In Birthright, the upcoming fantasy adventure by writer Joshua Williamson, artist Andrei Bressan and colorist Adriano Lucas, young Mikey Rhodes goes missing, leaving his father a suspect in his murder, and the rest of his family in shambles. But just mysteriously as he disappeared, Mikey reappears, but he’s changed.
Debuting in October from Skybound/Image Comics, the series centers on a boy who’s kidnapped by fairies and told he’s destined to to defeat a great evil. But once he accomplishes that and returns home, what’s next?
To tell that epic tale, Williamson, Bressan and Lucas not only had to create a war-ravaged otherworld populated by fantasy creatures and untold horrors, they also had to establish a realistic, familiar setting in which the Rhodes family drama unfolds.
The creative team provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive glimpse into the process, sharing their thoughts on world-building, their approach to the designs of the central characters and the fantasy realm of Terrenos, and the mammoth undertaking of the impressive poster for Birthright.
Andrei Bressan: When Birthright began, Josh told me that he wanted two worlds, with distinctive feelings: our familiar Earth, where we follow a modern-day family and the drama of losing their child, and an adventure-fantasy world ravaged by horror and war.
I started with the fantasy world, and my point was to bring modern war to fantasy. In everyday news we can see all the damage being done, of shattered and broken things, but with this, I wanted to bring war where it hurts the most: on the flesh. With this in mind the paintings of Zdzisław Beksiński come in handy to shape a fantasy world of war and twisted flesh.
Adriano Lucas: When they sent me the Birthright pages, I just loved the work. Josh´s script and Andrei’s art, they were all so gorgeous, so I couldn’t do less than my best to contribute to the book. It was such a great challenge developing the colors for two different and, at the same time, fantastic worlds.
It took a lot of time to bring in and adjust what everyone wanted. Both Andrei and Josh helped me out with great ideas, which made the work much easier.
Bressan: Initially Brennan should express a pretty happy and confident teenager, but when Mikey goes missing, his clothes change, which helps express the deep psychological change as well.
The parents are a big part of the concept for me. I believe we should be able to see a bit them in our main hero. Aaron should be a bit bold, almost with a belly, shoulders down to express the “carrying the world on his back,” a bit of a beard and deep emotional eyes. He’s a broken man. With Wendy I wanted to portray a modern and independent woman.
Lore was a huge undertaking. Mostly because of the visual nature of the fantasy world. I wanted you to able to see his twisted touch over the land … and his visual shouldn’t be like a zombie lord, but something stronger and creepier that would evoke the spirit of death.
Josh Williamson: Lore’s look is such a huge part of the story. And the images here are barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the designs we did for him.
Bressan: I tried to play with concept of the grotesqueries of modern war, and looking for all kinds of approach. A few characters were born from sketches like these. Rook, our orc, was the first one.
I was doing some creature designs and playing especially with the orc’s skin. Searching for an elephant-hide texture and, by the end, it was Rook. Orcs are usually presented as evil creatures, and Josh told me that it could be cool to see a creature like this in a different light.
A fairy or an angel? Rya is a bit of both with a harsh tribal look. I started out with envisioning the children of this horrible war, but we thought it could use a more adventurous slant. I also have her an asymmetrical look to represent lack of resources and the fight for survival.
Williamson: We never wanted Rya to look like a fairy. She has wings, but was born in a war torn world and her look should reflect that. If you ever called her a fairy, she’d kick your ass. Her wings look more broken, with rusted metal, and are not as graceful as most winged characters always seem to be.
Bressan: Rya’s wings started with a butterfly design, but we moved away from that idea pretty fast. I was researching lots of fashion, and when I see a beautiful woman’s dress, full of flaps, I thought it could work great for her wings.
The fantasy realm, Terrenos, is a little familiar, but overtaken by the harshness, prejudice and mood of war. All of the creatures have some pain and sadness over their eyes. Hope is a fragile word on this God forsaken land. And for Lore’s capital, my point was to play with the idea of a fragmented city. Something that reflects people’s state of mind.
Bressan: The poster was a great challenge. They told me that it should be a world invasion. The fantastic elements running amok over the modern world. And it had to feature the full cast! It’s a three-page-wide poster, but secretly I was trying to build a five-page-wide poster, but for my sanity, three was pretty good. I started with Lore’s army — a living body agony. All of his army has the same idea, they’re all asymmetrical, tortured and twisted creatures.
The warrior is the main focus of the piece, holding the beasts at bay. The composition has a “V” format that express the inner tension of that Warrior. The woods at the right is a dear part of the story and for such, I saved a small space to fit the young Mikey.
I did a lot of versions for the last part. There were plenty of characters to include, like the Rhodes family, who are the heart of the story, so I brought them a bit closer to center. I wanted Wendy pissed, ready for a fight, and Aaron to have a mix of caution and surprise.
Lucas: The poster? Dear God, the poster. Lots and lots of hours of hard teamwork. We had to get to a point where we could show all the sides of Birthright, with all sorts of characters and environments inside one single universe. It was a lot of work, oh man, lots of work! But at the end of the day, we were all very happy with the result.
At this point, I could not be happier professionally, being a part of such a world-class team, which measures no effort to bring such an amazing book.
Williamson: As you can see, Andrei and Adriano put a lot of work into the look of Birthright. Originally Rook was going to be some giant animal, like a big stuffed teddy bear, but when I saw Andrei’s design for the Orc, I knew he was our guy.
Birthright debuts Oct. 8 from Skybound/Image Comics.
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