DF Interview: Dylan Sprouse combines Norse gods and a deeply personal tale in ‘Sun Eater’
By Byron Brewer
Sun Eater is a nine-issue saga that takes place in ninth century Norway, where a drug-addled warrior sacrifices his leg to the gods. In return he is fused with a parasitic beast, giving him the power to rescue his son from his sworn enemies—history’s first Norwegian king and his five personal guards. The result is a grim and bloody adventure—a dark metaphor for drug addiction, selfishness, and the children it affects.
From Heavy Metal and DIGA Studios comes Sun Eater, written by Dylan Sprouse (yep, that one, from the Disney Channel series The Suite Life of Zack & Cody), co-written and adapted for comics by Joe Harris, with art by Diego Yapur, DF definitely wanted to find out more about this limited series, so we caught up with its creator, Dylan Sprouse.
Dynamic Forces: Dylan, right out of the gate (as we say here in Kentucky horse country ... albeit without a Derby as yet), how does it feel to be writing your first comic book series AND having it debut as part of the iconic Heavy Metal brand?
Dylan Sprouse: It’s a little like finding all the pieces of Exodia in a single pack of Yugioh cards. It was kind of a dream situation for me. When I embarked in the writing process years ago, no joke, I always saw this project as either a Heavy Metal comic or a Heavy Metal animation, so when the opportunity presented itself to meet with them I jumped out of my skin. I think that writing with that frame in mind and using the influences I did perfectly posed this project to appeal to their sense of direction, I just presumed it was out of my ballpark. Long story short, I’m both ecstatic and humbled.
DF: Have comic books always been a part of your life?
Dylan Sprouse: Yes, so much so that my first job (outside of acting) was working at Meltdown Comics on Sunset Boulevard back when it was around. Before I started there, I had only really read Iron Man and the Avengers comics but the staff there opened my eyes to it all. Back then, I was really only a comic grunt… bag and boarding, cleaning, restocking, and reading. I got “paid” in comics so I took home a slew of them after shift, many were Heavy Metal.
DF: What can you tell readers about the genesis of Sun Eater, how it came to be for you? I hear it may have something to do with your family and those roots?
Dylan Sprouse: I want to say something cool like a found an old scroll in a bog that I translated, but the story is more straightforward. Equal parts expression and love of the genre. I wanted to write something that addressed my family’s past as well as encompassed the transformation narratives I was fond of. I started writing it for leisure and to keep the wheels greased post college, also in part to try and understand the events that had happened to me. A strange form of self therapy. After years of reading, rewriting, and honing as well as getting feedback from many, I thought it might be good enough to try and share.
DF: What can you tell readers about the overall story of the comic? Can you give some non-spoilery hints about its structure, time period, protagonists, etc.?
Dylan Sprouse: I’ll give it my best shot without stressing anyone out. The story is about the redemption of an addicted man who thinks he needs to be redeemed…even if it’s a delusion. He thinks he has to right his previous wrongs, make more of himself, take things into his own hands and, most importantly, harbor the self-gratification of his peers saying he could. In his quest, his actions and decisions continue to unravel and wreak havoc around him. It’s structure is very inspired by anime, in truth, probably more so than even sagas the lead character historically comes from. Kyokushin storytelling is the style I’m mostly fond of, the style of having several formidable enemies or roadblocks the protagonist must overcome before a climactic battle with a “last boss”. My favorite stories, including Ninja Scrolls which is probably my biggest inspo, use this style and so does this story except mine is set is 800’s Norway. With its translation away from clannishness, its civil strife and its crazy cast of intense warriors and their belief in mystical deities, it’s the prime setting for a tale like this being filled to burst with moments of “rule of cool”. I hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
DF: You know comparisons will start popping up about Thor, Walt Simonson’s Ragnarok, and anyone else who’s plastered Norse gods on a comic book page. Why is your creation Sun Eater going to be different?
Dylan Sprouse: Meh, I’m uninterested in comparisons. If the story speaks to people, it will do so on its own legs. I would lobby the biggest difference is that this isn’t based around the gods of that world at all. Their inclusion is present, but less as a cast and more as a force of nature. Their involvement in this story is as often as a historical person in that time worshipped their deities…occasional. This story is much more human-centric. It follows a dismayed father trying his best with the tools he has. There really isn’t ever magic for magic’s sake and the combat is particularly brutal and quick. Sorta old samurai style, quick slash, blood spray, etc. The setting and the world are products of it being personal and tied to the fact that my grandparents read me the sagas. It was a way to communicate with them and frame this familial tragedy in a place most appropriate. The tone is very different and informed by my own pagan beliefs. I think this will all be evident upon reading it.
DF: Your concept came to Heavy Metal by way of DIGA Studios, so how high for you are the hopes that Sun Eater may eventually translate to the silver screen?
Dylan Sprouse: I think it’s likely in one form or another! I initially wrote it in script format so the translation wouldn’t be too difficult. Live action or animation would be a dream come true. I should probably start making a cast list…
DF: Dylan, what other projects, inside or outside comics, in which you are involved can you tell readers about?
Dylan Sprouse: Currently I’m focusing on my Meadery in Brooklyn where I spend most of my time brewing and writing. We have a bar that’s being built out while I also wait for some of the films I recently shot to be released. I have ADHD so you can always count on me doing something, haha! With three films on the way, two set to be filmed, a bar under construction, a fully operation brewery, and this comic series, ya’ boy could probably afford a few more hours of sleep.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Dylan Sprouse for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Sun Eater #1 from Heavy Metal and DIGA Studios hits stores August 7th! Keep watching DF News and comics-related social media for more information.
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