Comic writer Kel Symons (I LOVE TROUBLE and THE MERCENARY SEA) has teamed up with Image and Nate Stockman to release his new fantasy adventure title REYN, the first issue of which debuted last week.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Kel regarding his new comic, the present state of the comic industry and his comic writing process….
30th January 2015 - Interviewer: James Bridcut
Thanks very much for taking time out to answer a few questions about REYN... Can I started by asking what was your main inspiration for REYN?
Sure. I think there are a couple inspirations. First a long history with a love of fantasy and sci-fi, mostly going back to role-playing games like D&D or books like The Hobbit. But I'd recently read the original Conan stories - something I'd just missed over those formative years with sci-fi or fantasy paperback always tucked in my book bag at school. I was at once struck by its timelessness - the world building seemed ahead of its time, and I could easily see it
standing up against modern fiction. After reading it, I couldn't help think about wanting to do some project about a wandering swordsman. There's just something instantly adventurous and epic about exploring a fantasy realm.
An ‘antihero’ (if Reyn truly is one?) must be a fun character to write...
I note that this is your second collaboration with Nate Stockman (artist on Reyn) and you have previously stated that most of the interactions between you two are done by email or Face Time/Skype. Can you briefly describe the process of creating a comic book with limited ‘face-to-face’ interaction and do you think the geographical distance between you two is a hindrance at all (or does it even have any advantages?)
He's not an anti-hero. Don't misunderstand me - Reyn can mostly be counted on to do the right thing. But that's probably because he hears voices in his head directing him to good deeds. If he didn't, I won't say he'd be a bad guy - he just wouldn't be anywhere near as good. No different from most of society perhaps - without morals, law and civilization, would we really always do the right thing? (I know I'd be driving a lot faster - and I already drive pretty fast as it is).
As for the collaboration, I have known no other way of creating comics except in this manner (all my co-creators and artists have lived in far away cities). It's clearly not a hinderance. Things run very smoothly. So far my work in comics have been the most successful long-distance relationships of my life.
The process is a lot of talking via emails - a lot of back and forth about story, character and look. We video-chatted early on, but then email became the staple going forward (and still is). The nice thing about email is that while I write visually, when there's something I have in mind, it's very simple to just attach a picture of what I'm trying to go for. For instance, Reyn's look - I saw his armor and get-up as looking similar to the leather armor Rutger Hauer's character sported in Ladyhawke. So I sent him a bunch of images. Of course, Nate made it his own, as he always does. Same with the Venn - our weird salamander-man creatures. I liked the striking patterns and colors of fire salamanders and similar species, so sent him pictures. I think they came out looking great - and while it can be pointed out that "lizard-men" may be a fantasy staple, I can't think of any that look like ours.
I totally agree that there is something wondrous about a mysterious warrior wandering a foreign land. That opening pages of issue 1 reminded me of the opening of Fistful of Dollars. I do recall from another interview you saying that you were a big fan of D&D as a child. Do you think that REYN represents your ultimate D&D character visualised in comic book form?
Probably. I always played rangers or thieves when I played D&D - the ranger side suggest someone self-reliant, living in the wilds, and the thief side paints a darker character - someone who isn't quite trustworthy. These traits apply to Reyn.
But you mentioned Fistful of Dollars... the western - and spaghetti western in particular - was always a model for this. You'll see while this is certainly a medieval setting, there's easy comparisons to be made to the frontier. Until that giant spider shows up at the beginning of issue one, this could easily be a farm in Montana or Oklahoma. And Reyn's personality is modeled after The Man With No Name - he's the protagonist, surely. You're just not certain if he's the "hero." At least, not in a white hat sense.
They do indeed look great and are very distinctive. To be honest the only creatures that I can think of that are remotely similar are the Lizard-Men in Flash Gordon (and they sucked!).
Image Comics presently has an ‘embarrassment of riches’ when it comes to it talent and comic books. Do you think this is indicative of a general wealth of great comics at the moment and do you think we are presently experiencing a golden age of comic books? With that in mind is there one comic out there at the moment that you are really loving?
I don't know if I can accurately answer this. I think Image is doing well with talent because their system is so attractive creators, who end up owning the fruits of their creativity, not the publisher. They also give a free hand when it comes to developing this creativity - there's no real editorial process, so it's nice to be able to do what you want. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but that level of freedom can be a nice lure.
I also don't know if I can tell you if we're in a new golden age. You probably don't get a second chance at something like that. But it's clear comics are expanding to mainstream audiences - film and tv fans, many of whom didn't grow up reading comics but appreciate the stories in a new medium. It's just affirming what many comic fans have known all along: that comics are literature, as much as any novel or movie.
As for what I'm reading, the one book that I finish and then wait for with great anticipation are Darwyn Cooke's PARKER adaptations. A year is a very long time to wait.
I know the feeling...being a fan of Hellboy requires one to wait what seems like an eternity between issues.
I’d like to thank you for your time today Kel but before I go can I ask you two final questions: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries and what is your all-time favourite comic book/comic book character?
I'm a film fan, first and foremost, so watching movies is probably my favorite way to wind down (tv, too). I also have no problem watching and rewatching favorites time and time again. But also enjoy video games, poker…. all the other usual vices.
Favourite comic book character? It's probably Batman - I liked the epic darkness of the character. Killing Joke, Hush, Long Halloween and Dark Victory were some of my favorite runs, but Arkham Asylum remains my all-time favorite.
Thanks Kel for your time and good luck with Reyn. I thoroughly enjoyed the first issue and look forward to the rest of the run.
REYN issue 1 is out now and Issue 2 is due on the 11th February
Many thanks to Image Comics and Kel for their time.