One of the best things a writer can do to a genre is flip it on its head. By doing this, they take elements that normally don’t belong together, mix them up, and create something new and exciting. It’s like the first time someone dared to throw pineapple onto a Canadian Bacon pizza; it may have sounded wrong, but the result was pleasing to many.
Writer-artist Grant Gould is attempting a special concoction of his own in the upcoming “Wolves of Odin,” where he places Nordic Vikings against Werewolves. Set to hit stores in late November from Super Real Graphics, the concept of the book appealed to Gould on several levels.
“I’ve always had a fascination with Norse mythology and the Vikings — probably in part because of my Norwegian heritage — but I’m also a huge fan of werewolves,” Gould told CBR. “It just occurred to me one day that no one (as far as I knew) had ever attempted a ‘Vikings vs. Werewolves’ story. It seemed to me that that idea could make such a great movie or comic book, so I latched onto it and decided I would be the one to make it happen. The trick was figuring out what format I wanted to create it in — and I think for many different reasons, going the graphic novella route with Super Real Graphics worked out perfectly for me.”
It’s hard to deny the appeal of Vikings vs. Werewolves, but Gould wants readers to know the story is much more than a simple logline. “In short, the story focuses on a period of time when the north-men are turning from the old ways and discovering new religions,” he said. “This frustrates and angers Odin, the Father of the Norse Gods, so he transforms three of his loyal berserkers into ferocious beasts and essentially orders them to wipe out mankind.
“Thor recognizes his father’s madness and takes it upon himself to aid his own follower Tyr, and thus events begin to unfold that eventually lead to a showdown between man and beast. Tyr must destroy the wolves, and in the book we find out whether he succeeds or not.
“The gods also play a part in the story, but I did something a little different with them. In other comics, you often see characters like Thor and Loki as humanoids, wearing costumes, etc. In my book, they appear much more like spirits — ethereal beings that don’t really belong to our world, at least not in any physical sense. I wanted to give an entirely new idea of what the gods could be like.”
This approach to depicting the gods is in line with the epic fantasy the Gould had in mind when he came up with the story. “I do keep it somewhat grounded in Norse mythology, but I like to think of it as my own interpretation of the Tyr and Fenrir confrontation,” Gould said. “In the myth, Tyr is the only one who can cage the unstoppable wolf Fenrir, and in doing so, loses his hand. I always liked that, and it lent itself well to what I wanted to do. So, yeah, it’s definitely my own spin on the mythology, and I always kept that in mind.”
Gould utilized his skills as an artist to flavor the story in his own special way. Those readers expecting Boris Vallejo- or Frank Frazetta-style Viking images will be surprised by Gould’s take on bloody, mythic Norse battles, which — in his own words — embraces a “lighter, more cartoony style.”
“I can definitely see where the slogan ‘Vikings vs. Werewolves’ immediately makes one imagine more detailed, realistically-drawn illustrations. But when people see the tone of the book and can experience it in its final package, I think they will see that my style works with it — or at least that’s my hope,” Gould said. “And really, I wanted to create something that’s 100% me, you know? I wrote it, penciled it, inked it, colored it, lettered it, everything. So in a sense, readers will get a purified single-creator experience, and that’s rare these days. So hopefully people will enjoy it, and hopefully my art style won’t clash too much with the subject matter. Personally, I think it all jives pretty well.”
Gould’s art style has been appreciated by many over the past several years, especially Lucasfilm, who has kept the artist employed on a fairly steady basis since 2004. At that time, Topps was looking for new artists and he sent in a few samples. He was then hired to work on the “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” trading card set, which led to other trading card art gigs, which in turn led him to work for the official Star Wars website, such as the “How To Draw” kids’ features. Gould continues to work on various card sets and freelance jobs, and contributes regularly to the new “Clone Wars” webcomic. “Procedure,” his first five-page “Clone Wars” installment is online now.
“Basically, every week they post a new 5-page chapter, drawn by either myself, Tom Hodges, Katie Cook, or Jeff Carlisle (we switch off each week), and each one ties into that week’s new episode on Cartoon Network,” Gould explained. “It’s a cool idea and the stories so far have been amazing; I’m beyond excited to be part of it. Obviously, I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan since the first movie in ’77. It’s been an absolute blast being on their team. I honestly can’t imagine anything I’d rather be doing than drawing Star Wars comics.”
Besides Gould’s own “Wolves of Odin,” that is. After all, Vikings and Werewolves are pretty tough to beat… even with a lightsaber.
Gould found a kindred spirit in Super Real Graphic’s Jason Martin. The creator explained, “I knew his ‘Super Real’ books from a few years back, and I had met him at a couple conventions. For me, the real turning point was when his book ‘Gnome’ hit stands. I loved the format — I picked it up and immediately thought to myself: This is what I want for my book.
“I’d been considering a couple other publishers at that point, but at the end of the day, Jason was the publisher I felt the most comfortable with. He’s a straight shooter, he knows his stuff, he really wanted to publish my book (it’s nice to feel wanted), he’s great with communication (a trait that’s surprisingly hard to find in the creative industry these days), and honestly, I felt that going with a smaller publisher and maintaining full creative control was more important to me than trying to pitch it to a larger name. Plus, I was impatient. I wanted the book on shelves as soon as I could, and sitting around waiting for responses from bigger publishers wasn’t appealing to me. Jason had a plan and a schedule ready to go, and it was a good fit.”
“Wolves of Odin” goes on sale in November from Super Real Graphics.