We chat with Lesly Julien, Doug Wood, and Brian Flint about why their Kickstarter project straps comedy with sword and sandals.
Damn. These pages are brutal, friends. They're metal AF, utterly devastating in their detail and their muscly weight. But Savage Wizard is a lot more than voraciously badass; it's painfully funny. Authors Lesly Julien and Doug Wood refuse to settle on one vibe for their barbarian epic, and artist Brian Flint devilishly amps up his cartooning to achieve a cauldron sloshing with multiple tones.
Savage Wizard #1 follows R'Nar, the battlefield champion ditched by his clan and best friend, Skom. Ousted, the warrior wanders the realm with his chin sunken to his chest. He is without honor until a weird, nut-job wizard called Oqora demands R'Nar to reclass as a wizard himself. Together, they may just end up saving the world before Skom collects a legendary blade rumored to bestow its user with global domination.
Naturally, when you're discussing barbarians, Conan gets mentioned. But Savage Wizard #1 takes its influences from numerous sources. There's maybe a little Head Lopper here or a splash of Skullkickers, but mostly there's a massive appreciation for the WWE.
We were delighted to chat with Lesly, Doug, and Brian about Savage Wizard #1. We discuss the stress of launching a Kickstarter campaign (it's only just started for them, please wish them luck, but also, go support them ASAP). We talk about the theatricality behind wrestling and how it perfectly suits the barbarian lifestyle. And we get into what Savage Wizard can teach us about ourselves. Every comic has its life lesson.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Brad: With the Kickstarter launching on the 15th, are you guys in full, stressed-out, terror mode or are you now chilling into relaxation - it's inevitable, it's happening, nothing to worry about?
Lesly: I wish there was some relaxation going on. Still shooting out press releases and trying to, yeah, get as many interviews going as possible, as you can see. So we're definitely still really busy. There's some last-minute stuff that's still in the works, we're hoping to surprise some people with, if all goes well. There is still lots going on behind the scenes, unfortunately for me.
Brad: And Brian, you're feeling good? You're feeling comfortable?
Brian: No, no, no, not at all. [Laughter] I'm still working on a couple of the pages and finishing them up, to have them ready for the Kickstarter and making sure they look as good as possible.
Brad: I mean, the pages that you have provided in the Kickstarter preview are unreal. I think as long as you get those pages in front of people, eyes will get wide, and they'll get hungry.
Lesly: Yeah. That's how I feel anytime I share something with anybody, basically. The same reaction for everyone's like, "Oh my gosh, these are amazing." Brian is definitely the main selling point of this comic. His art is phenomenal, and I think everyone pretty much has that same reaction once they see the level of detail that he puts into his work.
Brian: I'm just trying my best to make sure I do your writing justice, man.
Lesly: Appreciate that.
Brad: When you're talking with Lesly and Doug about what this thing should ultimately become, are you guys talking in referential language or are you just digging into the script?
Brian: Well, we didn't really do a lot of referencing other pieces of work. I was really into it once I read the script. I don't know, there's just something about big, really dangerous, warrior-type dudes getting treated against type. You know what I mean?
Brad: Mm-hmm. Yup.
Brian: Knocked around, being treated like they're not a big deal, and humiliated a little bit. Humbled is a better word for it. And yeah, those are the kind of books that I love as well. When something takes a left turn and you don't really expect the way the story's going to go.
Lesly: Doug was really inspired by wrestlers as well. So in our reference material, there are a lot of big, beefy wrestlers to give Brian some inspiration.
Brad: Lisa and I were looking at the pages earlier and we thought you guys would get along great with Daniel Warren Johnson and his infatuation with the wrestling world. It is very much evident in those pages.
Brian: Yeah, I'm a big fan of him.
Brad: Now, with those wrestling bodies, and with the wrestling world, is there something beyond the physicality that you find attractive and that applies well to a fantasy sword and sorcery setting?
Doug: Oh boy. So Savage Wizard is really heavily action-focused. But also, lots of comedy. Some of wrestling's fun moments are just goofball comedy. And I think a lot of that humor falls into that category. It's a larger-than-life type of thing and pro wrestling really brings that to the table, and I love so much about it.
We try to leave Brian as much room to do as much with his action, but we try to figure out what it should look like. I shared clips that may be, "Hey, look at this from this wrestling match. Take a look and see what you think."
Brad: With Comic Book Couples Counseling, Lisa and I try to approach every comic book series with, "What can this story teach us?" And I'm curious about Savage Wizard, just hearing the basic plot for it, this idea of the barbarian who has to reclass. I feel that is something that we could all gain something from, the idea of having to adapt into something new. Are there some life lessons here?
Lesly: I think so.
Doug: I hope so.
Lesly: I think so, yeah. It is about adapting. And also, I think, as it goes further in the story, it's about really expanding your horizons and not being so tied in to maybe the culture or world you grew up in, in a larger sense, for sure.
Doug: I think it's easy, especially for me - I grew up in a small town - to get stuck in one mindset, and then you meet people that are from other places and you just have to, "Oh okay, this is how it goes." If you ever have gotten that mindset, if you ever been in those tight spaces where you're just used to being one way, I mean, hopefully, this'll open your eyes to be, "Okay, yeah, I think I will try something else. There's something out there for me."
Brad: We talk about how narratives can educate readers, but there's a lot to learn throughout the creation process as well. What have you learned about yourself while making Savage Wizard?
Doug: I wrote what I felt like. And I did things out of order. I did things that don't make sense to a lot of other people, especially people who don't like structure. Working with Lesly, I found that those things that I did just naturally, I actually could explain myself, and I did not know that. So I was really happy to find that, "Hey, I have reasons and I have justifications of why I do what I do in some parts of the story." I was able to express to Lesly, "Hey, maybe we should try this in this part of the story, because, for this reason." It was nice to be like, "Oh, I'm not just this goofball writer. I actually have some basis for actually doing what I'm doing."
Brian: As for me, one thing I learned going through the illustration process for this one, was a lot about, how we said before with going against type, setting up a visual idea, and then, going completely in the opposite direction to subvert expectations, you know? So I'll set up a giant Lord of the Rings style, carrying this guy on a, what's it called? What's the thing where they carry a king around?
Brad: A chariot?
Lesly: A throne chair.
Brian: So we'll set that up. You know what I mean? And we'll set the tone for this very serious, very, almost by-the-book, by-the-numbers sword and sorcery thing. And then, visually, go in a totally different direction. They're usually super stoic, super grim, battle-hardened guys, to just make them immature in their facial expressions. Make them goofy, and not taking this very serious world that seriously. You know? So that's definitely something I wasn't used to, but I was really happy to get a chance to learn about it and try it out.
Brad: And Lesly?
Lesly: For me, I think it has actually been about trusting my instinct more. I can definitely be very structured. But it's funny, I tend to write a lot of notes myself when I'm scripting. And a lot of times, I'll write something one way but have a note like, "Oh, should I do it this way?" And it's been great having a co-writer on board, because I will typically get immediate feedback that a lot of times it seems my first instinct has been right in this process. So I think definitely following my gut has been something I learned a lot from Doug, which has been really nice.