On the hunt for a new comic to read? Last week Josh Tierney, Paul Maybury, and Miguel Valderama announced they would be teaming up with Lion Forge to release a new book titled “Hunters,” “an all-new fantasy epic told through a diverse cast of today’s top creative talent.” The anthology will explore the adventures of warrior Azarias as he assembles his group of warriors to “on a quest to gather the dust of a distant island god in order to save the life of their king.” The main narrative by Tierney and Valderama will be accompanied by individual short tales featuring the work of Carlos Valderrama, Afu Chan, Devin Kraft, Niami, Meg Gandy, Jared Morgan, Irene Koh, Kyla Vanderklugt, Benjamin Marra, Alexis Ziritt, Travel Foreman, Carlos Carrasco, Vlad Gusev, and Ramon Sierra.
To learn more about this massive project and high fantasy epic we were able speak to creators Paul Maybury, Josh Tierny, Miguel Valderama and Niami about “Hunters.” The team discusses how they were able to bring this story, project and group of creators together. A huge thanks to Niami, Miguel, Josh and Paul for taking the time to talk about and preview “Hunters.” You can pre-order the book at your local shop now and look for it in stores this June 13th.
First off thanks for taking the time to talk and congratulations on the announcement of the new project. For readers, what is “Hunters” as a story and as a project? How will the storytelling work within this series?
Josh Tierney: Thank you! “Hunters’” story is tied to its unique structure. It is about a group of warriors summoned by their cursed king to retrieve a cure from an island god. Each warrior was created by a different creator in the book, using Afu Chan’s core outfit designs as an aesthetic base. At two points in the story the warriors are forced to split up, which is when their individual tales are told by their creators.
Paul came up with this structure which is one of the smartest anthology-style approaches I’ve come across, allowing us to involve a large team to tell a huge story in an organic way.
Paul Maybury: “Hunters” contains a complete narrative structure with an anthology component that extends the feeling of time we spend with the cast. Cross referencing characters by different creators is just one fun way we bring this universe to life; all in one action packed volume with a fantastic conclusion. Readers don’t have to invest in multiple volumes to enjoy the full story of “Hunters.”
Niami: Having worked on one of the smaller self contained stories, what I loved about the concept of hunters is that we were given this very loose brief but with the complete freedom to write and draw something that’s totally our own. What was amazing is that the main character of my story was not only woven into the canon of the main story, but was also seen being interpreted by the other creators. Just as I got to play around with the characters designed and written by the other contributors. it’s a collaboration, unlike any other I’ve been a part of.
The theme of the book has been talked about as perseverance. That seems like it would have to be a driving force behind the creators and the creation of comics. How has perseverance played a role in your lives as creators, this series and the ability to translate it to this series’ themes?
PM: This is the definitely the most challenging project I’ve ever tackled. It has been eight years of the book passing through the hands of various publishers and agents. In fact, the entire landscape of anthologies has changed since the project began. I’ve personally been in over a dozen anthologies over the years and saw maybe a couple contracts along the way. With “Hunters,” every creator has a contract and everyone owns their own story and characters. I can’t thank my co-editor Josh, Storme at Buño, Mike at Magnetic Press, and everyone at Lion Forge enough for making Hunters a reality.
JT: I have a DeviantArt note that Paul sent in early 2010 inviting me to join a fantasy anthology project. That project, “Hunters,” is now releasing in 2018. From Paul’s note all the way to now, I’ve been thinking about “Hunters,” hoping to make good on my promise to see it to print.Continued below
I worked directly with the creators from beginning to end, through the high and low points. Some gave up and left. It’s a project of tremendous complexity that has required a lot of hard work and patience. I know our jobs will have been done well if readers can sense that passion, and if the background complexity has been turned into an exciting and organic read.
Miguel Valderrama: I experienced exactly the same as the characters in the book, being approached for just a simple mission, that becomes a great adventure. It was my first job in comics, and I didn’t know if I was capable of doing just a short story, but when Josh asked me to also make the main story I knew it was going to be tough. So for me, it was a real adventure, that made me strong enough to keep making comics.
I remember in college thinking writing 20 page papers was going to be impossible but it was always when the professors gave a limit of two-to-three that I would have to really work and struggle to condense and strengthen what I wanted to say. A good anthology is filled with stories that are short but able to convey worlds more than a full issue might. What is the appeal and approach of a good anthology to you as a creator? How does “Hunters” pull that off?
JT: I enjoy these pseudo-anthology approaches, like “Hunters” and “Spera,” where a single story is approached through multiple creators and their different viewpoints. Some creators are better at action or drama or comedy than another might be. In “Hunters” you’ll see the same world, but a few shorts are through an action-adventure lens, another close to horror, and one of mine even pushes towards a Groo-style comedic comic.
“Hunters” pulls this off through context, as you’re starting each short having already being introduced to the characters and knowing what the (very high) stakes are.
PM: To add to what Josh is saying, we took the care to arrange these stories, and their respective creators’ styles, within the timeline of the main chapters. Benjamin Marra and Alexis Ziritt’s stories are wild, but they won’t feel out of place next to Travel Foreman or Irene Koh. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of about “Hunters.” Also, most of the “shorts” are 12 pages and up, so you’ll really get a full experience from every creator.
N: The greatest aspect of “Hunters” is that there already was lore and theme for us to rely on. Having said that, I always found it appealing to try and lay down the feel of a world and create context in a small space. It’s a far greater challenge than being given a whole graphic novel to establish what it’s about. Also having these bite size stories are really fun to play with, like you’ve taking a peek into their lives for a brief moment.
Between the Josh’s work with “Spera” and Paul’s work with “Catalyst Comix,” both of you have been involved in stories that are told and brought to life by a large team. What is it that makes you want to continue to return to this style of storytelling or become involved in it?
JT: There are many reasons why I keep returning to this style. One is that I simply enjoy working with multiple artists and sharing their work with the world. Another is my fascination with creating a world and providing multiple viewpoints within it, much in the same way we all view reality differently from each other.
It’s just fun, really, to get together with a large group of people who are very passionate about creating and to build an entire world together.
PM: Before I worked in comics, I worked as a muralist with a team of painters. I enjoy collaborating on a single vision and the camaraderie that goes along with it. Taking part in books like “Spera,” “Catalyst Comix,” and “Blue Estate” taught me a lot about collaborative comics.
The list of names on this project is so impressive. How did you approach bringing this group together? What does working with each so many creators provide that a typical three-to-four team book might not?Continued below
JT: About seven of the artists came from “Spera,” and I was lucky to meet Miguel through DeviantArt. The others were either suggested or invited by Paul, resulting in a team with a very wide range of styles.
Working with the different creators has allowed for multiple perspectives that help give the book more depth than you might find in an average action-adventure comic.
PM: “Hunters” started its life with Afu Chan drawing the main story and an almost entirely different roster of creators. Watching the project evolve and creators come and go has been inspiring and bitter sweet. I’m so honored to have worked with everyone involved, whether their work is reflected in this collection or not.
When building a new world, characters and themes did you have a set of rules and guidelines for the series? Was each creator allowed to push those for their work?
JT: We gathered information on each of the creators’ characters, such as personality type, weapon specialty and what type of artifact they’re seeking to summon the island god, to ensure there’s little overlap between them. The main story was written before most of the shorts, which gave the creators a sense of the world they’d be working in and contributing to.
N: The guidelines also included how each story should end and which characters we’re going to adopt from the other creators. Like I got to play with a mute Ninja and some obnoxious fella.
MV: When I started, there was the full script for the main story, a lot of Afu’s designs, and a couple of short stories done, so it was pretty easy to dive into the world that Josh, Paul, and Afu created. And they gave us a lot of freedom to play in that world.
Does “Hunter’s” bring something new to readers from you each as creators both in storytelling and art that they might not have seen in your previous work? Were you able to experiment with this series?
JT: It’s a pretty masculine comic, which isn’t something readers would normally associate with my work. There are a lot of badass men fighting alongside the badass women. I greatly enjoyed tapping into this type of ’80s fantasy barbarian action, which isn’t something I would have thought to write on my own until Paul invited me.
N: What I realised is that a lot of us grew up on ’80s fantasy stuff like Josh mentioned, so there’s this reinterpretation, or modernisation of that style within the project. Typically my work is more surreal so it was a blast trying to take the fantasy genre and make it my own. I mean I don’t think I’ve ever drawn swords before…
MV: With “Giants” I made a more grounded fantasy, but for “Hunters” I wanted a really weird, funny and colorful vibe, full of strange places and monsters, inspired a lot from cartoons and RPGs.
As creators, what is it like looking at what each has turned in? Is there anything in the process of making this series that has stood out to you?
JT: There are some totally unique, nearly abstract styles such as Anas’ that really jumped out at me when they were handed in. It’s these styles especially that let you know you’re reading an action-adventure comic unlike anything else out there.
MV: I love that every team fit perfectly during the progression of the story, going from more action and adventure in the first part, to weird and obscure in the second one.
N: Josh I’m blushing! Honestly I was blown away by just how different some of the comics were. Vlad Gusev’s angular illustration style was stunning and it’s always amazing to get a bit of Alexis Ziritt’s psychedelic techno fantasy.
PM: I created Azarias, Gaspar, and Loach back when I had considered handling the main chapters myself back in 2010. It’s been fascinating watching them mutate as they’ve passed along through different artist’s interpretations before Miguel solidified the look. Miguel brings a Kentaro Miura vibe to Azarias that I love.
Lion Forge publishes the “Voltron” comic series. Voltron is a team of talented pilots in lions coming together to form a cool ass robot. Hunter’s is a team of talented creators coming together to create a cool ass comic. Is this a coincidence? Is “Hunters” the Voltron of comics? Who is Hunk?Continued below
N: No idea, but as long as I’m some kind of lion fist, I’m happy. I wanna smack someone with my existence.
PM: I can’t improve upon this answer.
Why will people want “Hunters?” What do you hope readers take away from their experience with the series?
PM: As someone who likes to leaf through the anthologies on my bookshelf, I hope when someone goes to flip towards their favorite chapter, they become invested in the story enough to get lost and enjoy the whole book over again.
JT: I’m biased, of course, but I think this is a genuinely exciting comic with characters that readers will end up caring about. It’s also so rich in detail that you’ll be able to read it multiple times and still get something new out of it, which is entirely thanks to the work of our large and amazing team.
I hope readers will read “Hunters” and realise there is still an infinite amount of possibilities within the fantasy genre. If you enjoy “Spera,” you’ll surely enjoy this, but at the same time I believe readers will quickly discover just how different the two projects are.
N: You kinda get the best of both graphic novel worlds here, it’s part narrative, part anthology. Anthologies are awesome, but typically the stories have nothing tying them together. With this you’re investing in something that cumulates as a whole, similar to One Thousand and One Nights but with Ninjas.
For those who enjoy their time with the series, which will be everyone, will there be more?
JT: If “Hunters” is successful, I’d love to write full books about the individual warriors, especially Dolf, Gill and Kloe. Please help support “Hunters” by pre-ordering a copy at your local comic store!
PM: We’ve built this wonderful playground and I’d love to help creators bring new stories to life. I do have a Loach story I started drawing last year, too…