Tierney Raises The Stakes With "Spera: Ascension of the Starless"

It's been fun and games for Pira and Lono in the "Spera" books so far, but with the fourth volume, it's time to get down to business. Arriving in mid-November, Josh Tierney's "Spera: Ascension of the Starless" pits the two lead princesses against the very real danger of the Pira's mom -- the Starless Queen -- and her warmonger, General Zeal. Luckily for the plucky pair, they spent the previous three volumes of the Archaia graphic novel series preparing themselves for just such an occasion.

As for Tierney, he got ready for this fourth volume by joining forces with a group of artists including Giannis Milonogiannis, Atelier Sentô, Mindy Lee, Sourya Sihachakr and Valentin Seiche, each of whom drew a different chapter of the latest installment.

In discussing what lies ahead for his pair of powerful princesses, Tierney also detailed the looming threat of the Starless Queen and General Zeal, and on the art side, provided a breakdown of which artist worked on what chapter.

CBR News: "Spera" is an epic story. Was your intention from the beginning to expand what people think of in the genre?

Josh Tierney: When I started "Spera," it was as a novella, and I was mainly thinking of what I wanted to write for myself. I've always preferred hearing more about princesses than knights when reading fairy tales, so when I finally decided to write my own, I wanted to put princesses in the center of the story, with them initiating the adventure.

Can you catch readers up on the experiences of Pira and Lono leading into "Ascension of the Starless?"

The series begins with Pira's mother, the Starless Queen, killing Lono's father, the Plain King, and proceeding to invade the Plain Kingdom. Pira decides to oppose her mother by rescuing Lono, and the two flee to Spera together.

In Spera, they train as adventurers, and find comfort -- as well as a whole lotta excitement -- in their new lives. This changes when they learn Spera is being invaded as well, and realize they're the only ones who can truly put an end to the Starless. All that training is about to come in handy.

Is it at all difficult crafting a graphic novel like this, where you're continuing an ongoing story while also trying to bring new readers in?

It's tricky, because you want to catch up new readers without it feeling forced. What I've done with "Ascension" is sprinkle short recaps of previous books into the dialogue of this one, so that the book isn't front-loaded with exposition, instead letting readers learn about previous events as the story goes on. I'm hoping this will also add to the book's re-readability, which is always important to me.

It sounds like the stakes get upped in this new volume, with the Starless Queen looking to invade. How do our heroines respond to these new circumstances?

Pira and Lono take their information to the Speran king and help Spera mount its defense -- while also planning a route to assassinate the Starless Queen, a moral dilemma the princesses must suffer with throughout their journey.

What can you tell us about the Starless Queen and her military leader, General Zeal? What kind of threat do they pose to Spera?

The Starless Queen is a cancerous being who corrupts those who come in contact with her. Chaos is the only thing that brings her joy, and this "joy" is to be her gift to the world.

General Zeal is one of the corrupted, and he aims to give Spera to the Starless Queen through the most destructive and disturbing means available to him.

Parts of "Spera" debut online, and then you have these graphic novels. What goes into the process of transferring everything from one medium to the other?

The main story is exclusive to the books, but some of the shorts debut online before being collected in the volumes. I work with Olivier Pichard on Spera-Comic.com, and we've been making changes to the site to improve accessibility, such as presenting all the available shorts in chronological story order. The three shorts in Ascension will eventually appear on the site as well.

You're working with artists Giannis Milonogiannis, Atelier Sentô, Mindy Lee, Sourya Sihachakr and Valentin Seiche on this volume. How do you break down who does what and do you tailor scripts specifically for certain artists?

With "Ascension," I began with clear ideas for each chapter, where the tone and locations change for each. When I'm not tailoring a script for an artist, I'm thinking of the artists I know who will suit it the most.

I had started on a project with Afu Chan and Giannis before beginning the book, so Chapter 1 was actually written with both artists in mind, with Giannis ending up on it. There are some sci-fi aspects to the setting of the first chapter that wouldn't be there with another artist.

Chapter 2 takes place in a secret, rural village of warriors who follow a bizarre code, and Atelier Sentô's work in Japan has been a huge influence on how it's presented.

Chapter 3 -- by far the most action-packed -- is drawn by Mindy Lee, whose fluid style makes for the most dynamic battles in the book.

Chapter 4 takes place in the Speran castle, with a focus on subtleties in conversation and body language. Sourya's location design is beautiful and detailed, and his characterization is exactly as intricate as it needs to be.

Finally, Chapter 5 is incredibly dark on just about every level, and was written wholly with Valentin's rich sense of atmosphere in mind.

There are also shorts by Victoria Grace Elliot, saicoink and Shelly Chen in the book, adding their unique perspectives to the story.

"Spera: Ascension of the Starless" by Josh Tierney, Giannis Milonogiannis, Atelier Sentô, Mindy Lee, Sourya Sihachakr, Valentin Seiche and Archaia debuts on Nov. 19.

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