DF Interview: Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl transport us to the land of the dead in Isola
By Byron Brewer
Childhood friends Brenden Fletcher (Motor Crush) and Eisner Award-winning storyteller Karl Kerschl (Gotham Academy) reunite on the comics page with a breathtaking fantasy adventure two decades in the making!
The captain of the Royal Guard has fled the capital city with the Queen of Maar, suffering under the effects of an evil spell. Captain Rook's only hope of returning Queen Olwyn to her throne and saving the kingdom from impending war lies on an island half a world away – a place known in myth as Isola, land of the dead.
Wanna know more? So did we! So DF sat down for a chat with creators Fletcher and Kerschl.
Dynamic Forces: Brenden and Karl, I understand you guys are childhood friends? Tell us about that and how both of you wound up in the wonderful world of comics.
Brenden Fletcher: We met in the 6th grade and became fast friends. The discovery of a local comic book shop changed our lives, opening us up to books that weren’t available on the newstands and spinner racks of our corner stores. We used to spend a lot of time making up our own stories and drawing our own characters. It seemed like a natural extension of all our playtime storytelling to try it professionally once we got older.
Karl Kerschl: In our last year of high school we actually spent a large part of our days at the local comic shop, talking to friends, helping out, etc. That’s when I officially started to pursue a career in comics. I put together some sample pages and in a couple of years got work at a small publisher. That led to bigger jobs at Marvel and then DC and that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing for over twenty years! Holy cow. Anyway, around 2009, I was asked to contribute to DC’s Wednesday Comics project and I dragged Brenden back into the industry to work on it with me. And now here we are.
DF: Apparently Isola has been a story two decades in the making. What can you both tell us about genesis of this fantasy adventure?
BRENDEN: Isola is born of a project we worked on for nearly a decade, through our ‘20s. It was also a fantasy adventure yarn about two women exploring a strange and dangerous world. Though circumstances didn’t allow us to publish that original work, the ideas and characters formed the genesis of Isola.
KARL: We actually talked about the concept for Isola several years ago. I was working on my webcomic The Abominable Charles Christopher while also doing mainstream work and I wanted to try to bridge the two very different audiences of those works. Brenden pitched me the Isola high concept and I loved it. But then Gotham Academy came along and we decided to delay Isola until that was done.
DF: Brenden, I normally ask for the “elevator pitch” here, but this seems such an intricate saga I will just let you tell readers as much about the Isola storyline as you can.
BRENDEN: I like how this tight story blurb from our latest press release sums Isola up:
“The kingdom of Maar is in peril. Rook, the captain of the Royal Guard, has fled the capital with Queen Olwyn. Together, they seek the fabled land of the dead, where lies their best hope of restoring the kingdom—and the Queen herself.”
There’s so much more to the story than is reflected here but I think this is the least spoilery version of the pitch we’ve got!
What we’re doing with Isola is building a fantasy narrative about myth and spirituality around myths and spiritualism we’re all familiar with. As we move forward through the story, you’ll be able to pluck out our influences.
DF: What can you tell us of Captain Rook and other important protagonists in this series?
BRENDEN: Our protagonists, Queen Olwyn and her Captain of the Guard, Rook, are unlikely companions in a lot of ways. Olwyn’s family has ruled Maar for generations and Rook’s couldn’t be further from royalty if they tried.
Rook is rough and tumble, serving in the “Circle Guard”, patrolling the borders of the kingdom just as her mother did before her. She’s not prepared for service within the walls of Maar and definitely not prepared to be in direct service to a royal court that has high expectations of her actions. Luckily for Rook, Olwyn has a soft spot for her. The two women have a history, one we’ll touch on in the first volume of the series.
DF: Karl, did you do the design work for all the characters in this gorgeous book? Tell us about that, and about what character/set piece may have been either fun, challenging or both.
KARL: I did all of the design work, yes, right down to the logo and book design! So much of it is inspired by Japanese anime, particularly the Studio Ghibli films and the work of Hayao Miyazaki, but there are a million other influences there, from Moebius to Macross to Dark Souls. I tried to steer clear of traditional fantasy research because I wanted the world to have its own feel; I think it kind of sits somewhere in between Western and Eastern mythology. Designing and drawing different creatures is the most fun part for me, for sure.
But the most rewarding thing about Isola personally is being able to write and draw a story from the ground up and be able to change gears or create new stuff as it’s required. Brenden and I write this together and while we have a very concrete core story, the actual route to the end is a meandering one.
DF: What can you say about working with color artist Msassyk? How did her colors embellish your art? Did you two work together on the overall palette for this world you two and Brenden created here?
KARL: Msassky (Michele) is an integral part of the Isola team. We worked together on Gotham Academy where she fully painted backgrounds and I immediately asked her to join us for this adventure. Michele creates a kind of color script for each issue, roughing out the mood of each scene, sometimes based on my notes and sometimes on her own. After we talk it over, she fully colors the pages and makes them better than I imagined. She brings the world to life. We’re extremely lucky to have her as a friend and colleague.
DF: Karl and Brenden, I know #1 has not even come out yet, but in the process of creating this world is there ONE character you’d like to see have further adventures perhaps. One you loved writing for-slash-illustrating?
BRENDEN: King Bastian is a very important character and one I’m really excited to dig into down the line. You can read a little about him in the Isola: Prologue that was originally published as a backup story in Motor Crush #1-5 and is now available online at www.isola.ca.
KARL: Yeah, it’s funny -- whenever we’re fleshing out supporting characters for our stories, they have a tendency to take on lives of their own. King Bastian’s story is probably as interesting as Rook and Olwyn’s! I can’t wait to get into that.
DF: What other projects are you involved with that you can tell our readers about?
BRENDEN: I’ve got a story in Kodansha’s upcoming Ghost in the Shell: Global Neural Network anthology illustrated by the incredible LRNZ (Golem, OTOMO: A Global Tribute to the Mind Behind Akira hardcover) and my other Image Comics title, Motor Crush, is still going strong!
KARL: I’m on Isola full time, but I’m still very slowly working on completing The Abominable Charles Christopher, which you can read for free online at www.abominable.cc.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions. Isola #1 from Image Comics hits stores April 4th!
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