Michele Brittany, Fanbase Press Editorials Manager: Hi, this is Michele Brittany with Fanbase Press, and I’m on the floor on San Diego Comic-Con 2018. I’m actually in Artist Alley, and I’m joined by two fantastic creators: writer and author Michael Kogge and artist Dan Parsons.
You both worked together on Empire of the Wolf, and can you tell me a bit about what the story is about?
Michael Kogge: Yeah. So, Empire of the Wolf is a story I like to pitch as Ancient Rome with werewolves. I took the mythology of Romulus and Remus, which, if you know anything about Rome, there’s a famous statue where two little infants are suckling from a wolf, and, I said there’s kind of this interesting image… it’s a werewolf script. So, I used that as a basis for the mythology. And, as you know, Romulus kills his brother, Remus, so, in my story the curse of Remus, which is being cursed to be a werewolf. My book begins in about 60AD and the Romans are in England at the time and they’re fighting this Druid king who’s name is, in history, he’s called Caradog, and I thought, hey, that’s another werewolf thing! So, he’s a werewolf king. So, these two centurions who love the same woman, her name is Lavinia, they both get bite. And, of course, it’s about good and evil, so one turns good and the other turns evil. And there’s an epic clash at the end over Rome.
I like it because we spent a lot of time researching the story. I read all the great Roman stories. I used all of Rome’s story that I could. And I think you need to do that in a fantasy story. In order to have some grounding, you need to be as authentic as you can, because I’m taking some liberties. It’s a werewolf story. But, in order to make it feel real, you need to base it in as much history as you can.
MB: From an artist’s perspective, can you tell me how you approached the project?
Dan Parsons: Well, I have countless books on ancient warfare, armor, and leggings, and for me it was just a great opportunity to get in there and draw weapons and gladiators. I also researched a lot of the locations and tried to draw them as they were. So, we tried to keep as historically accurate as possible. I enjoyed that process.
MB: As a collaborative process, I think you both live in different places, so, did you meet? Did you do things over the internet?
MK: Well, this is a really good story. Dan and I both work in the Star Wars universe. Dan has done a number of Dark Horse books, back in the the day with Dark Horse had the license, and I have written Star Wars books. So, there was a basis of familiarity. But, then, I came by Dan’s booth… was it Comic-Con?
DP: I believe it was WonderCon.
DP: You’re not going to tell me the Zardoz story, are you?
MK: Yes, I am! So, I’m looking through his art and I say, “Hey, man. I know what this is.” He’s like “No, you don’t.” I’m like, “This is Zardoz,” and he gave me this little smile.
DP: Zardoz is an obscure John Boorman film with Sean Connery.
MB: In the little biker outfit.
DP: Yes. It’s very obscure.
MK: Nowadays, it’s obscure.
DP: But, I self published a title, Savage Planet, and I kind of pay homage to it. Remember the floating head? “I am Zardoz!” At the very beginning of the comic, he comes and lands. I thought no one would recognize it. It was my personal homage to John Boorman. And that was the first time someone recognized it. Sounds like you would have recognized it.
MB: Yeah! I do. I do.
DP: But, anyways, the original question was what’s the collaboration process and basically what it is, he would write the script. Which is a detailed script, with the dialogue. So, not just outlines. And then I would pencil all the pages the best I could. Just, you know, helpful right out of the gate with preliminary drawings. And then I’d send them to him, and we’d go over each page and see what he’d like to change or accentuate. And that was our process then and it still is now.
MK: Yeah, I’m a real stickler for detail and so is Dan, so that’ s a great part of the collaboration. And, Dan, he’s like “Oh yeah? Ancient Rome? I got the armor. I got the books. He loves it as much as I do. It was a really great collaboration. He absolutely knew what I was trying to achieve and he was all open, and that’s what you need from an artist. I’m always grateful for it.
MB: If someone was interested in Empire of the Wolf, what my they be reading that would be in a similar vein to this book?
MK: People who love classics. People who love history.
DP: People who general like historical fiction, I’d say, because it has the historical setting and it has the fictitious, fantasy, and supernatural aspects. So, I think people who enjoy any kind of historical fiction
MK: And if you like fantas,y too.
DP: Or horror. Because there are some people who just love werewolves.
MK: Right. Yeah.
DP: I’ll be at my table and someone will see just see the werewolf and say, “I got to have that.” So, that’s true. That’s the other side of that. People who like history and people who are into horror.
MK: And there was a lot of thought that went into this book and not just with the writing and the art, but the coloring, too. Dan colored some.
DP: I colored only three or four pages and then I did the covers.
MK: And I should show the covers. This is is the Issue #2 cover. This is one of my favorites. It’s an ancient Roman werewolf centurion. It’s just fantastic.
MB: That’s great.
MK: And this is Issue #3 which is kind of an homage to the Universal, gothic-type-
DP: He has the she-wolf here.
MK: Yeah, the she-wolf. So, here’s the image I was talking about at the beginning. And then, Issue #4, we have the images of Romulus and Remus.
MB: That’s got to be your favorite, because I bet you were very passionate about this one.
MK: Oh, he spent a lot of time on this one.
MB: I bet.
MK: And Issue #1 actually sold out, so [laughs].
MB: That’s good news!
MK: Yeah. And Doug Beekman, who's a really established, very famous fantasy artist (He did a lot of the Conan the Barbarian covers in the '70s.), he did the cover.
DP: Actually, since I was getting behind, David Rabbitte also came on to do the colors, too, and he did a wonderful job.
MK: It was really a team effort. Chris Summers did coloring for a few of the issues, and then we have Marshall Dillon on lettering. People often forget the letterer, but it is such a crucial part of the comic. I wanted this kind of '70s lettering style. There was a lot more dialogue then and this book has more dialogue and narration.
MB: Now, you mentioned that you’re working on a project together, so are you able to give us a teaser?
MK: Yes. It’s called Brothers of Bakerstreet and it’s set in the world of Sherlock Holmes, but it’s about Sherlock Holmes long lost brother. Not just Mycroft, but Percival. The story begins in Mexico, and it’s the story of Percival Holmes and how he’s been the long lost Holmes brother. His brothers kind of rejected him and now he’s on his own. And by the end of Issue #1, he gets a telegram that Sherlock Holmes is dead, so he has to go back to London to find out whatever happened to his brother. And every issue is like a different world. Issue #1 is Percival in Mexico and the Wild West feel. Issue #2 is set in Victorian London. It was a cool part of the book to work on. What Dan has done is he pencils the pages and then he-
DP: It’s fully painted in what used to called a wash, which is basically just grey, so it’s monotone initially. And then I scan it in and color it digitally. But, it looks not like any computer touched it. It looks like it was colorized from the 1800s, which is the style we’re going for. I don’t have any of that here, but I just happen to have… Well, I mentioned before the way that we work is a script comes from Mike and then I’ll lay it out roughly. So, these are just some very rough layouts.
DP: So, these are just very rough lay outs to show the storytelling.
MB: That looks great!
DP: This is very rough, but it’ll be redrawn on 11x17.
MK: So, one of the things of doing this process is that it’s very labor intensive. It’s extremely labor intensive, but the quality you get out of it. Hopefully. it will stand out. I’ve never had so much fun doing any project then this collaboration with Dan. It’s been just a joy to do and see-
DP: It’s been a marathon.
MK: It’s been a marathon. Well, independent comics take a long time, because you have to do them on your free time, because we have day jobs where we work for licensees doing other work, but, yeah, you have to fit it in.
DP: And, you hope, some day, you’ll be able to share it with everyone.
MB: And I just want to touch real briefly, since you both are from the Star Wars universe. Are you both working on Star Wars projects right now?
DP: I’ve done a couple of trading card sets. Actually, since 2001, I’ve worked on every major Star Wars trading card set, but, not really. Right now, I just started working on James Cameron’s Avatar. There’s a new comic book coming out. It’s a six issue series from Dark Horse and I’m working on that with my old Star Wars team. So, it’s me, Jan Duursema, and the colorist, Wes. So, it’s going to have the same look as the old Star Wars books, but it’s going to be James Cameron’s Avatar.
MB: Well, that sounds very exciting.
DP: Also, this just came out last week. [Dan holds up a copy of Anthem.] It’s an adaptation of a famous 1937 science fiction book.
MB: And what about you, Michael? Are you doing anything in the Star Wars universe right now?
MK: So, I just did The Last Jedi junior novelization, and it was received very well. It was actually the number one book in all of England for a bit.
MK: So, that was just an honor. And that’s not just in science fiction, that’s in general book sale.
MB: That’s great.
MK: Yea, I was really honored by that. And then I just finished A Spellbinding Guide to the Films of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts.
MB: Oh, wow!
DP: That’s quite the title!
MK: I know! I can barely say it, right? [laughs] But, Scholastic is publishing it in October, and it’s going to be this really beautiful illustrated book, so I’m really excited about that.
MB: Okay. That sounds really good. You both have so much going on!
DP: Yeah, you got to really stay busy.
MK: Yeah, you got to.
MB: So, where can people find you on social media after the con?
DP: You can find me on Facebook its you’re online. It’s Dan Parson’s Art. You can get me on there.
MK: I have a website (michaelkogge.com). I’m also on Twitter (@MichaelKogge). And I’m on Facebook, but, I’m mostly on Twitter pretty much.
DP: Yeah, you’re up on the modern world, and I’m still on Facebook. [laughs]
MK: You should be on Instagram.
MB: Well, at least it’s not MySpace, right?
DP: [laughs] MySpace. Yeah, I’m still have AOL. [laughs]
MB: Well, thank you both very much for your time and for going into the creative process and sharing the new projects you have. They sound very, very exciting, and I’m very happy for both of you. Best of luck for both of you and your projects.