Looking for a fantasy comic with a bit more meat to it than the mostly light confections to be found between the covers of fantasy comic books? How about one based on acclaimed series of novels often compared to the venerable "Lord of the Rings?"
Lucky you: Image Comics is publishing just such a comic, "The Hedge Knight," the first issue of which hit stands this week.
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"The 'Hedge Knight' is a novella," Roaring Studios publisher Les Dabel told CBR News on Tuesday. "A short story that was written in a book called 'Legends' (Raymond E. Feist, Tad Williams, Orson Scott Card, Robert Jordan, and Anne McCaffrey were some of the other authors whose short stories were included), which was edited by Robert Silverberg.
"The 'Hedge Knight' is the prequel to George R.R. Martin's world-renowned 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series, which currently consists of three excellent books: 'A Game of Thrones,' 'A Clash of Kings,' and 'A Storm of Swords.' George R.R. Martin is currently working on his fourth book, 'A Feast for Crows.' The 'Hedge Knight' takes place about 90 years before 'A Game of Thrones.'
"It is a story about Dunk (a 17 year old that stands at seven feet tall), a hedge knight (which basically means a knight with no loyalty to a particular house, he roams from house to house providing his services to whoever is willing to pay for them.) who sets out to Ashford Meadow to compete in the competition against some of the greatest knights of the Seven Kingdoms. Dunk meets Egg, a little boy whose head is as bald as an egg. As Dunk makes plan for the tournament, Egg makes plans to become the hedge knight's squire. Dunk discovers at the tournament that being good can sometimes land you into serious trouble and that his standing up for what is right will ultimately change the course of history for the Seven Kingdoms.
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"Martin fans who read 'A Song of Ice and Fire' will be able to read about the royal Targaryan house, and the forefathers of many of the noble houses that we have come to know very well."
Of course, some "Hedge Knight" readers might not have read the novels yet.
"How do I sum up this TERRIFIC series. Mmmm, let me see ... First off, you have to sleep before you pick up the books, because once you start reading you will not sleep until you are done. The story is beautiful in itself, the King's Hand (second in command after the King.) has died under mysterious circumstances, so the king, Robert, travels to the north and appoints his childhood friend Ned as the new Hand. Soon Robert dies and all hell breaks loose throughout the realm as the minor kings that had sworn fealty to him now vie for the throne. There are no rules to this game of thrones, and the only goal is to sit on the Iron Throne. Mr. Martin's characters are not just good, neutral, or evil. His characters are goal-driven, each and everyone has his or her (and believe me Mr. Martin has some excellent women characters) own agenda and if another character's goal conflict with his/hers then they oppose each other. Each novel is about 800 pages, but you will fly through them, I guarantee it."
While Dabel is a fan of the series, he hadn't originally intended on doing a comic adaptation of the series.
"We had wanted to do a 'bestiary' for Mr. Martin and he mentioned that since we're a comic book company that we might as well do a comic book.
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"Many of the characters in 'The Hedge Knight' are mentioned in the longer series for having done a lot of things that shaped the outcome of the history of the Seven Kingdoms. There is something in particular that takes place at the end of 'The Hedge Knight' that changes the order of which Targaryan prince ascended the Iron Throne and if this had not happened then the storyline for 'A Song of Ice and Fire' would be completely different then it is today."
Once "The Hedge Knight" wraps its run, Roaring Studios will begin adapting the novels that make up "A Song of Ice and Fire," starting with the first novel.
"We're going to take some time once 'The Hedge Knight' is done before we start with 'A Game of Thrones,' because this will be a huge project and it is going to take time to plan out everything. Mike Miller, the superstar artist of 'GI Joe vs. Transformers' and 'The Hedge Knight' will be aboard for the long run on 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series. So we all know that we will get quality artwork. Ben Avery, the adaptor, is also on for the long run."
A preview edition of the comic was available at Comic-Con International in San Diego last month, and Dabel was one of those working the table and promoting the book.
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"I had five people that were not fans and I spoke to them and explained to them why it would be an investment for them to read the 'Hedge Knight.' Not only are they reading a New York Times best-selling story from George R.R. Martin but they are getting beautiful artwork from some of the best in the industry: Mike S. Miller, Michael Kaluta, the Hilderbrandt brothers, Boris Vallejo & Julie Bell, and many others. Either way you look at it, it's a win-win situation. Well, those five people came back to me and told me that they were happy that they had taken the chance and they told me that they enjoyed the 'Hedge Knight' comic book very much. That's five extra fans of Mr. Martin who will now go to the bookstores and read his wonderful books. As for the regular fans who came by, I didn't need to convince them, because they already knew how good a writer George R.R. Martin is, and the art, well, the art spoke for itself in its beauty."
With the first issue just now in stores, Dabel was willing to provide a brief preview of the second issue.
"Issue #2 introduces one of the most important characters in the series, 'Aerion.' Aerion is the one that sets up the whole story for THK with a foolish action he commits. I don't want to give any more away."