I wake up the other morning to an email with the first issue of an upcoming series from Dark Horse and one name catches my eye: Nick Brokenshire. Nick, as you know, was the artist on the incredibly entertaining Amelia Cole series of books originally published digitally by Monkeybrain Comics and later made available on paper from IDW. This time Nick is drawing The Once and Future Queen premiering in March from Dark Horse Comics. Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirkbride are the writers, reuniting the Amelia Cole creative team.
A few pages into the preview I was hooked. By the end of the issue I was all in.
Not content to simply thank Nick for giving us a preview, I wanted to ask him a few questions about the project.
How did The Once and Future Queen come about?
Adam, DJ (the writers of Amelia Cole) and I knew we wanted to work on something together that was more substantial than Amelia. Something with a little more spice! The lads had been playing around with the idea of incorporating a chess motif into a story and knowing how tied up in British mythology I am, they struck on the idea of using the Arthurian legend as a jumping off point. As soon as that came into the mix, we were off to the races. The story and characters started to emerge very quickly after that. Adam and DJ worked up the pitch while I put together some sample pages using my new improved art-style and we fired everything off to all the publishers. Dark Horse were the most receptive. The person who became our first editor, Hannah Means-Shannon championed us through the selection process at DH and we got the gig! Sadly, Hannah left Dark Horse but her place was taken by our amazing Editor Shantel LaRoque who didn’t miss a beat and has kept us cooking since.
Can you explain what you mean by “new improved art style?”
My new improved art style is comprised of two elements. Reference and colour. I now use reference for all my figure work. I take photos of just about every pose and expression which cuts out a lot of guesswork. I can concentrate on the flourish and textures of my line rather than spending hours figuring out how to draw a naturalistic pose. I’m taking my cue from the great illustrators. If you compare Amelia with OAFQ you should be able to notice a difference. It’s still the same style but the figures are more natural.
The other element is my use of colour. I devised a very specific approach to colour for this book. You’ll notice that there’s a textural, watercolour-ish vibe going on with this book. I prepared a lot of textures and brushes that I use very strictly for OAFQ. No devaition. This unifies the look of the book.
Obviously you and Adam and D.J. have a successful working relationship. Was The Once and Future Queen something you three had in mind while working on Amelia Cole or did you get to go on “vacation” when that series concluded knowing you’d have something to work on together again?
We didn’t have any specifics figured out while we were wrapping Amelia up, but we were batting ideas around. As for a vacation, the day after the final page of Amelia was finished I was working on the first chapter of a totally different series that is yet to be announced. I did two twenty two page issues of that story during June and July and then started Once And Future Queen on the first day of August. No vacation for me. All this activity coincided with my wife starting a new job so it was all systems go in the Brokenshire house.
Some legends are easy to tweak, but I think you took an extra step in how the characters appear in the present day. Was that in the script or did you get to play around with some ideas?
As soon as we settled on the Arthurian legend, Adam and DJ came back to me very quickly with ideas for the core characters. When they told me these ideas, I started designing. Rani was obviously the most important. She is a very different to Amelia. Amelia is gung-ho and optimistic whereas Rani is serious and very careful. Also there are very specific cultural aspects to Rani that affect her appearance and behaviour. She is a half Indian, half white, punk rock, bisexual chess prodigy. There’s a lot going on there! Merlin’s appearance is a mystery that may or may not be explained in this mini-series! One of the key things for me was to try to make the characters more believable in a real-world sense so each one is based on a real person in my life. I take tons of reference photos for every single page in the book. It’s exhaustive but I think the results are worth it.
Rani is one of the best new characters I’ve seen in awhile. A little bit of everything that almost every reader will be able to relate to in some way. And I think the characters do come across as “real people”, so kudos for that. You also alluded to leaving things open after this mini concludes. How long do you envision this story to be?
I really think these characters are interesting because they are weirdly comprised of characters that you and I might know in real life but also contain the ghosts of legends whom we have met before in myth. They ARE real, because they exist in all time, history and lore.
If people enjoy the story we have a larger one to tell beyond the five issues, for sure! This is not merely a reinvention of the Arthurian myth, but an expansion of it. Therefore we are more than ready to expand into territories unexplored! I have to be careful what I say here!!!
Is there a big difference between Monkeybrain and Dark Horse?
Yes. Monkeybrain (and IDW for that matter) really left us to it. The idea behind Monkeybrain was really to give creators carte blanche to follow their muse and go where they wanted. Dark Horse is more hands on while still letting us do what we want. Our editors have been fantastic at helping us streamline our storytelling and generally make things better. As far as I’m concerned, I’m still a noob so any help is greatly appreciated! There’s a real sense of quality control going on at Dark Horse and everything they’ve asked us to do (or not do) has been to the overall benefit of the book. I like working with them very much.
Are you coloring The Once and Future Queen? How long does it take you to do an issue? What’s the process?
I’m doing layouts, pencils, inks and colours. It takes two months to make an issue. One week to do layouts and the cover. Then a month to do pencils and inks and a couple of weeks (give or take a few days) for revisions and colours. It’s pretty non-stop and there are always obstacles in the way. Things like the Christmas holidays and so on can trip up the process but hey-ho…ho..ho……… Sorry about that.
Two months an issue plus starting it back in August means you should have the first two issues and most of the third done. If that’s the case I applaud your commitment and appreciate Dark Horse not soliciting it until half of it is ready to go.
Your powers of deduction are on the money, sir. I’m not far from completing issue three. I think, perhaps there have been problems with people completing work on time in the past so we figured we should take a good long run up to the release date. I like having the work done well in advance. This also can be tricky as life has a way of throwing obstacles in your way!
What do you do when you’re not drawing?
I play in a band called BLUES HARVEST. It’s basically a nerd-centric party band. We take classic tunes and Star Wars them up somewhat. So for example we turned ‘Hard to Handle’ into a song about Lando Calrissian. We also play versions of the old Meco disco Star Wars theme, Game Of Thrones, Back To The Future music… Lots of fun stuff. We played at Star Wars Celebration Europe this year and that was a BLAST! Did I tell you I love Star Wars? Hey, I love Star Wars.
My friend, you are not alone. Sadly, I still haven’t seen Rogue One, but that’s because I’m supposed to see it with my brother and nieces (the five of us went to see The Force Awakens, so we’re trying to make it a tradition). Please tell me Blues Harvest music is available to the masses who aren’t lucky enough to see you perform live.
Rogue One is a delight, matey. I loved it. Round up the clan and get thee to the picture house with all haste!
As for Blues Harvest. You can find clips of us at facebook.com/bluesharvestband. We’re in the process of recording music at the moment which we will put out on our Youtube channel. These things take time to organise though so, it’s best to just follow us on Facebook. There’s plenty of us to see there!
We’ll come to the States one day. There are plans within plans and wheels within wheels and sausages within sausages and telephones within… well, you get the idea.
Where can people find you online?
The best places to find me are at:
I do use Twitter but not as much as I used to. I’ve only just recently fallen in love with Instagram so I’m groovin’ on there a lot.
Thanks tons for saying so. We’re having fun with the site and now that those obstacles you referred to are out of the way, we’ll be able to concentrate on getting content back on there in a timely fashion.
And huge thanks for the preview. The guys and I appreciate the sneak peek. I wish you all the best of luck with it.
Thank you, David and send my regards to Jimmy and Pedro. Philip and Trisha? Stavros and Barry? …the other two.
KIDDING. I love you guys. Especially Timbo.
Be sure to order The Once and Future Queen (JAN170133) solicited in this month’s Previews and in shops on March 1.