Sunday, July 3, 2011

FYC Replay: Korgi with Christian Slade

Another addition to the For Your Consideration archives, from my year-and-a-half stint writing for the Pulse. This one spotlights Korgi volume 1, from TopShelf Comics and Christian Slade. It is a lushly illustrated, wordless graphic novel and subsequent chapters have been published by Top Shelf. I would highly recommend this for anyone who is a fan of beautiful art, or Korgis.


For Your Consideration: Korgi

By Chris Beckett

FRONT PAGE: Christian Slade is new to comics, but you won’t be able to tell when you open the cover on his first graphic novel, Korgi. A former Disney animator, his beautifully detailed ink drawings bring alive this new fantasy world, which should prove to be another feather in TopShelf’s hat as well as a happy addition to their burgeoning all-ages collection of books. Come in and take a look, this book is stunning.

The 411:

Korgi Book 1: “Sprouting Wings”

Story & Art by Christian Slade

84 pp. b/w


TopShelf Comics

What It Is (with apologies to Dave the Thune):

Nestled deep in a magical wood is the village of Korgi Hollow. Here, away from the prying eyes of the outside world, live the last known Korgis in the land. Diminutive fox-like creatures, they cohabitate with Mollies, the woodland people that have lived here for ages. Since the Korgis arrived in this tiny hamlet, things have gotten better for the Mollies. As Wart, the scrollkeeper for Korgi Hollow, states, “to be near [the Korgis], is to feel more alive and happy than one has ever known.” These cute little creatures have brought a strength and cohesiveness to this small band of Mollies that was absent before, and that is good news because evil creatures lurk within the shadows of this forested land.

This story focuses on one Mollie in particular, Ivy, and her Korgi friend Sprout. Living a simple life, Ivy and Sprout roam the verdant countryside, gathering nuts and berries beside their neighbors while pursuing their fanciful whims when the desire seizes them. In the middle of gathering nuts, Sprout leads Ivy away from the rest of the Mollies when he runs off after a large dragonfly. Following the trail of nuts the Korgi has left behind in its excitement, Ivy comes across his harvesting basket and fears the worst before stepping through the undergrowth to find her friend calmly admiring the dragonfly.

But her relief is short-lived when Ivy spies some etchings on an outcropping of rock. Disturbed by the simple Korgi carved into the stone between two bulbous spiders, Ivy and Sprout make their way back to the village, but are soon caught in a murky expanse of something resembling quicksand. The earth churns around them, turning fluid as it drags them down, releasing them into an underground cavern.

Darkness surrounds Ivy and Sprout as they make their way through the labyrinth hidden beneath the earth. And unknown to the two friends, huge arachnids scuttle about until Ivy and Sprout enter a larger cavern where a grotesque collection of creatures, Gallump minions, confront the interlopers. Unable to flee, the two friends are bound by the spiders and hung from a stalactite for the Gallump, a hideously large monster that has nothing but evil plans for these two. There seems no escape from this predicament, but the maturing Sprout will reveal powers of which the little Korgi and his friend had previously been unaware. But will it be enough to allow them to escape?

With Korgi, Christian Slade has created an accessible all-ages book that will appeal to any fan. A silent graphic novel, Slade’s ability as a storyteller shines through as he introduces readers to the inhabitants of Korgi Hollow and the dangers that lurk outside this small village. With detailed ink drawings fit for framing, Slade draws readers into his tale with the beauty of each page. A story touched with the right amount of imagination and surprise, Slade creates a fully realized fantasy world in which his audience will long to live, if they are able to cope with the monsters lurking in the shadows.

Despite this being Slade’s initial foray into graphic novels, his inexperience is not evident. The opening of the book flows naturally, allowing his audience to become familiar with this new world he has created – a challenging task without dialogue, but Slade pulls it off nicely. He allows the narrative to move at its own pace, choosing to slowly reveal the uglier aspects of this world rather than forcing the action. This eases his audience into the tale, lulling them into a false sense of security, allowing readers to relate to these characters while punctuating the moments of tension encountered later in the book. Like any good fantasy, this is a world that, on the surface, appears to mirror our own but is accented by a magic for which most of us long to have in our own lives. With this first Korgi book, “Sprouting Wings,” Christian Slade has begun what promises to be another enjoyable graphic novel series from TopShelf, and I look forward to the further adventures of Ivy and Sprout.

An Interview with Christian Slade:

Chris Beckett: Why comics? What was it that attracted you to this storytelling medium?

Christian Slade: I have always enjoyed the medium of comics and sequential art. I also saw comics as lots and lots of work to get one done. Now that I'm in it, I can say that it is even more work than I originally imagined. That said, I love it. The work is so much fun and I think Korgi has a really neat story to tell as the books progress. I have always enjoyed comics, their culture and their unique way of telling a story.

Beckett: What was the inspiration for Korgi, and how did this initial story develop?

Slade: It actually started when I first got my two Welsh Corgis, Penny and Leo. Their antics became the basis for Korgi, specifically how Sprout behaves. I feel that the Welsh Corgi is one of the coolest animals in the world. Their design is adorable and their attitude is often hilarious. They are also loyal and caring, like many intelligent dogs. These critters helped me cast my main characters for Korgi. The rest of Korgi developed because I have always enjoyed sci-fi and fantasy. I imagined Korgi for years, but after I chose it as my final thesis project for my Master's Degree, that kicked things forward into development.

Beckett: How did Korgi end up at TopShelf? Were you aware of their publishing efforts prior to this, and what was it about TopShelf that made it a good fit for this book?

Slade: Originally I self-published Korgi because it was my final thesis project for my Master's Degree from Syracuse University in 2005. I wanted a final, or at least close to it, version of the book to give out to my instructors and classmates. I also had a small business plan which would allow me to take the book to the specialty every year, almost as a side project. After the book was finished, I had some time off, and I soon missed it too much, and really wanted to get back to Korgi Hollow. I reviewed the notebook I have for Korgi ideas and began to build the story out into a series. The areas that I found difficult in self-publishing were the final assembly, printing, and distribution of the book. Wait, I also found it difficult to find enough time to advertise the book and consistently monitor the whole process. Yeah, I guess the only job I was comfortable with was the creation stage. I'm probably not alone here on this one, and not the first to turn to a larger publisher for assistance. That is what Top Shelf has done for me. I am still very involved with all the previously mentioned steps, but now my wife and I are working with a team that has a great track record for putting out beautiful books.

Beckett: What is it about creating a silent comic story that appeals to you as a storyteller? And what challenges did you face in creating Korgi?

Slade: I have always been a fan of silent stories. Originally, I had roughed in balloons with dialogue, but then removed them to find that I didn't need them. There is a little bit of text on one page at the beginning of the story that is spoken by a narrator in first person. He tells you everything you need to know that is not in the drawings. It is a complete visual experience that should allow the reader to enjoy the "read" as much as possible. I also felt it was a graphic design issue. I felt the balloons visually flattened out a world I was trying to make believable, and in-the-round. The biggest challenge I have faced was having enough time to spend on it and dealing with getting the images scanned and ready for the printer.

Beckett: Being both the writer and the artist, what was the creative process on this book like for you?

Slade: My wife, Ann, and I would take road trips and travel together and always discussed the path the Korgi storyline could take. For some reason, we get our best ideas when driving in the car. Many story notes have been discovered this way. Creating the initial plotlines and character arcs are the hardest part, after that, it gets less brainy and more fun. I draw out little pencil thumbnail drawings, and then complete final art with detail-tipped ink pens. I don't have to worry about color because the book is in black and white.

Beckett: What other projects are you working on that you would like to tell readers about?

Slade: I have a fantasy young adult novel that I illustrated for Knopf Publishing called "The Daring Adventures of Penhaligan Brush.” It's a mouthful, and so are the illustrations. There are 50 pencil drawings inside as well as a full color cover. I also illustrated a Christmas book for Tricycle Press which will be out in time for the 2008 holiday season. Last but certainly not least, is Korgi Book 2 which is titled, "The Cosmic Collector" and will be available this coming summer 2008.

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