Make room for a new fantasy barbarian with a killer instinct and a desire to chug mead post-slaying. Hitting stores on June 30, Barbaric is a new series from Michael Moreci and Nathan Gooden, with colors by Addison Duke, letters by Jim Campbell, and design by Tim Daniel. The title has already gone back for a second printing before it even released, proving that people are hungry for some epic sword and sorcery tales from an indie publisher like Vault Comics.
So, just what makes a killer fantasy comic with lots of gore and swordplay actually work? I was lucky enough to ask Moreci about the creation of Barbaric, his approach to gory fight scenes, and the importance of a lawless world in fantasy storytelling, among other tidbits.
AIPT: Hi Michael, David Brooke here from AIPT, thanks for taking the time to answer questions about the incredibly boss and badass Barbaric. Having read the first issue, I must say, bravo on reveling in action, gore, and fantasy. What was the first idea, thought, visual that came to you that eventually became Barbaric?
Michael Moreci: Thanks for saying that! I love writing this book. I truly do. So, the idea all started with Owen, the barbarian, getting murdered and resurrected by witches and forced to do good. I kind of love writing lousy people — flawed, you can say. But also lousy. Tim Seeley says he and I write “beautiful garbage,” and he’s not wrong!
It’s kind of like what I do in Wasted Space. You have Billy Bane, who at times is a pretty crappy person, but he’s in this position where he has to figure out, and force himself, into doing what’s right. I think it makes for both great drama and great humor. It feels honest, too. We may not all be Billy or Owen and have such an aversion to morality, but I think each and every one of us struggles with weighing our own wants and desires against some form of selflessness.
AIPT: What puts you in the mood to write blood-splattering comics?
MM: Being alive, haha.
Joking aside, this was the comic where I was like “I’m just going to let totally loose. F**k it.” And just allowing myself to forget so many things I’d learned about structure and character and all that, it was so freeing and makes this book such a joy to write. I’m not following the story “rules” in so many ways, so when I sit down to write Barbaric and just say “What crazy thing can I throw in here next?” and have it actually WORK because the story is designed as such — that’s a great feeling. I’m ready to do that all day.
AIPT: Nathan Gooden’s art here is inspired with a visual language that establishes a feel for the world and the characters. Where did you and Gooden start in finding a visual dictionary, so to speak, for Barbaric?
MM: Yeah, Nate’s the best. The absolute best. There are not enough adjectives to use to properly praise how good he is and what he’s bringing to Barbaric.
We had a lot of conversations leading up to starting the book–Nate and I are buddies in real life. And we both shared the same philosophy of just letting it rip while working on this book. Comics don’t do that anymore, and that’s what makes the medium so great. We’ve become too much like cinema or TV, and that, in my opinion, hinders the unbridled lunacy comics can deliver. Nate and I were very clear from the start that we’d be throwing the kitchen sink into this book, in story and art.
AIPT: Something I adored in the first issue is the double-page layout with each panel featuring mayhem and bloody violence. What goes into writing a scene like this?
MM: For me, not much! Honest, Nate is so good, and we work so well together, that I know when I can, and should, step back and let him have the freedom to just go. I give him a sense of what I think the page is, and what’s happening narratively, and he makes something that’s so great, and far better than I can ever try to direct. And that’s how it should be. It’s the same with Hayden and I on Wasted Space, or Josh and I on The Plot. This is what good artists do, and I for one am not going to get in their way.
AIPT: Fans of fantasy like this, like say Conan the Barbarian, seem to appreciate the lawlessness of the world. How important is it to have nudity in the story, along with gore, and is there a line you won’t cross when it comes to maimed limbs?
MM: I actually think it’s very important. This is what this tradition of story is–they’re big. You know? They’re violent and messy and there naked people and magic and all kinds of weird shit. Our goal is to take that and turn it up to 11. Is there a line I won’t cross? I mean, not really. Obviously, we’re not going to do anything that’s offensive, but in terms of proper taste…proper taste is for Masterpiece Theater.
AIPT: I appreciated how in the first issue we get some iconic fantasy locations, like on the sea, or in the gladiatorial ring. When you’re plotting a title like this, what goes into planning locations for the story?
MM: I always want to keep the locations fresh and specific, It keeps the book visually compelling and, in fantasy, having a world for characters to interact with is really important. But, again, it’s just a way for us to keep capturing that sense of scale–we want to be big. And having these iconic locations, and twisting them a bit, is important.
AIPT: Not for nothing, but I found the first issue to be very close to perfect. Which made me wonder, how much rejiggering of scenes, rewriting of dialogue, and editing of that nature took place to get it just right?
MM: Well, thanks! Honestly, that scene was pretty easy to write. That and the witches scene. This goes back to me throwing out rules of story. In a more traditional narrative, you’d probably have to show Owen’s “origins” in a more dynamic way. Hell, the first arc would probably be just that. But that’s not what we wanted. We wanted to get right to the fun, and the heart of the story. So I was like “Forget, let’s just put it all down.” It’s simple: Owen’s a barbarian, he has a talking axe that acts as his moral guide and gets drunk on blood, and witches cursed him to always have to do the right thing. We want to see that in action–there’s no sense delaying that gratification. We say what this book is, then we’re off and running.
AIPT: What comics are you reading right now?
MM: I just picked up The Fade Out, at last, and I’m finally reading Sandman (I know, I know — it’s a major blind spot for me), there’s The Autumnal, Money Shot, Shadecraft, Marjorie Finnegan, and I’m about to start Dark One. I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting. Lots of comics, always!
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