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Travel to the Stone-Age with “Primordia”

by  in Comic News Comment
Travel to the Stone-Age with “Primordia”
“Primordia” #2 on sale now

In the three-issue miniseries "Primordia," writer John R. Fultz and artist Roel Wielinga introduce readers to a brand new fantasy world, one quite unlike any you’ve ever seen before; a primeval land in a stone-age faerie tale of drama, romance, violence, wonder, danger, secrets, and sorcery, and featuring demons, darkling folk, nocturnal beasts, a griffon, weird woodland creatures, and more mysteries.

The story of "Primordia" centers on two mysterious twin boys found abandoned in a Secret Wood and raised by the Woodfolk, a group of isolationists. As the twins grow, their contrary natures manifest: Alleyar’s powers are fueled by the sun, while Driniel draws on the power of the moon. A Cain-and-Abel-style relationship evolves when they fall in love with the same woman: Vega, Princess of the Woodfolk.

The conflict spills out of the wood into the savage world of Men and other realms, where the Gods are oblivious to the struggles of Men.

For Fultz, "Primordia" is a labor of love. Primarily a fantasy and horror writer, Fultz teaches English Arts in San Jose, CA, and writer for magazines including Weird Tales, Black Gate, Dark Wisdom and others. Outside of a self-published book called "Necromancy," which Fultz drew and illustrated himself from 1999 to 2002, "Primordia is his first national comics release.

With the second issue of the Archaia Studios Press title out this week, CBR News caught up with Fultz to learn more about the fantastic world of "Primordia."

John, thanks for joining us today. Introduce us to "Primordia."

It’s my attempt to tell the perfect fantasy story using the comics medium. It’s also an incredibly gorgeous book thanks to the artistic genius of Roel Wielinga, and our colorist Joel Chua (who also colors "Robotika").

It has elements of my own favorite fantasies, including "The Silmarillion," "Tarzan," "Quest For Fire," "Tales From The Flat Earth," "The First Kingdom," "Conan," "The Odyssey," "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" and "Paleolove."

Page from “Primordia” #2

It’s also my attempt at telling a fantasy saga without relying on the old "good vs. evil" cliche that we’ve seen a million times. My characters hopefully come across as three-dimensional beings who are capable of either good or evil. The problem with most fantasies these days is that they rely on the old formula of a young innocent who must learn to become a hero to defeat a clone of Tolkien’s Dark Lord, or something along those lines. "Primordia" is a story about fully realized characters who happen to inhabit a fantastical world, and all the attendant drama and conflict inherent in a primeval environment filled with strange creatures and mysterious forces.

The book focuses a lot on love, famiy and war. Talk about the themes you explore in "Primordia."

This story to me is all about love — not just romantic love, but also the love that should hold a family together but is too often absent. Driniel and Alleyar are part of a dysfunctional family. (SPOILER: If you’ve read the second issue, you know that they were fathered by gods who care nothing for their existence.) Vega is the object of both twins’ romantic love and she in turn loves both of them, but she’s unable to choose until it’s too late. If not for her, they might have grown up without feuding. But nothing comes between two men like a woman.

Page from “Primordia” #2

There’s also the maternal love of Philometra the wood nymph, who adopts and raises the twins. As happens with many mothers, her selfless love goes unappreciated when the twins must leave her. However, this means that Slurg the satyr (who never wanted the twins around to begin with) will be able to once again pursue his love affair with Philometra. Love can cause conflict; lack of love can cause conflict. Humans are very strange creatures, and Alleyar and Driniel are very human-like, despite their supernatural powers. In mythology, even the gods themselves are representative of the best — and worst — human qualities. This is also the case with the Gods of Primordia. Love can save your life, and it can rip your heart out. Love and violence are like Yin and Yang, or Sun and Moon — linked perpetually in a marriage of opposites. (Thus the old saying "You always hurt the one you love.") This is also a major theme in "Primordia" — the unity of apparently opposite forces. My philosophy is that, even in fantasy stories, the basic qualities of human existence (such as love and hate) are the most interesting character traits to explore. After all, every story is really about human nature.

What’s the genesis of "Primordia?" How’d it all come together and what was the initial spark of an idea?

“Primordia” #3

Fantasy is my favorite genre to work in. Always has been. So when I set out to do my "dream" comics project, I naturally came up with my ideal fantasy concept. Five years ago I came up with the concept and was originally going to draw it myself. Luckily, I eventually decided I wasn’t up to my own artistic standards and I teamed up with Roel. Working with him is a fantastic experience. We are truly fans of each other’s work, so it’s a pleasure working together, and we have a tremendous synergy. My basic idea was to do a story where there was no All-Powerful Good and no All-Powerful Evil, but instead to tell a story about conflicting forces and the characters who represent them. All the most interesting books are books with fascinating characters. To me, a great story always comes down to great characters. The other thing a fantasy story must have is a truly fantastic setting, i.e. a Fantasy World that delivers a sense of wonder and evokes a sense of originality. I think we’ve built exactly that with "Primordia."

You mentioned the idea for this book first came to you five years ago — why did it take five years for you to publish? Talk about the journey this book has taken from initial concept to finally landing in stores.

Page from “Primordia” #3

Well, at first I was determined to draw the book myself. But I was very slow and my pen-and-ink skills are nowhere near the level of Roel’s. So, I finally accepted the fact that I was a writer, not an artist. A wise move. At first I had a different artist come on board, and we pitched it to another company, but that artist bowed out to take some paying gig. I continued on, searching for an artist who could do my concept justice and I called Roel out of the blue, after having not spoken to him since ’97. He didn’t exactly remember me at first, but he was interested in coming back into comics. When he read my pitch for "Primordia," he must have fallen in love with it, because he came in with guns blazing. Roel is a full-time freelance designer and illustrator by day, so he worked on "Primordia" mainly at night. This was a labor of love for us — nobody was paying us page rates. So, it took quite a while for Roel to produce the 96 pages that make up the entire story, but it was definitely worth the wait. Then, when we hooked up with ASP, we had to wait almost a year before they could fit us on the schedule (they’ve been adding a lot of books in the past two years). So, all together, it was a five-year journey, and it feels great to finally have the book out there in the hands of readers. It will feel even better when the hardcover collection comes out in Spring ’08. It will be the definitive edition of "Primordia,", with behind-the-scenes sketches and other surprise "extras." Plus a new wrap-around cover by Roel!

How did you get hooked up with ASP? What did they see in "Primordia" that convinced them they had to publish this?

Page from “Primordia” #3

I have known Mark Smylie for about 10 years, having first met him at the Chicago Con back in ’97 when he was promoting the first "Artesia" series. He and Roel were both publishing through Sirius at that time; Roel was doing a science-fantasy series called "The Seventh System." I saw Mark every year in San Diego, and I followed his book faithfully because I’m a huge fan. When he started Archaia Studios Press, I started sending him ideas for series. He didn’t like my first pitch (a sci-fi book), but it was the art that he felt was not a good fit for his ASP lineup. He’d also seen a few issues of my self-published "Necromancy" comic and knew that I was a good writer. Once I told him I had hooked up with Roel, he was very interested, since he had been a fan of Roel’s art even longer than I. I showed him some pages and he could tell right away that Roel and I had something special. We were going to publish it in black-and-white, but Mark insisted on bringing a colorist on board, which was a terrific decision. Mark is a genius, and he knew that color would take our project to the next level. Joel Chua has done exactly that with his amazing colors.

Going to ASP was the best possible move we could make; it’s a terrific indie company, and they’ve got the best lineup of fantasy books in the business. "Primordia" was a natural fit alongside books like "Artesia," "Robotika," "Okko" and "Mouse Guard," among others.

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Indie Comics forum.

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