This fall, indie writer Ty Gorton, along with artist Josh Medors, colorist Jay Fotos and inker Ryan Ottley, are launching an ambitious bi-monthly series with a multi year plan in mind. Full of "authentic Viking mythology," "Runes of Ragan" aims to be a self published epic in the vein of such popular series as "Bone" and "Strangers in Paradise," with a distinctly unique focus on mythology and a mysterious conflict between two immortal brothers. CBR News spoke with Gorton about "Ragan" and the writer explained why the core concept of the series has been guarded so tightly.
"It would be easy to say that 'Runes of Ragnan' is the iconic 'good vs. evil' epic adventure," Gorton told CBR News. "It would also be inaccurate because, as a writer, I don't believe in good vs. evil. There is infinite gray area in any given situation, and to any given character. Nobody is black and white, and no choice is that simple either. As odd as this may sound, at its core, 'Runes of Ragnan' is about the complexity of the dominantly good character (Eldjarn) trying to do the right thing in the face of the dominantly evil character (Gunnarr).
"'Runes of Ragnan' is authentic Viking mythology fused with fantasy, but anchored by the restrictions of flesh. Battles will be fought face-to-face, steel to steel…and blood will flow freely. The grand plotline will unfold in the comics only, not in tightly constructed summaries or interviews. I feel that is the very least owed to the readers; when they open this comic, they won't know the story, they won't know what to expect. That is absolutely crucial to me as a writer/creator. 'Runes of Ragnan' will traverse the last 1,000 years of history on Earth. In the beginning, it will be dominated by the era in which Vikings ruled the shorelines. Their efficient raids upon villages along the coast are legendary.
"As the comic progresses, readers will witness the main characters in countless settings across an endless array of time periods. That was a very intentional aspect of this book, the desire to have so much freedom in terms of time and place. No matter what time period a specific story arc takes place in, Viking mythology will be the common thread. It is the blood that pulses within the main characters, and it is the driving force behind this series."
While Gorton promises a diverse array of characters, he does say that the two aforementioned brothers will be central to the plots in the book and sheds some light on the specifics. "The two key characters in 'Runes of Ragnan' are the brothers, Eldjarn and Gunnarr. One (Eldjarn) represents the more virtuous aspects of the god Odin, and the other (Gunnarr) only his ruthlessness and lust for battle. Even though Eldjarn respects the Earth and fights to protect it's inhabitants from his brother, he too carries in him the love of battle...it is in his blood. He will not hesitate to inflict injury or even death on those that stand in the way of defeating Gunnarr, and for this reason he is not a straight forward, shining hero.
"The female lead role is Eydis the Wanderer, member of an ancient Druid order called the Guardians of Oak. She becomes intimately entangled in the plight of the brothers and finds herself torn between her Druid loyalties and her own more personal instincts. Once again, we are unwilling to delve too deeply into Eydis' origin or ultimate connection with the brothers, as it can only take away from the reader's experience."
Though the influences on "Runes of Ragan" are numerous, Gorton says that he feels there are two direct influences, namely, Michael Crichton's "The Eaters of the Dead," which was later made into the film "The 13th Warrior" starring Antonio Banderas. "The thing is, when you talk influences, you're delving into the entire range of a human being's awareness," said Gorton. "I'm drawing from everything I've ever experienced when I write a story, create a character, come up with a concept, etc. 'Runes of Ragnan,' for Josh Medors (the penciller) and I, is a culmination of everything we've appreciated and everything we've wanted to see in a comic book. We've spent endless hours fleshing this thing out, talking about the characters and concept. We quite literally have given ourselves over to this project, and it is a direct reflection of who we are as people.
"In other words, if this book isn't incredibly cool, we most definitely are the pathetic geeks we've always feared we were."
Gorton's enthusiasm for the project is apparent to all who spoke with him at the Wizard World: Los Angeles convention and explains that the project came together through another passion of his- his website. "I've talked about this a few times now, so I'm going to go with the shotgun version. I ran a fansite called 'Spawned' [A 'Spawn: The Dark Ages' fan site], Josh entered the contest with an insanely cool Clown drawing involving hellish-monster sperm, my jaw hit knees when I saw it, I emailed him the concept for 'Runes of Ragnan,' he said, 'cool,' and here we are (many years later). This all went down around the end of 2002 I believe.
"Bottom line, I feel like the luckiest bastard in comics to be working with Josh. Every single time I get a page back from him I'm in awe of his ability to tell a story visually, and make it look better than just about anything on the shelf. The man was born to tell stories via artwork, simple as that."
Helping out the rookies will be comic book horror master Steve Niles, who Gorton also met through the Web site. Niles will write the foreword for "Runes of Ragnan" #1. "Long story short, I loved his run on 'Spawn: The Dark Ages.' I created a fan site for it, it got popular, all the creators involved with the book started contributing material for the site, including Steve. He appreciated my efforts, we've been in contact ever since. He's one of the coolest creators out there, totally grounded, and impossibly prolific. In fact, remind me to kill that guy ASAP, he makes all writers look like lazy schmucks."
With a focus on characters and how the events impact their lives, along with some fun horror and action-adventure moments, Gorton is aiming for "Runes of Ragan" to appeal to the broadest audience possible. But Gorton admits that there are some extras for the hard core fans and is excited to see their reactions. "Some of [the 32 pages of the book] consists of very cool extras that we've put a lot of consideration into, like the d20 gaming material supplied that is created directly from the story itself, Gunnarr art contest winners, a Jack & Bastard comic, a 'making of' exclusive look at the creative process behind 'Runes of Ragnan'-- in short, this comic is offering more than any other book I can think of for the same low cover price of $2.99. Silent Devil Productions has stepped up to publish the book, and they have come through 110% in every way. Their support and confidence in this project has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career as a writer. My hat is off to their ambition and willingness to take things to the next level.
"The first issue will hit shops in September 2005, don't have an exact date yet for that. The hope of everyone involved is that 'Runes of Ragnan' will continue for many years. I've got endless ideas and a lot of storylines already planned. As stated before, I've got 1,000 years of human history to play with here, and due to the setup of the story, I can place these characters wherever/whenever I want. Things will never get tedious or boring. My plan is to keep the pace at break neck speed. No milking of any one idea or story. Call it a pet peeve, but I can't stand it when ongoing series draw out a single story element across several issues."
Gorton is also happy to shed some more light on who he is and his life passions, saying, "How am I not myself? (shameless 'I Heart Huckabees' plug, that movie kicks ass) I've been a writer since childhood. It has all I've ever wanted and all I've ever pursued in my 29 years. I love the comic book medium, despite it's many challenges in the U.S. market. I've been engaged online for many years, publishing comics, fiction, websites, and various bits of madness. Check out the MC13 series at Opi8.com for a taste, and the creative free-flow site I run with a good friend of mine: maneatsfetus.com (where I recently did the 'Once An Hour Series' in which I stayed up 24 hours straight posting a written segment along with a photo every hour).
"I'm involved with Food Not Bombs in my local community, an idea that has existed nationwide for 25 years in which people take food that would have otherwise been wasted and prepare it for the masses, for free. It is a rebellion against war and against the lockdown of food, which is totally absurd when you think about for more than 7.3 seconds."
And if you needed any more persuasion to buy "Runes of Ragan" this fall, Gorton adds, "It will consume your soul. And several of your toes."
CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.