COMIC BOOK YETI: Brennan, thank you so much for joining me here in the Yeti Cave to discuss Tyrant Fall #1. How have you been doing?
C. BRENNAN KNIGHT: Thank you for having me! It’s a real honor to be in the Cave. I’m doing well. The Kickstarter has been a source of excitement and stress, so I’ve been bouncing between the two ever since it launched.
CBY: If you have a “day job” other than creating comics, what is it you do?
CBK: I’m a production editor. I basically make sure books look good before they go to press. I check their formatting, have them copyedited and proofread, and review their covers. I’m one of the last set of eyes that see them before they go to the printer.
CBY: Tyrant Fall, the first 8 pages at least, which are showcased as the preview on the Kickstarter campaign page, was a finalist in the 2020 Platform Comics Short Comic Competition. Was it initially created for the competition or had you and the team been working on it and decided to submit it? If it was created for the competition, when did you decide to expand it to a 30 page first issue?
CBK: The original short was wholly created for the competition. When I approached the team, all I had was basically a logline and enough world-building for it to make sense. But even as we created the short and I expanded upon the world-building, I didn’t have any plans beyond those eight pages. Certainly not for what it has become.
The expansion from the short into Tyrant Fall began around the same time the short was announced as a finalist (this would have been mid- to late November 2020). The post-collaboration creative high fueled some massive brainstorming and within a few weeks, I had notes for a multi-issue epic. Tyrant Fall’s artist Max Davenport was the first one I pitched it to and after much discussion, we decided that we had to earn that epic by making a great first issue for a great first arc.
CBY: You’ve described it as Dragon Ball Z meets Heavy Metal Magazine, and I’m always curious about the things creators have consumed and how they turn that inspiration and influence into something new, something wholly their own. I think I was a little too old at the time and missed Dragon Ball Z and Toonami, so what is specifically about those things that you hoped to capture that fans of those things would recognize in Tyrant Fall?
CBK: Tyrant Fall will show its DragonBall Z influences on its sleeve. I want each issue to have intense fight scenes and fighters who you know will never give up. It’s full of strange intersections between magic and science, which is something that pops up in the DragonBall series and in Heavy Metal stories. This commonality is what first made me think about pulling inspiration from the two when brainstorming.
Toonami holds a special place in my heart, and it is almost purely nostalgic. Its unique visual and musical voice reached me during adolescence and definitely influenced who I am today. My friends and I felt cool for being Toonami watchers and that’s what I want for readers of Tyrant Fall. I want them to feel cool for having read it and for being a part of something new and different.
CBY: Max Davenport is the artist for Tyrant Fall and his work is so expressive, especially in all of the magical fight elements, which are wonderfully complemented by colorist Roman Stevens’ choices and Rob Jones is a fantastic letterer. Can you tell me how the creative team came together and what excites you about this collaboration?
CBK: Max was someone I really wanted to work with and I used the competition as an excuse to talk about working together. I managed to catch him between projects and he liked the pitch enough to be a part of it. What’s nice is that this simple work-for-hire arrangement quickly evolved into a creative partnership and now we have no qualms about openly talking about our visions for Tyrant Fall.
When I was looking for a colorist, I put out an open call on Twitter and Roman was among the many who expressed interest. I took one look at his portfolio and said to myself, “He’s the one.” This guy is too good, evident by his recent work on several DC Comics titles, and I count my blessings that he’s on the team.
Unlike Max and Roman, I had worked with Rob on a previous short. He is the letterer to have in your corner. Not only is he exceptionally skilled, he just loves making comics and he brings that energy to each project.
What I love most about this collaboration is the pride we all feel towards Tyrant Fall. You can tell each of us is putting 110% and then some into this project. We are a true creative team and this is a true team effort. Plus, as someone with no artistic talent, seeing my words and ideas take shape on the page always makes me giddy!
CBY: The title of the story when it was submitted to the Platform Comics Competition is “Lex Non Est Iustitiam,” which I believe refers to a Latin phrase meaning “An unjust law is no law at all.” So is there a deeper meaning/influence for using the Latin title in the fantasy setting?
CBK: You’re close to the translation I’m using, which comes out to “The law is not just.” It’s the motto of the Rebellion (the most prominent group opposing the tyranny of the Dragons). It’s something their members say to instantly identify themselves to other Rebels, or their enemies to make a statement/entrance.
The basis of it comes from within the world of Tyrant Fall, where the use of magic is heavily regulated. Oppressively so, in fact. The Dragons, the most powerful magic users in the world, are the ones who dictate who can and cannot use magic. Which makes it easy for them to turn those magic users who oppose them into criminals, a standard tactic of oppressors.
I studied Latin in college and while I’m far from a master at it, I’m familiar with its declensions, so I can use the language effectively enough (with plenty of googling). Even within the context of the story, Latin is a dead language. I used it so the Rebel motto more easily stood out in the dialogue, not just for the readers, but for the characters.
CBY: Talk to me about the character design for the Red Dragon and especially the design for her motorcycle seen on page 8 of the preview. Everything about it is great. What did you and Max discuss to arrive at the conclusion for this?
CBK: For the motorcycle, the discussion was fairly short. I shared some images of other ridiculously large motorcycles from video games, and told Max, “Make it obnoxiously large like these.”
Same thing with the Red Dragon. I described her as being very fit and muscular, with a lot of bare skin (the Dragons are nigh indestructible, so why would they protect their skin?). Her arms and hips are armored because I imagined, if you could move at superhuman speeds, you could easily block any attack, so you would probably want to reinforce your hands and arms. I sent Max some reference material and then he went to town.
That’s how we handled the design for a lot of things. I would describe the basic images I had in my mind, find images that would help illustrate certain aspects of these images, and then tell Max to go at it. I believe in giving the artists I’m collaborating with a good deal of creative space to work with, so they can exercise their style within the art. I sought Max out for his style, so it would be a shame to put too big of a lid on it.
CBY: Revenge for a character can be a powerful motivator but I also think about the quote, attributed to Confucius, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” I’ve always been a fan of revenge stories whether the main character is successful or realizes a larger lesson about the destructive nature of seeking revenge. Are you someone that roots for a character like Myrta to get revenge or do you hope a character finds a better way and any hints as to where Myrta’s journey leads?
CBK: I’ll admit, a character getting their revenge can be sweet and satisfying. It typically comes down to how the character has been developed, but I usually root for a character to get the retribution they seek by their own means. That said, I have been on a more hopeful kick in conceiving my stories and revenge is a perpetual conflict inductor. There is rarely a revenge plot when everyone walks away happy or fulfilled.
I can’t say much about Myrta’s journey, but I will say, the line between justice and revenge is one that she will have to navigate and her quest does come to a conclusion of her own making.
CBY: What’s the big picture for Tyrant Fall, do you have a certain number of issues mapped out beyond issue #1 to tell this story?
CBK: Yes! I’m a sucker for a long-term epic, so when I was brainstorming for Tyrant Fall, naturally I came up with an initial 30+ issue plot outline and since then I’ve come up with ideas for side stories and spin-offs. The world of Tyrant Fall is big and the characters within it all have the motivation to carry their own story. But in discussions with Max, we decided to just focus on the first five-issue arc, and then focus in further on the first issue.
The hope is to one day explore the entirety of that original outline. I would love nothing more than to share it with the world, with all of its crazy characters and awesome battles. I can’t say what shape or form it will take, but I want to make it happen.
CBY: Are there any comic creators working today whose work inspires/influences you?
CBK: There are plenty of established creators out there who show me what we can do with comics and how they’re written. Chief among them is Jonathan Hickman. Boy, can he make comics or what? With the dialogue he writes, every word feels more important than the last, yet rarely loses the character of the speaker.
Grant Morrison inspired me to start writing comics in the first place, when I bought a copy of Arkham Asylum that had a script in the back. That was a big “Oh, this is something I could do” moment. They also constantly enlighten me in how to look at the medium of comics as a whole and how to think about comics.
The list goes on and on, with all the big names you can think of, but I want to give a shout out to all of my indie contemporaries and those among us that have started to break into the industry. Jarred Luján never seems to not be hustling and his inclusion into DC Comics’s Milestone Initiative is a clear reflection of his dedication to the craft. David Pepose is another indie-to-Big 2 success that fuels my own hopes. Marvel doesn’t put just anyone on an Avengers title. There are far too many to name here, but if you’re reading this and you know me, you inspire me everyday and I’m rooting for you.
CBY: What comics/books/tv shows/movies are you currently enjoying?
CBK: At a recent convention, I picked up the omnibus of Brahm Revel’s Guerillas and have made that a part of my pre-bedtime reading. Also on my nightstand is Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, for when I’m in a prose mood. On the small screen, my wife and I are re-watching the Marvel shows that were originally on Netflix and are in the middle of Luke Cage. Though this marathon is interrupted whenever a new episode of Moon Knight drops. I don’t get out to see movies as much as I would like to, but I was able to see The Batman on opening night and thought it was amazing.
CBY: If you were the curator for a comics museum, which 3 books do you want to make absolutely sure are included?
CBK: Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is oddly my knee-jerk response whenever anyone asks this kind of question. Not only is it entertaining, but it’s so well constructed and engaging. Scrooge McDuck’s character development dances between subtle drifts and explosive leaps, but does so with masterful forethought.
There are several manga series I could include, with DragonBall coming to mind almost instantly, but I would have to say Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece deserves this spot. I love how off-the-cuffs this manga seems. There is clearly some overarching plot, but the twists and immediate action make it feel as though it’s being created with just the next chapter in mind. Oda’s handling of such a massive cast is incredible and I never feel as though one character has been neglected for another.
As the curator of this hypothetical comics museum, I would commission the creation of a special omnibus: the complete Marvel Comics works of Jonathan Hickman. From Secret Warriors and SHIELD to his most recent X-Men work, Hickman has seeded the entire Marvel Universe with his ideas and concepts, many of which I suspect will remain in the fabric of Marvel for years to come. Even as he moved between titles, it always felt as though he was writing just one story.
CBY: Any other projects CBY readers should check out?
CBK: A.J. Mason and Ethan Lu have a project on Kickstarter as well. It's a horror double feature titled Sick & Party Invasion, and it looks nice and spooky. I’ve only had the pleasure of speaking with A.J. (we’ll be working together on a project in the future), but they both seem like good-natured, passionate creators.
It’s not available now, but keep an eye out for Jumpstart Comics’s Big Hype anthology when it comes to Kickstarter. It's a Shonen Jump-style anthology of manga inspired comics, with a 300-ish page count. They already funded and created a first volume, and are working on a second and third volume as well. There’s a lot of killer talent involved in these anthologies, creators everyone should be aware of and keeping their eyes on.
CBY: Where can you be found online?
CBY: Thank you so much, Brennan, for chatting with me about Tyrant Fall and good luck with the rest of the campaign.
CBK: Thank you! I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today. This was a wonderful experience and it’s been so exciting to see Comic Book Yeti get the recognition you all deserve!