I’m honestly counting on that, because I think people will see how Elysia is treated, or looked at and go “I know how she feels”. Yes, Elysia has natural blue hair, but I don’t the people connecting with her will see that. They’ll see the glasses they wear, or how their hair is cut, how their skin looks, etc. She’s been picked on her whole life, and it leaves her very wary of people, she doesn’t like looking at people because she knows they’re looking at her hair, and seeing their varied reactions hurts her.
I know how Elysia feels, how she felt going through that year after year, and I think others will as well. And I think they’ll both hope that she gets a happy ending, and that she find someone, or some people, who treat her how she deserves to be treated. With respect, kindness, and dignity.
BiC: In your announcement video you described a power or force-like quality that not only Elysia has but the Knights of Altaria do as well. Could you go into further detail about this power? Are there any limitations to it?
Todd: Yeah, that’s actually one of the key hooks of Home. We call it, “The Code”, because it looks like code in a way. And like code, when you have it in the right combination, things tend to happen. Elysia will realize she has the ability to see this living code, and interact with it. This interaction will propel her on the journey she’s destined to go on.
I can’t reveal everything about The Code, don’t want to spoil it all! But I can say that for Elysia, and the Knights of Altaria that she’ll meet, the Code works differently for some of them. In fact, in the knights are two separate divisions if you will. There are the Warriors, and the Architects.
The Warriors use The Code to not only wear battle armor, but create weapons that are perfect for finding the monstrous Schrief. Also, they can use The Code to do special attacks that only that specific knight can use. You’ll find out though that there’s a huge drawback to doing that.
For the Architects, they’re able to fix, repair, build, and warp the environment depending on the situation. Altaria is attacked almost every day, and there is damage done to this city kingdom every time. The architects use their Code abilities to fix the damage, as well as defend the people if the walls of the city are breached.
Limitations vary depending on the knight and the situation. The Code isn’t everywhere, and yet it is everywhere. Not every knight can see the same Code, nor can two manipulate it the same way. It’s something that’s honestly at the heart of the series, finding out “What is The Code?” and “Why did it come to Elysia?” Questions abound!
BiC: Can you tell us a little bit about Altaria. What does this world look like? Is it like a futuristic Camelot?
Todd: Another good reference, Camelot! You’re not far off in some ways, and yet off in others. Altaria is what I like to call a city kingdom. It’s one city, that contains thousands of people, and is defended by the knights. They’re on a plain of sorts, and around them are very hazardous environments. Thus they don’t expand too much. Key among them is a forest that surrounds them in some ways on one side. In the forests, and other places, are creatures called The Schrief, which are a constant danger to the people of Altaria.
As for the look, this is where it becomes really fun. Cause you see the knights, and go, “Oh! Futuristic knights! Their city must be really sci-fi!” …but it’s not. In fact, it looks like, and they dress like, people from the Middle Ages. With a style twist or two of course.
While I won’t spoil why the difference is occurring, I will say its because of The Code. And what happens with The Code in the city creates some very interesting circumstancesespecially for Elysia, who went from very modern conveniences, to this kind of relic from a world gone by in her eyes. And then of course she sees knights in future-like armor and is like, “what is going on?” It’s a fun variation of culture shock, that’s for sure.
BiC: Now that we know a little bit more about Altaria, let’s talk about the Schrief. They look a little like werewolves. Will they all look similar or will they have a diverse array of appearances?
Todd: The Schrief was honestly one of the more difficult things to make, as I wanted to create something that was both familiar, yet not too outlandish. So I decided to go with another version of culture clash. Their look is very primal, especially the version we’ve been showing people. It’s a mix of wolves, lynxes, and monkeys in regards to the arms.
What sets them apart though is that they’ll be able to fight both on all fours, and run at incredible speeds while doing so. Or, they can go bi-pedal, have incredible agility and flexibility, and fight the knights on their own terms. Along with scaling objects through these elongated arms. Altaria has a wall built around it, the Schrief, especially this particular breed, evolved very quickly so that they could overcome this obstacle.
The other thing you should know about The Schrief is that they have superior numbers, and that’s another key part of this story. The knights are few, the Schrief are plenty, and something has to change else the knights and Altaria will fall.
And yeah, there’ll be more than one version…
BiC: You have a full team looking to work on this project from a penciller/inker to a colorist and a letterer. Could you tell us a little about them?
Todd: I have a good team. And though we’ve only been together a few weeks, we’ve been through a lot. We had a penciller/inker, and he was making pages, then he had a tragedy in his family and had to stop. Which was totally understandable. But I didn’t want to stop the comic, and the others were doing work, so I went back through my files and re-contacted Dinh Nguyen, who was just barely passed over originally for Home. He does some really good inks, and has already done some great panels of Elysia.
Bethany Varni our colorist is incredibly passionate. And I rely on her for advice and second opinions in regards to the pages we make. She’s an inker herself, so if I (or she) sees something that needs a quick fix, she’s there. And trust me, she’s quick! She also did this really cool flyer for us that I’m going to use at Cons during the Kickstarter.
Our letterer Zakk Samm I’ve known for quite awhile actually. I’ve always meant to have him on a comic project, as this is my second series, and when I decided to do Home, I knew I wanted him as my letterer. He’s done numerous, and is doing numerous, comic projects, so I know he knows what he’s doing. He also has done past Kickstarters, so is invaluable in planning certain aspects of the KS.
BiC: I’m also curious about the process you went through to find all of this talent. Could you describe how you met your team?
Todd: Like I said, I already knew Zakk. We met on Twitter, then met at C2E2 (the Chicago Comic-Con), stayed in contact afterwards, really great guy.
Beth I met through Facebook, I originally posted there via some comic groups to see if anyone was interested. She applied, I thought her colors were amazing, and she was an easy hire.
Dinh I found through Conceptart.org. Posted an ad there, had plenty of people interested, but only Dinh and our original artist stood out in my mind and could match the style I was going for.
You have to be patient sometimes when assembling a good team. Cause you have to plan for a lot. Will they be available? Will they help broadcast your comic? And in this, the Kickstarter? Will they listen to any critiques you may have? With my first series, Guardians, I only have one artist, and when I decided to do Home I knew I wanted a more full team. Especially since this would be funded through Kickstarter. Small bumps aside, I’m happy with who I have, and I won’t be half as far as I am without them.
BiC: Let’s switch gears and focus on you, what was your moment of clarity that inspired you decide to write a comic?
Todd: Well, I had been writing for a long time, and originally I just wanted to write a superhero story, which evolved into a four-movie saga. Eventually, I realized I could have more fun writing comics, and that’s where Guardians came to be. The inspiration, or moment of clarity, came at C2E2 a few years back when a writer at Marvel named Matt Fraction all but told me, “If you want to make comics, find an artist, and make comics!”
So I did! For Home, the inspiration came via the Oni Press submissions a little while back. I wanted to branch out, and they specifically said, “No superheroes!!!!” So, I went to something else. Thought fantasy would be fun. Had a super large idea at first, then reread the rules and saw they wanted a mini-series, so I trimmed it down, and now I have Home. I can’t wait to show off what we have planned. Both for this story…and for what may come next from it…
BiC: Lastly, how do we get our hands on a copy of Home?
Todd: As I said, we’re doing a Kickstarter, we’ll be launching on the 5th of October. In the KS, there are rewards for getting a print edition, and a couple special print editions. Including, a variant cover from a famous cosplayer/artist!
So if you want to get on board immediately, that’s a good place to start. Afterwards? Well, we’ll probably do a print-on-demand service. Which will be good for those who couldn’t pledge to the KS. And with 5-6 issues of story to tell? I’m sure there will be people who come in after Home #1 gets released and want their own copy, so we will facilitate!
BiC: Thanks again Todd for chatting with us about Home and we look forward to the KickStarter and seeing this project come to life!
If you would like to learn more about Home or stay up to date on what Todd is doing in the world of comics, be sure to like the Home Facebook page and follow Todd on Twitter. The KickStarter for Home starts on October 5th!