I know my last request for interview didn't go so well. It happened after I finished reading Warren Ellis' new single, but most often artists and writers are happy to answer a few questions about their work. Last Wednesdays marked the release of Umbral Book One : Out of the Shadows by Anthony Johnston. This book collects the first story arc of the exciting new fantasy series Umbral currently serialized by Image Comics.
Antony graciously agreed to answer a few questions I had regarding the book. In addition, stay tuned tomorrow for a full review of the book.
The Frog Queen: I had to read this book
in one sitting. I became attached to the characters early on and wanted to know
who would remain central and who would get axed. With the death of Arthir in
the beginning, I was convinced you held no character sacred. How do you feel
about terminating the existence of characters?
Antony: I'm all for it. And not just
because of Eddard Stark's fate in A GAME OF THRONES; some of my favourite
stories use unexpected character death as a strong method of jolting the
audience. ALIEN, THE USUAL SUSPECTS, even LORD OF THE RINGS —
Boromir would kick the bucket so soon? It's a literary practice with a long
But more than that, I simply
wanted to shake readers up, and make them realise this isn't the kind of book
where a handsome young prince will learn to be a hero and save the girl. No,
UMBRAL is a very different kind of story altogether.
The Frog Queen: I couldn't help but draw
some similarities between Umbral and The Lord of The Rings. Was this
deliberate? Knowing of course that the trilogy has influenced so much fantasy
but there were certain points that stood out. The fact that Rascal wants to
chuck the Occulus into the pit to destroy it. There is also the fact that the
Occulus draws her into another dimension, the Umbral. There is also this issue
of controlled magic. So few characters have control over magic and wizards are
Antony:I think it speaks to
Tolkien's massive influence that more people haven't asked me about this,
actually! I'm a huge LOTR fan, and would never deny his influence on my fantasy
leanings (it's one of the reasons I was so excited to work on SHADOW OF MORDOR
That said, apart from the
tropes you mentioned, I'm trying not to imitate or emulate Tolkien, and in fact
making an effort to veer away from things if it feels like they're getting too
close to "standard" fantasy.
The Frog Queen: When I first began to
read Umbral, I felt the book was taking on a young adult quality. Yet there is
profanity and some nudity. Did you have any qualms about making the story more
adult? Was it a conscious choice or did the story simply go in that direction?
Antony: No, it was always going to
be that way. I've written YA fiction before, and I'll doubtless write more in
the future, but UMBRAL was never destined for that audience —
or at least,
I know when I was a teenager
I read stuff full of profanity and nudity, so I'm sure an age rating won't stop
anyone determined enough to read UMBRAL...!
The Frog Queen: So often there seems to
be an odd "casting" if you, will between writer and illustrator where
I feel the artwork does not fit the story. It's so refreshing to read Umbral
and see such a tight fit. The coloring and movement in the panels reflects the
story and this world. Can you tell us a bit about how you came to collaborate
with Christopher Mitten?
Antony: I think there are two main
reasons you're feeling that synergy. First, Chris and I have been working
together for a long time, now — almost ten years, in fact. We've produced nearly
1,000 pages of comics together, which is pretty mindblowing. So we work
together pretty well.
Second, UMBRAL was created
specifically to tell a story full of the kind of things I know Chris loves to
draw — grotesque
monsters, strange creatures, odd people, and epic architecture. So he's having
a lot of fun.
To find out more about Antony and his work, please visit his website: http://antonyjohnston.com
Visit your nearest comic book retailer to get your copy of Umbral Book One: Out of the Shadows.