Drachein by Allen Watson and Danny Curtin (Kickstarter Announcement)

High fantasy stories are everywhere; plug and play your white male protagonists and save the world. This is due, in part, to their over-reliance on the European landscape that was popularised by creators such as Tolkien and Martin and, while not inherently bad, have certainly been told before. Drachein has risen up in response to this trend, dragging the focus back across the Atlantic and placing it in the lap of a young woman named Aliyana.

The Kickstarter for Drachein went live on Kickstarter today. I was fortunate enough to get ahead of the crowd and talk to series artist Allen Watson, with Danny Curtin sliding in where required, about his artistic influences, his views on the inclusion of violence in a fantasy book and the importance of providing another angle on the fantasy genre.

Mark Dickson: What is the quick elevator pitch for Drachein?

Allen Watson: Drachein is an American fantasy epic set in an eponymously named vast continent. Drachein is a nation made of many tribes, collectively known as The Drachein who are divided by their endless differences, yet united in their stand against the mighty Second Empire.

With their enemy initially vanquished, the Drachein fell when their internal differences grew too tall. The malevolent survivors of the Second Empire regained strength in the cracks of the divided nation of Drachein and, with a final blow, destroyed the remnants of this once mighty people. Hence forth, the nation of Drachein was nothing more than ruins and empty memories.

Aiyana, just a young girl, faces the aftermath of this conflict, not knowing that she is the last of the Drachein royal bloodline. Living as the protégé to Kanna, Aiyana must overcome her obstacles and reunite the Drachein once more.

How did you the two of you meet each other and who approached who with the idea for Drachein?

Allen Watson: I met Danny Curtin freshman year of high school and we’ve been best friends ever since. Together, we created a heavy metal band called Drachein. A lot of the basic ideas of the world of Drachein were created in the band and were basically all that we talked about in our songs. As time went on, we stopped playing music to focus on our artistic careers. A few years later I graduated from Pratt Institute for Illustration and we both decided to pivot the story of Drachein from music and song to a comic book medium.

Drachein pitches itself as an alternative to the well-known fantasy titles such as Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Are you drawing any conscious influences from those worlds?

Danny Curtin: I would say most well known fantasy works draw their influence from the mythological traditions of Europe, and Drachein expands on this inspiration. Our story is informed by our environment: the US north-east and to a greater extent, North America. While it also takes cues from Indigenous American, African, and European folklore, Drachein reflects the complicated history and diverse cultural landscape that surrounds us while delivering the epic drama familiar to the fantasy genre.

When Drachein begins, the world has already gone through countless years of history that has torn the world to pieces. How did you deal with building a new world from scratch, given that its prominent history has already passed by?

Danny Curtin: Our young heroine, Aiyana, having been raised in isolation until now is just as unfamiliar with the world of Drachein as someone first opening this comic book. All of Aiyana’s adventures, curiosity, mistakes and lessons learned, provide us with an opportunity to reveal bits and pieces of the long history of Drachein. Both Aiyana and the reader will have to put these pieces together in order to understand why the world is the way it is, and what her place is.

Can you tell me a little bit about the protagonist, Aiyana?

Danny Curtin: Aiyana is a young 11 year old girl who has been raised in isolation by her friend and mentor, Kanna. Kanna wants nothing more than than to shield Aiyana from the evil that she knows exists in the world. Yet, much to Kanna’s chagrin, Aiyana is energetic, curious, and easily finds herself in all sorts of trouble. The world of Drachein is vast, and filled with all kinds of people. It's political situation is complex and precarious, so Aiyana will need all her wits as she navigates both friends and foes.

Are you drawing from any inspiration with her character?

Allen Watson: In creating the look and personality of Aiyana, I looked to my three nieces as inspiration. They are all extremely confident, independent, intelligent, beautiful girls that inspire me to be the best person I can be everyday.

Also, as creators of a new fantasy epic, Danny and myself were more interested in giving people of color the spotlight and telling a adventure from a perspective that we rarely see in most Euro-centric fantasy tales. We aim to change that up a bit as we tell our new tale from a point of view that’s more reminiscent of North America and its diverse history.

What has been your favourite place/character/story beat to draw?

Allen Watson: My favorite thing to draw so far has been Kanna and Aiyana and their interactions with each other. It’s really a fun challenge to illustrate just how much those two care for each other. Oh and definitely Kanna’s fight scenes. She’s a beast with those axes.

Your art does not shy away from graphic detail when it comes to the appropriate moments. How does that affect the tone of the book?

Allen Watson: I’ve always liked to draw the gorey details of things, while also aiming to add a certain amount of grit to my work; my main focus is to give the reader something they can really feel on the page. So with Drachein I wanted to be very tasteful about the gore, but make sure it retains a sort of realism; nothing too over the top. Our goal is to create a fantasy tale that stills hits like a solid adult graphic novel, but could still be enjoyed by young adults.

Who do you count as your artistic influences?

Allen Watson: There’s just so many good artists out there right now. I would have to say the the artists that I always look to for inspiration are Brian Stelfreeze, Greg Capullo, Jerome Opeña, Olivier Coipel, Sean Murphy and Stuart Immonen. Those guys are all masters and can do no wrong.

Oh god, also Bilquis Evel;, she perfectly blends that classic look with the modern style and it’s just too damn good.

Everyone has a memory of the first comic that got them hooked on the medium. What's yours?

Allen Watson: I think it would have to be Batman: Hush. I fell out of comics for a couple years in junior high but then Jeph Leob and Jim Lee’s Hush came out and I just couldn’t put it down. Lee’s art was so cinematic and the story managed to work in all of Batman’s best villains, I was hooked. At that point I was old enough to really make a conscious to chase my dreams of drawing comics.

Drachein is live on Kickstarter right now and will be for the next 30 days. Head on over and give what money you can and you won't regret it. Drachein looks absolutely fantastic and you're going to want to be on the ground floor for a project like this.