Welcome to another edition of Post-Game. As the title suggests, we’re aping a little NFL-inspired post-game coverage for the realm of comics, allowing a slew of creators to come in and examine their work after the fact. Through this rare instance of hindsight, we can all gain a better appreciation for our favorite stories and series and better grasp the truly nuanced creative process. And unlike with football, we promise no (excessively) wacky graphics or needlessly bulky suits.
For more from the series, check out Shawn Kittelsen exploring Heart Attack, Dennis Culver and Justin Greenwood examining Crone, Ben Fisher breaking down The Great Divide, Anthony Del Col covering Nancy Drew And The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie, David Avallone delving into Doc Savage, Phil Hester dissecting Family Tree, Jeff Parker tackling James Bond Origin and Mark Russell discussing Lone Ranger.
Title: The White Trees
Creative Team: Written by Chip Zdarsky and with art by Kris Anka
Story Arc: The entire two-issue mini-series.
Original Release Date: August to September 2019
Synopsis: This modern, highly inventive fantasy series follows three warriors who once fought together to save the realm of Blacksand. But after 20 bitter years, they must now reunite to save their children — and prevent war from once again threatening the land.
AIPT’s Thoughts: From Vishal Gullapalli’s review of issue #2, “Every page matters, and the conclusion is a natural, satisfying ending to the tragic tale set up in the story’s first pages… As Zdarsky and Anka’s first major foray into fantasy, this series has been a massive success, and readers can only hope that there will be more content in this universe.”
AIPT: How do you feel now that this story’s been told? Is there a sense of relief, or are there any uneasy feelings? Was its creation/development a “good” experience overall?
Kris Anka: I’m very proud of the book. It came at a time where I had been exclusive at Marvel for the entirety of my comics career and i wanted to get something under my belt that i could call my own. I had approached Chip Zdarsky because we worked so well together on Star-Lord to see if he had any ideas that might fit for me and he had this little idea about dads going to rescue their kids during a war, but it was originally a sci-fi setting. I asked him to tweak it to something for fantasy just because that was more exciting for me, but the development from there was incredibly easy.
AIPT: Are you the type of artist/writer to go back and think about what worked or didn’t with a story or the overall volume? Is that process helpful at all?
KA: Not particularly. There are of course always things i could redraw or re-stage to work “better”, but id rather focus my energy on moving forward.
AIPT: How do you think the overall storyline or larger aesthetic/visual identity played out now that you’re looking at it as a wholly completed project? Has that shifted at all?
KA: I think it overall worked well, or at least it did the job i was intending for it. There was a particular attempt to distinguish the world of Blacksand from the countless other fantasy settings that exist in comics and just media overall. I really wanted to approach this project as something i was building from the ground up both from the visual language of the world; i looked at a variety of Asian culture’s fashion and architecture, as well as approached race as something that didn’t signify morality or structure. There are no names to any of the races in the book nor do any of the characters have any biases based on race.
AIPT: What kind of feedback have you received? Has any of that helped shape some of your thoughts on the larger series/story?
KA: From what I had seen, it was largely positive. I think the overall low-page count for the whole story helped a lot at giving people an easily digestible story. I think people also resonated with the maturity of the story as well. Not just because we had open and varied depictions of sex and sexuality, but also discussions on parenthood and grief and love.
AIPT: What, if anything, surprised you about how the story or visual narrative plays out in hindsight? Is there some reaction or emotion now associated with the series that you might not have felt during the actual creative process?
KA: I think the only big change for me was that my father passed away just as we wrapped up the series, so the story we told, especially that second issue, became far more personal for me.
AIPT: Now that it’s finished, how would you describe the series/story to someone (what’s your best elevator pitch)? Did that change at all from before publication?
KA: “Three dads team up to save their children to keep a war from erupting out”. I think the nature of the story being so short always helped it to be easily defined.
AIPT: Did you have any goals going into the project? Did you “complete” those in some way?
KA: As I was kind of saying before, the big goal for me when approaching this book was to holistically build a fantasy story from the ground up. I had an opportunity to entirely build a truly new world and i didn’t want to bring in any baggage of genre or previous depictions into this. An easy one to point out was i made a note that i didn’t want the queer dads to have a bad relationship with one of their ex’s, largely due to the fact that its tropey and I’ve seen it before and i was frankly tired of it. Once i sort of figured out things i didn’t want (classic fantasy races, “evil” races, European aesthetics and settings, etc.) it became easy to figure out what i did want because it could be anything.
AIPT: Is there anything you might do differently in writing/illustrating/coloring/etc.? Some things you wish had played out differently?
KA: Honestly, not really. The story was so short that I’m just happy with how well it was able to work in 60 pages.
AIPT: Inversely, what do you think are the highlights of the story? What are the points in which you excelled as you’re looking at the whole project from a distance?
KA: I think everyone brought their A-game on this book, and I think the entire creative team synced up like never before. Specifically for me I think it was able to design an entire world for the first. All the comics I had done before either played in another’s playground or took place in settings that are well known or real. I had a lot of experience with designing costumes, but now I got to design everything and truly figure out my design language in every aspect.
AIPT: Do you have any final thoughts or observations on the story/series?
KA: Largely I’m just proud that something created originally just to be a small fun passion project came together so well. We all wanted to create something that was fun for us on every level and it goes to show how much of that came through in the final book.