Happy Canada Day to any of you reading from Canadian locales.
I wanted to write a little bit here about the things that inspired the stories in Skullkickers. Hopefully some of these bring a smile to your face or inspire you to seek them out if you haven’t tried them before:
Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser: In my mind, these two were the original fantasy duo. The stories have a wickedly dark sense of humour and loads of personality. If you’ve never read them before, you should move them right to the top of your fantasy reading list.
Dungeons & Dragons: Yup, the grand daddy of tabletop role-playing games is a key player in the adventurous hijinks in Skullkickers. My brother introduced me to the game when I was around 9 years old and it was one of those things that kept us close even as we grew up and changed in high school and college/university. In retrospect a lot of it was ridiculous, but it infused my brain with a love of fantasy and spurred on ideas for telling stories instead of just reading about them.
Conan: The novels, the comics and the original movie all hit certain notes I’d love to echo in Skullkickers. The dwarf has a line in the first issue where he describes his job as “a guard, a thief or a killer if that’s what ye need”. That idea, that the characters are adaptable survivors and absolutely mercenary is very Conan-like.
Army of Darkness: Sam Raimi’s over the top zombie epic rides a fine line between being either an outright slapstick farce or a loving pastiche of fantasy tropes. Ash is despicable and selfish and yet you can’t help but cheer him on as he charges in his own direction and wins through pure sass, grit and stupidity. If I do my job well then Skullkickers should feel a bit like having two Ash-esque characters who banter between themselves.
Hellboy: It won’t be as obvious as the other influences, but Mike Mignola’s balance of atmosphere and humour is a huge influence. I want to create stories where there’s a palpable sense of dread punctuated with snappy banter and big action. I think once I’m more comfortable with the characters and feel like the reader knows them well I’ll be more confident setting up wordless establishing shots and a grander sense of the fantasy world they’re in.