Those Whom the Godslayer Would Destroy: Holguin Talks "Spawn: Godslayer"

On the world of Ur, a host of Gods vie for the control and attention of mortals. These powerful beings view humans as childlike and beneath them. Mortals are to be taught, nurtured, and sometimes even punished. The Gods believed that mortals were mostly harmless-- that is, until the Godslayer appeared and began cutting a bloody swath through the deities of Ur.

This is the premise of "Spawn: Godslayer" a new ongoing monthly series from Image Comics by writer Brian Holguin and artist Phillip Tan. CBR News spoke with Holguin about the series, which is a reimagining of the Spawn character set in an epic fantasy world without Heaven and Hell; where instead a myriad of deities hold sway over the kingdoms of men.

The "Spawn: Godslayer" ongoing spins out of the "Godslayer" one-shot which hits stores last year. Readers don't need to have read that book to keep up with and enjoy the new series when it arrives this Spring. "It is set to debut this May. In fact, if everything goes right, the first issue will be available for Free Comic Book Day 2007," Holguin told CBR News. "We want to make sure it's reader friendly. Even though it's a continuation of the story told in the one-shot, everything you need to know, you can learn in issue number one of the monthly."

Readers picking up "Godslayer" for the first time can expect a sprawling adventure story that meshes fantastic, horrific, and human elements. "I suppose I'd call it dark fantasy or epic fantasy, with a definite shade of horror thrown in. It isn't a 'quest' story the way 'Lord of the Rings' is, but it does take place on very large canvas," Holguin explained. "But at its heart, I hope it's a very human story, about regret and redemption. And it's about the relationship between the mortal and the eternal. What do Gods owe their followers and vise versa? Are Gods, by their very nature, tyrants even if they're beneficent tyrants? Is there such a thing as true immortality, or do all things eventually pass, even Gods?"

"Godslayer's" world of Ur is a dynamic and detailed setting that has been meticulously fleshed out. "Ur is a very ancient world a bit larger than our Earth," Holguin said. "Everything is turned up several notches – the oceans are wider, the mountains taller, the weather more extreme. The cosmology is different – there's been a conscious effort to work out the astrology and constellations and patterns of the various moons, etc. We're really trying to get a sense of a living, vital world. The one-shot focused on one kingdom, Endra-La, which was sort of the height of wealth and civilization, almost to the point of decadence. In the monthly series, we see lots of different lands and kingdoms and cultures, some pastoral, some brutal, some simply alien and bizarre. But we're making sure it all feels like one world, that different cultures influence each other, the way 300 years ago you might have found Persian carpets and Chinese tea and American tobacco in an Irish manor. Culture and art and technology disperse and mix and influence neighboring lands."

"There's a vast variety of ideas and influences that go into making this world," Holguin continued. "From Joseph Campbell and William Blake to Jack Kirby and Walt Simonson, from Hal Foster to Miyazki, Michael Moorcock to Roger Dean--it goes on an on."

The Godslayer's mission takes him all over Ur in issue #1, which occurs shortly after last year's one-shot. "The Godslayer's on a voyage back to his home base, which we reveal for the first time in issue one," Holguin stated. "Also, there is an immediate reaction to the death of the Goddess Llyra in the one-shot. Llyra was one of the major Gods of the world. Other Pantheon's are starting to worry that if she can be slain, so can they, and they start becoming more proactive. Some worry that they need to find a way to protect them; others see it as an opportunity to perhaps sway the Godslayer into hunting a rival deity. There's a lot of plotting and scheming going on among the various Gods."

The opening story arc has the Godslayer, who was once a man named Bairn, dealing with some of the personal fallout from the one-shot and hunting another divine quarry. "The first arc is titled 'The Winter King," Holguin said. "It deals at first with Bairn's reunion, or quasi-reunion, with his slain lover, Neva. This causes him hope for the first time that there might be a way out of this curse, and he's just beginning to consider that an option. But meanwhile, he is sent on the trail of his next quarry, a brutish tyrant of a God called, Urshrek, the Winter King. He rules over a remote mountainous kingdom that has a very harsh climate and where life is a struggle. In the one-shot, we dealt with this beautiful, benevolent Goddess and it was seen as a tragedy when she is killed. In this story it's the opposite – the Winter King is a genuine terror and you're really rooting for the bastard to be offed. Of course, things aren't quite as simple as they might seem."

The first story arc will have the Godslayer running a gauntlet of horrific, powerful, and angry enemies. "I will give it a little tease: Faceless undead warriors, a giant, monstrous wolf, a vengeful young Goddess, and a cannibalistic Winter God," Holguin said. "That's just for starters."  

Following the first arc, "Godslayer" will feature both single issue and multi-part tales. "There's actually a specific story structure I've outlined for the series," Holguin stated. "Stories will be constructed in four-issue arcs, followed by two single-issue stories. So issues 1 through 4 will be a single arc, issues 5 and 6 are stand-alone stories, issues 7-10 will be the second major story arc, etc. This will hopefully make it easier for new readers to jump on board, and make it convenient to collect into trade paperback editions."

Readers of the "Godslayer" one-shot were introduced to the character of Neva, who as Holguin mentioned will continue to play a role in the first story arc of the "Godslayer" monthly and subsequent issues of the series. "Neva, or rather the ghost of Neva, is an ongoing character in the series and, at the beginning at least, she narrates much of the story," Holguin explained. "A lot of things will be seen through her eyes."

The Godslayer's mission requires quite a bit of roaming, but that doesn't mean there won't be other characters besides Bairn and Neva playing regular roles in the series. "The core cast will be Bairn, Neva, and third character named Dromo, who first appears in issue two," Holguin said. "Also, there's an entire clan of Gods called the Arcadean Pantheon, who play a minor role in the first arc but will play a much bigger role as the series goes on. And then there's the mysterious Thing In The Dark, the timeless creature that holds sway over the Godslayer."

Holguin promises that as 'Godslayer" progresses readers will learn more about the Thing In the Dark, a mysterious, Lovecraftian looking being that readers were given a glimpse of in the one-shot. "The true nature of the Godslayer's master will definitely be something we explore," he stated. "There is a certain Lovecraft influence   in the sense that there are things older than Gods, and that some of those things might be waking up. I suppose it's a bit of Lovecraft, a bit of classic Greek mythology and a bit of Moorcock's Chaos Lords."

Readers of "Godslayer" will also soon learn what thoughts, feelings, and motivations drive Bairn and how his grim missions affect him. "Bairn's state of mind is something that's going to be addressed in the first issue, so I don't want to say too much," Holguin explained. "Suffice it say, a lot of readers commented on how detached and emotionless he seemed in the one-shot, which is true. In issue one you'll find out why."

Holguin also promised to over time reveal the extent of the Godslayer's powers and the reasons behind his dark crusade. "He's still puzzling over a lot questions, so we're going to take that journey with him," Holguin said.

In the "Godslayer" one-shot Bairn took down the Goddess Llyra who was sort of a reimagining of some of the Angelic characters Spawn encountered in the main book.   Holguin hinted that future issues of the ongoing series might features new takes on familiar faces. "With the one-shot, we wanted Spawn fans to be able to look at it and easily recognize certain elements," he stated. "With the series we want to blaze our own trail, but there will be certain homages if you look close enough."

At first glace, "Godslayer" might seem like a very dark series but Holguin promised the book will feature a variety of tones. "I think it's easy to come across as ponderous or humorless in this sort genre and I hope to avoid that," he said. "I want to walk the line between the fantastic -- all the crazy lands and wild creatures, etc – and the more human, emotional level. Even the Gods are sympathetic in a way. They experience rage and jealousy and envy and regret and loss. That's the thing about Gods; they embody our deepest hopes, fears, doubts and aspirations. Since the beginning time sagas, songs, operas, etc. told their story because by doing so, they're ultimately telling our story.

"And by switching the locale every few issues -- going from a bright, shining kingdom, to a dismal dark realm, to floating cities or sunken kingdoms or whatever -- we're hoping to have enough variety to keep it interesting," Holguin continued. "It's a big, wild world and we want to explore all off it."

Holguin will have a partner as he and readers explore the world of "Godslayer," series artist Philip Tan. "I'm just very excited about this book and working with Philip has been great. I've never worked with anyone so enthusiastic about a project," Holguin stated. "When we first sat down and I started describing the world and the types of things we find there he just ran wild with ideas and designs and concepts. I think we both feel this is a book that best suits our talents and our interests and our individual styles.

The official title of Holguin and Tan's series is "Spawn: Godslayer" but readers don't have to be familiar with any of the "Spawn" characters or concepts. "Godslayer" has no ties to any of the other "Spawn" books. "I've worked on a lot of Spawn projects over the years and the thing about this is that it's completely its own animal," Holguin explained. "All the other Spawn incarnations – Dark Ages Spawn, Samurai Spawn, modern day Spawn, whatever – they were all part of a single continuity that was defined by the concepts of heaven and hell, and all heading toward a single endpoint: the final battle of Armageddon. Godslayer is completely its own thing. A completely new world, a different mythology, or series of mythologies. I hope anyone interested at all in the epic fantasy genre will check out. It's going to be a grand adventure."

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