Tapping Into The Past
Sun Eater is a new series coming from Heavy Metal which starts this month and Tripwire spoke to its creator actor Dylan Sprouse to find out more about this Norse-influenced adventure series and brewing his own mead…
Q: So what was the genesis of Sun Eater?
DS: I started writing this five years ago and it’s a pretty personal tale. To start I guess I would say that I wanted to write something that was a little bit of an exploration into the fantasy literature that I loved. I had been writing a lot of college essays for a while and I wanted to do more creative work. At the same time I realised that I was dealing with my own understanding of my mother’s addiction to drugs and how it had affected our family all the same time. So I knew I wanted to write about that and that it was coming from a place of catharsis. So I started to imbue the fantasy genre with my own personal take on this harrowing journey. And then five years later Sun Eater has been born into the world. So it’s very much based around that. It follows a drug addicted father, a warrior who sacrifices his leg to the gods, in exchange for power and he combines with this parasitic wolf pelt in order to save his son and the stewardship of the first king of Norway, set in 800AD in Norway.
Q: So you’ve got Joe Harris co-writing it and Diego Yapur drawing it. How did the creative team come together?
DS: The creative team came together because Joe [Harris] and I started working together when I was talking to Joseph Illidge who is helping lead the team for Sun Eater at Heavy Metal’s end. So I was talking to him and he said ‘Let’s get you set up with someone you like.’ I was looking to work with someone out of New York so he said ‘How about Joe Harris?’ and I looked at his work and I thought ‘Joe Harris, this guy seems fucking awesome.’ He seemed to get it so we jumped on a call and we talked and he fitted right in. He seems to understand how hard the narrative is and he’s also got an expertise in the medium which I didn’t have because I’ve been writing a lot of scripts for a while but translating my writing to comics is not my forte. I have read them all my life but translating them is a totally different beast as I’m sure you know. It has been going swimmingly. As far as to why Diego is on the team, when I first started working with Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal actually sent me suggestions of a few artists and their work. I immediately responded to Diego because he’s such a master of making reactions on human faces as well as the fact that his drawings are very tonally on brand for what I imagine Sun Eater being. I have not sent a single note to Diego once. He just gets it on the first pass. His way of framing and his composition on Sun Eater is so perfect you’d think he’s inside my head.
Q: You also have an amazing cover artist on this in Brian Stelfreeze. Was that through Joseph lllidge?
DS: That was through Joseph Illidge as well, yes. He introduced me to Stelfreeze and obviously Stelfreeze speaks for himself. It’s so dynamic. What I always wanted to make sure was that Kveldulf, our protagonist, had this look of desperation but it was really the characters themselves that are the centrepieces. Also it was important to take inspiration from some key Frazetta work, old movie posters and the sagas themselves. So it’s been a wild ride. Every Monday I am eager to check my email. I don’t like weekends anymore.
Q: So this does connect to your Scandinavian heritage? Please talk a little bit about that.
DS: So my family is Scandinavian American, emphasising the American part there. This is related to my family, because my family have maintained some values from the Scandinavian side. I was raised on sagas and these tales of heroism. So I wanted to frame Sun Eater in that setting as a direct dialogue with my own family because of the deeply personal narrative. I wanted to make sure this was a nod to them in an appropriate manner. So I picked an actual historical character, Kveldulf Bjelfison who lived in history as one of the first Ulfidnars, who were shapeshifters or werewolves.
Q: I just watched the latest series of the Last Kingdom based on the Bernard Cornwell books and I wondered if you had seen any of it?
DS: I had started watching it but I haven’t finished it. I did end up working a little while ago with Thea Loch Naess who I believe is on the Last Kingdom and chatted to her a little bit about it. She said ‘You really need to watch my show’. So I have been meaning to catch up on it but I hear great things. I am a super history buff so I’ve been attached to this stuff for as long as I’ve been around.
Q: You’re best known as an actor and you’ve got Joe [Harris] on board to help you turn this into a comic. But what were the pitfalls for you moving from acting and film and TV to working on a comic project?
DS: I would say there haven’t been as many pitfalls as there have been surprising challenges that I’ve certainly needed to overcome in terms of translation to the panel. Little details take up a lot more space on the page in terms of comics. What would take a second on a TV or film screen would take three or four panels in a comic. Also Joe’s been so helpful in being able to see the story for what it is and what has needed to be trimmed in terms of the medium. So that’s definitely been the toughest part but it’s still been a pretty simple challenge.
Q: Why did it end up at Heavy Metal?
DS: Heavy Metal for me was my top pick and that was before I’d even met with them. It was really because I was working at Meltdown comics on Sunset Boulevard before it was shut down and Heavy Metal was my go-to place. That was partly because it had this mysterious adult vibe to it and I wasn’t allowed to read it. But as I grew up, I was allowed to read it and I did dive into it, and it seemed to be echoing all the same sentiments I felt about fantasy and what it can do and what it can play with. I’m also a fan of grim, dark narratives of LSD-influenced fantasy stuff. In doing so and having it as my major influence growing up, I was writing in that style. So when I met up with DIGA and they told me that they would like to set a meeting with me and Heavy Metal I was so ecstatic about it. I think it was perfectly primed to be something that they would like because I was writing in their style. The truth is there was also this inherent fear of people assuming that Sun Eater was going to be like a weird pet project that I just threw out there and didn’t pay attention to. I hate that presumption but it’s a fair one. But with Heavy Metal they allow such a liberating space to make what you want or need to tell the story with less boundaries in that sense and because of that I knew that would take it out of the realm of seeming like a weird pet project and seemingly more like a personal tale. It’s like the difference between drinking craft beer versus a Budweiser.
Q: I’ve not read Sun Eater but are you familiar with Michael Moorcock the fantasy writer?
DS: I am literally reading the Elric saga as we speak.
Q: So were you familiar with it prior to writing this or is it something you want to catch up with while you’re writing it currently?
DS: I started reading the Elric saga around six months ago and I put it down for a minute and caught up on all my writing. But in general the LSD fantasy stuff and the sword and sorcery stuff is my bread and butter and Moorcock is right there. So I thought it was only fair for me to dive deeper into what he was writing. It’s funny that you bring it up because I hope people can see common ground between his work and mine because I would be more than honoured.
Q: The other thing I am thinking of is the comic work of someone like Walt Simonson with things like his Thor run and Ragnarok which is all about Norse myths and legends. Have you read any of those?
DS: Certainly. I think it’s a fair comparison. It’s different in a way. I think I should emphasise that there are certainly mythological aspects but this is much more a take from someone who is a believer of the gods, not necessarily set in Norse mythology. It’s the same as if you take a game like Diablo which is set in Catholic or Christian narratives. This deals much more with the human side of that aspect and what it would be like to be a believer day to day and it’s certainly fantasy to a degree. It plays much less so with the gods as physical representations and much more as metaphorical representations.
Q: I want to ask you about the mead company that you run.
DS: It’s funny, regarding to its relation to Sun Eater, Matt the CEO over at Heavy Metal and me were talking and I mentioned that for writing some of the episodes, for inspiration I drank some mead. And so he said ‘Why don’t we give people some mead while reading for inspiration?’ and I thought ‘That’s a fucking great idea.’ So there’s this package we have designed where the mead is included alongside as a companion which is super awesome for me as it combines both of my loves. I started brewing when I was 16 and like most 16 year olds drink alcohol. You guys drink a lot earlier than we do obviously so I think there’s more of a bizarre mystique to drinking in the States. But I learnt you can buy all the ingredients legally. So mead is the oldest beverage known to mankind and it’s made primarily of honey. It’s a really hearty and easy to brew drink and so I started making it and I fell in love with the process. Being a literature buff you can’t really escape mead. So I really want to brew it in an accurate way to educate people about how it’s made nowadays but also to give people a professional outlet to try it and talk about it. So we opened up All Wise Meadery a couple of years ago and I am still brewing over there every chance that I can get. It’s been so nice, as it’s become a thriving watering hole.
Sun Eater#1 comes out this Friday from Heavy Metal
ABOUT DYLAN SPROUSE
After stepping away from acting to pursue higher education, Dylan Sprouse graduated from NYU in 2015 with a clear mission to further explore entertainment mediums as a whole. Now, having returned to Hollywood, Sprouse is exploring his entrepreneurial interests in full. “Sun Eater” marks the first endeavor created and written by Sprouse to be released in comic book format. Between acting, writing, producing, and brewing mead, Sprouse is infusing his personal experiences and background into his artistry in an effort to follow his passions to their oft bizarre limits.
ABOUT HEAVY METAL:
First published in 1977, Heavy Metal, the world’s foremost illustrated fantasy magazine, explores fantastic and surrealistic worlds, alternate realities, science-fiction and horror in the past, present, and future. Writers and illustrators from around the world take you to places you never dreamed existed. Heavy Metal was the first magazine to bring European legends Moebius, Tanino Liberatore, Philippe Druillet, Enki Bilal, Pepe Moreno and Philippe Caza to the U.S. as well as showcasing American superstars Richard Corben, Jim Steranko and Berni Wrightson. The magazine continues to showcase amazing new talent as well as allow established creators to have “carte blanche.” Heavy Metal magazine is now published six times per year. Most issues feature one or two serialized graphic novels, several short stories, and two artist galleries. Recent creators have featured Grant Morrison, Stephen King, Bart Sears, Tim Seeley and Kevin Eastman. With new CEO Matt Medney and newly appointed Publisher and Chief Creative Overlord, David Erwin, at the helm, Heavy Metal promises to continue Heavy Metal’s legacy, as the leader in cutting-edge science fiction, fantasy, and horror storytelling.
ABOUT DIGA STUDIOS:
DIGA Studios is a next-gen content studio committed to great storytelling across formats, genres and platforms. Founded by former MTV President Tony DiSanto and staffed with a deep bench of industry innovators, DIGA Studios’ productions are marked by a rebellious and sometimes subversive pop sensibility that resonates with youthful audiences worldwide. Past hits include “Teen Wolf” and “Scream”, while current productions run the gamut from lifestyle programs to game shows, such as “Hot Ones: The Game Show” for truTV, to scripted horror formats, including “50 States of Fright”, executive produced by Sam Raimi for Jeffrey Katzenberg’s QUIBI. DIGA Studios is a wholly owned subsidiary of ALLYANCE Media Group, with more information available at www.digastudios.com.
ABOUT ALLYANCE MEDIA GROUP:
ALLYANCE Media Group was founded on the belief that world-changing experiences come from creative collaboration. Through its wholly owned subsidiary DIGA Studios, AMG partners with brands, talent and producers to bring great stories to life across formats, genres and platforms including television, film, publishing and podcasting.