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Navigating celestial warfare in AGE OF CANAAN with NIR LEVIE

Cody of Keeping it Geekly welcomes Nir Levie into the Yeti Cave today with a conversation on Age of Canaan, a mind-bending visual journey of tales long past, launching its campaign with Zoop. A graphic novel of 160 pages, join our exploration into the mind of its creator.

 

COMIC BOOK YETI: Welcome on into the Yeti Cave, Nir! Thank you so much for joining us to talk about your campaign for Age of Canaan on ZOOP, which is currently active until March 27! Feel free to pull up a chair and tell us about yourself!



NIR LEVIE: I'm Nir Levie, a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and architect with a deep love for storytelling. My creative path has been a diverse and fulfilling one, encompassing everything from designing architectural wonders to crafting intricate graphic novels.

I've had the privilege of collaborating with esteemed publishers such as Humanoids and Heavy Metal, contributing to a range of projects that have both challenged and inspired me. These experiences have not only helped me refine my skills but also allowed me to explore the many facets of visual storytelling.

In 2023, I was incredibly honored to receive the Inkwell Awards, a recognition of excellence in comic book inking. This acknowledgment from my peers in the industry was truly humbling and has further fueled my passion for creating meaningful narratives through art.


As my journey as an artist and storyteller continues to unfold, I am grateful for the opportunities to share my work with audiences worldwide.



CBY: Age of Canaan is a 160-page graphic novel that follows the gods of Canaan through mesmerizing interiors and captivating storytelling. I was blown away by the preview we were sent, your attention to detail and perspective is next level! Can you explain to our readers what the story is about?



NL: Age of Canaan is a fantasy graphic novel that takes readers on a journey through five interconnected tales featuring the Ancient gods of Canaan. The graphic novel is inspired by unfinished poems discovered in Ugarit, dating back to the 15th century BC, and it unravels the forgotten tapestry of Canaanite mythology, particularly focusing on the strength of Canaanite women, portraying them as embodying both compassion and physical prowess.


One of the key characters in Age of Canaan is Queen Taltmanat. She bravely confronts the blood-stained legacy of her father, King Keret, and strives to dethrone him, ensuring her brother ascends to the throne instead. In her relentless pursuit, she must expose Keret's malevolent choices before they lead to the downfall of their realm.


Inspired by the Ugaritic texts, which reveal the Canaan ideology through a rich tapestry of myths and legends, Age of Canaan explores themes of nature, farming, animals, seasons, and the ebb and flow of droughts and rains. Despite being considered pagan by modern standards, these ancient stories remain remarkably relevant and resonant in today's world, reflecting a renewed interest in elemental themes that transcend time.




CBY: Was it challenging to translate the Canaanite religion into your own depiction? What type of research went into crafting Age of Canaan?

NL: Crafting Age of Canaan involved a thorough and multifaceted research process aimed at authentically depicting the Canaanite religion while also infusing it with my own interpretation. It all began with my desire to create a fantasy narrative that offered a fresh perspective, steering away from the more commonly explored mythologies like Norse, biblical, or Greek myths.


My search for source material led me to the Ugaritic poems, a treasure trove of vivid and visually striking narratives from the history of the Levant, which particularly resonated with me as a descendant of Jewish heritage. To translate these ancient texts into a visual form, I delved deep into research, exploring various aspects of Canaanite culture and society.


This research encompassed studying the Ugaritic poems themselves, analyzing translations and interpretations, and familiarizing myself with the cuneiform textual Semitic language they were written in. Additionally, I examined archaeological findings such as objects, figurines, pottery, and weaponry used by the Canaanites, as well as their farming techniques, cuisine, fashion, and architecture.


To develop the visual language of Age of Canaan, I drew inspiration from diverse sources. I traveled to Greece to study the black figure illustrations on pottery, which provided insights into ancient artistic techniques. I also explored the works of Jewish artist E.M. Lilien and illustrator R.S. Sherriffs for additional artistic influences.


Translating the Canaanite religion into my own depiction was undoubtedly challenging, particularly as a secular individual. However, I approached it with a methodical mindset, seeking to uncover the underlying reasoning behind the religious beliefs. For instance, while the Canaanites attributed natural phenomena to various gods, such as Mot being responsible for droughts and famines as the god of death, I sought scientific explanations to imbue the narrative with a deeper meaning.


In essence, my goal was to respectfully and authentically portray the Canaanite religion while also infusing it with my own interpretation and understanding, ultimately crafting a narrative that resonates with modern audiences while honoring its ancient roots.



CBY: How were you able to give such vivid feelings and personality to Gods from thousands of years ago? Did the script come first for them or the design?

NL: Crafting vivid personalities for the ancient Canaanite gods in Age of Canaan was a meticulous process that began with a deep dive into the original texts. These texts often portrayed the deities in human-like ways, allowing me to draw inspiration for their characterizations. For example, the goddess Anat, known for her passion, was described as experiencing a range of intense emotions such as envy, anger, revenge, and remorse. Drawing from these descriptions, I crafted a narrative that enhanced these emotions to resonate with modern audiences while remaining faithful to the original source material.


In some instances, the original poems lacked certain backstories or conclusions, giving me the creative freedom to enhance them without deviating too far from the core narrative. Additionally, while human kings and royalty were often depicted positively in the original texts, I chose to interpret these stories differently. I believe these tales were crafted by rulers to enhance their legacy, which could indicate a negative trait like egoism. To counterbalance this, I portrayed these rulers in a more negative light and often focused on side characters, particularly women, as the true heroes of the story, solving conflicts with compassion.


My creative process always begins with script writing, starting with a logline to grasp the core idea before proceeding to write the complete script. While I often look at my visual research for inspiration, the writing process can be challenging, especially at the project's inception. Conceiving the idea is the toughest part, followed by identifying core themes, which can be challenging, while world-building is somewhat easier. Creating characters and their backstories comes more naturally, and finally, developing the plot based on these elements is the most straightforward.


Despite originally being a visual person, I've found that delaying the art creation until after the script is finalized has streamlined the storytelling process and ensured a cohesive narrative. This approach has proven effective in translating my ideas into a visual form that resonates with audiences.



CBY: Your work is phenomenal; you achieve such a fascinating approach with motion that kept my eyes flowing from panel to panel. If you don’t mind sharing with us, what is your routine when you sit down to create? Do you have a certain playlist or background noise as a go-to?



NL: When it comes to my creative routine, I start by writing the script in a loose manner, focusing on describing the unfolding events, setting, characters, and their conversations. However, I don't write the dialogue at this time. Once the script is complete, I divide it into issues or chapters of around 20 pages each, visualizing how much space each part of the story requires.


I then break down the script into individual pages, assigning a sentence or paragraph to each page to track the narrative flow and essential details. With these descriptions as placeholders, I lay out the pages, preferring to plan an entire chapter before sketching to maintain flexibility in the story flow.


When working on a specific page, I delve into the core concept outlined in the paragraph, focusing on creating visual impact and action-driven sequences to guide my panel layout decisions. In Age of Canaan, I intentionally used rigid grids for straightforward scenes and gridless layouts for fantastical moments, creating a visual contrast that enhances the storytelling.


I develop characters' positions and foreground and background elements, sometimes using rough sketches resembling stick figures or more detailed manikins. In "Age of Canaan," I also developed a unique perspective grid—a warped, fisheye-like grid that is tilable, creating a harmonious flow across the pages.


After establishing the panels, I print out the pages and ink them traditionally using dip pens for characters and technical pens for backgrounds. Coloring is done digitally, with a carefully chosen palette reflecting the mood and style of each scene.


In the lettering phase, I write out the specific dialogue, inspired by a method similar to the Marvel method, but with the distinction that I write for myself. The lettering style is influenced by Ugaritic characters, giving it an angular, ancient look that adds to the overall aesthetic of the book.


Throughout this process, I often listen to podcasts, classical music, or indie contemporary music. Recently, I've enjoyed Rachael Lavelle, Laura Marling, Sharon Van Etten, Harp, Teke:Teke, Storefront Church, and many more, finding that music enhances my creative flow and inspires new ideas.



CBY: As a winner of the 2023 Award for Cartoonist from Inkwell and a finalist in the International Book Awards, what would be your biggest piece of advice for aspiring artists out there?



NL: My advice to aspiring artists is to embrace change and remain open to new influences. Art is constantly evolving, and to grow as an artist, one must be willing to adapt and explore new ideas. While it's natural to be inspired by other artists, it's important to find a balance between being influenced by others and developing a unique, personal style.


I believe that true artistic growth comes from pushing boundaries and stepping out of your comfort zone. This means being open to experimenting with different styles, techniques, and mediums. Don't be afraid to make mistakes or try something completely new; it's often through these experiences that we discover our true creative potential.


Incorporating new ideas and perspectives into your work can help keep your art fresh and exciting. Look for inspiration in unexpected places and seek out diverse sources of creativity. By staying curious and open-minded, you can continue to evolve as an artist and create work that is both meaningful and impactful.


This approach applies to writing as well. Just as in visual art, embracing change and exploring new ideas can lead to more dynamic and engaging storytelling. Don't be afraid to challenge conventions and experiment with different narrative techniques. By constantly seeking out new influences and pushing the boundaries of your craft, you can create work that is truly unique and inspiring.



CBY: What else can our readers expect from you in the future? Are there any social media platforms they can follow to stay up to date with you?


NL: I recently had the opportunity to write a short story about a magical cat for Humanoids' Metal Hurlant magazine, which should be released soon. For my next project, I am open to work-for-hire opportunities (hello, DC and Marvel editors!), but I am also always eager to create creator-owned stories. Recently, I have been seeking collaborations with writers for new ideas, so expect some exciting projects in the future.


For more information about my work, you can visit my website at www.nirlevie.com. I am also very active on social media, particularly on Instagram (@nirlevie), where I often share updates and behind-the-scenes glimpses into my creative process. Additionally, my YouTube channel features numerous live streams of me drawing, so be sure to check those out as well!


CBY: Thank you so much once again for chatting with us today, we wish you the best with this campaign and can’t wait to see titles from you in the future!

NL: Thank you so much for this opportunity to discuss my work and creative process. It's been a pleasure to delve into the details of  Age of Canaan, as well as to share insights into my approach to storytelling and art.


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