INTERVIEW: welcome to The House of Gilded Peak with Eddie Robson and Steven Austin
Creative team behind new fantasical Tharg's 3riller talk to the 2000 AD blog
1 day ago
The latest Tharg’s 3Riller in Prog 2058 delivers three episodes of Elizabethan escapades in The House of Gilded Peak.
This period heist with a magical twist sees the dubious Knight Sir Aranchet of Osterberg get an offer he can’t refuse from the mysterious female crook Tris. What secrets will they uncover in the magical mansion and can they get away with the crime of the 17th Century?
Richard Bruton pulled up a stool in the local tavern, poured writer Eddie Robson and artist Steven Austin a draft of ale, and started asking questions. Welcome to The House of Gilded Peak....
Your Tharg’s 3Riller The House Of Gilded Peak begins in Prog 2058, out on the22nd November. Can you give us all a quick idea of what to expect from the tale?
Eddie Robson: It's set in a fantasy world where a rich family's house vanished several years ago. A thief called Tris knows it's not gone, just hidden - and she has a plan to rob it.
Eddie, you’re becoming something of a go to 3Riller writer now, with six to your name, including this new one. How do you find the particular mechanics of these 3Rillers, with just three five-page episodes to deliver beginning, middle and end of the tale?
ER: You can pack a lot into one of these. I find them a good home for ideas that otherwise wouldn't have a home. I work in several different media and the ideas I channel into 3rillers tend to be ones where the story plays out nicely in a short space. To me they feel like movies, but ones where if you filmed them they'd only be about half an hour long. And of course it can have the visual scale of a movie. Having said that, I did originally pitch this as a series, with Tris and her gang getting involved in a series of heists, and an ongoing plot running through that. But Tharg decided he'd just like to see a single story play out with these characters.
This new 3Riller is a fantasy heist set in the city of Emporarius, with magic rampant in an Elizabethan-esque setting. But from the very first panel, there’s obviously something more magical or fantastical going on. Any particular reason for the setting?
Steven Austin: Eddie made it clear in the script that this was a city 'like' 17th Century London but with a populous as vast as it is today and different!! Based upon this it needed some elements within it that broke away from 'reality' of life in 17th Century London. Initially I suggested to Eddie that perhaps we could have some technological elements which Eddie went along with as long as tech was more steampunkesque so as keeping with a magical vibe.
Your two main characters are the knight of dubious background; Sir Aranchet of Osterberg and the mysterious female crook Tris. It’s Tris’ plan to get into and rob the hidden House of Gilded Peak, setting up the heist element of the tale. Was it always planned as a heist story?
ER: I can very clearly explain where the idea came from: I was reading The Hobbit to my eldest son, having never read it before or seen any version of it. At the beginning, when they come to bring Bilbo into the group, it feels like they're putting together a team for a heist and I thought what a cool idea that was, I'd never seen a heist story in a fantasy world before... and then most of the book is taken up with more traditional quest-type stuff. I was a bit disappointed the theft itself is only a small part of the story, because I love heist stories. So I thought, why don't I write a heist set in a fantasy world then? I wanted to make it clearly different from The Hobbit, so instead of a medieval-styled fantasy world I decided to have a 17th century-styled one: a world with lots of social conventions and aristocratic families seemed a good place to set a heist, with the crooks trying to infiltrate that world. And I definitely wanted to have magic in it, because that played really well into the idea of a heist crew having different skills, all of which are needed for the heist to come off.
One thing I did particularly appreciate here was how quickly you and Steven managed to establish the world, the background, the essence of the story you’re telling. There’s a definite storytelling and visual shorthand used through the five pages, how important is getting the mix right of this shorthand versus the story?
ER: I worry about it quite a lot, because you don't have a lot of space and you want everything to come across clearly. You have to use a lot of jumps in time and space to compress the story, and you have to make sure those don't jar. In these short stories you end up drawing on archetypes a lot, I think - certainly I did in this. Situations and characters that are familiar from other fictions - and of course you want to put a new spin on them, otherwise it's just something we've all seen before. But you have very little time to introduce characters and you want their role in the story to be clear from the outset.
Eddie, you’ve a very diverse writing CV, taking in radio, sketch writing, TV, audio drama, comics, fiction and non-fiction prose. How is writing for comics different?
ER: A lot of storytelling is the same in any medium. You have to think of the different audiences though. Writing for comics is different in terms of subject matter - in most other fields SF and fantasy is a hard sell and viewed as niche, whereas in comics it's the exact opposite. I like how it's collaborative, but within a quite small, manageable group of people - it's neither as solitary as prose nor as big as TV. Above all I think the most distinctive thing about comics writing is how you work in clear, definable units. You work in panels, pages, issues - which can pose its own challenges, and be annoying at times, but it's like an enjoyable puzzle and when it slots together it's extra satisfying.
Steven, this is your third piece in 2000 AD, with a Time Twister and Future Shock already under your belt. As a relatively new artist, what advice do you have for any prospective artists looking to get their work seen? And how pleasing is it to be in the pages of 2000 AD once more?
SA: Being in the Prog is always amazing and slightly surreal. Also it's daunting as I'm someone who when I revisit my work only ever sees mistakes or if not mistakes question the way I have drawn particular panels and then to make matters worse the work is obviously then published in the Prog and sandwiched between two other flawless artists. I think my last Future Shock was straight after The Order painted by John Burn and before Simon Davis’ Sláine. I always try and do something within a story that takes me out of my comfort zone. This is something that I would suggest all artists try, it’s very easy to get into the habit of drawing what you know you can draw, instead strive to do stuff you find hard. Carry this through into working for small press where you can. I've drawn for numerous titles including Zarjaz, Future Quake and the Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel. It was actually a story I drew for Zarjaz entitled Cal's Arena that I submitted to Tharg that led to my first gig, this was following four other submissions and rejections using the sample scripts from the 2000 AD website. Anyone submitting needs a thick skin, perseverance and to listen and act upon any feedback given by the editor. Every time I received a rejection I would scream 'AAARGGGHHH NEVER AGAIN'!! Then, a few days later I'd start on my next submission.
How did you both first get into comics?
ER: Writing strips for Doctor Who Adventures, which I got because via my other Doctor Who spinoff work.
SA: As far as drawing comics, it’s something I always dreamed of doing. I had no idea how to go about it so ended up moving away from the idea, still always drawing but just for fun. A few years ago my wife and I moved and I got a new job as a community business manager at a school. I hated the job, and after three years was looking at giving it up and working as a freelance storyboard artist and illustrator but was hesitating. However one evening I was covering a shift and the local badminton club were in playing. I was having a chat with one of the players and he mentioned something about one of their players being 'sort' of famous, my ears pricked up and I asked what sort of stuff this chap did and he said comics. I was intrigued and asked his name to which he replied Brian Bolland. I had to hold onto my desk as my legs gave a little!! Needless to say I introduced myself to Brian, trying not to sound like a fan-boy but failing miserably, and over the following weeks/months he would very kindly have a look at my work and give feedback and encouragement. I think this was the turning point where I decided to chuck the job in and just go for. Meeting Brian certainly reignited a passion I had long forgotten.
Who are your biggest influences?
ER: Oh, loads of people. Angela Carter, Paul Auster, the Coen brothers, Daniel Clowes, Douglas Adams, Hiyao Miyazaki, Rik Mayall, Jed Mercurio. This particular story was influenced by Jane Eyre - I'd recently read Dame Darcy's illustrated edition - and The Castle of Otranto.
SA: I always say an artist’s style is a culmination of failed attempts to draw like ones idols and so based upon this my work looks like 'none' of my influences. Top of my list of 2000 AD artists would be Brian Bolland, Cam Kennedy and Steve Dillon.
What are your first memories of 2000 AD, whether that’s characters or strips?
ER: I think my first ones were those dodgy US-format reprints of Dredd strips from about 1990, which looked quite bad but I loved them. I fondly remember a reprint of You Bet Your Life, an early Wagner/Gibson strip.
SA: The first Prog I ever bought was issue 277, it was the fungus story from Judge Dredd, I'd just turned 10 and I remember the fact that there were so many stories within one comic and the fact the artwork was so different really hooked me.
What about a dream 2000 AD job?
ER: Writing the remaining books of Halo Jones. Although it wouldn't be a dream really because everyone would hate me for doing it, so it would be awful. But I can't think of anything I'd like to write more than that.
SA: I think anyone who wants to draw for the Prog wants to draw Dredd, and I'm no different. Also eventually I would love to have a bash at a cover.
You can read the first episode of the three part 3Riller The House of Gilded Peak in Prog 2058, in all good newsagents and comic shops now!