If you’re a fan of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, the films of Studio Ghibli and the works of Tolkien (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) then the new graphic novel SkyHeart Book I: The Star Seed (Kickstarter) will certainly appeal to you as it is influenced by all of them, as creator Jake Parker explains:
AP2HYC: You mention Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Tolkien and Studio Ghibli as influences. Can you elaborate?
Parker: I love stories of adventure with heart. These stories are a part of my creative DNA. I grew up with them, had imaginary adventures in their worlds, and wanted nothing more than to make my own stories like these some day. I love Star Wars for its expansive world building. I love Indiana Jones for its characters, Tolkien for his plots, and Ghibli films for their sense of wonder and imagination.
AP2HYC: How has you work on Hollywood films influenced the book?
Parker: I spent years developing every little detail for animated films. In an animated film you don’t just show up on location and start shooting, you have to design each location from scratch. Every crack and shrub is placed there on purpose. As a designer I spent a lot of time thinking about what can make the environments I’m designing look believable in the context of the world the film takes place in. How do I make it look lived in? It’s that kind of attention to detail that has helped me flesh out the world of SkyHeart and think of it not just as a backdrop but as a living breathing part of the SkyHeart universe.
AP2HYC: So the idea occurred to you on a trip to the Arizona Desert?
Parker: Well, through the desert. I lived in Mesa AZ which is a massive suburb in the middle of the state, and my in-laws lived in Safford which is on the eastern edge of the state. In between is this expanse of the Sonora desert and it’s just breathtaking. It’s the only place in the world saguaro cactus grow. It’s such an alien looking plant. There’s canyons and rocky outcroppings. It’s really a beautiful place if you can get past the heat. It’s also great inspiration for an artist who likes to create worlds.
AP2HYC: Can you talk about the world, Airth? Does it draw from real world history in addition to fantasy elements?
Parker: Yes, it’s a world that has an extraordinary creation story. A war between the gods that created it caused it to be torn apart and divided into 4 different realms. This event became myth as the inhabitants on this planet continued over the eons building civilizations and cultures. The modern inhabitants are very much grounded in a post-baroque almost Edwardian type of society. But with airships. Lots of airships.
AP2HYC: How would you describe the protagonist, Wake? Is he thrust into situations beyond his control?
Parker: Exactly. I’ve spent a lot of time around boys his age (as a father and a youth leader in my community) and I love this time period in a boys life. They are no longer kids, but just barely. They are getting used to new responsibilities and trying to prove themselves. There’s the juxtaposition of trying to be more adult like, but not wanting to let go of the kid’s stuff. Which makes for some really interesting motivations and decisions for characters based on them. Wake has responsibility, but he also wants adventure. He knows he can’t leave his mom, but really wishes he could get a job on an airship. When his mother is attacked and her life-force stolen he’s forced to go find a way to save her. It’s the adventure he’s always wanted, but not under the circumstances he was expecting. hopefully that makes for some interesting story moments.
AP2HYC: What kind of art style are you going for and how does it fit the story?
Parker: It’s a linear comic art style that has roots in anime and traditional US comics. I have some strong influences on my work that I think are apparent when you know what to look for. I look to Bill Watterson for his fluid line work. Jean Gerard (Moebius) for environment design and line work, and Mike Mignola for composition. Hopefully the combination of those three is a unique style that’s fit for this story.
AP2HYC: Is this a story of good versus evil with deeper meanings embedded?
Parker: It’s a story of good versus evil on one level, a base level. But Wake’s story is more about making the right choices and finding the right motivations for those choices. He’s faced with doing what he wants and doing what’s right at several points in the story. His crew that he goes on this adventure with is made of a character that always does what’s right regardless of what they want. And another that always does what they want regardless of what’s right, and Wake is sort of caught in the middle trying to find the path he should follow.
AP2HYC: How does it feel to be working on your own projects with complete creative freedom?
Parker: It’s the best feeling in the world. It get’s me up in the morning, and it keeps me from going to bed at night. This is what every creator is striving for, right?
AP2HYC: Was the decision to create SkyHeart daunting at first?
Parker: Definitely. I had this vision that completely exceeded my level of execution. So for years I tried to master my craft to the point where I finally felt like my execution could come close to the vision I have for this story and world. I don’t know that I’ll ever get to where my ability is in tune with my vision, but I think that’s all right. The moment your execution exceeds your vision you stop progressing.
AP2HYC: Will we see more stories in the world of Airth?
Parker: I’d love to do more stories in this world. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Gotta keep my eye on this target and see if I can nail it first!
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