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DF Interview: Kel Symons has full Reyn on new S&S adventure
By Byron Brewer
Out of the mists of time comes Reyn, last of the legendary Wardens (perhaps) with a penchant for battling monsters and drinking brews. Sound familiar? Think again.
There is a definite difference to this D&D-influenced new book of sword and sorcery coming in January from Image Comics. To get to the heart of that difference, Dynamic Forces sat down with scribe Kel Symons and talked role-playing games, speedy artists, guiding angels, Fate … and John Wayne.
Dynamic Forces: Kel, what is it about sword and sorcery tales that inspires many writers to really get their imaginations going into high gear?
Kel Symons: I don't know, exactly. I can only tell you why the genre inspired me, and that is I feel it's the epitome of the adventurous quest. I could say it harkens back my earliest experiences from childhood; storybook tales of having the knight save the princess by slaying the dragon...
But I'd be bull****ing you.
It's because I grew up playing games like D&D, which in turn opened my mind to reading fantasy novels and sparked my imagination. Now as a "grown up" I still want to adventure and tell stories in those realms.
DF: Can you explain the initial storyline for the book?
Kel Symons: The story takes place in the land of "Fate" - our version of Middle Earth, Greyhawk or the Hyborian Age. It's a rudimentary, medieval world, its citizens having just crawled out from their own "Dark Ages." There were once stories and legends - just myths now - of an order of warriors known as the Wardens. They were heroes and lawmen who protected Fate. Only they disbanded or died out long ago.
Out of the wilds comes a rider - Reyn - who might be last of this sacred order. Though Reyn isn't as shiny or as polished as the Wardens were thought to be. He'll end up partnering in the first couple issues with an outcast from society - a woman branded as a witch and heretic, Seph. It is, as they say, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
DF: So tell us about your protagonists, the titular Reyn and the sorceress Seph, and their relationship.
Kel Symons: Reyn isn't your average hero-type. Yes, he's the sort who battles monsters and other villains, but he's not doing this to seek out fame or glory - some great savior. If he's one of these legendary Wardens, he didn't take up their oath to protect the weak out of any sense of duty or moral code. This isn't a calling for him - it's something he has no choice over. He hears and sees visions from something like a guiding angel, directing him from one mission to the next. Pestering him is more like it. If it were up to Reyn, he'd much rather just drink beer and go wenching.
Seph, on the other hand, is someone who has readily taken up a cause. She was raised among a group of outsiders, like her father, and his parents before him, and so forth. They have special powers and gifts passed down through the generations, and a set of beliefs that marks them as heretics among most of the citizens of Fate. They're distrusted and shunned for the most part. It's Seph who first believes that Reyn is one of these lost Wardens and enlists his aid for a quest against an evil force winding its way throughout the land.
Reyn's not the questing sort, but his visions and her beliefs begin to dovetail, ultimately throwing them together.
DF: What can you tell us about Reyn's mysterious "guiding angel"?
Kel Symons: With our guiding angel (whose name is Aurora, by the way) we were thinking of Joan of Arc. Only, whereas devout Joan might have seen her visions as a blessing - communing with a greater spirit - Aurora basically haunts Reyn. A hallucinatory headache, her appearance is more torture than holy ghost. No one else sees them, so he comes off as a bit crazy. And maybe he is.
Anyway, Reyn goes along on these quests because he hopes that solving the next problem, slaying the next beast, will get him that much closer to ending the visions and he'll finally have some peace.
DF: There are a lot of S&S stories out there, in comic books and elsewhere. What will make Reyn different?
Kel Symons: Are there a lot of swords and sorcery tales in comics out there in the mainstream? I mean, original fantasy stories and not licensed comics based on other mediums, like Conan, Red Sonja, Game of Thrones, Dungeons and Dragons or half a dozen other intellectual properties?
You probably know better than I do on just what’s out there, but I felt there was a lane open for creating our own spin on those worlds.
I think by the time we're a few issues into our story, there will be a few things that make Reyn different from the above. But one of the first and most notable might be our approach. Yes, it's a fantasy world with swords. And sorcery. And monsters. But having also been a fan of the American western, I wanted to imbue it with some of that mythology. That solitary, often reluctant hero. Yes, our landscape may be fantasy-based, but Reyn is pure John Wayne, sporting a long sword instead of a six-shooter.
The very first promotional piece we did for this, I told my partner, Nate Stockman, and Paul Little, our colorist, that the movie poster for The Unforgiven should be a visual touchstone. To me, that set the tone for mixing Western mythology with swords and sorcery-style fantasy.
DF: Who is the major big-bad(s)?
Kel Symons: As an ongoing series, we expect to have a revolving door on various villains and antagonists Reyn and Seph will encounter. But for the first year, our bad guys will be a mysterious and secretive race of reptilian creatures known as the Venn, and in particular one of their leaders, M'Thall.
DF: As you said earlier, there is a Dungeons & Dragons feel to this comic …
Kel Symons: D&D and other role-playing games were hugely inspirational. And not just because of the fantasy elements. Some of my earliest attempts at character and world-building as a creator were part of those games. I think you'll find a lot of writers and creative types around my age will probably say the same.
DF: Why is Nathan Stockman the right artist for Reyn?
Kel Symons: Nate and I worked together on the end of my first comic series for Image, I Love Trouble. I didn't start the series with him, but partnered with another artist. Through circumstance that artist became unavailable just as the series was wrapping up, and we were facing delays and deadlines and my colorist on that book, Paul Little, suggested Nate to come in and close out the last issue.
I'll be honest, there was a bit of desperation I was dealing with, as we were months late on delivery, and not wanting to keep the book in limbo any longer, I was lucky Nate was both good and fast. And frankly the latter was what I was in need of more. He came aboard, and because there was an established look he made an effort to color in those lines, so to speak.
But I could tell that he was this facile artist, meaning he was able to slot himself into the process seamlessly. Aside from how quickly he delivered, there was real talent there. I mean real talent. So I made of point of telling Eric Stephenson at Image that I wanted to work with this guy again.
A year or so later, I reached out to Nate, and luckily he was wrapping up some other commitments and looking for his next project. We bounced around a few ideas and finally hit upon a fantasy adventure, and Reyn snowballed from there. As with The Mercenary Sea, I've enjoyed working with artists who contributed as co-creators, and a lot of what I think emerged as unusual about Reyn was born from ideas Nate brought up. And if an idea wasn't a direct contribution of his, then it emerged from him challenging me with something like "I don't want the series to be like a standard fantasy story, so what can we do to change it up and put a fresh spin on it?"
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Kel Symons for taking time from his busy schedule to answer our questions. Reyn #1 from Image arrives in comics stores January 21st!
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