What would happen if dragons existed right alongside us everyday? What would happen if this were the 1930s and the Great Depression had just hit? Joe Kelly, creator of the graphic novel “Four Eyes”, asked these very same questions and he drafted the artistic maestro, Max Fiumara, to help him answer the question.
Here’s my interview with them as I ask some of the questions you’ve been wondering about this world of intense dragon-fighting.
For those who aren’t familiar with the story of Enrico and Four Eyes, would you mind sharing a little bit about what exactly the series is about?
JK: It’s the story of Enrico, a young boy growing up in NYC during the great Depression. Enrico discovers that his father is into some illegal activity when he’s devoured by a dragon right in front of him. This is how Enrico (and the audience) learns that Dragons are real and this knowledge leads him down a dark path of growth, change and revenge.
The 1930s. The Great Depression. Dragons. While these things fit together in a way I never would have expected, the real question here is where the inspiration for this mash-up came from? I recall an interview with you, Joe, where you spoke about visualizing a young boy barefoot in the street with a dragon and a tommy gun. Could you tell us a little bit about that and how it finally came to be realized?
JK: I’m putting your two questions above together, because that image is how the mash-up started. I don’t usually write that way – but this time it worked for me. Once I had that initial image I set it in the Depression and some themes emerged that really made the book feel epic and timeless. People were so angry and downtrodden – the “giants” of their time had let them down, so I thought they would take pleasure watching real “giants” battle for their amusement. That’s where the sport aspect came from. The rest is some good ol’ American gangster drama!
When and how did the Four Eyes team-up of the decade happen between you two?
MF: It was at the end of 2007, Joe and I had met in a convention a few years before and by 2007 I’d sent a card for the holidays to Joe that caught his eyes so much that he asked me to work with him! He talked to me about two projects he had in mind to collaborate with me, and one of those was Four Eyes. I didn’t have to think too much before saying yes to Four Eyes, I thought it was a wonderful and original idea.
JK: That is totally accurate! Except that Max forgets to add he was an untapped genius who was foolish enough to fall into my clutches. Now he can’t get away from me!
Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire is a continuation of 2010’s Forged in Flame. What are some of the important things people should know about before picking up Hearts of Fire?
JK: Dragons are real. They are endangered. They are used to fight in an illegal syndicate. Enrico lost his father, who was a hunter of Dragon eggs… but the circumstances of his death are dubious. And Enrico is tenacious as hell.
Is Forged in Flame required reading before picking this issue up?
JK: I’d recommend it strongly. You get a much better feel for the world and the characters.
Four Eyes has been planned out in various story arcs, but six years later, we’re only on our second one. Your individual schedules and workloads are no doubt a big part of this, but fans are already clamoring for more with Hearts of Fire only just released. Can we expect more sooner or should we anticipate another long wait?
MF: Yes, our schedule was the big impediment for us to come back to the book. We asked Rafael Ortiz, a guest artist to help us with a couple of issues in this new arc, so we can move forward in the creation of this arc and the ones coming after.
JK: Exactly. We want to get this story out and told. It’s very meaningful to both Max and I and we’re being very mature about it this time around.
Both story arcs so far have combined excellent storytelling, wonderful pacing, and amazing artistic visuals. I have to ask, Max, did you ever plan on using the style you did or did you have other ideas in mind during conceptualization?
MF: Thanks so much! Four Eyes is a combination of a lot of ideas, but basically I pictured this fragile setting of New York in the 30’s with a Black and White feel to it. Even though the first arc was originally published in full colors, you can see the use a lot of different textures, washes and fragile broken lines in the new remastered edition of Forged in Flames. The art of Nicolas De Crecy was a big influence for this, as well as other different European artists. And a lot of B&W pictures from that time period. A lot of stuff came to mind when I started to design the book, and the idea was always to try to depict the 30’s in an as dirty and fragile way as possible. The dragons are a big part of this world and their design was always thought as to make them weird but as real as they could be. But the most important aspect in the designs was to make Enrico right. He’s the driving force, the heart of the story. He feels real but has a very loose cartoony look. With Joe we think that this wayhe can be funny and move through the story fluently, but he can also get really serious and tense!
Some people have been reticent about continuing to read the series because of how close to home the subject matter hits with people clearly drawing similarities between dragon-fighting and dog-fighting. Do you feel this is fair and what would you say to people who feel this particular way about the series?
MF: Yes, I think the similarities are obvious, but honestly, it’s the first time I’ve been told about this being a problem. But anyway, it’s fiction, it’s nor real. And it’s not our intention to hurt anyone intentionally.
JK: That’s a surprise to me too. What I would say is that ESPECIALLY in this arc, the “glamour” of that world is stripped away. What someone might feel about dog-fighting (which I hate and despise), one will come to feel about Dragon Fighting. However, there’s the rub, because it’s in that Ring that a 10 year old can get what he wants against older and smarter men. That tension ultimately drives the series in the long run – so have at it animal activists! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
We have to ask the fun questions from time-to-time, so, in a world with dragons, where do you see yourselves fitting in?
MF: I would probably be food!
JK: Ha! I would most likely get the job of cleaning up the dragon droppings…
Since our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us, what do you “nerd out” about? What makes you nerdy?
MF: Batman, The X-Files, Miyasaki, augh.,. somany things.
JK: Movies, Star Wars, Urasawa, Tezuka, Terry Gilliam, the Tomb Raider reboot games… too much nerd for one interview!
Our final question is a simple one. What are some things you hope readers take away from Enrico’s story?
MF: I hope readers will connect with Enrico and feel the story close to their hearts. What else can I ask for?!
JK: Ultimately Enrico’ story is a revenge story. By the end of his journey, I hope that readers see that if you live too long in the darkness it can consume you… but it’s never too late to step into the light. With dragons. Heavy.
Where can our readers find out more about the each of you and your works?
MF: My page is http://maxfiumara.blogspot.com
JK: @JoeKellyMOA on twitter and Facebook (I think) Mostly I am a tweeter. And since Four Eyes is on the Man of Action imprint at Image, there’s also our website: www.ManOfAction.TV and Facebook: http://www.Facebook.com/ManOfActionEnt and Twitter:www.Twitter.com/ManOfActionEnt
Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire #1 (Diamond code: NOV150484) hit stores on Wednesday, January 6th. Pick up your copy now.