Welcome back to The PREVIEWS Party, the blog that looks at the coolest, new comic books and graphic novels available to pre-order from this month’s Previews magazine.
In this month’s PREVIEWS magazine, Archaia showed off a new graphic novel called The Reason for Dragons. This original story, written by Chris Northrop and illustrated by Jeff Stokely, promises to capture the imagination of readers much like the films The Neverending Story, E.T., and The Goonies did. I sat down with Chris Northrop to talk about what inspired this cool new tale about knights and dragons in our modern world.
The PREVIEWS Party: For someone unfamiliar with it, what is The Reason for Dragons all about?
Chris Northrop: The main character is Wendell. He’s fifteen years old. He’s at the age where reality has begun to set in, and he’s losing his sense of wonder. A bit jaded I’d say. He lives with his mom and his stepfather Ted. Ted tries to be a father to Wendell by showing him how to fix motorcycles, and trying to engage in “man talk,” but to no avail. Wendell just plain out isn’t interested and feels threatened because he’s not a hands-on type of person. He feels overshadowed. It makes him angry and he feels like he’s got a lot to prove.
So, when the opportunity to prove himself to the local bullies presents itself, he takes it on in frustration. He’s dared to find the abandoned Renaissance Fair that burned down a few years back. He does something stupid and dangerous. Wendell runs away into the woods at sunset (completely unprepared) and barely finds it. When he arrives he discovers a lone man dressed in home-made armor, claiming to be a knight named Sir Habersham. While Wendell attributes the fire to arson, the mysterious knight swears it was a dragon that laid waste to “the kingdom.”
The PREVIEWS Party: What inspired you to create this story?
Chris Northrop: I’ve always had an interest in that age where the world stops being magical, where imagination starts to take a backseat to responsibility. Wendell is on the precipice of that. He sees it coming, reinforced earlier than with most of his peers by his strained relationship with Ted. I think it’s important that as adults we hold onto some of that wonder. That’s what the knight he meets and the adventure that unfolds represents: wonder, letting wonder back into your life, and using it to help you be a more complete person. This book is my way of doing so, and dealing with my own issues. The book is cathartic for me.
The concept of Wendell and Ted started way back in 2008 when I first met Sean Murphy (Punk Rock Jesus, The Wake), who writes the forward in The Reason for Dragons. He worked with these characters way back in 2007 when I first moved to LA. It was initially conceived as an animated short, we even did the voices ourselves, and I animated it late into the night that summer/fall. But, that was all side lined by me being mugged and losing my laptop with ALL of the work on it. That version of the project I was working on was effectively dead in the water.
But, six years later, here we are! I felt maybe I should approach it differently this time. There was a real way of throwing emotional weight around and having an adventure story with a good measure of mystery. I wanted to say something about life. As I got more into comics as a colorist, I started to see it was possible to go forward.
The PREVIEWS Party: What was your collaborative process like with Jeff Stokely?
Chris Northrop: It’s been a pleasure. Jeff really understands the content. He understands story structure just as well as I do, and I really needed an artist on the book that could convey a lot of pathos in each character. There are a lot of quiet moments and emotional moments in the script where there is little or no dialogue. He nailed it in the art. We want readers the feel the chip on Wendell’s shoulder. They need to feel how bad Ted wants to connect with a Wendell who doesn’t want to even try.
Jeff also used a brush pen on a lot of the book, and that one tool almost took over completely at the end. I swear he could ink a straight line without a ruler with that and you’d never know it. I color most of the book, and we really wanted the colors to tell the story as much as the script and the art. But, we do a lot of back and forth adjusting things. I want to respect what he has in mind as much as what I am trying. I think being a good creator or boss means acknowledging when you need that back and forth, and folding that into your final results. The book is better for it.
The PREVIEWS Party: Since this is The PREVIEWS Party, what other books are you excited for?
Chris Northrop: Two things.
I like to read what my friends work on. So, I’m really interested to see what Joe LeFavi is putting together in Thrilling Adventure Hour, which is at Archaia, as well. It’s an anthology and a lot of my friends are working on it very hard this month, including Jeff! I know it will be a beautiful book, too. Hardcovers only at Archaia.
Secondly, I’m really excited for Sean’s Vertigo book The Wake. We are both huge sci-fi nerds. I can imagine he’s blown through watching at least 30 episodes of Deep Space Nine on Netflix this week while drawing those pages.
The PREVIEWS Party: Okay, pitch time. Why should we all go out and pre-order The Reason for Dragons?
Chris Northrop: Aside from being a fun fantasy story filled with mystery and adventure? This book is pretty much for anybody. We’ve all had experiences growing up like this, having to grow up when we least expect it. Or if you are a teenager, you’re going through it right now. You’re not alone in those experiences. The world isn’t a dark place. It’s scary, sure. But, we’ve all got to face our dragons eventually, and we’re better for it.
The PREVIEWS Party would like to thank Chris Northrop for taking the time to answer our questions. The Reason for Dragons is currently available for pre-order and will hit store shelves in May. You can learn more about the book by checking out Archaia’s website, or checking out the cool spotlight section in this month’s PREVIEWS magazine on pages 244-245.
Until next time, keep reading.
– Jason Enright