Darkchylde: All Manga, All-Ages

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After a few years without a new original publication featuring Ariel Chylde, Randy Queen unleashes a new manga, all-ages interpretation of his beloved character through Dark Horse in February, with the release of Manga Darkchylde #1. The first episode of the five-issue mini series marks the start of a story called "Shadowmaker", which will have Darkchylde fans buzzing for months to come!

Broken Frontier had a chat with Randy to discuss the series, why he made the shift to manga and all-ages and whether or not he's still planning to take Darkchylde to the silver screen. And if that doesn't do the trick, we have some exclusive preview pages of Manga Darkchylde #1 to wet your appetite even more!

BROKEN FRONTIER: The previous Darkchylde mini series were published at different publishers, like Maximum Press, Image and your own Darkchylde Entertainment. Why did you decide to take the property to Dark Horse?

RANDY QUEEN: I'm so excited to be with Dark Horse, and in more ways than not, this is very much a new property. There's no history with Manga Darkchylde, it's brand new. With any relationship, it's about finding the right fit and synergy, and my jaw is kind of on the floor with how terrific they've been. I'm truly blessed that there is a world-wide fan base to this day, and that this character endures eight years later. Dark Horse has always been very kind, even when I had nothing under my belt. Mike Richardson always had a genuine smile for me, and that is something that stays with you. 

BF: Manga Darkchylde is a reinterpretation of Ariel Chylde. Why are 'all-ages' and 'manga' key elements in your vision of the character?

RQ: It kind of happened despite me. I was itching to flex new creative muscles. I was confident I had proven I could draw elegant and pretty women. The Manga explosion was a minor factor; only in that if you're going to do a manga book, why wait till the craze has ended? Nearly every popular character has had a manga take, but the timing wasn't always there. "All-ages" to me doesn't mean just for kids, in contrast, this story is maybe more sophisticated because I'm just a better writer now. I'm able to offer this great character to everyone in a new, very expressive style that doesn't feel like something you've seen 5,000 times. It's not just my aping or adopting a manga style - it's more of a cool, western-eastern fusion without losing my identity as an artist or what I think fans find appealing in my work.

BF: A more important question is probably: why did you decide to redefine Darkchylde?  

Click to enlargeRQ: I think a strong character can withstand evolving, even into two completely seperate incarnations, which are almost totally unique onto themselves. I'd like to stress this is not a replacement for Darkchylde and that I have not abandoned my realistic style. This new project is just "in addition to." I'm having fun and cutting loose with some high energy, zanier stuff with more humor than before; even despite that, it's still a very deep, thoughtful, and - dare I say - profound story. People are going to be surprised with how good this "Manga Darkchylde" is, particularly those with preconceptions. This is, in many ways, a completely NEW character, and I've learned a lot in eight years. Where Batman evolved to "grim and gritty" with Dark Knight, I'm evolving in the other direction, and I'm fans of both. I'm out to make this the "Dark Knight" of All-ages books - and I really do mean what I just said. Why shoot for less than great if you're going to log thousands of hours in and expect people to care, show up and pay for it? Why bother if what you're creating isn't going to have any resonance ten years later?
Do consumers want you shooting for less than the absolute brass ring? Right now I'm creating my life's work, and if I get to 80 and my hand is shot, my vision gone and my mind spent, I'd like to think it wasn't just wasted time, that what we've created still serves as a marker of merit. Comics are stories and stories are as great or pedestrian as we make them.

Click to enlargeBF: How long has this idea been in the works?

RQ: Interestingly, this was never intended to be a printed comic. It was way down the list, but it's turned into something with a vibrant, compelling life of its own. Originally, Sarah and I were going to just offer it for free as a weekly web-comic at www.darkchylde.com simply to add content and give our fans a reason to keep visiting the site. I wasn't killing myself on the pages - it was sharpie, marker stuff, really quick, 4 and 5 hour pages, tops. 
While pitching unrelated ideas around town, Dark Horse said they wanted Manga Darkchylde and I'm like, "but look at this other great stuff I've been killing myself on..." But instead of "project X", it was this idea they sparked to. Obviously, if anyone sparks to anything you're doing, count your blessings, because it's rough out there. I'm not naive to the opportunities in the business and I'm very grateful. Knowing it was now a "real" project, I realized that the 4 to 5 hour pages would never do and that the whole thing would have to be scrapped and re-built to honor this opportunity. Now, the drawings are all 20-plus hour pages, but the re-booting proved necessary to refine the look and story. It's stronger by far than our first intentions. It's so strong; in fact, that I have a feeling people will be asking me if I will ever return to "Manga D." once it's done. The short answer is about two years in development, figuring out how these characters could be re-invented and still be different, while retaining the initial appeal. 
Not just Ariel has been re-configured, it's everything, and the lavish color work on this is simply some of the best you'll see.

Click to enlarge

BF: The story released this February is again told as a mini series. I'm sure your devoted fan base wishes to see an ongoing Darkchylde series. How come that wish has never been materialised?

RQ: There will always be monthly material at comics shops, and if I were a monthly guy, I'm sure I'd make more money. But if I can and I'm able, I'd always prefer quality over quantity. 
A very good example to illustrate that line of thought is Al Williamson. While I'm not comparing myself to his art, to this day he is remembered as being the quintessential "Flash Gordon" artist from the 1960s - really excellent and classy work, a real master craftsman. Williamson's King Comics Flash issues are, to this day, highly regarded, and he's remembered for it, they still command a nice price, even though he did a total of only three issues. I'd rather be that guy who did a handful of issues that people might remember down the road when I'm gone and will hold close to their heart, instead of being the guy who did 1,500 "by the numbers" books. I understand about making a living - bills sure don't pay themselves  - and I take my hat off to the pros that can do more in succession and keep the quality high. I'm not sure if I could. 
Click to enlarge The other thing is, not having it monthly has kept people from burning out on it or getting bored. Hopefully, when "Darkchylde" rears her head, people will expect a quality production and be curious.

BF: In your dealings with fans, have you found out what it is that makes Ariel one of their all-time favorite comic book characters?

RQ: Cynics will roll their eyes, but the truth is she is just an honest character who rings true to people and gives them an honest, emotional register. I put my heart on the page, always. If it was just because she was pretty or sexy, the property would not have endured just on those merits. That honesty will ring true in Manga Darkchylde also. When you encounter something that feels genuine, it's not something you can fool people with. 

BF: The last original Darkchylde story already is a few years old. Were you pursuing other career opportunities that prevented you from releasing Manga Darkchylde sooner?

RQ: I feel Manga Darkchylde is happening at exactly the right time and with the right people, because that's what it took to make it happen. I've done very well with Darkchylde, but it's not the only car in my garage, so to speak. I have other terrific properties I'm equally in love with and sometimes it takes years to make them terrific. One of the first of these is Manga Darkchylde, because it isn't just "Darkchylde" with a triangle shaped face. It's been completely re-engineered into something that is really almost completely, completely, different.

BF: Are you still hoping to take Darkchylde to the silver screen one day?

RQ: I think everything will eventually become a movie, because movies will continually be made. The key is not letting other people ruin the thing just so you can get a paragraph in the Hollywood reporter. There are certain things about a film that I will not budge on, and it's my right, because I'm the guy who has bled for it, laid the bricks and beat the pavement. Film is a goal I have, but I'm not sitting around chanting to totems, on the contrary, I'm working hard and making the moves. When the time is right, I'm confident it will materialize when the right people are involved and we're slowly seeing that they are. 

Click to enlarge

BF: After Manga Darkchylde ends in June, do you plan on doing a new manga and all-ages mini series at Dark Horse later on?

RQ: We'll see! This particular "manga" Darkchylde universe is just screaming to be explored more. I've got a terrific new character who could sustain her own series, and I think I'll kind of have to introduce her to Ariel, if only in a one shot. I have no shortage of ideas and I'm very happy about that. Creative energies ebb and flow and it's often beyond the creator to control. Right now, it's a very fertile landscape. 
Also, there's Darkchylde's 10th anniversary in 2006, which that's already talking to me. It's hard to believe it's getting that close and it's scary how time flies, but I'm very, very grateful for everyone who has expressed their kindness and support for my craft.

- Frederik Hautain

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