One of the most influential books of all time is, of course, The Bible. And its impact has not just been on people’s lives, but on countless stories both religious and secular. Though in talking about their non-religious but still biblical comic Knights Of The Golden Sun — the first volume of which, Providence Lost, has just been released in paperback — writer Mark London and artist Mauricio Villarreal reveal that it was just as inspired by Mark’s wife, fine art, and some video games in which you smack people really, really hard.
I always like to start with the basics. So, Mark, what is Knights Of The Golden Sun about, and what is the story you’re telling in this first volume, Providence Lost?
Mark: Knights Of The Golden Sun is the story of what really happened between the old and the new testament. This is a period known as the 400 years of solitude during which God went silent. So, I thought it would be interesting to explore the repercussions of his absence. For me this was simply a fascinating notion to contemplate, there are so many questions without answers of why He left. I just had to work around it and create something powerful and the idea for the reader to experience the story through the angels POV; see what’s happening to the world, live through the unimaginable evils they must face, I think all these elements could prove to be storytelling Napalm.
Where did you get the original idea for Knights Of The Golden Sun and the Providence Lost storyline?
Mark: I get this a lot and it’s a long and complicated answer but, if I could sum it up, I would say, it’s my wife Laura’s fault [laughs]. Let me explain. Over the years together, she made me see life from a different perspective, in the best way possible, and my inspiration for the story was to write a comic that would give honor to everything we believe in. This story is for her.
Knights Of The Golden Sun has been called a historical fantasy story. Is that how you see it?
Mark: I’d have to agree. Knights Of The Golden Sun is not a religious book. It borrows from the best seller of all time, sure. But it’s a story for anyone who enjoys a grand tale of, yes, biblical proportions that at the end of the day everyone will see differently. What this story means for me should not dictate what the reader believes, and don’t think that should be the role of a writer. The fun part is for everyone to come up with their own conclusions and enjoy the story for themselves. Fantasy, at its best, is designed to take you on a wild journey with mad twists along the way.
Are there any writers or specific stories — comic or otherwise — that were a big influence on Knights Of The Golden Sun but not on anything else you’ve written?
Mark: For starters, I’d have to say the bible. Even if you are not a religious person, you can’t deny that some of the best stories of all time, with deep meanings and emotions, have come out of it.
If I had to pinpoint other works, a manga which was later turned into an anime called Saint Seiya by Masami Kurumada that deals with Greek mythology was hugely influential.
What about non-literary influences, such as movies, TV shows, or video games; did any of them have a big influence on Knights Of The Golden Sun?
Mark: So many to choose from, but if I had to pick one video game that influenced me, it’s got to be the God Of War series. In the same vein as Saint Seiya, God Of War deals with mythology in such an interesting way. I guess I’m a sucker for that type of subject matter. And the action, do I even have to go there?
Now, Mauricio, how did you get involved in drawing Knights Of The Golden Sun?
Mauricio: Well, I always wanted to work as an artist but I never thought that would happen, so I just resigned illustration to just a hobby. I was working as a graphic designer for some companies, but then I met Mark, and he told me about his vision for Mad Cave Studios and all these plans he had in mind and it was awesome. I just thought, “I want to do something like that.” And then Mark offered me a job. I remember being a ball of excitement that I could finally live my dream by being a part of Mad Cave and Knights Of The Golden Sun.
What was it about this comic and Mad Cave that made you want to draw Knights Of The Golden Sun and, more importantly, think you are the best person to draw it?
Mauricio: All of it. Knights Of The Golden Sun was and still is a great opportunity for me to show the world what I’m capable of. The story is amazing, the characters, the setting, everything. Knights Of The Golden Sun allowed me to grow as an artist and learn so much. That growth is never-ending, but I can see the path to become a better comic artist.
It’s hard to say that I am the best artist to tell this story, I know there are a lot of amazing artists out there with much more experience than me who would kill it. But I can say I’m putting my heart and soul into these pages. and trying to improve all the time to make my art worthy for the story Mark is weaving.
When deciding how the characters would look, and other aspects of the design, did you take influence from any other comics?
Mauricio: Actually, comics weren’t a huge part of my influences to make Knights Of The Golden Sun. My inspiration came from the classic paintings and murals of these centuries-old characters.
I have a big problem: I’m addicted to the detail. I admire artists who have such detail without sacrificing character in their illustrations. Artgerm and Stjepan Sejic have that and their pieces are one of a kind. I wanted to try to make something like that in every panel.
How about movies, TV shows, and video games; did any of them have an influence on the look of Knights Of The Golden Sun?
Mauricio: I love concept art for video games and special effects for movies, so I tried to make a mix of all these elements for the art of Knights.
Video games also have such a sense of complete character design that I just love. Intricate armor and weapons that all display aspects of the character that wield them. That’s something that I try to take to Knights.
What about what not to do? Like, are there any movies or TV shows or other comics that cover similar territory and you were like, “I want to get as far away from that as possible”?
Mauricio: Actually, I never thought about that. I just wanted to try to make art epic enough in scale for a comic this big, that was the only job that I had.
So how collaborative were you guys on this comic?
Mauricio: It’s teamwork. Mark tells me what he has in mind, we make collaborate on contributions and opinions, and then make sure the story is cleared up to be sure that we are on the same page. Mark trusts in my ability and allows me to experiment with the art.
Mark: I’m always very hands-on when we are starting a new project, but at the end of the day, I give the people I work with the benefit of the doubt until they let me down. [laughs] Thankfully that hasn’t been the case and sure, I start off with a blueprint and a laundry list of things and then I filter everything through Mad Cave’s EIC, Giovana Tovar, and she then becomes a bridge between Mauricio and me since we’re extremely busy people. She keeps us both in check, “What do you think about this? Do you like this?” And then I’d go, “I like this, but let’s go with what Mauro suggests.” At the end of the day, I want everyone to have fun and so far the end product keeps getting better and better. You guys don’t know what you’re in for with what’s next in Knights Of The Golden Sun.
Now, Knights Of The Golden Sun: Volume 1: Providence Lost presents the first seven issues of Knights. But I understand it also has some extra stuff as well. What else did you include and why did you decide to include it?
Mauricio: We have a lot of content, It’s hard to decide what we can include, but I think the concept art is especially important for this story because the base of what makes Knights Of The Golden Sun is as special as the end product.
And are the versions of issues 1 through 7 the same as they were when they came out individually or did you make any changes to them?
Mark: They’re the same comics that have our fans going crazy. The only change we did was clean up the lettering and polish the dialogue a bit.
So, what is the plan going forward for this series? What can we expect from Knights Of The Golden Sun: Volume 2: Electric Boogaloo? Which is what you have to call it, by the way.
Mark: It’s got a nice ring to it, but you’re gonna have to sell it to me. We need to do battle!
To answer your question, the second arc, without spoiling things too much, is going to be insane. We are bringing a whole lot of hurt to our archangels. Metatron is on the loose and he will make an unlikely alliance that will up the stakes even more. Lucifer has rejoined the Fallen and these are creatures of such evil and power that will frighten you to the core. That’s all I can say for now.
Now Mark, along with Knights Of The Golden Sun: Volume 1: Providence Lost, Mad Cave also recently published the first volume of your Midnight Task Force comic, Hidden Voices. What is that comic about?
Mark: Midnight Task Force is a cyberpunk detective story set in a futuristic dystopian Detroit in the year 2055. It follows Aiden McCormick, a paranoid schizophrenic who is given a second chance to redeem himself. He is a master at his craft and deals with solving the most brutal cases the city has to offer. However, Aiden has a dark past and although this story is a thriller, it’s really about fighting your obsessions and your inner demons. Think of it as “A Beautiful Mind meets Blade Runner.”
You also write the comics Battlecats and Honor And Curse. What are those comics about, when will the first collections of them be out, and what will they be called?
Mark: Battlecats Vol. 1 is about a group of chosen warriors that are trained from an early age to protect the mandates of the Lion God, the realm, and the crown. This first arc takes them on a quest to slay the legendary Dire Beast. Problem is that the quest will reveal secrets that could put the world of Valderia in danger. Breathtaking art, with beautiful battle scenes.
Battlecats Vol. 2, which comes out in December, takes place during a brewing crisis that has yet to be revealed to felines across Valderia. After the demotion of the Battlecats in Vol. 1, King Eramad III forces them to face a series of trials in order to prove their loyalty and regain their former titles. But what the King doesn’t know is that Valadar — an enemy from his past — and his Darkats continue their march towards Stormholt while wreaking havoc across Greenspyre in the process. So, this arc is a cat vs mouse chase with the mouse not knowing the cat is coming for him. Will our heroes succeed in their trials? Will the Darkats make it to Stormholt without interference? You have to read to find out what happens.
Honor And Curse takes place in Feudal Japan during the Edo period. The story follows Genshi Sakagura, adopted by the Iga clan after witnessing the murder of his parents. Now Genshi is a promising young shinobi with hopes of marrying Lord Haruki’s daughter, Lady Akemi, and leading the Iga Clan’s warriors in the future. Genshi is well on the way to achieving his dreams, however, Genshi is tormented by an evil spirit that haunts his dreams and bends reality around him. When the spirit consumes Genshi — he becomes an unstoppable killing machine with no recollection or remorse for his actions. This story is about the struggles of a young man coming to grips with his fate in this supernatural inspired, shinobi thriller. Honor And Curse: Volume 1 will be out in September.
Mauricio, which of Mark’s other comics do you think fans of Knights Of The Golden Sun will like most?
Mauricio: Mad Cave is special. I really think Mark has been making engaging stories that each have fascinating characters and with such rich worldbuilding. It is always a question of taste, but I love fantasy so I highly recommend Battlecats, it has a world that is second to none.
And which has the best art?
Mauricio: It’s curious because Mad Cave doesn’t have a house art style, each one of our artists has a completely different style, but we match that style with the story that we’re trying to tell. It’s the perfect art for the story that is being told.
And since Mark is the CEO, CCO, and Founder of Mad Cave Studios, how did you enjoy your time working with him and Mad Cave now that I’ve gotten you fired?
Mauricio: It’s an amazing experience to be part of Mad Cave Studios and learn from Mark and the other artists.
Wait, I’m fired?
Now, as you may not know, Hollywood has been really into making movies and TV shows out of comic books lately. I know, it’s weird. Has there been any interest in making a movie or show based on Knights Of The Golden Sun? Or maybe a video game or cartoon?
Mark: Right now, we are only focused on proving ourselves in the market by creating fun, action-packed comics across a variety of genres. This has become Mad Cave’s obsession since we joined Diamond.
But I won’t lie, if something like this were to happen for us, it would be a dream come true. Having Knights transcend the medium would be surreal.
And which do you think would work best?
Mauricio: If the budget is not a problem — because we know Knights would be a hard one since it’s so epic in scale — I would love to see it as a TV series. That would leave room to really explore the characters and the world.
Mark: I think Knights Of The Golden Sun would work as an animated series on Netflix.
Finally, if someone enjoys Knights Of The Golden Sun: Volume 1: Providence Lost what comic collection of someone else’s would you suggest they read while waiting for Knights Of The Golden Sun: Volume 2: Electric Boogaloo to come out?
Mark: All of Mad Cave’s books will scratch that itch until Knights come back next year. Mark “Mark’s” words.
Mauricio: There is a lot of new stuff on the way. The new arc of Battlecats is just kicking off, Honor And Curse‘s finale is incredible, and Show’s End is unlike anything we have ever done. It’s a good time to be a Cave Dweller!