What's the difference between a miracle and magic? Are they the same thing with different labels? These are just two of the many questions writer Dave Rodriguez investigates in his upcoming "Starkweather: Immortal," which will be published in five issues by Archaia Studios Press. To help kick off this miniseries, Rodriguez has put together a special "zero" issue with a well-known collaborator, science fiction novelist Piers Anthony.
Rodriguez is naturally quite pleased to have a writer of Anthony's caliber in the credits of this "Starkweather" issue, and he was more than happy to talk about the new series with CBR News.
Before we begin, I think there might be some confusion about this new "Starkweather" series…okay, I'll admit – I'm confused. I recall that you wrote a "Starkweather" book before "Starkweather: Immortal," but I don't recall Archaia or Piers Anthony being involved. Can you clarify things?
It confuses a lot of people. There was the original five-issue series that was published by Arcana in 2004-2005. "Starkweather: Immortal" is a new five-issue series and it's being published by Archaia (see, that's not confusing), and the #0 issue is based on an original short story written specifically for this "Starkweather" series by Piers Anthony. I then adapted that story into the comic script. He's not writing anything further for the series; I write the other four issues.
Can you tell me about how the book ended up at Archaia?
I met [ASP Publisher] Mark Smylie at Wizard World Chicago and showed him the preview pages for the series. I was taking the book in a new, more adult , direction and Archaia really seemed to fit the bill. Mark contacted me later and told me they were interested in taking "Starkweather" on and here we are.
Where did the idea for this "Starkweather" book come from?
I started working on the ideas for "Starkweather" about ten years ago. I think I was having a conversation with someone in the college newspaper office. He was very religious, but the kind of person who is willing to engage in a polite discourse, and we were discussing what the practical difference was between a "miracle," as defined in the bible, and "magic." Both of them, theoretically, are drawing on external forces to change reality, so it was really a matter of perspective. Through a certain lens, people like Moses could be considered to be using magic, especially when the bible has scenes of his brother's staff facing down Pharaoh's magicians, but just one that draws his power from God and faith.
That started the idea that through history there has been a "Divine Power" that a chosen few could call on. And from there, I began to construct the world and surrounding mythology about this group of people who were gifted with this power and sent out into the world to spread a message of peace and light. Of course, I had to figure out what happened to these beings, and I created a betrayal – a betrayal so deep that it twisted the actual source of their power, and through a manipulation of history, these gifted people became known as "witches" --not the Wiccan kind, the kind pilgrims liked to burn. So there is this whole tangled world and history that exists beneath the surface of the normal world, and Alex Starkweather is our view. Since he is seeing it for the first time, we can learn about the world along with him.
What is this particular "Starkweather" story about? Where and when does it take place?
"Starkweather: Immortal" is Alex's origin story. The first series dropped you right in the middle of the action and raced towards a huge finish. With "Immortal," I wanted to go back and really take the time to flesh out the characters and the world. Most of the story takes place in the last fifteen years or so, bouncing back and forth between the present and Alex's childhood.
But the #0 issue by Piers Anthony actually doesn't have Alex in it at all. It features Cartaphilus, a villain from the first series, and sort of catches the reader up on the mythology and back-story of the world and leads into the four issues that feature Alex. That one has scenes from the present and from, like, 2000 years ago.
Hm, wasn't there another religious figure walking the earth around 2000 years ago? Who are the characters in this story?
You've got our hero, Alex Starkweather – the former line cook turned witch, turned would-be-savior of the Divine Blood (Witches). There's his best friend and kind of tomboyish neighbor, Clara. One of my favorite new characters is Alex's grandmother Felicia. She is sort of mentioned in the original series, but we actually get to meet her in this one.
And then of course you have Cartaphilus, now elevated from villain to a starring role in the series. And where would Alex be without Solomon, his belligerent talking iguana who used to be a black cat? Where I ask you!? I think my six fans would be very upset if that lizard didn't show up in the new series.
I can hear them giving a sigh of relief right now. Did you have to do any kind of historical/biblical research for this story? It does seem to contain a lot of informational "nuggets."
Yes and no. For some weird reason, I've always read about and researched various mythologies and, specifically, the source of Christian faith. I studied some of it on my own and in college and carried it on afterwards; and years later, I'm able to incorporate that interest into the Starkweather mythos. But anything new that I add I like to research and then, you know, twist it all around to fit my world. For me, it is more important that it has the ring of truth rather than a pure factual basis. "Starkweather" is a fantasy book, not a history book. The dates should line up, though.
The preview art for the book looks great! Who is doing the art for this story and how did you hook up with them?
The stellar art job on this title is being done by a Mr. Patrick McEvoy. Patrick was one of several artists who submitted their samples when I put out an art call on a gaming message board. I was going for a more illustrated, modern fantasy book and Patrick just nailed it.
Is the plan to have more "Starkweather" books after this series?
I sure hope so. I've got it plotted it out ahead about three miniseries so far. We'll see how well it's received, and whether Patrick figures out how to get free from his cell.
Are there any other projects you are working on that you want to let our readers know about?
I am working on a comic series called "Shadowgirls" that is debuting on Toonzone as a daily strip this summer. The short description is "H.P. Lovecraft meets Gilmore Girls." I'm working with the artist and co-creator Dave Reynolds on the book and we're very excited about it. The cool thing we're trying out is making an entire issue available for order as soon as its first page hits the web. So you can either wait and read the book online, or order it direct and know a few weeks ahead of time as to what's going on. We also have some other talented artists and writers who are contributing to the series and, under our current schedule, we expect to have more than eight months of material when we launch the site.
From the description you've given, this sounds like something I should check out. Before we bring things to a close here, can you tell our readers what excites you most about "Starkweather: Immortal"?
Man, that's not fair. The art is so great and so is working with Patrick. Archaia's also just been awesome this whole time. But if I had to be completely honest, the biggest deal to me about this next series was a chance to work with Piers Anthony. I started reading his novels almost twenty years ago and now my name gets to share a cover with him. It's a total geek fantasy-come-true, and it helps that I truly admire him as a person and not just an author. Having him work on my characters has been an incredible experience and because of that, so many great things have happened.
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