The following is an interview with Sebastian Jones, creator of the graphic novel, The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer, and co-founder of Stranger Comics. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Contributor Madeleine Holly-Rosing chats with Jones about the story behind The Untamed, his currently running Kickstarter campaign for the project, and how Amandla Stenberg from The Hunger Games fits into the mix!
Sebastian Jones is the creator of the dark fantasy graphic novel, The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer, and is one of the founders of Stranger Comics, along with Joshua Cozine and Ken Locsmandi. A passion project of his for the last ten years, he’s now seeing all of that work come to fruition. Now, Sebastian is looking to Kickstart the entire 248-page graphic novel in hardback form.
Fanboy Comics Contributor Madeleine Holly-Rosing: I’m going to make you work here . . . . Sebastian, give us your elevator pitch for The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer.
Sebastian Jones: Ha! Okay, here goes: A bad man is stuck in purgatory. After ten years, the Devil appears to him and says, “I will give you seven days to reap the seven souls that murdered you and your family.” Sign me up. So, our would-be hero takes that cinematic return to a brutal one-horse town to act out his vengeance, and it is all set in the dark and beautiful fantasy world of Asunda.
MHR: The themes of revenge and redemption resonate throughout the story. Other than the fact that revenge makes for great character motivation and redemption a good arc, is there something about these themes that resonates with you?
SJ: We all make mistakes. When I was younger, I made enough of my own . . . hell, I still do. Writing The Untamed was an opportunity to release my inner demons but to also shed light on an eternal hope: to be a better man, a better father. I guess I was giving myself this hope. I think vengeance, at times, is a dark excuse to act out our guilt, if not our rage . . . and then what? Redemption is the fruit that hangs highest on the tree of life. You have to at least try and make that climb. So, I cloaked these moral choices that haunt me within a small town in a fantasy world I have spent over twenty years creating.
MHR: The book is gorgeous. How did you meet your artist, Peter Bergting? What about his style made you realize that he was the right artist for this project?
SJ: I first met Peter, goodness, ten years ago. We have been in a purgatory of our own making this book! But, it has been worth it. I had come across Peter’s first issue of The Portent (which my company, Stranger Comics, acquired the rights to). It was spellbinding – on all levels. I reached out to him online and, to my utter joy, he agreed to embark on this wild ride with me. (Now, I am the godfather of his youngest.) Peter and I discussed at length that the book needed to be painted to give it a gritty and textured feel to mirror the tale, but knowing it would take a while. We brought in Darrell May to help layout the cinematic Sergio Leone vibe, and I couldn’t be happier.
MHR: I think it’s terrific that Amandla Stenberg of The Hunger Games is involved with the project. How did that come about, and can you give us a hint about what the stories are about that you two are writing together?
SJ: I first met Amandla at the Mixed-Remixed event while promoting my children’s book, I Am Mixed, which is part of the “I Am Book Series” I am writing with Garcelle Beauvais. I had seen Amandla’s portrayal of Rue in the first Hunger Games, and like the rest of the world fell in love with her courage and conviction of character. Plus, she looked very similar to how I saw the character, Niobe, at a young age. Niobe will be the face of the Asunda franchise but is a seed planted in The Untamed tale. Now, I am lucky enough to be writing prose with Amandla based on Niobe’s journey, where the Half-Elven, would-be queen has lost her faith after experiences that would test an angel. Amandla has such a brilliant and creative mind. She is a true renaissance lady.
MHR: I see that, once upon a time, you used to run a record label. When did you discover that you’d rather be writing? What’s harder, writing or working in the music industry? (Not a fair question, I know.)
SJ: Completely unfair! Next question Okay, I have always enjoyed writing, whether for my tabletop role-playing games or the liner notes for an album. I think working in the music industry is harder, but only by a guitar string, especially nowadays. Making a living in music has been reduced to performing and, ironically, writing. If you can string a sentence together and, hopefully, sound more intelligent than a dead brick, there are many avenues of genre and media to explore, although writing can be very demanding on the soul. There are times I stare at the stuff I have written and thought I should have stuck with my first job: dish washer in a dry cleaner. More irony – I got fired there, too.
MHR: You’ve been living in the world of Asunda for ten years now. What do you think life will be like once you’ve finished this project? Any plans for Volume Two?
SJ: I have been roaming the world of Asunda for well over twenty years, but the tale of The Untamed came to me ten years ago. I think we are only just beginning to explore many avenues within Asunda and The Untamed as a brand. We are developing our tale into an animated TV show at Film Roman (The Simpsons, Ultimate Spider-Man) with Lloyd Levin (Watchmen, Hellboy) and Andrew Cosby (2 Guns, Eureka). Another comic series, DUSU: Path of the Ancient, is out digitally and will be collected for trade. It is painted beautifully by James C. Webster, and I co-authored with new talent Christopher Garner. We also have Erathune coming soon, which is illustrated by Sheldon Mitchell (The Darkness, Artifacts), and Waso: Will to Power by Top Cow talent winner Hannibal Tabu. Darrell May has supplied the layouts for all of our books, so there is a consistent theme and mood. As far as Volume Two . . . there are 7 more in my mind.
MHR: You’re in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign right now to print The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer in hardback. You’ve made your goal. Congratulations! What has been the hardest part of running a Kickstarter for you?
SJ: There are never enough hours in the day! On top of running Stranger Comics and everything else, managing a Kickstarter is a full-time job! Luckily, I have a great crew helping me out. Also, it is getting into the mindset of being okay with asking folks for a pledge, a share, or even a prayer. Although, most are excited to be a part of helping you fulfill your dream. We are all on the same ride. That’s cool!
MHR: Last questions . . . I see you’re a LARPing fan. What’s your favorite scenario, and what is your favorite sci-fi and/or fantasy book series?
SJ: I haven’t donned my thrift store armor in a couple of years now, and I miss it. LARPing was another outlet where I really fleshed out Asunda. I used to run campaigns in England but most have been here in Los Angeles at various canyons sneaking past the ranger’s station at midnight. Shout-out to all the old crew! Honestly, my favorite moments were seeing people come out of their shell and challenging their fears. I would love to hear the chatter after the adventure, recounting tales of bravery and whatnot. I miss the camaraderie.
Lord of the Rings . . . it was the one that started it all for me. I do love David Gemmell’s character work, especially in his last series based on Troy. Feist’s Magician series was also fantastic, and Game of Thrones keeps me very humble.
I must keep putting pen to paper.
The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer Kickstarter will end on March 19th.