Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Scholars

This shadowy group is the only reason you’re even reading this story! The page draft to the right is actually from an older introductory sequence that focused more heavily on this group of clandestine recorders. It was to be done entirely in the shadows, with no faces visible and only outlines to suggest characters. Rachel did a really neat wallpaper image of her initial style test, which I'll toss at the end of this post for anyone interested.

The idea for this kind of heavily stylized "in media res" intro came from the Thief series of PC games, which often featured cutscenes of shadowed characters identifiable only by their outline and voice. It was a style we wanted to emulate, and will hopefully get to indulge in during certain sections of the comic.

As for the Scholars themselves, their influence remains in the tale, as they will be the ones actually keeping track of the events from issue to issue. Who are they, you ask? To answer that, we'll have to travel back in time a bit.

Long ago, before the Four Kingdoms were created at the end of a great and terrible war, there was not any form of ‘history’ aside from the occasional oral folktale, and these were twisted and skewed over many generations. So twisted and skewed have these stories become that they now hide the original facts, blending them completely with fantastical elements inserted only to keep the audience’s attention on the storyteller.
Because of this, a battle of a hundred became a war of a hundred thousand. A party of fifty heroes became a single warrior, capable of striking down armies where they stood. A political matter between two tribes became a quest for a lost love, spanning across land and sea. While these embellishments made for great tales around the fire, they did nothing to teach future generations of their ancestors’ struggles. Because of this, ancient strife was never quelled, and war became inevitable.

After the massive Four Kingdoms War, the Felis – now settling into their new homeland of Gair – decided that they would dedicate themselves to the recording of true history. They would form an elite group of scribes and researchers who were impartial to an extreme, writing history as mere vessels of the truth, devoid of personal interpretation. They travel all over the land, never seen, never heard, but they watch, and they listen. When their work is done, they return to the spire of Gair and begin to write.

To avoid external pressure, the Scholars are known to isolate themselves for weeks at a time as they chronicle a major event. Nobody is ever allowed in or out of their massive spire academy at the heart of Gair during this period of time, but at the start of this tale, one lone figure approaches the spire academy...

For the first time since its inception, the Scholars are calling on an outsider to assist them. The story they aim to record is, as they say, a “great event” – a title given to world-changers and wars. The only other “great event” to be recorded by the Scholars was the Four Kingdoms War – the very first historical tome ever written.

This outsider tells the Scholars of a captain from the western kingdom of Sunsgrove – Quinlan – a member of the Tamian race. This young warrior will travel the known world in his quest, finding friends and enemies along the way, all in the name of preventing a second massive war from destroying the Four Kingdoms. It is his story that we follow, from simple beginnings… to the bitter end.

Keep your eye on this blog as we dive into the world and characters of The Four Kingdoms, as well as the many sources and motivations of the material.

For now, signing off!


Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Welcome to the Four Kingdoms Production Blog! Here we will be posting periodic updates about the creation and development of our comic, The Four Kingdoms. If you keep an eye on this blog, you’ll bear witness to page drafts, character bios, history lessons (the fun “300” kind, not the boring “beelyuns and beelyuns of stars…” kind), and a lot of personal musings from both Rachel and myself about the comic overall.

I say that last part as if I expect you all to know who we are. I suppose introductions are in order!

My name is Alex. By day, I’m a video game designer working on titles that you may or may not have heard of, depending on your tastes and platforms of choice. By night, I write! The Four Kingdoms actually began its life as a novel I started in response to my once-love for the venerable “Redwall” series by Brian Jacques. It was a series I adored as a kid, but sadly it did not grow up with me. Poking my nose into recent iterations of the series, I felt like former readers from the early years might be looking for something that delves a bit deeper, asks greater questions, and thrills on a more visceral level. I’ve written The Four Kingdoms so that it will hopefully fit the bill, but I’ll let you readers determine that.

Handling all art duties is Rachel Bennett, though some of you might know her from her online handle – “Kobb”. When I decided that Four Kingdoms absolutely had to be a comic, I absolutely had to ask Rachel first. Her work exudes a bit of that familiar “Redwall” feel, but the characters have more expression, their gestures hold more weight – they feel more real when Rachel handles them, so now, because of that, Four Kingdoms has an art style and character designs wholly unique to any other kind of fantasy comic tale. I’ll let Rachel talk a bit about how she draws inspiration for her artwork and why she ultimately decided to work on the comic – perhaps in a subsequent blog post!

So why is this a comic and not a novel, you ask? The answer is pretty simple: I looked at a recent Redwall tale – “High Rhulain” – then I looked at David Petersen’s “Mouse Guard: Fall 1152”. Clearly one of these things made a tremendous impression on me! The amazing artwork and immediately relatable characters of David’s world give me and Rachel a bar to aspire to as we create The Four Kingdoms. There was something tangible and immediate to the world of “Mouse Guard” that just wasn’t there anymore in “Redwall”. It was a world that not only was thought out and detailed, but looked exactly the way it did in the creator’s head. This kind of artistic honesty is a cornerstone of Four Kingdoms, and Rachel and I are working very hard to bring a new and exciting world for you all to visit, interesting and likable characters for you to befriend, and intriguing plotlines for you to experience.

Now that the introductions and backgrounds are out of the way, I’ll tantalize all you readers with a brief summary of what to expect from our fantastical tale of high adventure…

“Great events like these only occur once every so often. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that every detail be recorded, that every thought be rendered without expense, else the future generations may forget why the world has changed so.”

Many long harvests ago, the seven races of the land fought a terrible and bitter war that ultimately came to shape the Four Kingdoms, each set to a point on the compass.

To the North, the Canid maintain a border guard, keeping the barbaric Ermehn tribes weak and powerless.

To the East, the Felis study scrolls and record history as accurately as they can, while simultaneously striving to be the most ‘civilized’ of the kingdoms.

To the South, the Vulpin are at war with themselves – old customs and new ideas clashing in ways they could never have foreseen.

To the West, the Tamian and Lutren races rule as one to defend their home from Polcan invaders from the sea and terrifying ‘crawlers’ that inhabit the dark forests of the Western Deep.

As each kingdom struggles to keep order, a disillusioned warrior sets out from the lifeless lands to the North, ten of his greatest warriors in tow. Behind him, he leaves a trail of death, destruction, and terror.

Forever following in his wake is a group of warriors – a group of allies – called together by fate to hunt down and defeat these aggressors before the kingdoms fall back into war, a war that the fragile Four Kingdoms would not survive…

Stay tuned as we explore more of this new world – you might even catch a sneak peak of events and characters to come!

For now, signing off!