A hard reign will fall next year thanks to Chris Roberson, Paul Maybury (“Blue Estate”) and Image Comics. The writer behind Vertigo’s recently completed “iZombie,” IDW’s “Memorial” and his own digital comics imprint Monkeybrain Comics, Roberson is set to bring his talents to an epic world of his own creation. Announced at last month’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, “Reign” — which some misheard as “Rain” — is the writer’s next ongoing series.
The story introduces readers to a land called Khend that has recently lost its ruler. As you might expect, this results in a conflict between various groups of military and religious origins, each of which want the throne for themselves. A mix of political intrigue and mysticism, “Reign” will see its debut sometime next year. In the meantime, CBR News spoke to Roberson about the title, and while he played some things close to the vest, the writer did open up about Khend’s warring factions, building the world and why Image was the right fit for this project.
CBR News: Just a few basics first, is the series an ongoing or mini, and when does it launch?
Chris Roberson: “Reign” is going to be an ongoing series. A release date hasn’t been set yet, but if everything goes according to plan, it should start coming out next year. We’re trying to get a good chunk of issues finished before we solicit, so we can stay on schedule once the issues start coming out.
Why did you decide to release “Reign” through Image and not your newly-launched digital label, Monkeybrain Comics?
For the same reason that I’m doing “Memorial” at IDW or an as-yet-unannounced project at another publisher. One size doesn’t fit all, basically. There are some stories I’m working on that I think would work perfectly as digital serials, and those I’m doing through Monkeybrain. But something with the size and scope of “Reign” felt like it would be better served working through a traditional publisher. I’ve been really impressed with the books Image has been putting out under Eric Stephenson, and it seemed like a perfect fit for “Reign.”
What can you tell us about the title, “Reign?” Whose reign does the title refer to?
That’s actually one of the central themes of the series. The title refers to more than one struggle for control. The hereditary ruler of the land of Khend has died, leaving his sons and heirs to fight for the throne. But at the same time, representatives from other countries in this world have arrived at the court, with the possibility of war breaking out if things go badly. And while all of this political and military struggle is happening, out in the margins some individuals discover that they are developing supernatural powers they never suspected they had, as magic that has long been dismissed as myth and legend begins to return to this world. But there is more than one kind of magic, and ultimately only one form will prevail.
Also, kung fu morticians.
â€¨How much fun have you had, creating a whole world from the ground up? In doing so, have you found yourself pulling from ideas you’ve had for a long time or did it all flow once you started working on “Reign?”
Worldbuilding has always been one of my favorite parts of the creative process, and I spent a long time building this world. I started with the cultures and the religions, the magic systems, the history and politics, and then I started developing characters. In a lot of ways, it is a similar experience to the time that I spent playing role-playing games as a kid, where you would start with the rules of the world, build characters, and then have an adventure.
But since I was building a world of my own from the ground up, I got to create all the rules, and definitely did incorporate a lot of ideas I’ve had over the years.
You mention RPGs being an influence. Were there any other specific influences you went back to during this worldbuilding process?
â€¨Probably too many to mention! There’s a lot of historical stuff I obsess over that influenced the setting and the plot, but a lot of books, movies, and comics that I’ve consumed over the years also ended up in the stew.
â€¨At this point, what can you share about the stars of the story?
We’ve got a pretty big cast of characters, but there are four main groups of individuals we’re following. The first are the Tamurid, the “horse-lords” who conquered Khend a few generations back and who rule from the Golden Throne. Then there are the Luminari, the “ghost-eaters,” casteless untouchables who cover their faces in masks, and who are shunned by the rest of society because they do all of the unpleasant jobs, namely disposing of the dead. Then there are the Khendish themselves, members of a society with a rigidly defined caste system who worship a myriad of gods, and who have never given up the idea of taking their country back from the horse-lords. And finally, there are the Albelunders, travelers from an island nation far to the west and north, who have come to Khend as representatives of the “Witch Queen” of Albelund.
You’re working with Paul Maybury on this book. What made him the right artist for the job?
â€¨When I first started talking to Eric Stephenson about the possibility of doing “Reign” at Image, he asked me who I had in mind for the art. To be honest, I hadn’t given it a moment’s thought before that point. I talked it over with my wife Allison Baker, and she asked me who I would have on the book, if I could have anyone. My first answer was Moebius, which would be problematic for a number of reasons.
The very next name that popped into my head was Paul Maybury. I’ve known Paul for a while now, since we both lived in Austin for a long time and ran into each other all the time. I think his work is phenomenal, but he just keeps getting better. I can’t think of anyone better suited to draw this book.
I know the book itself is still a way out, but how deep into the mythology and designs have you gotten with Paul at this point?
â€¨We’re still at the fairly early stages at this point, but it’s interesting to see how the characters and concepts transmute when filtered through Paul’s brain. I started out with certain ideas about how things would look and feel while I was doing the development work, but now that Paul’s come onboard, I prefer to let him work out the visuals on his end, based on my words. The result is a thing that has the “skeleton” and some of the “musculature” of my original concepts, but with this fascinating skin on top that I wouldn’t have been able to come up with on my own. That’s one of the great things about a collaboration, of course!
“Reign” from Chris Roberson, Paul Mayberry and Image Comics, debuts in 2013.