Kieron, what's it like building an entirely new fantasy universe? And what's it like seeing Stephanie bring the pages to life?
Gillen: It's an interesting one, in that I did this vast amount of research into the development of role-playing games, and then synthesized something as complicated as I've ever made... and then I gave it to Stephanie, who went and added a bunch more things of her own. I was expecting it to be visual flourishes and approaches, but it's actually core world-building, which I then integrated back into it. It's very much a collaboration.
As well as the long historical view, the the '90s was key in terms of thinking of the fantasy world. It's a world as conceived in 1991. What was the state of the art? Not just games, but in terms of culture -- like, Nevermind has just dropped, so we're literally at the birth of the “true” 90s. What sort of world would a bunch of precocious kids make up, then?
Seeing it visualized is something else. I knew the world had to be seductive and terrifying, and Stephanie has provided. It's a story about going to another world. That's what Stephanie gives. And really? "Let Stephanie Hans Visualize A Fantasy World" was my guiding principle.
Stephanie, what's the most rewarding part about working on your first ongoing series? And how much fun are you having with Kieron's script?
Hans: The most rewarding part is to watch this thing, that we have been talking about for years now, finally coming back to life, gaining flesh and bones. There is something mesmerizing in seeing those characters, who come as much from me as they come from Kieron, come to life after so much reflection. I also see myself growing as an artist, and I don't know if it's the same for everyone, but I always felt the need to get better, to learn as much as I could and, yeah, these days, I grow up a lot.
I love how Kieron involves me in the creative process. I am not really sure how that works usually because it is my first ongoing, but I think we usually both listen to each other a lot. But also, the fact that we worked together several times before helped us with the kind of trust we could throw at each other I think. I know he will write me a good story and I hope he knows I will do my best to put pictures when words are not necessary
The debut issue looks great and it covers a lot of ground before ending with quite a cliffhanger. Please talk a bit about what the collaborative process was like crafting this first issue, and what it's like as you continue to construct this universe and its characters.
Gillen: I'm glad you liked it.
I've talked a little like that earlier, in terms of the world-building, but the character generation has been equally a strong collaborative element. I came to the book with these six character concepts and talked to Stephanie about them, and she came back with interesting angles which were integrated. Put it like this: It's unlikely that I'd have made one of the core cast French if Stephanie hadn't told me some fascinating things about the RPG culture we grew up in. That one of the characters was a sensitive metal head in his teenage years is also due to Stephanie -- that's a person I know from real life, but have never seen in a book.
In terms of execution of actual plotting, though? That's really my job, as much as painting issues is for Stephanie. Working out how to make the machinery of the issue turn, and introducing our core concepts. There's so much more to come, but I think the first issue really gives people enough to judge the comic.