An interview with Sword Daughter creators Brian Wood and Mack Chater.
This June, writer Brian Wood and artist Mack Chater will be introducing comic book readers to a new series from Dark Horse Comics called Sword Daughter. Set during Europe’s Viking Age, this story is about a young girl and her father who survive an attack from a band of killers called the Forty Swords. Their entire village slaughtered, the father and daughter attempt to repair their damaged relationship and the solution may only lie with the swords they carry.
After speaking with Wood and Chater back in June, I was excited to talk again about this fresh new series.
AiPT!: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. I read in the press materials it will “span the width of Viking Age Europe.” If it’s not a big spoiler, what countries (of today) or locations does Sword Daughter, feature?
Brian Wood: In this first arc, we start off in Iceland, then the Shetlands, and then Orkney. And this is the plan, to move around, as one does when one embarks upon a revenge quest, I guess!
AiPT!: How much research goes into the fighting style of the characters? Is it something historically known or do you need to make it up in some way?
Wood: I’m sure Mack will get into the nitty-gritty of the fighting, but as the writer who’s written stuff like this a few times, I approached it with a few gut instincts on how to handle this, and the historical side of things is less of a concern. I want it to FEEL right, more than anything else. I like to think of vikings fighting as something like a brawl or a street fight, direct and dirty, the heavy swords swung like clubs and with max effort, rather than something more acrobatic and delicate.
Mack Chater: Like Brian mentioned, a lot the fighting style is kind of a gut reaction to how they would wield the swords. Hacking, slashing, big swinging movements, not overly graceful. But saying that, I have consciously tried to make Dag’s fighting style more subliminally influenced by samurai sword fighting. More deliberate, more controlled. More so as its more interesting visually to have the opposing styles facing off!
Wood: I also think fights need to tell a story, like a story-within-a story, the story of the fight. Which is easy for a writer to say!
Chater: I’m so happy you noticed! One of the big influences for Brian and myself visually are the big European comic albums of the late ’70s and ’80s. These Bande Dessinee used a wide format of balloon shapes, panel shapes and page layouts. I’ve always loved the circular bubbles and it has helped give Sword Daughter a unique look.
Nate was fully on board with these ideas and has brought a ton of ideas and experience to the book, which only adds to it!
AiPT!: Abandonment and reconciling the pain of that are at the forefront of the father-daughter relationship in this series. I was curious where you draw inspiration from with something so raw?
Wood: As a parent of two, I’ve spent my share of time worrying and stressing about the fact I brought these two helpless individuals into a world of uncertainty, pain, and potential violence. I’m talking about those late night, awake in the dark type of worrying. And that was one of the first themes I came up with when considering Sword Daughter – this idea that you can’t protect your kids from everything, there is only so much you can do, and terrible things can and will still happen no matter what.
Wood: Parental fear, parental guilt, all very raw stuff like you said, but show me a parent that doesn’t know exactly what I’m talking about.
Chater: As a father of two myself, one of the big things for me is knowing if I do enough to prepare my children for the world, or even too much? Nothing really prepares them, but knowing I’ve (hopefully) taught them somethings, helps.
AiPT!: You both created an incredibly successful and modern series of Briggs Land. Are there any challenges a Viking Age story supplies as opposed to something in modern day?
Wood: I’ve been around the viking block a couple times, so I’m probably coming at it from a different place than Mack is. For me, it’s always about finding something in the history that has relevance to modern day, some urgency and style and coolness, rather than a straight history like Classics Illustrated. The viking era gives me a lot of tools that I find compelling, the lawlessness, the forbidding landscapes, the tension between cultures, and themes of exploration and facing the unknown. I can find a hell of a lot of drama in that.
Chater: Thanks! They both have their challenges and rewards. Briggs was a big challenge for me purely from a logistic point of view – I live in the NE of England and getting and finding the right reference was integral to making Briggs work. For this book, there is such a wealth of reference to pull from, the challenge was trying not to put it all in!
AiPT!: If you had free rein to write and draw any story what would it be and why?
Wood: That’s a long list, and impossible to just single out one. Briggs Land – Mack and I are on hiatus with that right now – is something that I have the material to write for years and years. But right now, my creator-owned focus is firmly on Sword Daughter.
Chater: That list is endless! But the main draw for any story is always, are the characters interesting? I love pretty much every genre, so expect something from them all!
AiPT!: What are your own personal hopes for the future of comic books?
Wood: I know a lot of creators talk about the importance of ‘hooking’ kids on comics in hopes of training a next generation to be fans. I don’t dismiss that, but every time I visit a bookstore it’s PACKED with adults, and I think, Jesus, here’s a group of readers, they have money, and they’re already here in the bookstore, right now! That’s the audience I want to get at. How – that’s the challenge, but for my entire career I’ve always tried to make comics aimed at the mass market.
Chater: The point Brian mentioned is a great one. Yes, it’s important to foster and bring in new readers, but I want to get those people who USED to read comics, or who have a love of great stories into reading and enjoying comics. There really is something for everyone.
AiPT!: With history-based series like this do you ever worry a historian or a knowledgeable fan will call you out?
Wood: It happens constantly. Usually it’s all good – we either made a dumb mistake and deserve to be called out, or we deliberately made the choice and then we can defend it. Its a little easier with the Viking stuff than with Rebels, my American Revolution series, since the Viking era is far less documented and is more open to informed interpretation. In the case of Sword Daughter, I’d describe it as historical-ish – in some ways we’re aiming to be accurate, in others we’re not (like with the Samurai cinema influences).
Chater: Absolutely! But we aren’t writing a history book. That informs our storytelling decisions, and allows us to make interesting choices, and help make a better book!
AiPT!: Last question, thanks again, when we last spoke it was about Briggs Land: Lone Wolves, I was curious will we see more chapters in the Briggs Land series?
Chater: I know Brian has a ton more stories for Briggs and I’d love to delve back into that world for sure!
Wood: Sword Daughter was a thing we both wanted to do, but I think about Briggs Land every single day, so it’s only a matter of time before we get back to it.
Look for Sword Daughter in comic shops June 6 or preorder it digitally today.