SCALES AND SCROUNDELS VOL. 1: INTO THE DRAGON’S MAW TP is a light-hearted adventure comic that collects the first five issues of the series. The story is about a mysterious treasure hunter that runs into a group of travelers seeking out a cavern said to house some amazing treasure within its deepest level.

ComicsVerse spoke to writer Sebastian Girner and artist Galaad ahead of next month’s release of the trade paperback edition. The topics we covered in this interview included what they like to do outside of comics, ancient languages, and a tease on what’s to come later this year. 

CV: I want to congratulate you both on the upcoming release of SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS VOL.1.: INTO THE DRAGON’S MAW TP. How do you guys feel now that you have one trade paperback under your belt?

Galaad: Thanks, Jhoan! It’s a great personal achievement, and I’m really proud of what we’ve done so far.

Sebastian Girner: It feels great! In many ways these days the first trade paperback is the “true” first unit of a comic series, as so many readers nowadays wait for their comics in that format. So the final weeks before the Feb 7th release date feel a lot like the way before #1 came out.

CV: Sebastian, in an interview on the Off-Panel podcast with David Harper you said that writing SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS felt right because superhero comics today fail to make readers feel a wide range of feelings between issues and it’s what they should have been doing. Do you feel that SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS has in some way rectified that? What kind of reception have you guys gotten from fans in relation to that so far?

SG: Unless I’m misremembering that interview, I think my criticism was more with the prevalence of the superhero genre in comics in general and how it shackles creators to the source material, which limits (in my opinion) the range of stories that one can tell. But there are many writers of superhero comics today that still manage to do wonderful work within these constraints.

I think readers of SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS are still discovering that the series will span a pretty wide range of themes, subjects, and emotions. It’s billed as a fun fantasy romp, and Galaad’s art makes that abundantly clear, but over the course of those first five issues we tried to run the gamut of what we want to do with the series overall. There’s adventure, mystery, humor but there’s also tragedy, danger and a hint of foreboding, a creeping sense of dread. It’s another reason we’re so excited for the first TPB to be out soon, as new readers can take all that in in one big gulp.

Recently, issue #5 got a strong reaction from readers, as that’s when we drop the hammer on exactly what kind of comic we’re making. We’ve built a big world with colorful characters, but that won’t mean we’ll always play it safe and are afraid of shaking things up.

G: I am not a huge superhero comics reader, so I would hard-pressed to tell you how they fail in this regard. But I’m glad to be able to work on a comic that has a wide range of themes and potential stories!

SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS VOL. 1: INTO THE DRAGON'S MAW TP
Courtesy of Image Comics

What Girner and Galaad have been happy about lately

CV: Sebastian, on the aforementioned Off-Panel podcast you mentioned that you want to be chained to Galaad’s leg as he works because Galaad’s art makes you happy. What is it about Galaad’s art that radiates happiness for you? What else has been making both of you happy outside of comics?

SG: Galaad’s work just unlocked something inside me. There’s his characters, which bounce with energy and liveliness. There’s his palette, which is warm and inviting, even when we’re delving into dangerous places. Then there’s how effortlessly he spans every range of emotion, expressing joy, sadness, and dragon-fury so seamlessly: it makes the whole thing feel real and transports me to these places. He has natural affinity (beyond mountains of talent) for the things that I find the most crucial for a great comic.

Outside of comics, there is lots keeping me happy. I got married in November, so my wife and I are still enjoying that new-car-smell stage of marriage. 2018 is shaping up to a big year for me personally in terms of work (thanks mainly to SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS!), so there’s lots to look forward to.

G: Sipping a drink at the table of a café with my wife and kid, while enjoying the sun on my face and the buzzing of the town nearby, is one of my favorite activities besides making comics!

On video game influences

CV: Galaad, I couldn’t help but think about how much the art reminded me of THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE WIND WAKER and THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD. What influences do you have in regards to your artistic style and what is your process like bringing the pages to life?

G: THE LEGEND OF ZELDA games left a big mark on me when I was a kid, especially ZELDA II: THE ADVENTURE OF LINK, THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME and THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: MAJORA’S MASK. Those were three games I played intensively back in the days. Copying the art in ZELDA II’s booklet is one of my earliest memory as an artist. France has always had a special relationship with Japanese anime and manga, so I grew up with these influences. Many French artists of my generation have that strong DNA running in their work. You can see these same influences in Sebastian’s work as well, and that’s why we clicked on so many levels in my opinion.

SG: Agreed. I think especially that early generation of games, when the graphics systems were still so simple that your imagination had to do a lot of the work, left a deep impression on me as a kid. I also just recently found a drawing I did from a ZELDA game, so that’s another thing that apparently links Galaad and myself!

 

How BREATH OF THE WILD is taking ZELDA back to its roots

CV: One thing that I noticed was particularly striking throughout all five issues of SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS is the role that clothing plays throughout the story from providing comic relief to protecting against the elements. Why is it that Luvander, Akisbjorne, Koro, and Dorma wear the clothes that they wear and what role will it play in future issues?

G: It’s such an easy way to bring life and realism to the page, I’m surprised it’s not more common in comics. There is no reason for characters to stick to one outfit. It’s a subtle way of reflecting on the mood of the characters, their social origins, their personality, etc. We plan on continuing to expand our character’s wardrobe as the story goes.

SG: I’m always excited when I write something into the scripts that may facilitate a change of wardrobe. It’s a simple (yet underused) way to expand on the world itself and make the characters feel more natural, more human: when you get sweaty and muddy, maybe you’d like a new shirt? And when you travel to a far away land and want to blend in more, maybe you’d also tweak your look a bit to local customs and style? It’s a fun bit of world-building that we hope readers will pick out over the course of the series.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS VOL. 1: INTO THE DRAGON'S MAW TP
Courtesy of Image Comics

CV: What is about Jeff Powell’s lettering that is instrumental to SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS? 

SG: The best lettering is the kind that looks like it’s part of the art, and that’s what Jeff achieves. His balloons and font choices have a natural, almost textile feel to them, my eye never gets caught on them as it floats across the page. And he also manages to add sound effects that mesh with the art. There are many great letterers in comics, but Jeff has made SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS uniquely his own, and I can’t imagine anyone else doing what he does for the book.

G: Jeff is responsible for the whole design of the book, so let’s say that SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS wouldn’t look nearly as good without him. It’s not easy to bring something so simple and elegant to the table, a design that marries the art so beautifully with the story.

Building a Bigger Sanctuary Out of Comic Shops

On the inspiration behind the languages

CV: Language plays a huge role in this story from ancient Drawven language on the walls to languages that characters speak. What was the inspiration behind some of the languages that readers encounter in Dened Lewen?

G: I like languages. And I’ve always liked visually pleasing languages, ever since I read Tolkien. It’s always fun to imagine what these symbols and alphabets would look like because I believe they’re an extension of one’s culture. Dwarven script is made of quite classic — albeit imaginary — runes, very angular because they were carved in stone. For the demon speech, we wanted something malevolent and archaic. However, as readers will learn, demon speech is quite close to dragon speech in our lore, so we wanted symbols that could be written by dragons, that’s to say, with claws. That’s why it looks like something that could have been scratched in stone.

SG: Language is another tool we use to add depth and layers to this world, which has seen centuries of kingdoms and realms rise and fall, and a lot of what we’re showing in the first arc is a kind of excavation of that history. Just like in the real world, certain words or phrases stick around, even after their origins have long been forgotten. Language is a living thing, and we wanted our fantasy world to be as alive as possible. Savvy readers may even be able to decipher one or two story beats ahead of time if they pay really close attention.

Return Of The Roguelike

CV: I noticed a bit of Arabic in some of the demon/dragon language as well some Phonetic inspired language scratched on the walls. Sebastian did the research you conducted into language also inspire the characters’ names?

SG: The languages in the art and background details, that’s all Galaad and his inspirations. He does such an amazing job of making every scene and setting feel lived-in, and as if they were created with a purpose.

As for the spoken language that pops up from time to time, that’s my attempt to add a fun layer of history and culture to the fantasy world. I speak German and Japanese, so there’s a mishmash of different influences. It’s fun to play with, and attentive readers may even pick up on some story bit before we ‘officially’ reveal them.

As for the lead character’s names, the only one that is directly ‘inspired’ is Dorma’s last name ‘Ironweed.’ That’s the literal translation of ‘Eisenkraut’ which is a traditional healing herb in Germany, and my favorite kind of tea.

On what they like to do outside of comics

CV: I understand that working on super tight deadlines can be mentally exhausting. What do you guys do to kick back and recharge your batteries after working on something for quite some time?

G: Frankly, SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS is such a fun endeavor that I don’t need much time to recharge the batteries. Working on my own creator-owned comic is something that gives me plenty of energy, and when I’m not drawing, I’m usually lost in my thoughts. Besides comics, I play video games and tabletop RPGs.

SG: I’ve also never felt that working on SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS drains me. It’s really not “work” but it’s actually how I reward myself for working on my other projects now: getting to with a dear friend and co-creator on our own series tell the kind of stories that we’re passionate about, it’s the best part of my day. In my other free time, I try to keep up on my reading, exercise and take my dog to the park.

SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS VOL. 1: INTO THE DRAGON'S MAW TP
Courtesy of Image Comics

On tabletop and video games they have been playing lately

CV: At ComicsVerse, we have a bunch of people on staff that grew up in the golden age of video games and play tabletop games (myself included). Galaad, what video games and tabletop RPGs have you been playing lately? Sebastian, feel free to jump in as well.

G: These days, I play STREET FIGHTER V: ARCADE EDITION and DEAD CELLS… and I get my ass handed to me! Although I’ve been wanting to try out DIVINITY: ORIGINAL SIN 2, I don’t have much time for 100+ hours playthroughs of RPG video games. When it comes to tabletop RPGs, I now play almost exclusively with the FATE system, that we adapt to any genre and universe we want. It’s free, versatile, you don’t have to learn a new system each time you change the setting, and it doesn’t put too much emphasis on combat.

SG: I recently joined a game of NIGHT’S BLACK AGENTS, where we all try to uncover a global vampire conspiracy. There are around ten of us, and we have a conspiracy cork board set up in the room and everything. It’s a blast!

On what it means to their own create comics

CV: What does it mean to be a comic creator? What does it mean to get up every day to tell the stories that you want to tell?

G: It’s the greatest job ever… if you enjoy sitting at a drawing table 6 days a week! 😉 It’s definitely not for everybody, but like all challenging jobs, the hours you put in are very rewarding. Being able to tell a story — your story — is one of the best feelings in the world, especially at Image where we have complete creative control.

SG: It’s amazing to get to collaborate with creators and artists like Galaad and Jeff on a daily basis. To get to tell these stories, getting them from our heads and hearts down on paper and then off to be discovered and read by people from all over. It’s a rare opportunity and one that I’m very grateful to have been given.

On what’s to come in the future

CV: Finally, I know you guys are hard at work on the next arc of SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS. Sebastian, also I understand that the SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER TPB released last month and you edit other creator-owned comics. Can you guys tease anything that our readers can look forward to in the future?

SG: On my editing front I can tease two new creator-owned books that will be announced and released later this year, both of which I’m really excited about. But more than anything I can say that readers of SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS can look forward to a lot of adventures in 2018!

G: On my part, more SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS. We’re putting out three trade paperbacks this year, so my schedule is quite busy!

CV: Thank you so much taking some of your busy time for doing this! I appreciate it and wish you all the best going forward this year.

SG: Thank you for having us!

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS VOL.1: INTO THE DRAGON’S MAW TP hits comic book shops and bookstores out on February 7th.  If you haven’t checked out SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS, the first five issues are available on Comixology.  Make sure to follow Sebastian and Galaad on Twitter for more SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS.

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