With the end of “Scales and Scoundrels” earlier this year, Image comics lost one of it’s few all-ages titles. It was a title with a lot of heart and a lot of fun. What better way to celebrate “Scales and Scoundrels” than by sitting down with one of its creators, Sebastian Girner, and talking about the title and its possible future. We also touch on his many years of editing experience, working with Rick Remender, and, briefly, on a Multiversity favorite, “Shirtless Bear-Fighter,” his collaboration with Jody LeHeup, Nil Vendrell, Mike Spicer, and Dave Lanphear.
“Scales & Scoundrels” just finished up; is that a bittersweet thing?
Sebastian Girner: A little bit. I mean we ended a little bit — we had to ultimately end the series a little sooner than we had hoped for. That being said, it’s a creator-owned comic, so we are really hoping to return to it. We actually have another whole issue written and drawn that was going to be the start of the second year of story. So, we decided to kind of end it all on a close. I think issue 12 kind of rounds the series out and we’re exploring some other options to come back to it. We really loved the characters and we love working on the book, so we’re hoping there will be more in the future.
How did you come to that decision?
SG: So, we kind of sat down and looked at the numbers for the single issues, which weren’t at a point where we could conceivably just put the book out without taking financial hits, which we’re not capable of doing at this moment in time. Both of us need to keep food on the table and all that stuff. But the trade paperback sales are really heartening; they’re great. The book is starting to kind of make headways in libraries, in young adults section. Just in general, I think the readership that will actually really respond to the comic and is now doing so. It just takes a little longer to find. They’re not necessarily in the store every Wednesday.
So, as that increases and continues to do so, we’re hoping that it will allow us to put more books out. Maybe we have to go to an OGN model. Those are all things that we’re exploring and we just wanted to not promise something to our readership. We’d rather end it on a point that made story-sense, that kind of gave all the characters and the readers hopefully some closure and that was just naturally issue 12 because that was intended to be the last issue of the first year of story.
Yeah. I was wondering if you were thinking of going through an OGN model since that seems to be where. . .
SG: Yeah. It’s been done with a couple of books I’ve heard about and I’m very cautiously optimistic about that being an option. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily solve all our problems. We still need to create, obviously, the book, so it’s just something that I want to be very careful about promising. I would rather people feel that they had a good story, that, you know, we gave them an ending; put them on an adventure that ended as opposed to just, like, genuinely just cutting it off and telling them maybe we’ll come back, maybe we won’t. So, if we never get to do any more “Scales & Scoundrels,” which I hope won’t be the case, we still feel like we gave people a good adventure that closed itself off but hopefully, like I said, we’ll have the chance to come back.
Normally, you’re an editor at Image. Was the writing process any different than that it is when you’re editing? What have you taken away from being an editor and then going to writing?
SG: Yeah. Just to start clarifying, I edit a lot of books. I edit books that are published at Image — Image doesn’t actually have a stable of editors — and I’ve been doing that for about ten years. I started editing at Marvel, then I went freelance about 6 years ago now. So, I’ve been doing that for longer than anything else. I’ve only been writing for the last couple of years, 2 or 3 years. And what I take away from editing, obviously, is just that I have a lot of experience with the production side of comics. Working schedules, working with artists and designers and letterers. Just like speaking the lingo.Continued below
Basically, I can put up schedules, I know what is needed other than just, “just,” story. Making the comics is the fun part and then producing it, making sure it comes out on time, designing it, reaching out to retailers, and facing the fans, printers, all that stuff – that’s probably something that my experience as an editor, I brought to the project I am now writing. But in general, it’s obviously as an editor, you’re kind of zooming out from the story, you’re trying to work with the writer, work with the artist, to help them fulfill their vision. And then as a writer, you get to kind of get really down into the weeds and even try to create your own vision so it’s super fun for me, I love doing both of them. Hopefully, they would let me write more. Editing is something I don’t ever think I’ll give up completely.
Was the experience writing “Scales & Scoundrels” different from collaborating on “Shirtless Bear-Fighter?”
SG: Oh yeah, for sure. With “Shirtless Bear-Fighter” which I co-wrote, co-created with my good friend, Jody LeHeup standing right behind me. We co-created and co-wrote 5 issues of comic and that was definitely very different from writing “Scales & Scoundrels,” where I am, for all intents and purposes, the sole writer. I obviously still talk through all the story with the artist, Galaad, with the letterer/designer Jeff Powell but they’re, you know, the onus is more on me to write the scripts, get the story straight, get the characters, have it all make sense as the artist is spending, you know, days and days and days drawing, and the letter and designer doesn’t come in until, you know we’ve kind of done our work.
So, on “Shirtless,” there was a lot more back and forth between myself and Jody. We had all the scripts written before we even started looking for an artist, basically. And with “Scales & Scoundrels,” it was much more of a dynamic between Galaad and myself to figure out some characters, figure out, you know, the first art loosely and after that we were just kind of flying by the seat of our pants and as the book grew into something that became more about the world than one specific story, that’s where we kind of spun out of it and tried to make it as distinct as possible.
It is definitely a unique world; what really inspired this version of a fantasy world?
SG: So, it started when Galaad reached out to me, kind of out of the blue. He had read an interview from a French magazine, French comic book website, that did an interview with me about my editing and he reached out and was interested in collaborating. He had a loose idea of what he liked, kind of like, “Oh I like fantasy, I like certain genres.” I was like, “Oh, that’s cool.” And he had a sketch basically of the main character, what would become Luvander, and he had some loose ideas about her.
With his blessing, I kind of took the sketch, let her kind of. . .soaked her in and then wrote up an idea for a fantasy comic based loosely on the kind of preferences that he gave me. He’s liek, this is what I like to draw, these are the kind of characters, these are the beats. The general mood, I guess. Like, we decided that we definitely didn’t want to do the kind of grim dark fantasy which has become very popular and is being done very well by a great many creators. We kind of wanted to set something against that.
Also he’s French, I’m originally from Germany. We grew up reading a lot of similar comics. European comic book culture is a tiny bit different in that there are different comic books that aren’t kind of aged bracketed. They just are comics that are read, like “Tintin” or “Asterix.” They obviously have a certain audience who tends to be younger, tends to be more men than women. But, I grew up reading these comics. My sisters read them, my dad read them, my mom even read them and everyone kind of gets something else out of them. So, we really wanted to create something that we — that is ostensibly called all ages but we kind of wanted to call all readers because we feel like in America, all-ages tends to be designated, oh this is kid stuff, which for some reason, I think some people are like. . .adults are like, “I can’t read that, that is for kids.” And we’re like, “No, you can. Everyone should read that.”Continued below
It’s all ages. So the challenge was trying to create something that attracts children and young readers but is also something that grown-ups can read and they might glean certain elements of the story, of the narrative of that might go over children’s heads but that doesn’t mean that they don’t also enjoy it. I’m very happy to report that my favorite responses from readers is kind of from older readers, readers with children of their own, who call in — write in, I don’t have a call-in show — who write in and say that, you know, they love the comic because they can read it with their kids and their kid are learning things from the comics which is great because, again, I didn’t try to write it for kids, I just wrote a comic that I think kids might also be interested in. So, that’s really heartening. As a writer, it’s nice to experience that the thing you intended to put on paper is actually working, to some degree.
Did you find it hard to pitch to Image an all-ages fantasy book, considering it’s one of the few that they actually have on their roster?
SG: Image was very gracious and were kind of on board immediately. I think mostly because Galaad’s style is very, very — it’s really eye catching. It’s very bright, it’s very vibrant. It, like, immediately infuses me with energy when I see it. And I think that they were interested in it for that reason, because the Image catalog is very diverse and vast but you know, tends to veer more to mature readers, tends to veer more into mature genre stuff and this is something that I’m sure they thought would look good in their stable of books, and it does standout.