In the far future, the fight to control the Wailing Blade will determine who reigns supreme. ComixTribe, known chiefly for their sin-dark crime yarns, takes on bloody fantasy with Wailing Blade, from TMNT writer Rich Douek and SCAM veteran artist Joe Mulvey. The team sat down with Black Ship’s LJ Phillips to talk about their new release…
BSB: What were some of the influences behind Wailing Blade?
Rich: There were a wide range of influences, but for me, the main ones are classic sword & sorcery/weird pulp science fiction, like Jack Vance’s Dying Earth and Michael Moorcock’s Elric, and some 1980’s classic cartoons like Thundarr the Barbarian and Masters of the Universe.
Joe: Since I’m not a huge sci-fi guy, I took a huge amount of influence from Rich’s recommendations initially. As we got more into the design stage Frank Frazetta, Moebius, and those 80’s cartoons Rich mentioned were a big guide for the world we were trying to build in Wailing Blade. But the most important thing to me was uniqueness. Try to make the world of Wailing Blade our own, from the dirt to the sky. Color palette to characters, we wanted you to open the book and know you were in the world of Wailing Blade. Colorist Chris Sotomayor certainly helped with that also a great deal.
BSB: Scylla, Tychon, and Viro seem to be the main protagonists. What is the dynamic between them and how do they fit into the hierarchy of their bandit tribe, the Windcleavers?
Rich: Tychon is the chieftain’s son, and as such he’s one of the tribe’s leaders – though he lacks the wisdom and experience of his father. Viro and Scylla are two of his strongest warriors, trusted advisers, and best friends. They all grew up together and have that bond, regardless of any disagreements they might have.
Joe: After reading over Rich’s scripts I took the dynamics of the trio to be that of three lifelong friends in a dire and unique situation to survive. But each [is] aware of who the others truly are and [is] able to call them out on the bullshit they sometimes say or do. Which is a lot of fun to create.
BSB: The artwork is very stylized with vibrant coloring. Was this design choice to make the extreme violence more palatable to some readers?
Rich: Chris Sotomayor is our colorist, and one of the reasons we jumped at the chance to work with him is that he has great instincts when it comes to pallette selection and color schemes. Making the violence more palatable isn’t something we specifically discussed, but Soto is the type of artist that can make any scene look riveting – rendering a violent scene without turning it into a total gorefest is just one among his many talents.
Joe: Style-wise I just try to draw each page with as much energy and action so you get sucked into the story, but the honest answer about the overall look of the book is that Soto saves my ass on every page. He and I have known each other for longer than either of us would care to admit and to say he makes every scene and page better is an understatement. As we were designing the book I remember saying to him and Rich that I wanted something unique. I kept drilling that word into them and boy has he delivered. If you like my art on this book, [that] is 100% because Chris made it better than I imagined it could be.
BSB: The Wailing Blade almost appears to be a protagonist in its own right. Like Elric’s blade, it seems to throb with a life of its own. Does it hold some influence over those who wield it?
Rich: I don’t want to spoil too much about the nature of the blade, but I will say that it’s definitely more than a simple sword. One of the reasons that comes across is Joe’s great design for it, but another is purely the work of our letterer, Taylor Esposito, who’s giving the blade its “voice” through the sound effects of its wailing. Taylor and the rest of us definitely approach it as a character. Does it have a life of its own? Is it intelligent? These are things you’ll have to discover as you read the series, but rest assured, it’s anything but a regular sword.
Joe: The Wailing Blade is its own story in this book. I specifically drew pages where the sword, even more than the characters wielding it, is the focus. So the reader knows there’s something else going on.
So we want the readers to hopefully pick up Wailing Blade and see what it is.
BSB: I’m fascinated by the animals and livestock in the world of Wailing Blade. Do you feel that their unique design is essential to the world-building?
Rich: I think so, for sure. One of the things Joe wanted to accomplish was a unique look for every element of the book, right down to the insects and plant life. It was a lot of design work on his part, but I think it was all well worth it. When it comes to world building in general, I think the more unique you can get with designs, the more your world will stand apart from others. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you’re going for, but I think it’s a huge positive in our case.
Joe: I’ll keep saying it, I wanted the world of Wailing Blade to be unique. Rich pushed it in the scripts and I pushed it farther in the designs. I wanted everything to be something you’d only see in the world of Wailing Blade. So we have a plan for the entire ecosystem. For example, the trees are twisted almost like a corkscrew because the soil is so hard the trees need to fight against the soil to live. And every scene has new vegetation, insects, plant life etc. It was a lot of work but also enormously fun designing the world.
BSB: While the comic can be classified as fantasy, Wailing Blade contains a fair amount of technology as well. The dialogue between Scylla, Tychon, and Viro suggests that this technology is hoarded by the Tyrant. Will opposing him be what drives the plot?
Rich: Yes, I’d say the Tyrant is the overall “big bad” of the world of Wailing Blade. I mean, he even calls himself a Tyrant! He’s not even trying to appear benevolent – and his view towards technology and rulership are major drivers as far as why the Windcleavers are bandits in the first place. But, our protagonists have way more pressing problems as the story begins than confronting him directly – so we’ll just have to see how that all turns out down the road.
BSB: The vegetation is reminiscent of that found in the old He-Man cartoons. Is this an Easter egg for lovers of fantasy and pop culture? And if so, are there other Easter eggs and references within the series?
Rich: He-Man is definitely one of our influences – I’m not sure that I’d call it an Easter egg exactly, but the look and feel of that series is something that was definitely in the mix when we were thinking about the world of Wailing Blade. As far as other Easter eggs and references go – well, if I told you, there wouldn’t be any fun in finding them, would there? Haha.
Joe: Like Rich said, the fun of Easter eggs is finding them, so pick up Wailing Blade #1 and begin the hunt!
BSB: So far, we’ve seen the Headtaker in the role of executioner. Does his prowess with a blade extend to using one in a fair fight?
Rich: Well, that really depends on whether you can consider any fight with the Headtaker “fair.” I mean, he does have the Wailing Blade, and everyone else has regular weapons like swords and arrows. As you’ll see in the book, he can more than hold his own in a fight.
Joe: The Headtaker is Beethoven with a blade. Masterful and malevolent. The question is can any fight with the Headtaker ever be fair?
BSB: Like most executioners, the Headtaker’s features are concealed by a mask. Does this mean that there has been more than one Headtaker over the years?
Rich: As far as the people in that world are concerned, the Headtaker is almost like a force of nature. Every year, he travels to all the towns and cities, dispensing justice – and he always has, as far back as anyone can remember. Is he immortal, or is it a series of different people? Only the Tyrant truly knows the answer to that question – sorry!
Joe: I wish I could tell you but Rich would hurt me and Tyler James of ComixTribe (the publisher) would kill me. But I will say this, if you read the book, this question and more are asked and answered, so the very best way to get yourself some answers is to buy Wailing Blade when it comes out on May 29th.
Readers can get a free digital copy of Wailing Blade 1 here