This May Dark Horse will publish Sons of Ashgard: Ill Met in Elmgard, an original graphic novel created and written by Chad Corrie with line art by Matt Wendt, colors by Brian and Kristy Miller and the team at Hifi, and lettering by Taylor Esposito.
The story focuses on a group of adventurous squirrels in a Norse-favored landscape finding commonality in a bond birthed through mutual struggle and discovery. Full of action, adventure and some comedy and heart, this particular story introduces Erick Redfur and his particular challenges as he makes his way to Elmgard seeking a new life.
Dark Horse sat down with Chad and the rest of the creative team to dig deeper into the just what exactly this graphic novel is about as well as some of what went into its production.
We’ll start with Chad first. Adventurous squirrels in a Norse-flavored landscape isn’t the most common concept for writers to explore. What inspired you to write—let along create—Sons of Ashgard?
A big moment of inspiration came while I was looking out my parent’s picture window one day. They have been feeding wildlife for some time, squirrels, especially. Over those years word must have gotten out because as I stared out the window I watched as about ten of them, running in near perfect formation, made for the food.
Did you have any inspiration for the story itself or was it more whole cloth in creation?
Right from the beginning The 13th Warrior movie was something that served as part of the influence for some elements of the plot.
This story is told mainly through the eyes of Erick Redfur. What made you choose him as the voice of this tale?
Mainly because he was the outsider from the get go. We needed a way to step into the world and explore it through a newbie’s eyes and Erick was the perfect fit. And it also provided a means to share something about his past and what brought him to this point in time, having him work through that while also dealing with everything else as it all unfolds.
This graphic novel ends in a way that clearly could hint at future additions down the road. Is that something you’re planning?
Most definitely. The idea with Ill Met in Elmgard was to introduce readers to the world and the main cast, setting up their origin story, if you will. It also was written to be completely standalone. Should we get the chance to make a follow up what would follow next would be a deeper delve into their own unique stories woven into more of the greater narrative of the world as if continues to unfold.
Now let’s bring in the rest of the team. What did you all enjoy the most about working on this project?
Chad (CC): Seeing it develop from a working concept to finished work is always rewarding. And for something like this, which could have gone several different ways, it was also fun watching how the final flesh plumped up those bones in just the right places and colors.
CC: Not that I could recall. They story was something that flowed rather smoothly from the beginning as did much of the process after that. Though I was pleasantly surprised by the final look of some of the main antagonists. I knew they would turn out well, just not how well in their final, fully colored form.
There are some pros and cons, like any process. But I’ve enjoyed working in both mediums, finding how best to use each for the various stories suited to them. Sons of Ashgard is a clearly more visual story—it’s more fun to see our squirrel protagonists engaged in their activities rather than describing things by prose alone. So, for me, it was an obvious choice on that route.
That said, I’m still a fan of prose work and will continue telling tales in that medium for as long as I’m able.
Matt, your particular style really lends itself well to this sort of story. Is that something you had to develop for this project or is it part of how you normally draw in general?
With any project in development like this there is an evolutionary period as an artist. Often times it’s a perpetual thing. My art style does have roots in cartooning so it definitely helped me with crafting the look of these characters and this world.
Brian, what were some inspirations behind the colors you, Kristy, and the team crafted for the characters and surroundings? Are you able to provide a little insight, perhaps, on style choices or a take on the process or even the purpose or symbolism of things?
As a team we conducted a good deal of research into Nordic buildings, habitats, armor, weapons, clothing. Some of us also enjoy historical podcasts and videos which can inform the coloring. One area where we focus is using warm and cool color combinations to enhance the mood and visual storytelling. We also put a ton of effort into establishing the locations with unique visuals so as the story moves from one scene to the next you can subtly see and feel the change in location.
Taylor, are you able to share a bit of the process on how you went about lettering the graphic novel? Were there any particular aspects or look you were trying to achieve for the story/work overall?
Really, my only goal, as is with all projects, is to properly live in the world we are crafting, so as not to take the reader out of the story. Once I’m there, everything just flows naturally from there. I let the art and story dictate what I’m doing in the moment.
Do any of you have a favorite character from the story?
TE: Rolf, I’m a sucker for archers haha.
I guess, as far as being really fun to draw based on character goes, I’d go with Henrick. He’s the “Wolverine” of this group so getting to draw him unleashing his “berserker rage” on the enemies was a highlight to drawing the battle scenes.
Sons of Ashgard: Ill Met in Elmgard publishes May 10th, 2023. Pre-orders are available through book and comic stores across the nation (and world).