KALI-YUGA is a new graphic novel which tells the story of Abaraiis, a time-traveling wizard who must defeat the seven Lizard Kings – sorcery masters powerful enough to manipulate the fabric of space-time itself. We got the chance to have a chat with its creator Benton Rooks!
AP2HYC: Can you tell us a bit about the main characters Abaraiis and Queen Neriti?
Benton Rooks: Queen Neriti is a sorceress who floats around her space ship in 3030 AD in astral/ghost form, psychically purveying the universe in order to find something that will allow her to attain her full immortality–or at least the biological extension of her life.
With Queen Neriti, I really wanted to create a female character that had a great nobility about her, as a true Queen would, but could also could be very powerful and strong magically. She is certainly antagonistic to some of the other characters – but the reader really sympathizes with her choices, I think. While she may be an antagonist from Abaraiis’ point of view, she is the very opposite of the evil queen-witch archetype, such as in Snow White. She really is a modern woman with a distinct philosophy, who interacts with others very delicately and with great dignity – instead of the lonely, medieval, cackling witch type that is unfortunately much more common in fantasy/sci-fi tropes.
Abaraiis is an immortal elemental wizard trained to elemental mastery in magic by the respective leaders of the four elemental kingdoms; Giants (Earth), Nubines (Water), Salamanders (Fire), and Sylphs (Air). He was born as a 500 year old man, which is a direct reference to Väinämöinen, a shaman/wizard in the Finnish mythological epic the Kalevala. Abariis is also inspired by Odin, of the Norse epics. I wanted to play with the wizard archetype to make him a very gruff, dark, bitter old man with sometimes questionable moral ethics. In many ways, he is almost the exact opposite of Gandalf/Dumbledore.
The Book of Shadows, the five necromancers, and the seven Lizard Kings of profound Kaos sorcery mastery also play a central role in the first issue.
AP2HYC: Myth and legend are obviously a big interest of yours. Is there any one mythology that is particularly close to your heart? Why is that and did it influence your telling of this story?
Benton: The scholars John David Ebert and Charles Upton have both really shared with me a great deal of their own learning in the history of mythology, philosophy and religion/spirituality as it relates to the arts, so really I try to take a bit from everything. I have loved fantasy stories since I was a child. Thankfully, my parents always encouraged my incredibly over-active imagination and interests in fantasy/the arts. Dr. Seuss was kind of a mind bending, trippy experience for me I think at that young age. When I read The Hobbit in fourth grade I realized how much I loved the Norse/fantasy aspects, and in some ways that was when I knew I would have a life long interest in literature.
AP2HYC: What are your most and least favorite parts of the creative process?
Benton: I think that there is a trick to not getting lost in the details, which can kind of overwhelm and suffocate the larger picture of the overall vision of the book if you’re not careful.
AP2HYC: What are your favorite graphic novels and why?
The question of influence is always tough. It is really hard to pick favorites because you are always leaving someone out that you love, but for the sake of a very short list in the comic world I have been influenced by Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Ashley Wood, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Warren Ellis, David Mack, Chris Ware, Brian Wood, Neil Gaiman, etc.
They’re not graphic novels per se, but The Invisibles and Promethea both hold a very special place in my heart because of the mystical/metaphysical/occult elements that run through it. Having a character interact with the astral/causal planes of existence and the beings one finds there is something that definitely goes on in KALI-YUGA too.
Sarah and I are really ideologically supportive of women in comics, and Promethea is an incredible female superhero/character. These were the first two series that really opened me up to the idea that you could have a synthesis of this dense esoteric stuff but without sacrificing the fast action and raw accessible fun that only the comics medium can have.
AP2HYC: You’ve chosen a very interesting name for your novel, Kali Yuga being the name for the last of 4 stages the world goes through in the Hindu religion. What made you choose this? Are there ties to the concept of a lack of morality and spirituality in this fourth age?
Benton: Yes, I believe that there is a lack of defining morals and ethics for the Kali-Yuga or Iron Age, but it is also a reference to the overall time frame of the book being contained within that period. We do see glimpses of the Gold, Silver and Bronze ages, which will be fun to show. Indian mythology is a central influence, and so this is the reason for the title.
AP2HYC: What’s next for you?
Benton: I have a dark fantasy/sci-fi novel trilogy called The Xenark Chronicles, dealing with a wizard named Xenark who is also a cyborg/hacker/DJ/anarchist. If Abaraiis is an Aries aligned with fire in temperament, Xenark is a scorpio, aligned with water. The first book is finished. Both of these trilogies take place in the same universe as KALI-YUGA but are also stand alone in terms of story content. Some of the characters do intersect. I would like to put this on Kickstarter also to see if there is any interest in it.
AP2HYC: What’s one reason we should all just go ahead and buy the first issue?
Benton: I think that the $5 price tag for KALI-YUGA on Kickstarter is very reasonable for 20 full color pages, and you also get the instant digital delivery the moment it is finished, so you get to see the full comic very soon. Plus you know, the street cred of supporting legit indie artists who genuinely just want to keep doing this kind of work and can’t full time without financial support.
Dark fantasy work is very underrepresented in the comic medium, so you are sure to get something very unique and original, in terms of story and art design, with KALI-YUGA. Plus it is epic in scope, action packed and fun to boot.
To find out more about KALI-YUGA (and to support the campaign), you can check out their Kickstarter here. You can also find KALI-YUGA on Facebook.