Stjepan Sejic has been world building. If that isn’t enough to give your heart a bit of a workout, then you need to get better acquainted with his work! Sejic is teaming with writer Ron Marz to bring the epic fantasy series of original graphic novels Ravine to life and the creative team took time out of their schedules to discuss the series with Comicosity, including just how huge an undertaking this series is.
Aaron Long: Best to start at the beginning: how did Ravine come to be? Where did this story start and when did you decide to collaborate and create the first volume?
Stjepan Sejic: It was a growing project, which started off from a mere few pages. But then I kept going back to it. As the world grew, I advanced artistically, and as I advanced artistically, I kept remaking the world. Story was the simple part. I knew what I wanted with it. The story itself is extremely character driven. By that, I mean there is no quest to it. That goal is clear and apparent. Instead I wanted this storm to brew. And it would engulf these characters that would ultimately have to choose to run or stand and fight. There is a big story in “Ravine,” but it will not be truly apparent until Vol. 5. Nowadays, it would be easy to explain it as the “Game of Thrones” method. While I had not read those books, as they were not available in my country at the time, the thought is a similar one. As in “Game of Thrones,” there are people with their own little battles and motivations, and then there are bigger things that dwarf the ambitions of those with delusions of power.
A few years ago, I started entertaining the notion of getting a collaborator on the project, as no matter how well versed I am in the English language, it is still a translated thought and word. Thankfully, I got my hands on a copy of “Sojourn” by Ron Marz. It was apparent that we had the same attitude towards fantasy. So I offered him this collaboration, which to my great fortune he accepted. From there, he helped me, not just with dialogue but also with structure, often pointing out mistakes in storytelling that I was blind to after staring too long at them. And so here we are eleven years later. Volume 1 is about to be released and and Volume 2 is being finished.
Ron Marz: It’s an interesting experience for me, because most often the idea for a project starts with me, or at least with a mutual notion between me and the artist. This is a different scenario, because the creation very much originates with Stjepan, and he’s brought me in to help him bring it to life. I think in a lot of ways it’s been helpful that I initially approached the material as an outsider, so I could bring some perspective to it all.
SS: Eleven years is a long time. Imaginary worlds usually start off as a vague blur with a mere few anchorage points. Those clear ideas you have. And then, you find yourself exploring, refining and defining. Histories and myths, races and mistrusts, motivations and grudges. All these start falling into place. And soon you start seeing a method in madness, order in chaos, science in magic. Once you have that … the world becomes a character on its own.
AL: Can you describe the main characters in Ravine, and what they are going through in the first volume?
SS: Well, there’s…
Stein Phais, a man who would want nothing more than to be able to protect those he loves. Unfortunately, he is quite unable to. You might say he has the Midas touch in a way, except those around him usually end up dead.
Lynn de Luctes is an escapist. Being born into privilege of nobility sounds great. But being raised in the military ranks, she was taught early on that rule brings with it consequences for those around her. This is something she is quite unprepared for.
Nebezial Asheri is a man seeking redemption. But redemption may come with a steep price.
Arianna Balthasar is a woman trained to be a warrior, a defender, a mage to lead. And that role brings scars to bear. She is also a woman capable of love, but scars of battle rarely make an attractive trait.
Valerius Mordine is a gifted man. His gift is so valuable, in fact, that he was sold into service to Palladia. Because he was sold by his own family, his loyalty to his country is questionable. However, his affection for his captain, Arianna, is not.
Sairan Aradee is a man of honor. He is loyal to his country and to the order he was given to protect Valerius at all costs. Thankfully, his friendship with Valerius makes this less of a chore, and helps him bare the time away from his family.
Antheus Prayne is a celebrated swordsman, honored as the best humanity has to offer. That is because he was trained by the best. His skill he owes to Khali Khedira of Shivas. His loyalty is only to king Godwyn of Paladia
Rimad Gregorius Melchial Asheri, once second in line to the throne of Aphelion, he now loyally serves the God in the Mountain, Azhi Damanul, and leads his church.
RM: It’s a large cast, obviously, so it’s a real benefit for us to be able to present it as a graphic novel, rather than individual issues. We’re able to introduce all these characters properly, thanks to the size of the first volume.
AL: Stjepan, this was your world to design in its entirety. Were there any specific influences on your style for the world of Ravine? Did you enjoy the ‘design phase’ of this world?
SS: Ravine was a gradually growing world. As my own skills grew, so did the world shape up to be what it is. If there was one influence to speak of, it was Tim Roth as General Thade in Tim Burton’s remake of “The Planed of the Apes.” His attitude was what originally inspired the design of Nebezial. As far as enjoying it … oh yes. And the good stuff is yet to be seen.
AL: Ravine will be released as a series of OGNs. Here at the outset of the book, how far in advance have you plotted out?
SS: The whole thing. Issues have been outlined by events, and structured out. There’s too much stuff going on, so without a specific plan, it is easy to forget about the small details in character arcs.
RM: Having worked with Stjepan on a number of work-for-hire projects, I was already aware that he’s a veritable idea machine. So it was no surprise to me how elaborately crafted this world is. Everything’s thought out, there’s a definite road map in place for the entire journey.
AL: If you had to boil Ravine down to six words what would they be?
SS: Character driven epic fantasy graphic novel. Or, I wish I could work faster.
RM: Epic fantasy, amazing art, compelling story.