By: Nicole D’Andria
Looking for a spaghetti western set in a medieval realm? Then look no further than Two Swords Til Mercy! It’s described by the creative team as perfect for fans of Quentin Tarantino, Sergio Leone, and Game of Thrones as well as readers of Crone, East of West, and Once & Future.
Welcome to the world of “Mercy” introduced within the pages of Two Swords Til Mercy. The assassination of the King of the Northlands shakes the core of society, his best friend Aldus Berryann and the King’s brother Lamond Yohe journey to give the news to the Queen of the Southlands. Aldus is unaware that Lamond is out for the blood of the former cultists who killed his brother. It’s a five-issue mini-series focused on strong characters and bloody revenge!
The creative team consists of writing by Brentt Harshman (Of Space), line art by J. Paul Schiek (The Trenchstalker), colors by A.H.G. (Broken Bear), and letters by LetterSquids (Goldie). Their project is trying to reach its $5,000 goal by April 23, 2020, at 11:47 AM EDT. Some reward tiers include digital ($5) and signed physical ($15) copies of the first chapter plus a signed copy of the script and a bundle of PDFs from the creative team (starting at $25). Check out the rest of their offerings on their official Kickstarter.
Enjoy an in-depth interview with creator/writer Brentt Harshman and artist J. Paul Schiek!
Me: Why did you decide to combine a spaghetti western with fantasy?
Harshman: I had just gotten out of a showing of Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and, knowing it was his second to last film, I was curious what his last film WOULD be. I immediately thought, “I would love to see his take on fantasy.” So… I wrote this.
Me: What would a typical day in the world of Mercy look like?
Harshman: During the era the story takes place, the realm is recovering after a decade of living in fear of a cult that was trying to unlock magick with blood…it didn’t work so the cult broke up and went their separate way, but only after leaving the realm in chaos. The economy is terrible and most people are just trying to get by. They work in the day, and sleep at night, hoping that something terrible like THE PATH (the formerly mentioned cult) never happens again.
Me: You say fans of Tarantino, Sergio Leone, and Game of Thrones as well as readers of Crone, East of West, and Once & Future will enjoy Two Swords Til Mercy. What is it about those works in particular that people will engage with in your book?
Harshman: What do all of these have in common? Gritty worlds with fun, engaging characters, and snappy dialogue as well as a sense of never REALLY knowing what to expect from the characters and the story. This is what I tried to inject into Two Swords Til Mercy and what I hope translates from my brain to the page.
Me: How would you describe your main characters, Aldus Berryann and Lamond Yohe?
Harshman: At their core, Aldus and Lamond are your typical odd couple. Aldus is an elderly monk, very quiet and conservative. Lamond is a crass and ruthless mercenary hellbent on avenging his brother’s death. Over the course of the story, told in five comic book issues, the two connect and bond as they travel from the Northlands to the Southlands to deliver news about the assassination of The King of the Northlands.
Me: Who are some of the supporting characters people can enjoy in Two Swords Til Mercy?
Harshman: The story is very much centered on Aldus and Lamond’s journey across the realm. They are front and center, BUT we do get to meet some very interesting characters along the way. In the first issue, we meet The Kilner Clan, a vile band of raiders. Most importantly, we meet Abigail and Meredith Kilner who are the leaders of the clan. Later on, we will meet Queen Veronique Dohmen, the good Queen of the Southlands. There will also be flashbacks to Lamond’s days as a young boy being raised by his older brother, Dane.
Me: How did you go about finding your creative team of J. Paul Schiek, A.H.G., and LetterSquids?”
Harshman: I’ve been working with LetterSquids for a couple of years now. He’s my go-to for lettering and design work. He’s the best. I’ve also worked with A.H.G. on a couple of projects after seeing his work in BROKEN BEAR by Frankee White, Adam Markiewicz. J. and I have been mutuals on Twitter for quite a while and when I posted I was looking for an artist to collaborate with, he replied…and it was a match made in heaven.
Me: Can you tell us more about some of the reward tiers backers can enjoy, which include the watercolor sketches by Eastin Deverna (Samurai Grandpa) and the variant covers you’re offering?
Harshman: For $1, a backer gets their name in the thank you section of the book. For $5, they get a digital copy of the book. For $8, they get a digital bundle of other books by the team members as well as the digital copy of the book. For $15, backers get a signed physical copy of the book.
From here, it gets fun. At the $25 mark, they get everything from the lower tiers as well as a printed and signed copy of the script. At the $50 mark, they will get all the LOWER tiers (a thank you in the book, digital bundle, and a signed print copy of the book) as well as a sketch card by J. Paul Schiek. At the $70 mark, they get their name in the thank you section, the digital bundle, a signed print copy of the book, and a short story written by me, just for them.
At the $75 mark, friend of the team and co-creator of Samurai Grandpa (Source Point Comics) Eastin DeVerna will write a short story for them set in the SG universe and paint a watercolor sketch to accompany the story, they will also get their name in the thank you section, the digital bundle, and a signed print copy of the book. At the $80 mark, they will get a CUSTOM printed map of The Realm of Mercy, as well as the base level items.
For $100, they will get all the base level items as well as getting themselves drawn into the comic somewhere. And finally, for $200, J. Paul Schiek will draw up a custom piece of art for the backer.
We are working on getting variant cover tiers for later in the campaign by artists like Emily Pearson (The Wilds, Bonding), Andy Michael (Of Space, sLAsher), and maybe one or two more. Stay tuned.
Me: What is the number one reason why people should pledge money to your Kickstarter project?
Harshman: This book is being made by a team of people who truly love comics and we are telling a story we are super stoked to tell. All of us are bringing our A-Game and it’s truly a fun story. I mean, who doesn’t love a spaghetti western and who doesn’t love some good swordplay?
Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?
Harshman: Keep writing. Period. Tell the stories that you’d want to read, stay humble, work hard, and be kind.
Me: How did you become a part of this project?
Schiek: The beginnings were fairly serendipitous. Our writer, Brentt Harshman, had been posting on Twitter that he wanted to experiment with a combined medieval fantasy and spaghetti western genre piece. At one point or another, he mentioned that he had an ideal artist for the project and, being too curious and enticed to resist, I inquired and found out that that artist was me.
Me: You mentioned to me this is one of your favorite projects to date. Can you tell us more about why you feel so strongly about it?
Schiek: There’s a lot of back and forth these days, some of it outright toxic, over what is or should be comics’ direction moving forward. From the very start, this story and the artwork I provided for it were completely free of agendas or pretensions of any kind. I could tell Brentt was having fun writing the script, and that fun spilled over into my pencils and inks.
I had a lot of freedom from the start, working sort of wet into wet in designing the characters more or less on the page rather than through some copious development process. Like a real western, it has been a shoot from the hip kind of process in a free and lawless ideascape. Creatively, that’s where I would set up my homestead.
Me: How did you go about combining the feel of a spaghetti western with a medieval world in your artwork?
Schiek: Well, hmmm… It started with a sort of cross-examination of the two settings, mostly to see what made them distinctly different and what sort of commonalities they shared. I always loved how they used an Armenian girl’s perception to tell what was, ultimately, a cowboy story in the film The Fall because it is a cowboy story but it’s also not. I had had some practice with armor and swords up to that point from a concurrent pitch I was working on with Jay Sandlin and Cynna Ael (Over The Ropes, Hellfighter Quin, Mad Cave Studios).
And I knew right away that I wanted to model the story’s protagonist, Lamond Yohe, on Lee Van Cleef. That 60s era Clint Eastwood seemed a little too young and, well, if he was a D&D character, I see him as lawful neutral and I wanted someone more chaotic neutral and Lee Van Cleef had that. He could do things that seemed good if and when they suited him, but he also wore his bastard right out there in the open with those dark eyes and contoured, leather skin.
The medieval stuff involved a little more research. I lived in Italy from 2007 to 2008 and had visited and photographed medieval fortress cities like Urbino and San Gimignano, so I had some familiarity with those layouts, but interiors and more practical matters like the layout of a tavern meant a lot of research. In the end, though, they’re pretty similar already. They’re both pre-modern, they involve a more feudal, territorial governments, etc. All that was left to do was replace the usual pair of Colts Navy with two swords and we were pretty much set.
Me: Which page was your favorite to create and why?
Schiek: Page seven, hands down. It was the final page of the pitch and maybe the most surprising of them. I went a bit off-menu from what Brentt had put into the script. In the original, there was going to be one big panel with all of these different outlaws in this medieval tavern turned toward the drunk swordsman who just shot his mouth off in front of the bosses. I got to thinking about how those kinds of scenes were shot in the old spaghetti westerns and turned a six-panel page into a fourteen-panel page by giving each of the outlaws their own little square panel reaction shot, including a spit take from the barkeep.
Fortunately, Brentt loved it so I didn’t have to re-draw anything, but it was a lot of fun to explore an idea like that and have it pay off. It was an example of keeping an open mind when working from a script. It’s difficult going on impossible for a writer to visualize every single visual storytelling opportunity while looking over a keyboard. That’s not to impugn what they do, and Brentt is a fantastic writer, but part of what makes him fantastic is his economy of language and his willingness to let the artist slip into the director’s chair from time to time.
Me: What is the number one reason why people should pledge money to your project?
Schiek: Because it’s the right thing to do? Just kidding. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Like I was saying though, Two Swords Til Mercy is our collective attempt to make a comic that is fun from page one to page done. No hidden agendas, nothing but entertainment delivered in a way that only comics can deliver. It’s a love letter to the medium, on all our parts.
Squids’s letters are as much a character in the store as A.H.G’s colors, and my linear representations of Brentt’s words. Everything is a cohesive, moody, gauntlet dropping whole. It’s a rollercoaster in that sense. A rollercoaster doesn’t care who you voted for, it’s just there to take you on an exciting ride, which is what issue one is all about. And, if we get to make this one, we have four more issues to fill out the rest of this theme park, so I personally think it has a lot to offer.
Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book artists?
Schiek: I think this is something that people who want to make things need to hear, but maybe don’t want to hear. I think it’s because it’s too simple and doesn’t entail any special knowledge or secret, but it’s this: if you want to make comics, then make comics. I used to want to be a filmmaker, and in that stage, I would buy any new book about filmmaking that came out, and the thing that irritated me but shouldn’t have was that they all said the same thing regarding filmmaking: if you want to make movies, then make movies. But that’s it. Make comics. And finish what you start. You’ll learn a lot more from a bad comic that you finish than a really good one that you don’t.
For artists specifically, I would say, figure out what it is that you don’t like to draw and draw a lot of that. If it’s horses, draw a lot of horses. If it’s buildings, or heads or hands or feet, draw a lot of those. You don’t expand or develop as an artist by ignoring your areas of opportunity. Get a reference if you’re not sure. Chuck Jones used to tell his artists at Warner Bros that everyone has one hundred thousand bad drawings stuck inside them, and the faster you get through those bad drawings the sooner you can move on to the good ones.
Me: Thanks for your time, Brentt! Readers can check out his Kickstarter here.
Do you have a crowdfunding project? Want to be interviewed about it and have the project featured on “Kickstart/IndieGogo/GoFundMe the Week?” Let me know in the comments below or message me on my website.
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