With 2000 AD Prog 2224, Dan Abnett and Richard Elson are bringing us the second season of their fantasy epic with a difference – Feral & Foe.
Although after the ending of season one, getting Wrath and Bode back is a BIG surprise…
Running in 2000 AD Progs 2162-2174 , Feral & Foe is the fantasy tale of Necromancer Bode and warrior Wrath, two unfortunate former evil minions of the defeated Malign Lord. It’s five years after the Last-of-All-War, the Malign Lord’s plan to eradicate humanity failed and the land is now full of those who used to be part of his army of darkness, all of them, Wrath and Bode included, fleeing retribution from the Wretchfinders.
With a choice between being declared Feral & Foe and sentenced to execution, or working for the Wretchfinders in capturing their own, Bode and Wrath choose to keep their heads and set off on a new life filled with dangers, misadventures, lots of magical action and a fair few laughs.
And now, it’s time for season two… but be warned… you’re not going to find out just how Feral & Foe come back here, far too spoilery and fun to get to be shocked and amazed when you read it in 2000 AD Prog 2224!
Feral & Foe returns this April for its second season. I suppose the first thing to ask is for something of a recap and summary of what the strip is all about.
Dan Abnett: Feral & Foe is savage fantasy… two main characters who were on the losing (and evil) side of a “Great Fantasy War” who have to become collaborators and work with the ‘good’ guys. It’s not redemption, it’s survival. There was a lot of fun world-building for this, deliberately playing with and subverting all the classic fantasy tropes. I came up with the idea in response to what Rich wanted to draw, and I think we devised something that’s recognisably high fantasy yet is entirely its own thing. Strong streak of horror in it too.
With your previous strips, we’ve talked of the top line of the series, the simple series pitch, with me describing Brink as “True Detective meets Outland” and you describing The Out as “A love letter to the SF book-jacket art we grew up with.” So what about Feral & Foe?
DA: Feral & Foe is (tritely) “what happens when the Lord of the Rings is over, Sauron’s dead, and you’re an Ork”.
Now, in terms of this second series, the big question after the final episode of series one is how the hell are you managing to get a second series out of it? After all, the final page of the final episode was pretty… well… FINAL.
DA: It really was. It was a massive and – essentially – uncontrolled magical conflagration.
DA: It would be far too easy to use ‘magic’ as a get out of jail free card… our heroes have survived thanks to ‘magic reasons’ and can continue their adventures. But that is, kind of, the only way out… so I thought if it had to be magic, then it also had to be complicated. It had to be ’magic with massive consequences’.
Once I thought of an unexpected way of doing that, I felt I had a story that was worth pitching, and that Feral & Foe could continue.
Thus, without spoiling anything, this ‘season’ goes off on a very unusual tangent and literally mixes everything up, to comedic, horrific and “high adventure” effect…
Richard Elson: To say that I was delighted with the way Dan solved this conundrum is an understatement. I am having the time of my life drawing series 2 of Feral & Foe. It has taken me no time at all to grow immensely fond of our little group of characters and when I got the script for part one of this series I genuinely laughed out loud at the brilliance of what Dan was doing. I’m hoping that the readers will be as massively entertained as I have been by the direction that the story has taken.
So, given that we are getting a second series, what can we expect from this one? How many episodes here? What direction are you taking it?
DA: Essentially, this series is the same sort of length as the first, and like the first it has a significant meta-story that is explored through episodic stories. It also become something of a quest, leaning heavily into the tropes of ‘lonely questing fellowships on a mission’ found in classic fantasy and mythology, with a knowing nod to role playing adventures like Dungeons and Dragons. We expose some deeper lore of the world, and – most of all – there is significant development for the main characters.
What responses have you had to the first series of Feral & Foe?
DA: Resoundingly approving… which gave us the confidence to do more (and think up a way of getting out of the apparently inescapable ending of the first season).
In relation to creating new series such as Feral & Foe with Richard or The Out with Mark Harrison, did you have a plan of working together already?
DA: I have good, long-standing working relationship with Rich, as I have with Mark on The Out, Ian on Brink and Phil on Lawless. Feral & Foe was created specifically FOR Rich. We always discuss what they (the artists) are dying to draw, what interests them, and how that could become a story. Lots of collaboration and brainstorming, which I think makes for a strong strip.
Rich delighted me with the ideas he’s thrown back in response to my outlines and Feral & Foe has grown way beyond initial imaginings because of that brainstorming.
Rich and I have been working on Kingdom for a long time. It’s a very popular strip, a bit of 2K mainstay, and we love it. Since the early days, we agreed that we’d only produce new Kingdom stories when Rich was free (from other jobs) to work on it: it wouldn’t be a strip that continued with other artists when he was busy. So, we kind of do a series a year, roughly. When we assembled to plan the next Kingdom run I was a little undecided where to take Gene’s story next (I usually know well in advance, but I was less sure this time). When we talked, it became clear that Rich had a real ‘sword and sorcery’ itch he wanted to scratch. So I suggested we did something new for a change. Try something brand new for a ‘season’ to have a bit of fun and exercise creativity in a different direction.
Feral & Foe was the result of me listening to Rich’s ‘ingredient list’ and coming up with a framework to contain all the various things he was excited by. It actually happened very fast…we were up and running within a few weeks of deciding to rest Kingdom and do something else. I think you can feel that freshness and renewed vigour in that first series. It just got us fired up really quickly and we went for it.
With Feral & Foe, both Rich and I assumed we were on the starting line for another book of Kingdom, and then suddenly we were doing something else. It was like a last-minute holiday, booked at short notice because we suddenly realised we had a long weekend free. Entirely spontaneous and ‘what the hell’. I don’t know which is better – finally getting to go on that dream holiday you’ve been planning for years, or suddenly going off on an unplanned vacation at the drop of the hat.
Richard, as with most people, you’ve already worked with Dan (the most prolific writer around perhaps?) on Avatar and, more recently, Kingdom. How does this successful collaboration work for all concerned?
RICHARD ELSON: Working with Dan is a total joy. He is a really top bloke, brimming with great ideas and his work rate is inhuman. Having said that, I always feel like he’s investing a lot of energy, enthusiasm and passion into whatever it is that we are working on together.
Back when Dan came up with the original idea for Feral & Foe, we had a long phone call where he filled me in on his ideas for the story. Matt and I both chipped in with suggestions and preferences. I did a sheet of designs, with notes on things I thought might be visually interesting to add into the mix, while Dan came back with a more polished draft which got the green light and (as with any new series) we’ve been incrementally evolving it as we’re working away on it.
In terms of the look for Feral & Foe, what dictated the style you adopted for it?
RE: Environments are pretty important to Feral & Foe, so there’s a bit more in the way of elaborate scene setting than usual. The ambient atmosphere (in my mind) is kind of mythical, murky and Brothers Grimm/Arthur Rackham-ish and smells really bad.
I’m going to have to try and find a way of getting all of that into the drawings, but it’ll no doubt end up looking like my regular stuff.
Richard, what’s your process for creating Feral & Foe, how are you working?
RE: The art is all done digitally, in Photoshop. I think there’s a slight change to the line quality part way through this series as I switch to using a cintiq 24 pro, from the cintiq 13 that I was previously using. I’m much happier with the look of the work from that point on. Trying to get a finish that I am happy with, working digitally, is an ongoing process for me; I hope I’m getting closer using my current set up.
RE: I always approach my pages in the same way; I start with a small thumbnail, to layout the panels, then proceed to a blue line rough to choreograph the figures, a redline pencil to tighten up any bits that might need a bit of work before inks and finally, colours. You can see the separate stages in page two of the first episode.
We’ve included those four stages above as a quartet of images and at the end of this interview as four separate images – all the better to see all the details of Richard’s art.
Finally, what are your future plans, both with Feral & Foe and with new strips coming up this year?
DA: Feral and Foe wil keep Rich and me occupied for a little while yet. Beyond it, from me, you can expect more Brink, more of The Out, the bloodstained continuation of Bulletopia in Sinister Dexter (or should that be Dexter?), and, of course, Lawless blazes on in the Megazine. It’s interesting (and healthy, I hope) that in each case, including Feral and Foe, the status quo of each strip changes significantly… perhaps forever. There are some big twists, surprises and revelations in store.
RE: I’m not exactly sure what I will be doing when Feral & Foe part 2 ends. Hopefully, something pops up (it usually does, fortunately), but I have nothing definite at the moment.
Yep, I reckon there’s definitely going to be something that crops up for Richard – he’s too good not to have some art out there!
And a huge thank you to both Dan and Richard for taking the time to answer those questions.
You can find the new series of Feral & Foe kicking off in 2000 AD Prog 2224.
Now, those four individual stages of Richard putting together page two of the first part of this second season of Feral & Foe that we promised you…
And finally from us, you can also see more of Richard Elson’s process of putting his art together with his Covers Uncovered piece for the Feral & Foe cover to 2000 AD Prog 2163 here as well as his Judge Dredd vs Shako cover for 2000 AD Prog 2192 here.