Ivan Brandon has made his name in creator-owned comics as part of the team behind the robots-in-the-city book "NYC Mech" and as the editor of the "24Seven" anthology project. Brandon looks to continue his streak of success with a period adventure series with an unusual approach.
Illustrated by Nic Klein, "Viking" is a new ongoing series from Image Comics that debuts on April Fool's Day. Brandon spoke to CBR News about the book, the reaction he's seen to it, and horned-helmet-heads in the zeitgeist.
The subject matter of "Viking" may seem obvious from the title, but the approach to the familiar Norseman archetype is anything but. Brandon is putting the story in modern crime terms. "Remember Christopher Moltisanti trying to get 'made' in 'The Sopranos?' Well, the first arc of 'Viking' is about two young criminal brothers and the levels they'll go to make their way up the criminal food chain. And more importantly, the mistakes they make and the consequences of being overzealous," Brandon told CBR News. "But you know, all of the above with spears instead of bullets."
"[It's a] very modern take on something that is generally perceived as very old," Brandon added. "My goal is to make a period piece that doesn't read like a period piece."
Viking follows a pair of brothers, Finn and Egil, who Brandon describes as overzealous. "One more so than the other. Egil lacks much of a conscience or a sense of mortality based on the fact that every mess he makes, his brother Finn gets them out of. Finn takes less pleasure in crime and killing than his brother does, but sometimes blood is thicker than sense and Finn's not about to let Egil get killed no matter how much he might deserve it."
The inspiration for the project came from the first time the author read up of Viking history. "The parallels with modern organized crime became immediately obvious," Brandon said, "and once that clicked with me, I spent way too much time looking for different ways those particular streams crossed back and forth.
"And I'm inspired on period drama in general," Brandon added. "I'm inspired by things like Hiroaki Samura's 'Blade of the Immortal,' for example. Samura found a way to take Feudal Edo and make it feel like something that wasn't old and alien, to make the reader fit in with the characters (or vice versa). Later on, [TV's] 'Deadwood' and 'Rome' opened the door in the American mainstream for genre work that didn't speak only to the fanbase of that genre."
Vikings have seen a revival of sorts with the release of Brain Wood's "Northlanders" and the Vikings-versus-aliens film "Outlander." Are Vikings rising in the zeitgeist? "I don't really know," Brandon said. "When I started working on this book, there was only 'Thor' and along the way obviously 'Northlanders,' but I don't really see it becoming a thing, really. The momentum in this industry against doing this kind of work is enough to kill most of it. I do think it's great that there are people mining this particular era, though. It spanned hundreds of years and most of the world. It's an ocean of potential stories."
While "Viking" is creator-owned and housed at Image Comics, the creative team owes a debt to Marvel Comics for helping to identify artist Nic Klein. "[Executive Editor] Axel Alonso had mentioned his name to me as an artist that caught his eye, and I looked him up and was stunned by his work and got in touch," Brandon explained. "He connected with the idea and I think also with the total creative freedom he has to express himself however he likes. He has zero editorial interference in how he wants to handle his storytelling."
"Viking" is an ongoing series and is broken into arcs that Ivan Brandon likens to the format of television seasons. "The structure is very much like a TV show in that each episode/issue has its own story arc, so it's very much an episodic serial written to be read in issue form, but those arcs will culminate in a season finale sort of thing that will cap a longer arc and then we'll start another season with its own goals," he said.
If the reaction Brandon has seen since "Viking's" announcement is any indication, the book's success should be assured. "I was knocked on my ass by the reaction just to the teaser image," the writer confessed. "Just that single image spawned countless email/Twitter/Facebook messages in support of it. Even on the usually more negative comments sections of the news sites, I think I literally read one single negative reaction anywhere."
The interest continued even at the recent New York Comic Con. "More people came up asking to see pages than have ever approached me about any of my projects," Brandon said. "And what they've seen is just a drop in the bucket. Nic's powers grow exponentially every day."
"Viking" #1 hits the stands on April 1 from Image Comics.