By: Nicole D’Andria
The first issue of Puppet Theater: The Fool is just the beginning of a six-part journey seeking to transcend space-time and bridge the gap between past and present. This medieval sci-fi draws inspiration from works like Saga and Game Of Thrones.
The world of Puppet Theater: The Fool features everything from swords, court politics, love, and magic. It explores the consequences of your actions, including needing friends you’ve betrayed as well as living up to your expectations.
These questions are explored by creator/writer Thomas Cowling, who’s also working on releasing his Minders comic through the Puppet Theater publisher. Some of his other comic titles include The Loop and Above Ground. He also worked as a narrative designer for the video games One Nation and Stardust as well as a DnD campaign writer. Thomas is joined by an experienced creative team that includes artist Ricardo Arreola (House of Horrors, Halo: Escalation), colorist, Rodrigo Otäguro (Vizards, BAC), letterer Rob Jones (Hitomi and 24 Panels, Yasmeen), and award-winning editor Chris Stevens.
The Puppet Theater: The Fool #1 campaign is seeking to raise $1,382 (AU$2,000) by August 26, 2022, at 6:37 AM EDT. Digital (AU$7/$5) and physical (AU$15/$10) copies of the first issue are available with a couple of unique cover options, including one paying homage to Forrest Gump. Higher tiers can get backers original art (AU$150/$104). Check out all the options on the official Kickstarter page.
But a good way to learn about a creation is from the creator’s mouth, so I’m speaking with creator/writer Thomas Cowling below about his new series.
Nicole D’Andria (ND): You sell this story as Saga meets Game Of Thrones. What elements from these two series are reflected in Puppet Theater: The Fool #1?
Thomas Cowling (TC): Both Saga and Game Of Thrones have fantastic character-driven plots. All protagonists and antagonists have well-written arcs and are chock full of twists and turns. I love the sense of adventure and the creator’s creativity that comes with Saga. The tension between the families and courts in Game Of Thrones always kept me on the edge of my seat while watching. We wanted to create a series that combines both of those factors, and I believe we’ve come pretty close. We’ve put a lot of focus into creating an intriguing, original, and visually eye-catching world. Then filled it out with awesome characters that we get to drag through the mud.
ND: As a mash-up of medieval and sci-fi, what is it about these two elements that you feel mesh well together and how do you go about implementing them within your story?
TC: I’ve always pondered how people in the medieval period envisioned the future. Did they write about space ships and spiced-filled planets? Or horses sent back in time to prevent the future rebellion of humankind? I guess we’ll never know and neither will they but that thought was the base idea for our world-building. I love a story set in the late part of the middle ages; the first trickle of technology is emerging, and yet it’s still wild and dangerous. The sci-fi came easily after; we had a blast twisting modern items and weapons to match a medieval citizen’s imagination. It’s fresh and fun to see this time period littered with aspects from our current time and some more outlandish ideas that we fabricated ourselves.
ND: Who is “The Fool” in the story as well as the cast of supporting characters and antagonist(s)?
TC: Great question and one I can only answer in part. Our main protagonist is a court Jester; in our world, they’re all dubbed “Fools”. Not everyone can be a Fool, however; all are born with a gift. Some trivial, some world-defining. The story is centered around one choice that is revealed in issue 1, which sets the plot into motion. You’ll have to see how this affects the Fool’s life partner Eppie, a committed member of the Kings guard, and Samir, a political hostage trying his best to avoid the world and his past. With that said, we’ve all made foolish choices in our lives and so do our characters. At the end of the series, you’ll have to decide for yourself who’s really the fool in it all.
ND: The concept of time is a very important element in your mini-series. What kind of role does it play?
TC: Time is a real personal interest of mine and one that inspired the events in The Fool. We started with the idea that Block Theory is true, that is, time doesn’t pass linearly but rather all moments of time already exist, and our consciousness is at one point within the space-time block. That means everything is written, everything will happen as it’s already happened. If that was the case and you had the ability to shift your awareness to another point in your life would you, do it? You’d be a fool not to. Unless you stumbled across the end of everything.
ND: You have a creative team with plenty of work under their tool belts. Can you tell us a bit about each member of your party and why you felt they were the perfect choice to join you in Puppet Theater?
TC: Artist Ricardo Arreola was the first on board. We met online, chatted about the project, and agreed to a few concepts and a couple of pages. Honestly, if I was sitting in a chair when I saw them, I would’ve fallen out of it. Ricardo has huge talent and a lot of work under his belt including a stint at Dark Horse working on a Halo title. Bringing him in was a no-brainer.
Next came Chris Steven. Chris won a few Eisner awards for editing books at Dark Horse and about a billion other books published through all the big houses. This was crucial for me as the experience he brought to the table really helped turn this from a vanity project into something amazing.
Once all was penciled and inked, I got in contact with Robin Jones, an amazing letterer and graphic design god. Rob nailed the cover logo and helped talked me through some finer points of interior dialogue and lettering. I couldn’t appreciate his help more throughout the project.
The colourist took a while and was the one we had the most difficulty with. It wasn’t until I commissioned Rodrigo Otaguro to colour a short six-page comic that my woes were over. He put on a masterclass, and a few weeks later I sent him a black-and-white copy of The Fool. Thirty days later, it’s all finished.
ND: What is the number one reason why people should pledge money to your project?
TC: The high-end interior work. It’s honestly top-tier stuff. I know it’s my own book, but they produced amazing art, a beautiful colour palette, and the lettering is as clean as can be. You deserve to see their work, and it deserves to be seen.
ND: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?
TC: Write a lot and read a lot is the one that comes up most often for a good reason. However, comics are typically a team effort, and I couldn’t stress enough how important that is to keep in mind. Take your time to find the right people to work with. Ask them questions about what films they like, books they read, and the TV shows they watch. Make sure you gel and that they love the work they’re about to commit a substantial amount of time to. It’ll make the world of difference.
ND: Thank you for taking the time to tell us all about your own fantastical saga, Thomas! Readers can check out the Kickstarter for Puppet Theater: The Fool #1 here.
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