Overview

TwinBlades Ascendant

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With two issues done and a slew of adventures still to come, TwinBlades is one of Alias Enterprises’ most exciting debuts. Blending history, fantasy and sibling rivalry, the story of sisters Bera and Bren and the collapsing world about them brims with character, intriguing twists and thrilling action …

Jason: Adrian and Ryan, welcome to Broken Frontier and Industrial Evolution!

Adrian, when did the germ of TwinBlades first sprout in your mind? Did this start off as a pure fantasy, or was the story always set in ancient Nordic times?

Click to enlargeAdrian: It actually started when I was watching the History Channel - seriously. There was this show about how there were these ancient cave drawings, and right next to the men with the spears hunting antelope, was this thing in the sky that kind of looked like a flying saucer.

Or there were these carvings in some old Aztec building that looked like a man in a spaceship. Or another one is like these huge drawings that were miles long, but could only be seen from the sky. The narrator was like “Who were these drawings for?”, “Why would these people make these drawings that they can’t see themselves?”

“How were they even able to make the drawings?”

So, the implication was that aliens had visited these ancient civilizations. So, I was like, “What if one of these visitors forgot his laser blaster, or light saber behind?” and “What if some barbarian tyrant, someone like Khan or Attila the Hun got his hand on a phaser?”

From that what if, TwinBlades was born.

I didn’t want to do just another fantasy that was done in middle earth or some fantasy world. I wanted to have it on Earth, in a real place. So many of the places mentioned in TwinBlades, cities and such, are real places in Norway.

And later, when we learn about other peoples of the TwinBlades world, elves and trolls and such, you’ll see that they’re just people, not some other non-human race. Elve for example means ‘river’.  So, Elves are river people. Trolls in Norwegian (myth) are found in the forest. So, in our world, they’re just folks who have kept to themselves, and because of the inbreeding, have become really warped. Just think about the movie Deliverance, and you get the idea of what our Trolls are like.

But, at the same time we took tremendous liberties with their costumes. What our characters wear is totally from our imagination, not at all similar to what you’d see in another book about Vikings. I made some sketches and Andie Tong gave them the final look they have now.

Jason: To pull off such a convincing story, how much research did you put into Nordic history and myth?

Adrian: I’ve read about Norwegian history since I was about 12. I was just captivated by the people, their cultures and ways. Like the American Indians, Vikings have had a reputation for being a very barbaric people. 

The old mental image of the Indians was like an Apache savage scalping some helpless settler. With Vikings, you had the same thing, that they were all about raping and pillaging. Vikings did do some pretty horrendous things to their enemies, like the crimson eagle. But again, like the American Indian, they were just people trying to exist in a difficult world, and for the most part the stereotype is based on half truths and exaggerated stories.

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Jason: What is at the heart of this story? Is this the tale of Bera and Bren, or is it the tale of Thorfinn and Braxon? For those fans who haven’t yet read the book, who are these characters and why are they so central to the TwinBlades tale?

Adrian: I guess the book is really about the girls. But this story actually has a ‘history’. There is much that took place before we got to this story. The whole story starts with Throfin. His father was a Viking, and his mother was an English Lady who was taken from England in a Viking raid. However, she ends up falling in love with her captor and the two end up marrying and having Thorfin.

But his mother’s father ends up coming to get her back and a huge war is started between Norway and England. In order to avoid a long war, Thorfin’s father allows Thorfin and his mother to go home. That story is on the website (see www.TwinBladescomic.com), and will be included in the Trade Paperback.

Anyways, Throfin is raised in a ‘civilized’ society, but returns to his homeland to bring peace to the land and civilize the warring clans. He befriends one of the most feared warlords, a young but loyal man named Skullsplitter. Together they have some success in uniting all the warring clans. All this happens before issue one of the Killing Words. But, we allude to it, because it’s part of the girl’s history.

But yeah, the book is mainly about the sisters.

Click to enlargeJason: Ryan, please give us a little of your background. How did you find yourself working in comics and specifically on TwinBlades?

Ryan: I started working at WildStorm as an intern in 1995. I continued on staff for four years. I've been itching to get on a comic series, so when Adrian came to me at a convention, I thought it sounded fun, so I took it.

Jason: Adrian, I really enjoy your writing. TwinBlades is your first published comics work and yet, and I don’t mean this in any way with disrespect, this is one of the best-written books offered by Alias. Do you have a background in writing? What other work have you done?

Adrian: Thanks. I appreciate that. I’ve been writing for years. But the only other published work from me is kids stories. But that was some time ago and was for storybooks on CDROM. I also used to do a lot of short videos. I think doing that helps me to tell the story in an interesting way. 

In fact, I write my scripts like they were movie scripts. I give the artist the camera angle and let them know if a panel should be a tight shot or an establishing shot. I think of the comic in terms of how I’d like to see it as a movie, and then just take a frame out of the movie playing in my mind, and it becomes a panel on a page.

Jason: The art in this book is some of the strongest to come out of the Alias stable. Ryan, how have you approached the design of the book and the characters to give TwinBlades a unique look?

Ryan: Thanks! That actually means a lot to me. I think every new project I start, I try to come at it the best I can. Adrian gave me a lot of freedom and decisions on the art direction and colors. Fortunately, I think we have similar tastes in colors, so he understood where I wanted to go with the art.

Previously, working for Marvel and WildStorm, I didn't have too much say, well at WildStorm I did... but with TwinBlades, I actually have to go a step further and take care of scanning the art and really have to pay attention to the final details, and being somewhat of an editor so it comes out how we envisioned it. 

I tried to research Vikings as much as I could to bring a little authenticity to it, while at the same time not being entirely bound by it and having some artistic license.

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Jason: What has been the fan reaction to the book? How have you worked to target the books to fans?

Ryan: I really don’t have that much of a gauge to what people like these days. But I think things that don’t change are the emotional things and action. There are some emotional parts of the book... anger, sadness, love…  and some humorous. I tried to think like an “actor” and try to convey those emotions in facial and body expressions.

Adrian: Well so far, it seems like people who try the book are hooked.  For example the guys over at The Comic Show  picked up the book, and now they’re waiting for issue #3.  If you listen to their pod cast, it’s kind of cool that he’s talking about the books he’s picked up and he talks about Sam and Twitch, the New Spawn, Cyberforce, and then TWINBLADES. So, he’s a fan and helping to make more.
On the other hand, our book isn't everyone’s cup of tea and we know that. But for folks that just want to tag along on an adventure, the response has been great.

Basically, we’ve been targeting folks who are tired of the same old Marvel/DC books.

Jason: The fantasy genre is huge at the moment, with books like Skye Runner, Magician: Apprentice, Conan and Dragonlance on the shelf. How much of a role has this played in seeing TwinBlades come to fruition?

Click to enlargeAdrian: Actually, I have several projects in the works, but chose to do TwinBlades first because at the time, two years ago, there weren’t any sci-fi/fantasy books!  It was all zombies and werewolves.  It looks like several other creators noticed the void and now we’re seeing the results. 

But I’m glad that our book is part of this wave. The Dabel Brothers were the only ones doing those types of books. But, TwinBlades is a little different because it’s not pure fantasy.

Jason: Alias has a diverse line of books out at the moment. How have you sought to make TwinBlades stand out from the crowd?

Adrian: I guess I’ve kind of covered that already. The first thing we did is to mix fantasy with sci-fi.  But, to make that even a bit different, we’ve set this on Earth and in the past.  We’re not in Middle Earth or some fantasy realm. We’re talking about real places and cultures with no dragons, magic, or unicorns. We also try to make it different by making the characters seem contemporary. There’s a reason for that beyond trying to make this fresh. But hopefully Bren and Bera seem like gals you could see.

Jason: Lastly, what are the challenges faced by an indie book like TwinBlades, and how have you sought to overcome them?

Ryan: That’s a pretty good question. I think there is quite a difference between an indie book and a mainstream book, pretty much Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse. Doing an indie book, if you’re not rich or have funding initially, you need to make an income. So sometimes you can't help but it being lower in priority. You’ll need to have a regular job or a steady stream of freelance work coming in to put food on your table.

I’m still trying to overcome the problem! I have a fairly steady freelance full-time job right now, and I finally am worrying less about where the money’s gonna come from. The main reason I want people to understand this is so they don't think we’re just completely lazy bums and that’s why the books take forever to come out!

Adrian: The biggest problem is getting exposure. Getting the word out. Though, I think for people who are looking for some sort of alternative to Marvel or DC, they'll find Alias.  And if they find Alias, they’ll find TwinBlades. One of the best ways to overcome that obstacle is to do interviews like these. Make ourselves accessible to the growing fan base we have.

On the other hand, the other problem is just to keep the team together and making deadlines. We have real pros on our team so that’s not too big of a problem. But as an independent, we all have ‘day jobs’.  So once in a while day jobs get in the way and that can lead to big problems.

Jason: Thanks so much for your time … I can’t wait for the next issue, so back to work!

Speaking of next issue, have a look at this gorgeous art, it’s all from TwinBlades #3 – on sale soon!

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You can catch more of TwinBlades here: www.TwinBladescomic.com

You can chat with Adrian and Ryan at the TwinBlades forum.

This interview wraps Industrial Evolution’s month-long coverage of Alias Enterprises.

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