by Jarrod Jones. A bleak future where the cruel reign and the weak are ever at the mercy of the Headtaker. It’s Wailing Blade, an all-new vision of the future that’s about to get medieval all over this year’s New York Comic Con. Rich Douek, he of the magnificent Gutter Magic, has teamed with artist Joe Mulvey, colorists Chris Sotomayor and Jules Rivera, and letterer Taylor Esposito to conjure a bleak world where one wrong move will cost you your head… to the most brutal and insanely realized monster we’ve seen in some time.
“Everything about the Headtaker is calculated to inspire fear and obedience in the people who live under the Tyrant’s rule,” Douek tells me of his latest innovation. “Aside from being physically imposing, he had to just inspire dread to the point where even the idea of crossing him is unthinkable.”
But what of the eponymous blade, that which wails to the woe of those who are about to lose their noggins? Douek explains: “The blade, while obviously a piece of technology to us, might seem like more of a magical item to your average peasant – the sort of thing that might inspire a thousand stories…”
Wailing Blade #1 makes its grand debut at this weekend’s New York Comic Con, where the entire creative team—including cover artist Declan Shalvey—will be present to make your experience complete. And brand-new fans of Blade will have something extra special waiting for them at the con: a replica of the shrieking sword itself, there to be cradled by any who dare wield it. “Why does it wail?” Douek asks. “Is it the souls of the people it’s killed? Is it channeling the sorrow of the mourners?” Find out this weekend!
Rich Douek ceased his NYCC 2018 preparations long enough to chat with DoomRocket about Wailing Blade, the current status of Gutter Magic, and his optimal post-con ritual.
1. If you would, please describe ‘Wailing Blade’ for our readers.
Rich Douek: Wailing Blade is high-adrenaline fantasy adventure, in the dark future of mankind. When his father is sentenced to death at the hands of the legendary Headtaker, bandit prince Tychon must find a way to save him, or fall to the Wailing Blade himself.
It’s an action-packed adventure, but it also explores some bigger themes, like justice, tyranny, and family. If I had to pick some pop culture references, I’d say it’s got a Masters of the Universe meets Mad Max kind of vibe – Thundarr the Barbarian is also a good one, if anyone remembers that show. [Laughs]
2. How did you come to the decision to drop ‘Wailing Blade’ at this year’s New York Comic Con?
RD: NYCC is one of the biggest cons in the world, and it’s also mine and Joe’s hometown – we’re both from Queens – so it seemed pretty obvious to us that this was the perfect place to share the book with the world for the first time. Also, Chris, Taylor, Jules, and Declan Shalvey, our cover artist, will be at the con too, so the whole creative team will be in attendance!
What kind of preparation goes into putting such a debut together? With the con right around the corner, how are you coping right now?
Once the art is done, the biggest issue is making sure everything gets to the printer with enough time for them to print and ship it. There are a lot of factors that go into setting that timeline, even down to the country you plan to print in – for example, if you print outside of the country, you run the risk of being delayed by customs inspections – there’s a lot of calculation that goes into it, and I feel really lucky that Tyler, our publisher at ComixTribe, handles most of the logistics. Our main role is just getting everything to him on time. So, the crazy period for us was actually in August. Once everything was sent off, our big focus shifted to getting the word out.
3. For your last series, ‘Gutter Magic’, you delved into parallel universes and magic. ‘Wailing Blade’ looks like pure ‘Heavy Metal’ fantasy. How did you know that fantasy was the genre you wanted to tackle next?
RD: Fantasy is a lifelong love of mine, ever since I discovered D&D when I was 10 or so. From there, I moved on to read books like Elric of Melniboné, Conan the Barbarian, and The Black Company, all of which have found their way into Wailing Blade as influences. And, that’s not to discount Heavy Metal – both the musical genre and the magazine were things I used to absolutely devour when I was younger – one of the things Joe and I wanted for Wailing Blade was for it to almost feel like a metal album cover come to life. We even went as far as having my friend George O’Connor record a scorching, custom metal theme song for the book trailer!
4. It’s easy to see bits of ‘Conan the Barbarian’ in ‘Wailing Blade’. But there’s sci-fi elements in there, too, which converges with the fantasy into something that would make a killer line of action figures, a neo-version of ‘Masters of the Universe’, say. What was going through your mind when you began putting ‘Wailing Blade’ together?
RD: The biggest thing that inspired me to write it was the death of one of my favorite authors, Jack Vance, in 2009. He wrote this series of stories called the Dying Earth, and it’s one of my favorites – it has that mix of fantasy and science fiction elements that you’re talking about. And I’m not the first person to be inspired by it – if you’re into roleplaying, you might know that the entire D&D magic system is called ‘Vancian’ magic, because it’s directly inspired by him. In a lot of ways, Wailing Blade is a love letter to Dying Earth, and that whole era of classic, pulpy science fiction and fantasy. I’m talking ‘60s, ‘70s here. There’s just something about that era that felt so wild, free, and full of possibility to me, and I wanted to push towards that with Wailing Blade.
5. The central… I hesitate to use the word “protagonist”… but the central character of ‘Wailing Blade’ is a pretty harsh dude. For one, he’s a giant beast of a thing that’s called “Headtaker.” He has a giant sword that seems to be powered by some internal engine, which he uses to chop off the heads of petty criminals. There’s a friggin’ skull fitted over his black hood. He’s the very definition of overkill. I have to know everything about the conceptualization of this character—if you would, tell us how you conjured such a character.
RD: Everything about the Headtaker is calculated to inspire fear and obedience in the people who live under the Tyrant’s rule. Aside from being physically imposing, he had to just inspire dread to the point where even the idea of crossing him is unthinkable. The blade, while obviously a piece of technology to us, might seem like more of a magical item to your average peasant – the sort of thing that might inspire a thousand stories – why does it wail? Is it the souls of the people it’s killed? Is it channeling the sorrow of the mourners? The Headtaker had to be more than just an executioner, he had to be this legendary, unstoppable symbol of the Tyrant’s rulership. That’s what we started with, and how we made our choices during the design process.
6. Headtaker is introduced in a brilliant six-panel page that establishes a predator/prey hierarchy rather succinctly, and naturally it ends with him ruling supreme. Later, we’re introduced to a ragtag crew of thieves called “Wind-Cleavers” who seem like they’re in way over their heads. There’s clearly a reckoning coming. What might the first meeting of the Headtaker and the Wind-Cleavers look like?
RD: You’ll see in issue #2, but suffice it to say, heads will roll!
7. You’re working with a killer creative team: artist Joe Mulvey, colorists Chris Sotomayor and Jules Rivera, and the always-awesome letterer supreme, Taylor Esposito. How did Team ‘Wailing Blade’ come together?
RD: Wailing Blade had been kicking around in my head for a while, and Joe and I had been looking for something to work on together for a few years as well. We got together to discuss ideas, and Wailing Blade came up. The more we talked, the more we knew it was the one we wanted to tackle. We started slow, with Joe working on designs while I worked on the scripts, and then last year, we launched into it and haven’t looked back.
Joe and I have been throwing our all into this book. Just personally, I’ve watched him grow as an artist tremendously, from page to page. So, we wanted to work with people that we knew would do the work with just as much passion. Jules, Soto, and Taylor all fit that bill without exception. I’m not lying when I say that when every page comes in, at every stage, I’m surprised by something. The whole team pushes to make the book great, page by page, panel by panel.
8. First impressions of ‘Wailing Blade’ are strong, thanks largely to what appears to be a fully-realized world filled with interesting characters. What’s the most difficult part of developing a fantasy world as detailed as this?
RD: When I build a fantasy world, I find the most important thing is that it has a consistent internal logic to it. You can do literally whatever you want, but it has to make sense within the context of the rules of the world you laid out. So coming up with that system of logic is the main challenge – once you have that framework, though, everything else tends to fall into place.
But if I’m being honest, the hardest part is naming everything, and not having it all sound ridiculous! We can’t all be Tolkien.
9. What’s the current status of ‘Gutter Magic’? What can we expect in the future?
RD: Gutter Magic is getting a brand new expanded edition! It’s published by Source Point Press and Comics Experience, and will also debut this year at NYCC, in both hardcover and softcover. It’s twice the size of the original miniseries, with a new short stories that I Kickstarted last year and are seeing print for the first time, as well as a new prose story, and new original artwork.
I can also say, without getting too specific, that we are looking to return to that book with a new volume continuing Cinder’s story, as early as next year! Details are still being worked on, but I can say 100% we are not done with Gutter Magic by a long shot.
10. What’s your favored post-convention ritual?
RD: I spend a lot of time at cons picking up new comics – stuff my friends have been working on, things I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I like to just keep them all in a stack during the con. Then, when I’m back home, I like to pour myself a glass of bourbon, light a cigar, and just read through everything. Then I take a long, long nap.
‘Wailing Blade’ #1 is available at Booth #1765. Claim it for your own!
Check out this eight-page preview of ‘Wailing Blade’ #1, courtesy of ComixTribe!
More 10 Things Concerning…