CCI, Day 3: So… Shiny! - Ted Naifeh talks "Glimmer"

With all the hullabaloo at Comic-Con International in San Diego, whether it be the rare items sold by dealers or the various celebrities around the Convention Center, there's an announcement that has a devoted group of fans excited: Ted Naifeh has another new Oni Press project lined up for release later next year, namely "Glimmer." On the heels of the series' official announcement, Naifeh spoke with CBR News about the series and what to expect.

"I love sword and sorcery epics," explains Naifeh. "I'm a huge 'Lord of the Rings' fan. 'Glimmer' is sort of my attempt at a sword and sorcery epic with a goth flavor, a little tongue in cheek, a little style over substance, a little angst. There's no ship date yet. We just want to whet folks' appetites. Probably next summer, in time for Comic-Con."

Naifeh has described the series as "The Lord Of The Rings" meets "The Matrix" and one wonders if the comparison is in terms of the ambitious scope of both franchises or a reference to the enthralling visuals that draw in fans. "In style, it lies somewhere in between the two. In scope, it may be a little more ambitious than 'Matrix,' though nothing could ever match the scope of 'LoTR.' You need fifty years of steady imagining, plus an unmatched knowledge of European mythology and language, to produce something like that. 'Glimmer' will be a different kind of fantasy epic from either, if only because it's going to be in comic form. There have been many comic fantasy epics, including the ongoing 'Conan' series, 'Bone,' and a fair few from Europe and Japan. This will be mine. We'll see if it holds up."

You'll probably recognize Naifeh's name from the Oni series "Courtney Crumrin" and its various mini-series, so this might seem like a sharp change, but Naifeh explains how it all came to be. "I was always charmed by the idea of a magical world existing within the everyday world, that behind anonymous storefronts and down obscure alleyways were pockets of the magical world. Daydreams like that got me through adolescence. I touched on that stuff in 'Courtney Crumrin,' but with 'Glimmer,' I'm taking it in a different direction. Also, there's the concept of the ordinary person being given a magic sword and somehow transformed into a fantastical warrior. That's actually similar to your basic superhero archetype, though I didn't know it when I was 18 and dreaming up this stuff. I was largely uninterested in superheroes at the time."

"But to be honest, I didn't have anything like the chops to write a story like this at age 18. I've cobbled together some scripts and proposals for the thing over the years, but I wasn't really able to craft a solid story, and I knew it. Hands down, the hardest part was coming up with a name that worked with the concept. I'd played with a few, but I knew that if I ended up calling it "The Blank of Blank, or something to that effect, I might as well chuck it. I mean, the thing's cliché enough as it is. The title 'Glimmer' didn't come to me until I was talking about it with Oni. I liked it. It has a gentle, mysterious, faerie quality that I think works. Everyone at Oni agreed.

"To tell you the truth, I might have chucked the project anyway at some point, if Oni hadn't pushed me to keep working on it. It's tough to take badly unorganized ideas developed before one knows any better, and turn them into a solid story. But it seemed ultimately like the right thing to follow 'Courtney Crumrin.' It's a little older, and a little sexier than Courtney, but not such a dramatic change in direction that Courtney fans won't like it (unlike some of my projects)."

By now you're probably looking for the 411 on this series and worry not, for Naifeh is happy to save the day. "'Glimmer' started with a character named Rook, a sorcerer who wonders the earth, occasionally awakening ordinary people to their magical potential, and involving them in a secret conflict that takes place under the nose of everyday society," explains the scribe. "I had multiple stories about him, but the Oni guys focused on one, in which Rook encounters a young man named Justin, who's secretly the heir to this magical kingdom, unbeknownst to himself. Add in a sexy sword-wielding chick from previous stories for a little romantic interest, and you have, at least in Joe Nozemack's opinion, a hot comic idea.

"Rook was inspired by many things, from Mike Dringenberg's take on the 'Sandman' to paintings of Vampire Hunter D by Yoshitaka Amono. I couldn't tell you where his story comes from. It's been in my head for years and years. No kidding. I have paintings and drawings of him from the late eighties and early nineties.I remember once talking to Matt Wagner back when I was a drooling fanboy, and him telling me that he created Grendel when he was a drooling fanboy. I also remember reading somewhere that Frank Miller came up with the Marv story from 'Sin City' when he was something like 14. That both 'Grendel' and 'Sin City' turned out so successful is in part the reason I haven't permanently shelved these ideas. I think that sometimes your earliest and crudest inspirations touch on something magical, something untainted by too much craft, too much self-conscious refinement. They can possess a certain elegance and purity that readers really respond to. Take 'the Crow,' for instance..."

A large part of the resonance found in Naifeh's work can be attributed to the presence of a strong message, a spine for the story but not a soapbox for Naifeh. "Courtney Crumrin" deals with the wonder of childhood, "How Loathsome" explored acceptance and "Glimmer" says… "Yikes, that's a tough one," laughs Naifeh. "I'd rather not try to explore what a story is supposed to mean, certainly not before I've written the script. If the themes aren't evident from the story, they aren't worth talking about. But I'll give you a hint. It might have something in common with Spider-Man."

It's been said that "Glimmer" will be more adult that "Courtney" but not so much as the critically-acclaimed "Loathsome," so the question becomes: what makes the series adult? "I wouldn't say that this book will be 'adult-oriented,' but compared to 'Courtney,' as I said, it'll be sexier. The terms 'adult' and "mature" are thrown around a lot in comics, I think, partially because the readership has gotten older and feels self-conscious about reading comics that are 'for kids.' But also, I think that comics have become more sexual than they once were, simply because the older readership is just more interested in that kind of thing. Comic characters have always been a little sexy, the tight, skimpy clothes and bulging muscles being a traditional element. But these days, the sexuality of comics has skyrocketed. Female superheroes wear next to nothing. The men often look like homoerotic beefcake, as though they've just walked out of a Tom of Finland illustration, all tiny waists and gigantic shoulders.

"One thing I wanted to do with Courtney was to create a female-lead comic without a sexy lead character. To my knowledge, this just hasn't ever been done, and I thought it was somehow important. I feel it worked well. But let's be honest, sex sells comics, and sexiness is damned entertaining. Don't get me wrong, Glimmer won't be gigantic muscles and massive, swaying tits. It won't be Conan and Red Sonia. But it will definitely have some sex appeal, not to mention a fair share of violence. And hey, who doesn't like a little sex and violence? [laughs]"

Relaxing in his chair, Naifeh smiles when asked about the release format of the series, something that's sure to excite folk. Like his goals with the story itself, his publication plans are ambitious and he says, "It's not set yet, but we're talking about doing three 56 page square-bound books in the smaller 'digest' size. Being a fantasy series, I'd rather this book look less like a comic and more like a novella. Once all three are out, we'll collect them into a single volume, possibly even a hardback. One of the reasons behind this strategy is that the digest size can go straight into the bookstores. It's no secret that while superhero comics do well in comics shops, alternative genres tend to suffer, especially if they're in black and white. They do quite a bit better in bookstores, reaching people that never go into comics shops. I've always been interested in reaching readers outside the standard comics readership. And once you get them hooked on the art form, it's easier to get 'em into those comic shops, looking for more."

You'll be seeing a new artistic side of Naifeh in "Glimmer," but he won't say much about it besides, "I'll be drawing the series. I won't say much about the art style, suffice it to say it won't be as cute and cartoony as 'Courtney.' But it won't be entirely unfamiliar."

Though he has an Emma Frost story to tell, as reported earlier by our friends at Newsarama, Naifeh hasn't been seen doing a lot of superhero work and that has led some to think he doesn't like the genre, which would be an egregious conclusion. "I'll tell ya, I love the idea of superheroes. They're our American myths, each being a different facet of adulthood, power, and responsibility. But to tell you the truth, I don't read a lot of superhero books. For starters, comics are a major expense, and one that I haven't really been able to afford. Indy comics aren't exactly a lucrative industry. But in addition, I don't see a lot that really catch my fancy, that seem to say much that hasn't already been said. I don't know of many comics that were meant for me. And given that there are so damned many, you'd think more of them would hit home. Maybe I just have to write one myself."

So what else can we expect from Naifeh this year? "Well, I have 'Death Jr,' of course. It looks like it's coming out through Image. I'm doing it in full color, which has been a blast so far. Also, there will be something from Slave Labor that I'm really excited about. Check back with me about that at the end of the year."

If you're making it to the Comic-Con International, make sure you say hi to Naifeh- he'll have some cool swag for sale. "I'll have a new Courtney Crumrin baby-t, a Butterworm hoody, and a new limited edition Butterworm etched glass, plus buttons. My booth will be #1706. The Death Jr. folks will be there, too, and we'll have a free poster which I did just for the con."

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