Comic Book Yeti contributor Lauren Smith welcomes Jamieson Alcorn into the Yeti Cave to discuss The White Ravens Zoop campaign, the origins of the comic from the Dungeons & Randomness podcast, as well as current parallels and the origin of magic on Theria.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! The White Ravens is now on ZOOP and looks epic!
JAMIESON ALCORN: Thanks!
CBY: On ZOOP, it says this is great for fans of Dungeons and Dragons and The Witcher, and I even believe it to be great for fans of Lord of the Rings. Where did the name The White Ravens come from? Did you have a specific symbolic meaning behind it?
JA: Lord of the Rings is another good fit, absolutely.
One of the key things to know about this comic is that it originates from a long-running live-play D&D podcast called Dungeons & Randomness (they just celebrated their 10-year anniversary two weeks ago!) So the origin of the Ravens and their name is explained in more detail in the early days of the show, but of course this story is meant to stand on its own so you don’t *need* to go back and listen to a decade’s worth of podcast to be able to understand it.
The white raven is actually a natural animal in Theria, the setting of the show and this story. They’re used frequently as messengers by the group to communicate from secret locations and coordinate their efforts, so they took their name from that.
CBY: The White Ravens is “The story of how Briahna Ebelmare came to be the leader of the White Ravens, a rebel group dedicated to stopping the advance of the Overwatch.”
For readers that don’t always read high fantasy, what can they enjoy in this series? Automatically, lines like the above make me think of Star Wars!
JA: It’s very Rebellion vs. Empire, in a lot of ways, you could certainly draw some parallels there. Stories about rebellion exist in all sorts of genres, not just fantasy and science fiction, and of course, there’s plenty of connections you could make in real life to encroaching fascistic empires and the people who band together to resist them.
CBY: When creating the Overwatch, what did you think was most important to showcase about this villain group? Were there any real-world parallels you chose to put in, or did you want to lean more into the fantastical?
JA: In the show, the Overwatch grows from a city called Overdale. When an influential new leader comes into power he quickly remakes the city to reflect his own ideals: non-human races (elves, dwarves, etc.) are not to be trusted and should be driven out; those who resist will be killed. That sort of thing. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of similar real-life movements to draw from, like the Spanish Inquisition or Nazi Germany. None of them are specifically influencing this story, but their influence is there.
CBY: Of course, this is a high fantasy story, and with high fantasy comes magic! In the video for this campaign, you state that Briahna’s power mostly comes from her anger. Without spoilers, can you speak to why you chose anger as her driving emotion, over things like sadness and happiness?
JA: So Briahna is something called an “endurant”, which is a very rare type of magic user; their power comes from within themselves rather than in manipulating arcane energy or learning spells from a book. Endurants tend to find that there’s a specific emotion that will invoke their powers, make them stronger. Learning to control that is a big part of it, too. Briahna’s been through a lot, even before this story begins, and a lot of it as a result of the Overwatch. Anger might be considered an understandable response for anyone who’s lived through wartime, and so her learning to control and direct that anger doubles as her learning to control and direct her endurant powers.
CBY: Briahna is taken in by Trias and Liara, founders and leaders of the White Ravens. What can you tell us about the role these two characters will not only play as leaders of the rebellion, but possible “parents” to Briahna? Will we see more characters play these “double” roles?
JA: The first issue goes into that a bit so I won’t say too much on it except that Trias and Liara are probably less parental figures to Briahna, more like teachers or mentors. They sort of serve as examples to her that she’s not the only one who’s lost a lot as the result of this war, and that there’s strength and hope in joining the fight to prevent it from happening to others. They prove to her that she doesn’t have to deal with it alone.
CBY: Can you tell us about Theria, the world that The White Ravens is set in? What do you believe sets it apart from other fantasy worlds?
JA: Even though it’s “fantasy”, I think of Theria as a very grounded setting. Magic exists but it’s more rare than in many other settings and it’s definitely not a universal problem-solver the way it’s sometimes used. There’s a lot of emphasis in the stories told in Theria on consequences. Decisions that these characters make matter, not just to themselves but to lots of other people, and I want readers to be able to feel the weight of those decisions.
CBY: When collaborating with the rest of your creative team, what were your main focuses as a team? What parts of The White Ravens did you collaborate on the most, and what elements did you trust other members of the creative team to deliver more on their own?
JA: That’s an interesting question because, where this story takes place in a setting that has a lot of already established canon, a big part of my job beyond just writing the script is in making sure the world we’re presenting is consistent with that. That really only becomes a focus in some of the visual design aspects - characters, cities, and even natural settings need to line up with what readers familiar with Theria will expect, so I’m always keeping an eye on that. Beyond that, though, the team I’m working with are all very good at what they do. I think we communicate very well for such a multinational team, and that’s the key to a solid collaboration as far as I’m concerned.
CBY: On ZOOP, you say the story is canon to the events of the D&R podcast, but it is not essential to listen to it. However, what is this podcast and what will fans who listen to it get from it? Can they expect it to enhance their reading experience and further immerse them in this world?
JA: Dungeons & Randomness is unique among D&D podcasts for a couple of major reasons, one of them being its incredible longevity. But the main draw for me is that it’s the only one I know of that jumps between multiple groups that all inhabit the same world. So each group is traveling around, meeting characters and seeing places that are new to them but that the listener might have already met because a different group was there before. And seeing the impact one group had on that person or place is really neat. Part of that whole ripple effect of decisions I mentioned elsewhere.
As much as I want this story to be able to stand on its own two feet without requiring the podcast, there’s a ton of stuff in this story that the show’s listeners will recognize and appreciate. Briahna, Liara, and Trias are all characters whose origins are all with the early days of the show, long before my involvement. The context isn’t necessary to this story, but it’s a nice supplement if you have it.
CBY: What rewards can people get with this great campaign? What rewards are you most excited to see people receive?
JA: We have a couple of other books as our main rewards. One of them is my prior publication under Bad Neighbor Comics - The Pub Crawl Anthology. It’s a collection of 12 short comics, the only connection between them being that they’re all set in a bar. So there’s a lot of variety in that book. Plus there’s drink pairings for each story, if that’s something you’d enjoy. The other book is Reflections of Theria, which is a book of D&D modules that you can use to run adventures in the setting of the comic and podcast. There’s a lot of cool stuff in there and some beautiful art. I wrote one of those adventures and I’m pretty proud of it.
CBY: When does this campaign end, where can we back it, and where can we keep up with it on social media?
JA: The campaign is now live on Zoop at https://zoop.gg/c/thewhiteravens, and runs until Wednesday, May 11th. I provide pretty regular updates on Twitter @badneighborcmx, and I have an Instagram at the same tag. Or you can go to badneighborcomics.com for links to everything (including other upcoming projects).