New creator-owned series Black Road hits comic book shelves April 13th and it’s sure to lead readers down a dark road indeed. We reviewed the comic and have high hopes for it. It’s one of those titles that makes you want more, so why not pick the brains of writer Brian Wood and artist Garry Brown to get more before the comic comes out!? Here’s what they said.
AiPT!: The protagonist, Magnus The Black, is a fixer for the Church. Can you explain what a fixer is and what that entails?
Brian Wood: I’m thinking of the modern wartime fixer, although I don’t doubt they existed in the past as well. He’s a local guy who provides whatever assistance is required to a visiting person, often off the books or in some nefarious capacity. An example would be a local guy in Afghanistan who helps incoming troops or NGO’s or journalists with procuring food, intel, housing, directions, whatever. So in Black Road, Magnus is seeing this conflict between the incoming forces of Christianity determined to convert the pagan lands, and he sees it as inevitable, so he tries to smooth the process along, help out during this painful time of war and occupation.
AiPT!: How much of history and its cultures will you dig into? Is that a place you look to mine for stories and character?
Brian: There’s a bit of the historical in here, although compared to Northlanders, this is more surface level. I mean, I went DEEP with the research with Northlanders, making trips to Iceland and Norway, visiting reenactors in their workshops, and putting accuracy really high on the priority list. We’re being much more sensible here. We’re being normal here! This is a nice, sane, normal amount of all that.
But broadly, I have always found that my inspiration comes from history. It’s my secret weapon, although it’s really not very secret at all. You can open any book about any place or time in history and get ideas for a dozen killer comic series. Once you can connect history to the modern day, it all just seems to fall into place. I love it. So for Black Road, I took the real life, relatively peaceful event of Christianity being adopted in the pagan north, and re-imagined it as being something like the current state of the Middle East, with a few curveballs in the mix.
AiPT!: Garry, what goes into designing costumes and settings? How much research do you do before you’re ready to build the world?
Garry Brown: There’s pretty much no choice but to research when it’s a period book. Luckily Brian had years of reference that he gave me. Plus googling armor or weapons is easy enough. I’ve got about 20 folders with different reference so far. It grows.
AiPT!: Have either of you read the manga Vinland Saga? I’ve recently discovered it and with your work on Northlanders Brian I’m interested if you had any thoughts on it?
Brian: I know about it and Becky Cloonan gave me the first volume some years back. That’s about as far as I got into it, to be honest, but it looks great.
Garry: This is the first I’ve heard of it. I’ll definitely check it out though.
AiPT!: With a Viking as a protagonist you know we’re going to get some wicked fight sequences. How do you go about outlining a fight sequence and how much do you leave to Garry to choreograph?
Brian: I’ve been trying to keep the fights simple and giving Garry the space on the page so do big panels for big action, full-body shots, and so on. I love the manga series Vagabond and how the sword fights in that series were shown, and while we don’t have the luxury of spending 100 pages showing a single fight scene, I wanted to get as close to it as we could. From all my research, the way Vikings likely fought was more like a street brawl than deft, intricate swordplay, which is a challenge to show on the page, but Garry manages it quite well.
AiPT!: Now for two fun questions! What’s your favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?
Brian: Eating. Or at least prepping food. It’s both how I waste time and a vice. And since I work at home, I do chores – laundry, the dishes, the recycling.
Garry: I’m sure I do procrastinate, but I’ve been doing it so long now I can’t tell what I do. I take regular breaks and read a comic or something. Play guitar maybe.
AiPT!: If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?
Brian: Stanley Tucci. Although I am in no way worthy of that honor.
Garry: Sam Rockwell. I don’t look like him, but he’s a great actor and probably in the budget of a movie about me.