Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your graphic novel, Last of the Irin! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the graphic novel’s premise?
Wildfry: Thank you. As an avid archeologist, this novel was born on a visit to Baalbek in Lebanon, the temple or home of Baal, whom Christians call the devil. The sheer scale and age leave you breathless. Scattered across the region are literally thousands of tablets and inscriptions that describe his presence there. The premise of this novel is ‘What if all these early historians were telling the truth, where have the gods gone, and why?’
My earlier study of the Old Testament of the Bible, in the original ancient Hebrew, presented a poorly translated text filled with Yahweh, or God’s, loathing of Baal, and it is only when you discover that they were brothers that this conflict begins to make sense.
Rather than lose the reader in ancient times, or even futuristic science fiction, I wanted a story firmly embedded in the present, and so, Last of the Irin was born. Irin is the Aramaic for watcher or angel. While I built the back story and the skeleton of the plots, it was exhilarating to fill out the meat of it with an incredibly talented team of creators.
So, Last of the Irin is the story of Anahita, a young armenian political refugee living in Sweden. Descendant of Baal and Yahweh celestial families, in feud for millennia, the Earth’s future is in her hands and depends on her ability to maneuver through a deadly game of love, revenge, and wealth.
BD: How would you describe your shared creative process in bringing this story to life with the creative team, and what (or who) were some of your creative influences in terms of the characters and tone?
Wildfry: Working in a team brings enormous benefits. Rob McMillan is an incredibly talented film script writer. We decided to go with a film script writer, because graphic novels are much closer to the film genre than traditional novels. Rob is fantastic at building a character through just a few pages of dialogue. Working with someone who has a completely different perspective, but who you admire, produces a creative friction that brings out some wonderful surprises. It was a fantastic iterative process, bouncing scenes and ideas back and forth. If we had included all Rob’s scenes the trilogy would have stretched to thousands of pages!
We were fortunate to work with some of the most talented artists out there, scattered across Europe. With Volume One we had the privilege to work with Wouter Gort out of Amsterdam whose precision drawing skills are frankly intimidating. To understand the complexity of the visual process I can take you through the stages of just one page.
What starts as a simple sketch during a brainstorming session is re-rendered with light and shadow.
There is then a second round of reformatting the layout and angles before the 3D artists get to work, preparing the models.
Objects need to be rendered that are historically accurate and then the models and objects are placed into the scene.
It is only at this point that the line drawing is done, shadowing added, and the final stage of coloring.
The whole process has much more in common with the film industry than illustrations in the past.
I am a great fan of Nordic cinema, the dark tales of Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman, Roy Anderson, and Dogme 95. If I had my way, Last of the Irin would be way too dark. Rob has kept me on the straight and narrow, injecting his humor and hope wherever he can.
BD: As this is book one of a trilogy, what do you have in store for readers with the future installments?
Wildfry: We are really excited to bring the readers through to the second and third volumes. Like many trilogies, for much of the first volume, we are busy introducing characters, issues, and locations. Once we have the readers on board, from volume two we are free to really pick up the speed.
The sheer scale of this project has also meant that each volume has been done by a separate artistic team. Volume two will therefore have a very different feel and so the reader gets to explore a whole new visual universe.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Last of the Irin's story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
Wildfry: Volume two begins with quotations from the Virginia Slave Acts. These relate to the issue of the rights of people who were, in those days, called mulattos, of mixed white and black race. In tribal societies, these people create the greatest threat to segregation, as they undermine the neat lines by which we can divide each people. Even with Jesus, half man, half god, this segregation creates complications that have kept canon law busy for millennia. Raised up on a plinth by the people of his mother’s human community, and no doubt forsaken and viewed with disdain by his father’s household! Having lived in Africa I have seen discrimination between tribes on a terrible scale. BLM simplifies our ugly tribal nature down to skin pigment. If only it was that simple, as the Jews have found to their cost for centuries. These issues run deep through Last of the Irin, where slavery in its ultimate most terrifying form is revealed.
Our tribal nature also ensures we always become polarized on any issue. We even have one set of tribes, the self-proclaimed rationalists on one side, and the conspiracy theorists on the other. Whether it’s COVID, JFK, or aliens, they always land on the same side. It is as if they each live in different worlds. One is a universe explained by religion and science, the other is an uncorroborated world of aliens and secret societies. Last of the Irin applies the rigor of the rationalists to the anomalies that they simply cannot explain away. This creates the defendable alternative human history in which our characters live. It is so close to ours that we feel a part of it, in a way that fantasies novels do not. This world is eerily familiar, and the issues are our own. ??
The Pentagon’s official release of UFO videos in May this year with drones travelling at over 80,000 km per hour should have been the biggest news of 2020, but it got lost in the noise, not least of which is this COVID debacle. Last of the Irin also has its heritage in millennia of biological warfare, and this feels very relevant today.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
Wildfry: We are working on a for-TV series set in Jerusalem in 1842, based on the real-life British Consul and his wife, James and Elizabeth Finn. James was something of an amateur sleuth and found himself embroiled in a number of unsolved murders across this international and ghettoed city. With many European powers vying for control of this most holy site, all manner of intrigue and suspicion plagued the streets. In doing the historical research for this feature, sometimes the truth was too far out for us to even use, so we have had to tone it down.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Last of the Irin and your other work?
Wildfry: The website contains two sections that allow the readers to explore the story in more depth. One is listed under ‘Story’ and allows you to learn more about each character and the planets they inhabit. But the ‘Codex’ is a serious attempt to explain the history behind everything in Last of the Irin. Every building, every character from history, every element is meticulously researched to be as accurate as possible. The Codex gives readers a chance to better understand the alternative history that the characters, and perhaps we, inhabit.