Dynamite has sent over a new writer's commentary from Rik Hoskin about Red Rising: Sons of Ares #1. This is a new series set in the Red Rising novel universe created by Pierce Brown who co-writes the comic series. Cover by Toby Cypress and interiors by Eli Powell.
A Writer's Commentary: RIK HOSKIN on RED RISING: SONS OF ARES #1, on sale NOW from Dynamite.
Sons of Ares elaborates on the back story of several familiar characters and events from Pierce Brown's Red Rising novels. Pierce provided a detailed outline for the series which I then turned into comic book format before we scripted together.
I began by considering how much information we needed to draw from the books to hook new readers without boring fans of the series. Pierce wanted some kind of history of his world to kick things off so I settled on using three splash panels to get everything across–including the double page spread on pages 2-3 which has that kind of "Ascent of Man" banner running across the bottom to introduce the different genetic types who inhabit this universe.
Page 4 gives readers a glimpse at the Iron Rain, a historical watershed that's crucial to the books. I wanted to show this from a low angle, as if we're the ones under attack, and I think our artist, Eli Powell, nailed that perfectly.
The history lesson reaches the present day, where our story kicks off
With this page readers get their first taste of the way we'll use lettering. Skin color is a critical part of the Red Rising sequence, it's a mark of a person's genetic structure and defines their rigidly fixed position in society. I wanted to do something with that which would only be possible in comic book format, so I proposed using differently colored speech balloons to show which color caste characters belong to–we might think of these as the accents people speak with. Letterer Tom Napolitano interpreted that magnificently, working from a specially color-coded script. Assistant editor Kevin Ketner deserves a huge credit for being so supportive of the idea.
Here we get our first glimpse of the nascent Sons of Ares, an insurgent group who will stand in opposition to this structured society. In Pierce's outline they were described as "wearing demon masks" but I wanted something a little more eerie and proposed we use Venetian carnival masks whose fixed expressions can be beautiful, haunting and sinister. Pierce loved the idea, and Eli made it creepy as could be.
The interrogation sequence features a nice insight into this world when the kidnapped Gold recognizes his captors' castes by the inflections and patois they use.
We also get our first glimpse of the swift, brutal violence that runs through the books and is carried over into this series.
We move into our first flashback, elaborating on the back story of Fitchner. Flashbacks are at the heart of this series, showing who Fitchner is and why he ultimately opposes the system.
Here, Fitchner is considered to be imperfect by the Board of Quality Control because he was born with a bronze hue. The Board leaves him to die of exposure, but baby Fitchner survives and he subsequently mythologizes his survival.
Note how, as a teenager, Fitchner is shorter than his Gold contemporaries, and his skin and especially his hair are of a duller hue. He's singled out straight away for that, an outcast right from the start.
The final panel epitomizes this society, where the low-color cleaner is respectfully apologetic to Fitchner as he cleans up the mess the bullies left. There's no empathy for Fitchner for being bullied, he's too far removed from the low-colors for either to consider it. It's a sign of how inhuman this society has become.
The Passage is something book readers will recognize–a cruel, gladiatorial-style test for survival. Eli did a great job here of keeping things intense and brutal.
I was pleased with the line "They put me in the house of madmen and so I obliged them by descending into madness." Pierce writes with a certain poetic flourish, and I hope I brought some of that to the script.
That first panel by Eli is beautifully framed, it elevates the whole sequence.
The next issue caption–"Dread Rising"–is just a pun on "Red Rising". I like to see a next issue caption, I like those quirky bits in comics like titles and credits that exist outside of the story.