IDW Publishing takes to the stars this week with "Star Mage," a six-part series by writer Jason De La Torre and artists Ray Dillon and Franco Cespedes. A novelist and journalist, "Star Mage" marks De La Torre's first comic book project and tells the story of a teenage boy who discovers a secret heritage placing him smack-dab in the middle of an intergalactic war.
De La Torre spoke with CBR News about his first foray as a creator into the world of sequential art, revealing what inspired his sci-fi saga, what happens when you have to switch artists mid-series and just how epic his spacefaring adventure is.
CBR News: Jason, what is "Star Mage" about? And is it your first comics work?
Jason De La Torre: It is. I've always loved comics, since I was a little kid. I grew up on "Spider-Man," "Ghost Rider" and the "X-Men." As I grew older, my tastes in comics changed to more darker stuff like "30 Days of Night," "Spawn," Frank Miller stuff and "The Crow." Now-a-days I'm reading a lot of the licensed stuff like "Doctor Who" (I'm a huge fan of the television series -- we even have a full size TARDIS in our living room), "Star Trek" and "Buffy." I've also looked forward to Steve Niles' new "Jack the Ripper" project. The Ripper has been a fascination of mine for a while now. Of course I'm reading "The Walking Dead" -- who isn't?
"Star Mage" is about Darien Connows, a gifted 14-year-old boy who discovers he is not human, and is part of an ancient war between alien, magical races. While he learns of his legacy, destiny and importance to the battle, Darien establishes bonds with new, strange friends and learns his magical craft of Kishpu. I think the easiest way to describe it is "Harry Potter" meets the "Last Starfighter" with a slice of "Star Wars."
My writing style has always been very visual. I've always tried to mimic the pacing of a movie or a comic book, so I think it translates well to the medium. "Star Mage" seemed to be the perfect launching point.
Who are some of your biggest writing influences?
My work has been compared to Clive Cussler and Dan Brown. I'm very flattered by that, and I don't know if I deserve it. With that said, I do enjoy the good Robert Langdon book. I'm also really into horror novelists, Anne Rice, Stephen King. In comics, I really do love [Steve]Niles' stuff. O'Barr's "Crow," Frank Miller, Tony Lee and of course Robert Kirkman.
I'd say Steven Moffatt as well, but I'm afraid there's a subset of Whovians who will string me up for even mentioning him. It's okay, Whoniverse! Peter is going to be amazing and it's okay to love "Doctor Who," even without Matt!
What inspired "Star Mage?"
Well, I wouldn't be truthful if I didn't say JK Rowling's amazing world wasn't some inspiration. Of course it was. But really, I love science fiction, mysticism and magic. There haven't been many stories that mixed together magic, spaceships, aliens and what not (except to some extent "Star Wars" -- I'm sure there's a few others out there that I'll be called out on). I wanted my wizard duels with a slice of epic space battles. I looked to combine both genres, add a spice of moral commentary on bullying and troubled teens and see what popped out. I have to say, the story came out as I expected. I'm pretty pleased with the final product. I hope the comic community will be, as well.
How did "Star Mage" wind up at IDW?
A little luck, a lot of patience and some wonderful work by my artists. Ray Dillon did the artwork for issue #1, and he had done some work previously for IDW. He showed [IDW editor-in-chief] Chris Ryall some of the early stuff we were doing, and they were intrigued. Fast-forward a year and a half later, and issue #1 is done -- but Ray's scheduling prevented him continuing on the project. Franco Cespedes stepped in, got the next two done. Chris and his team patiently waited for us to get at least three of the series completed before they gave it a green light, and off we went. The run will be for six issues.
I want to thank IDW for standing by the project and believing in it. They easily could have tired of waiting for us and moved on. They're a big time player in the comics industry and they certainly didn't need us, but they saw something special with "Star Mage" and stayed with it.
What parts of the universe will we travel to during the course of "Star Mage?" Will we visit other alien planets and cultures?
You will be immersed into different worlds, the history and mythology of the Sarru Kishpu and you'll see plenty of alien cultures, monsters and bad guys. When I wrote the story, I wanted something with deep mythology and backstory. I want to see cosplay of the characters in "Star Mage," I want the fans of "Star Mage," whom I call the defenders of the realm, debating whether the Sarru Kishpu are benevolent heroes or an empire bent on domination. I want Darien to face a challenge that no one should ever face: Do what's right, or what's expected of you?
What was your working process with Ray Dillon and Franco Cespedes like?
I'm the writer and creator of "Star Mage" -- but I can't even draw stick figures, so I hired Ray Dillon to do the artwork for issue #1. Ray did everything -- pencils, inks, colors, the cover. He was a magician in his own right, delivering a spectacular looking book. I can't tell you how much of a thrill it is for a writer to receive that page for the first time and see what you pictured in your minds eye on the page in front of you.
When it became clear that Ray couldn't continue on the project, it was heartbreaking. But in the process, I discovered a hidden magic power of my own: the ability to find amazing artists. Franco Cespedes did some test pages, and blew me away. It's extremely difficult for an artist to mimic another's style, but Franco captured Ray's style right off, so the change isn't jarring to the reader. At the same time, Franco came in at the perfect time because after issue #1 is when you really get to see the world of the Sarru Kishpu -- the kings of sorcery. That's not to say issue #1 isn't crucial to the story. Without issue #1, you don't get the backstory of Darien -- crucial to later issues.
Both artists were excellent, with their attention to detail and use of awe-inspiring color. I am in stitches waiting for the comic world to begin to get glimpses of their amazing work.
"Star Mage" #1 is out Wednesday, April 16 from IDW Publishing.