Out this week from Dark Horse Comics, writer/artist Megan Huan unveils her debut series Rangers of the Divide. This sci-fi action hybrid follows an elite commander and a group of untested peacekeepers joining forces for their first mission into uncharted territories. (Read: alien creatures and lots of insanity.) It’s a hugely imaginative series — just look at the preview pages below — while also emphasizing great worldbuilding and plenty of emotional punch. Plus, how can you go wrong with mythical beasts and dragons?
Since we were the first to reveal the series way back in February, it’s been near the list of 2021’s must-reads. Now, we’re doing one better than a simple reveal, as Huang was kind enough to answer a few questions about the series, including her creative process, her approach to art and color and light, and so much more.
AIPT: Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions, Megan! I had a chance to read Rangers of the Divide #1, and I’m in awe of many things found in this work! How do you approach creature design? Your animals are out of this world!
Megan Huang: Thank you! I feel like they literally are out of this world! I designed all the animals in the book to be unique from ours. You won’t find any ordinary deer, squirrels, or grizzly bears there. Only strange new variants. It was actually quite hard to come up with new creatures, I had to pull from real life, pop culture, and a little bit of mythology in order to get what I felt was a decent blend for their designs. It may sound easy, but I did shed a few tears of frustration over the designs, especially when I saw others artists and character designers pumping them out like it was nothing. But I think I got there in the end.
AIPT: This is your debut comics series — what made Dark Horse, and this story, the right fit for Rangers of the Divide?
MH: Dark Horse handles all sorts of titles, ranging from manga to horror. With such variety, I definitely felt like I could maybe find a place in the middle, especially after just having worked on Jia and the Nian Monster with them (so at least I knew they liked me to some extent, haha!). As I write this, the book has yet to hit shelves, so I can’t say for sure how well it fits in just yet, but I hold hope that it’ll do well and finds its place among Dark Horse’s awesome array of titles! Though that is definitely a tall order.
AIPT: When it comes to world-building, where did you start with this series? It feels very rich.
MH: I started actually with wanting to do a fantastical buddy-cop book set in a fantastical kingdom. But I definitely moved away from that in the following iterations, which honestly got worse before they got better. I think I finally got to a decent place when I decided that less is more. At one point the story had gods, something about king Midas, demons, portals I think… and more. So yeah, cutting the majority of that out worked wonders for the story and setting.
AIPT: Are you a gamer? I don’t know why but the series feels like a gaming world!
MH: I am! I’m a huuuuge gamer! Mostly PS4 titles, but also a teensy bit of Nintendo stuff. Rangers was particularly inspired by, Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last of Us, God of War (reboot sequel), and a bit of Until Dawn. I would say The Witcher, but I actually hadn’t played it until after I developed the story. Which is weird, because I know folks and myself have noticed similarities between Geralt and Arick, physically and personality-wise.
AIPT: Were there any works of fiction or non-fiction that inspired you growing up?
MH: Anything with dragons definitely inspired me. I’ve always wanted to write a book, or draw a comic about them, and now I have my chance! The non-fiction inspiration would have to be wildlife documentaries and books. I remember going to my elementary school’s library and checking out a book that would sate my animal obsession of the week (mostly birds, horses, frogs, lizards, and rodents). Looking back, I’m glad I was such a weird kid, I think absorbing that kind of stuff definitely helped to make Rangers into what it is today. Also, it’s fun to spout animal facts to people, haha.
AIPT: I love how your colors have a glow to them, which gives this world an alien vibe, but also one of peacefulness and awe. How do you create this effect and what are you trying to bring to the story through color?
MH: Well, literally speaking, I use “linear dodge (add)” in photoshop a lot. That’s how I mostly manage the glow. Combine that with an airbrush and you’re golden! But non-literally I think I pull from a lot of reference from other art, comics, and photography. Sometimes I’ll even take screenshots of movies or TV. Star Wars Rebels, James Cameron’s Avatar, and Oblivion (the Tom Cruise film), are particularly good references with excellent lighting.
AIPT: We’re big Star Wars fans at AIPT, with a podcast devoted to it, and I saw you have shared Star Wars inspired art on your Twitter. Can you tell us what your favorite piece of Star Wars is and how it may (or may not!) have inspired your storytelling?
MH: Sure! I think what I love about Star Wars is that it’s its own thing. So while Star Trek is great it has limitations being set in our universe. Star Wars, meanwhile, gives us something completely new. I wanted the same thing to reflect in Rangers. Just like Star Wars I wanted everything (aside from humans) to be brand new so people could escape to that world entirely.
And my favorite Star wars films are The Phantom Menace and The Force Awakens. 😉
AIPT: If you were to describe Rangers of the Divide in one word, what would it be and why?
MH: Oh man, a lot of the words I came up with made me sound super pretentious about my work haha, but I’d say… ‘inventive’ if that’s not too pretentious? Building off of what I said in my last answer, I think there’s a lot of fresh ideas that people can escape with in Rangers.
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