The Primordial John Fultz

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John R. Fultz’s Primordia was a hit for fans of well-crafted fantasy tales when it debuted in late 2007. However, when its publisher Archaia went on hiatuts, so did Primordia, but both have made a triumphant return. For writer John R. Fultz Primordia represents almost a decade of creativity finally unleashed, thanks to Archaia and the aid of artist Roel Wielinga. As a teacher of English Language Arts in California, and armed with a healthy respect for the classics, Fultz knows how to build a rich world with enchanting characters. Besides Primordia, Fultz has also worked for BOOM! Studios, on their Zombie Tales and Cthulhu Tales anthology series, and has also contributed to magazines such as Weird Tales and Black Gate.

BROKEN FRONTIER: How would you best sum up Primordia for newbies?

JOHN R. FULTZ: Primordia is an epic fantasy adventure that immerses you in a primeval world of strange creatures, savage tribes, dark spirits, gods, demons...and sorcery. It's also the story of two brothers who are polar opposites, and their battle to win the heart of the woman they both love. Alleyar is the Sun-King and his brother Driniel is the Moon-Lord...they are found in the Secret Wood as infants and raised by the mysterious Woodfolk, an insectoid race of faerie folk. The secrets of their birth--and their potent powers of sorcery--leads them to a confrontation with the Gods of Primordia and is part of a larger scheme set in motion by unknown forces.

As a longtime fan of fantasy fiction, and a longtime comics fan, I wanted to do a fantasy series that didn't rely on the typical fantasy cliches (i.e. good vs. evil), but instead focused on fully-realized characters, each of which have a valid point-of-view. What better way to characterize this than two immortal brothers who desperately want to kill each other? Or a princess in love with two men?

BF: How rewarding is it to see it back on the shelves?

JF: It's terrific! Originally the book was intended as a 96-page graphic novel. There was no intention of splitting it into three issues. However, when Archaia picked up the book, they decided to release it as a 3-issues miniseries (of 32-page issues). That turned out well because the book had a great response from readers and reviewers. Now we get to release this "ultimate" version...the complete story, unbroken, that new readers can digest in one sitting and get the full impact.

There will be some nice "extras" in the hardcover as well. First off, a new wrap-around cover by Roel that is gorgeous. In the back, we've got a pin-up gallery from some stellar talents, some from Archaia, some from other places, all superb. These artists have given their own takes on the Primordia legend, and it's fascinating to see. The book will also include some of Roel's design sketches, a look at the development of the concept. Since Roel is a certified artistic genius, this will no doubt be amazing . Finally, there will be a new prose story written by myself (with an illustration by Roel) chronicling the adventures of a character we don't actually get to meet in the Primordia graphic novel.

BF: You seem passionate about the classics. How do they help you as a modern storyteller?

JF: Oh, I'm a Shakespeare nut, as you would imagine any English teacher would be. (Although, truth be told, not all of them are.) Shakespeare wrote timeless stories that reach right into the human soul from across the ages--that is the heart of great storytelling, great literature. He also wrote his share of fantasies: Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, etc. Five hundred years later, you read his works--or watch them performed--and they capture the human experience as brilliantly as they ever did.

J. R. R. Tolkien is the same way...The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings are two very different works, but they are the lynchpins, the structural supports if you will, of modern fantasy. Tolkien did what Shakespeare did--what all great authors do: he swam through the deep waters of the human spirit, shedding light on what he saw there. And he did it with fantasy tales. There is something very essential, very basic, about the Fantasy Tale. Imagine cave-dwellers fifty-thousand years ago, gathered about a fire, listening to the Shaman...he's telling them a tale of ghosts, gods, and demons....what we today would call a fantasy story. But all good fantasy contains reality...in fact, fantasy elevates reality.

Lord Dunsany is another of my favorite writers; before even Tolkien, he wove fantasies that are dreamlike in their intensity...his language evokes imagery that is nothing less than absolutely gorgeous. Same goes for Clark Ashton Smith, whose sensibilities were far darker than Dunsany, who could weave a tale that took you right into another world and drown you in the richness of its weird beauty...his Zothique and Hyperborea tales were major influences on Primordia.

I could go on and on about influences, but I have to wind up this answer by mentioning the legendary Jack Katz and his monumental fantasy series The First Kingdom. One of the true classics of the comics medium, it gets nowhere near the attention that it deserves. Jack forsook commercial comics to go indie in 1974, and spent 12 years of his life crafting this masterpiece that weighs in at over 700 pages! Now with Primorda, it took me five years from the idea stage to the published stage, and it took Roel about a year to draw all 96 pages. That feels like a Herculean task, until you step back and look at Jack Katz's 12-year odyssey. FK was definitely a huge influence on Primordia's concept and style. Somebody needs to reprint The First Kingdom in definitive phone-book style editions. Archaia are you listening? :)

BF: Primordia seems to be the definition of "labor of love." What have you learned in the years it's taken to get to this point?

JF: Good question, Kris! What I've learned is that ANY comic not produced by a major top-level company (i.e. Marvel or DC) simply has to be a "labor of love." It's incredibly hard--especially for artists--to spend months or years on a project without up-front page rates. For us writers, it's not as hard because we can crank out a hundred pages in a couple of weeks or so...but then the poor artist has to actually DRAW the thing! What I've learned is that those who are truly serious about doing comics are those who are willing to bite the bullet and invest significant chunks of their lives into a creator-owned book. Archaia is full of these amazing people. They (we) do our dream projects...nobody tells us what to write or draw...these are the true expressions of our creativity, fueled by our own impulses and obsessions. I've learned that the people who do creator-owned comics are spectacular creative forces, and it's a real honor to associate with them and to be a part of a fantastic group of books like Archaia.

I've also learned that the single most important trait you can have in comics--or any type of publishing venture--is pure persistence. All things come to those who NEVER GIVE UP. It takes a certain type of insanity to keep pushing that boulder up the hill. But art is a type of glorious insanity all its own. Writers write because they HAVE to write; artists draw, paint, or sculpt because they HAVE to. Creativity is essential to our well-being. When that's the case, there is no giving up.

Finally, I've learned that once you get a book published people in the comics biz look at you in an entirely different way. Suddenly you've proven you're FOR REAL. It's nice to be taken seriously after ten years of striving, pitching, writing, and creating.

BF: How does Roel aid your vision of Primordia?

JF: Without Roel there would be no Primordia. It's that simple. I brought him this idea back in like 2004 and he jumped into it without a publisher or any monetary backing. We clicked on a creative level--a spiritual level if you will--even though we live 3000 miles apart. Roel took my initial concepts and brought them to life with his amazing talent. What's more, he made them BETTER. We have the most important quality any writer/artist team can ever have: SYNERGY. When I see what he does, it makes me better. When he sees what I do, it makes him better. We respect each others' ideas, and Roel is always willing to modify, tweak, or change something that doesn't quite fit the script. At the same time, he'll take a portion of the script and come up with something I never would have imagined! It's the most rewarding thing about doing comics--the sheer joy of collaboration. Roel is a titanic talent and Primordia is our bastard love-child. :)  We've got another comic in the works, and Roel's outdoing himself yet again. I'll spill the details on that project when it's closer to print. (Hint: Here there be DRAGONS.)

BF: Does your comic writing job ever cross over with your teaching job?

JF: Well, writing is writing, so yes, all the time. I also write prose fiction (my stories have appeared in Weird Tales, and most recently in Black Gate magazine). Being a "real writer" gives me a basic credibility with my students. When I talk to them about the things I've written and published, they get really excited. Well, most of them...some kids only get excited about missing school. :) But they are endlessly fascinated by the fact that I've written a comic book. My classroom also features several posters from the comics world: Sandman, Fantastic Four, New Frontier, etc.

Sometimes I'll have kids do comic strips as an alternate assignment...some of them really get into this. If a student can show me that he or she has learned something in the form of a comic strip rather than writing an essay, go for it. (We'll do the essay next week.) Nowadays, kids are more interested in comics than at anytime since the 70s--when I was a kid. Thanks to all these great comics-inspired movies of the last decade, kids and teens are actually reading comics again...which is great. When school starts back in the fall, I'll be starting up a school Comics Club, where kids can come in once a week just to read and discuss comics.

Comics, movies, videogames...kids love them all and they all involve writing. When kids get to understand this, they look at writing in a whole new way. "Writing is magic," I tell them. They may not believe this when I first say it, but by the end of my class they see where I'm coming from.

The 112 page Primordia Collected Edition HC is available from Archaia in August for $19.95. Besides Primordia Fultz’s work can also be seen in the latest issue of Black Gate magazine.

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