Sword And Daughter For Pain And Parenthood
Apr 08, 2018
by Vince Brusio
Tackling a lifetime of trauma is like trench warfare at midnight. The bullets keep flying overhead, and they’re coming from every direction — with no end in sight. Imagine a life that is only about pain, and then add to that the weight of parenting. Only there is no one helping you, and you live in a period where there is no welfare, or daycare. There isn’t even electricity. So how does one manage a protective environment for the children? Especially when death is around every corner? The fear of parenting collides with the pain of survival in Brian Wood’s Sword Daughter Volume 1: She Brightly Burns HC (JUN180326) from Dark Horse Comics, and the writer along with his artist and co-creator Mack Chater talk about the series in this PREVIEWSworld exclusive interview.
Sword Daughter Volume 1: She Brightly Burns HC (JUN180326) is in comic shops November 28.
Vince Brusio: The premise of this book is that “Forty Swords came at night and murdered the entire village.” This is a “Viking revenge saga,” so it’s safe to say that this book isn’t about lollipops and unicorns. We’ve known you’ve done work like this before (those of us who read Northlanders). But tell us about how this story will appeal to those readers who grew up on Lone Wolf and Cub.
Brian Wood: The core of this story for me is the idea of a parent and child versus the world. Putting aside the Viking stuff for a second, that core idea is powerful drama that is relatable and emotional, could be tragic, could be heartwarming, and suggests a journey in and of itself. As a parent, it resonates. As a child of a single parent, it resonates.
Lone Wolf and Cub was a big initial influence. I'd also say Cormac McCarthy's The Road is another. The open road, open landscape, the things that happen en route, the quest, the mission... all of this is at the root of Sword Daughter.
We wrap that heady drama into a classic revenge quest story, our two protagonists seeking out the criminal organization that wronged them. It's a quest that could take years to complete, so there's stories that happen along the way, ups and downs, epic battles, "level bosses" to defeat, and so on.
Vince Brusio: What makes this time period and culture so fascinating to you as a writer?
Brian Wood: It's a whole bunch of things. This time period is endlessly fascinating to me because on a primal level it’s a story of man (and women) against the elements, struggling to carve a life out in forbidding landscapes and brutal weather. It's also a time of huge cultural change - exploration of new lands, religious tension, and war. I've been researching this stuff, steadily, since I started Northlanders a decade ago.
Vince Brusio: Tell us about Eisbeth and Dag. How are they balanced? How are they fractured? What’s so special about their chemistry in that it is different from a “normal” father/daughter relationship?
Brian Wood: So to give away a little of the set-up from #1 - not a spoiler - this criminal band of warriors burned down a village, killing everyone but a very young child and her father. He's overcome with the loss of his wife and slips into a 10-year meditative state, something like a coma, and his daughter is left alone. When he wakes up ten years later, he meets this strange girl, a feral girl with no language but, amazingly, survived.
The story is these two people trying to reconnect, to get over the traumas of the past, the guilt and anger and sadness - while working together to seek justice.
Vince Brusio: This is being rolled out as an ongoing series. You must have an extensive vision about where you would like to go with this story. What themes will you be exploring in your narratives? Self-sacrifice? Forgiveness? The politics of hatred?
Brian Wood: Those, certainly, but in the context of parenthood, of family dynamics, and what I shorthand as 'parental fear' - the thing all parents experience when they realize there is only so much they can do to prepare their children for survival in a tough world.
Vince Brusio: How does Mack Chater’s artwork do what words can’t?
Mack Chater: One of the challenges I really enjoy drawing Sword Daughter is the subtleties. Trying to create the tiniest of movement for the biggest emotional impact. The tilt or drop of a head or subtle eye movement to convey a feeling. Elsbeth is the toughest and most fun to draw, since she doesn't speak very often! It's all in her body language and facial expressions. I love those challenges from Brian's scripts.
Brian Wood: Mack's a great artist. I'll leave it to him to explain the visual approach we're taking with this book, but I'll just say that any script any writer produces is only a fraction of what makes up a comic, and his contribution is what makes it come alive. Plus Jose Villarrubia on colors? Greg Smallwood doing covers? Blambot on letters? It's an amazing team.
Vince Brusio: If Mack is trying to show us a window into someone’s soul, how does that character need to be seen? What perspective should be exploited? What illustrative technique is most effective for us to be able to peek into someone’s closet?
Mack Chater: Following on from the previous question, one thing I've tried to do is keep the art feeling real. I haven't used too many normal comic book tropes (foreshortening or breaking the panels) only when really necessary (and for storytelling purposes).
Another technique I've used is detail. The first issue is a slower-paced book, the tentative beginnings of the father/daughter reconnection, so as we linger on some of the scenes, I've used detail to slow the reader’s eye, and hopefully, influence the time that way.
Dag is fun, his emotions are written in his face/his pose etc, so he does have some animated scenes. Elsbeth is a lot more guarded, and as I mentioned, her reactions (for the most part) have to be more controlled!
Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.