We recently sat down with Corey Blake at Smash Pages to answer a few questions regarding HELM. See below for an excerpt or click through to read the interview in its entirety.
Last June, the high fantasy series Helm launched through Crookshaw Creative’s website. Less than a year later, it has been nominated for a prestigious Eisner Award in the digital comics category alongside industry luminaries such as Colleen Coover and Chris Roberson.
Writer Jehanzeb Hasan and illustrator Mauricio Caballero’s enthusiasm for their work is infectious. We talked about creating a high fantasy world that mixes steampunk, the comic’s video game origins, the animation-style look and feel of Helm, and plans for a print edition. We also talked about coffee as inspiration and Scarlett Johansson.
Jehanzeb, you have an interesting spin on destiny and fatalism when Luna talks to Eldrick about the prophecy and how it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s safe. Can you talk more about that?
Jehanzeb Hasan: Prophecies can be so cliche in the fantasy genre. When I was writing, I thought to myself, if I was in Eldrick’s shoes, what would there be to stop me from doing whatever it is I wanted to do? If this prophecy was real, and I believed it, then I’m safe, right? There’s no danger, no risk. And you need that in order to tell a good story, an engaging story.
Mauricio, your environments are so fleshed out, including extensive props. It feels like you have a set dresser planting interesting objects into each scene. Can you talk about your design work, particularly that scene where we first meet Eldrick and he’s sitting in the train with all of his belongings?
Mauricio Caballero: I love to make backgrounds because this is what places the reader into another world. The script was very clear and nicely written, so it was no problem for me to place all those things around Eldrick. After all, he’s worried, sad, and at that moment, he felt alone and his thoughts are disorganized. Besides, it’s so much fun to imagine what kinds of stuff does Eldrick have in his backpack, and let the reader guess the story or function of every little thing in the background.
Jehanzeb Hasan: Yeah, I encourage readers to read into that stuff — study the details. Sometimes, it’s stuff Mauricio has come up with to help populate the scene; other times, the objects you see are specifically mentioned in the script. For example, just recently we published a page where Eldrick, Rusty, and Gwyn sneak into the old Spellsong home. There’s a lot of objects scattered about, one of which is a dog food bowl. It’s a hint of an important reveal that comes a couple pages later.
In general though, I love a lot of clutter and detail in panels. It tells stories, helps build the world, makes it feel “lived-in”. My favorite graphic novel of all time is Watchmen… and I love how Moore and Gibbons include all these little details in their panels that complement the story, the mood, the dialogue, the themes, and so on. In Helm, we don’t do half of what they do, but I think that’s what some of the greatest sequential art out there does — it strikes a balance, a relationship, between the text and the image in every panel. Both complement each other and communicate a unified message.
Click here to read the full interview at Smash Pages.