[Interview] Creators Susan Beneville & Brian Hess of the New All-Ages Fantasy Adventure NIX
August 29, 2018 Jason Bennett Comic Creators, independent Comic, Interview
The feud between the Empyreal Clans of Foratalam erupted into open battle. Ultimately, Cathain, the cruel and calculating leader of the Wyvern Clan, was defeated by Finnian the Fair, heroic leader of the Gryphons. The Wyverns were all exiled, but Nix, Cathain’s only child, paid the highest price: “death.” Now, bound to the world but forever separate from it, Nix sees her chance for justice when a new Gryphon is born.
The dynamic (creative) duo are back! Writer Susan Beneville (Princeless: Girls Rock/Girls Leadership Anthology) and illustrator Brian Hess (Miraculous Adventures of Ladybug & Cat Noir), known for their all-ages sci-fi/fantasy maxiseries AWAKE, have teamed up for a new adventure…NIX! The upcoming launch of their new webcomic debuts online on at LINE Webtoon on Wednesday, September 5th. Along with creators Darné Lang (color flats), Justin Birch (letters), and Greg Eichholzer (visual effects), Team NIX is producing a beautifully illustrated, intelligently written, captivating tale that’s not to be missed.
At this year’s Rose City Comic Con September 7th-9th at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, OR, both Beneville & Hess are tabling in Artists Alley (DD-04) and have printed an Exclusive for the convention. NIX Chapter One will be available all three days, but quantities are limited and the webseries won’t see print again until more chapters have been produced (so be sure to snag one, Portland congoers!).
PopCultHQ will be on-hand at RCCC 2018 and will be making table DD-04 one of our first stops. But before we get our hands on a print copy (dude, this first chapter is incredible!), we wanted to get an early look and some insight on their new project before its online launch and prior to their convention appearance. So let’s hear from the creators themselves about their all-ages fantasy adventure, and see why this is the perfect series for children, young adults, and sharing with your family. Welcome to the world of NIX!
Brian Hess & Susan Beneville (Silicon Valley Comic Con 2017)
PopCultHQ: NIX is another all-ages collaboration for the two of you. Whereas your last series, AWAKE, was more of a sci-fi offering, NIX shows us a magical, medieval world filled with royalty, wyverns, and gryphons. Can you share with us more about this intriguing world you’ve envisioned and its fantastic creatures and characters within?
Susan Beneville: The Kingdom of Foratalam appears to be a rather ordinary place filled with hardworking people and ruled by a very serious king whose primary worry has been coming up with an heir to the throne. Nix is a young girl trapped in the spirit world who is the only person who understands the true magical nature of the newborn prince. Nix and Prince William are the next generation of two powerful, magical rival clans – the Wyverns and the Gryphons – whose feud almost destroyed Foratalam. Unless Nix and Prince William can stop their fathers, that battle is about to erupt again.
Brian Hess: The idea is to present a Spirit-filled world where each individual character is unique in that they are represented by their own beast. Without giving too much away, we also dive into the gray area of how the characters navigate their world. But at its core, this story is about how these characters value family despite each other’s flaws.
PopCultHQ: From this first issue alone, there’s a lot in which anyone can find appealing. From life lessons regarding friendship, camaraderie, the desire to fit in, becoming something greater, understanding your destiny, and having discipline, to the enjoyable escapism to a simpler age, one filled with magical creatures and an adventurous spirit. For you as the co-creator and writer, what are you most enjoying about exploring within the pages of NIX?
Beneville: This is my first foray into the realms of fantasy as both a reader and a creator. I am really enjoying exploring the opportunities and freedom that the genre offers. On the one hand, there are lots of sword & sorcery traditions that I want to honor, but at the same time, I love the opportunity to imagine something that I hope feels fresh and new. Without giving too much away, there’s a history of powerful Empyreal Clans that wield totemic magic. One of them, Nix, is “dead”; but she’s not a ghost or undead or a remnant. She’s a thriving, vibrant spirit with a very important responsibility to guide Prince William to harness his own Empyreal totem.
PopCultHQ: And Brian, for you as the co-creator and illustrator, what are you most enjoying bringing to life within the pages of NIX?
Hess: I have always enjoyed fantasy stories. The idea of having no technology in this world is especially exciting in the tech-obsessed world we live in. The best thing about creating NIX is how comfortable I am drawing and working in that world. I spend a lot of time crafting each page and they look exactly how I originally pictured them in my head. The influences of Jeff Smith’s BONE and Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes are clearly seen in this book. This is also the first time I have used my iPad as the exclusive tool to thumbnail, sketch, ink, and even color pieces for the book.
PopCultHQ: Now Brian, in NIX you’ve also teamed with Darné Lang & Justin Birch, with whom you previously worked alongside for Miraculous Adventures of Ladybug & Cat Noir. What made Lang (on color flats) and Birch (on letters) the easy choice to round out the team?
Hess: Darné has been a huge help with every title that we have worked on together. Her work ethic and attention to detail are really top-notch. By the time I am done with layout, sketching, and inking a page—Darné takes it to the finish line. We have also added Greg Eichholzer to the NIX team to take on the final polish and new visual effects. I met Justin Birch for the first time last year at New York Comic Con. I pitched him the idea for NIX and he was sold! His lettering rounded out our book—raising the bar from our previous titles.
PopCultHQ: NIX is slated to be published by B-Cuz, LLC. Can you tell us more about B-Cuz and the plans it has in the publishing game?
Beneville: B-Cuz, LLC is a publishing company I started several years ago with my cousin, Michael. Our first project was a kids comic called “The Atlantinauts” that we created for the Atlantis Hotels. That’s how I first met Brian!! He was this amazing artist that we hired to do that project. I see B-Cuz, LLC as a place where we can initially self-publish our books; sort of a launching pad. That’s what we did with the very first issue of “Awake.”
PopCultHQ: What would you say your pitch is (assuming you have one) for NIX to kids? How about to parents?
Hess: We have a two-sentence pitch; “Nix, only heir of the Wyvern Clan, exists as a spirit unable to live in the real world. But she sees a chance to change her fate when William, the new heir to the rival Gryphon Clan is born. But first, the two kids must prevent their fathers from reigniting a feud that would tear their kingdom apart.”
I wanted to have a story about a family that was torn apart and that its only chance to reunite were these two kids who are able to come togetether despite having such a huge weight on their shoulders.
Beneville: I guess for kids, I would say it’s about two kids, a magical spirit, and a young prince, who defy their parents, become friends, and save the world by becoming mythical creatures. For parents, I would say the same thing, except I would leave out the part about defying their parents.
PopCultHQ: It’s been mentioned that you’ll be having some copies of NIX available in print format at RCCC 2018. What do you have planned for showcasing NIX at Rose City Comic Con, its first convention appearance?
Hess: We have Chapter One ready to go. It introduces the world and a little bit of the fantasy you will experience in BOOK ONE.
Beneville: We’ll be in Artists’ Alley doing what we do best: reaching out to kids, parents, and comics fans of all ages. We’ve created some “Nix” promotional materials and banners, but most importantly, we’ll have Chapter One on the table. This year, we also want to be very engaged with social media – before, during, and after the convention.
PopCultHQ: How will NIX be formatted? This first look you sent me is marked as Book One. Will subsequent releases follow suit? What is your expected page count per book?
Hess: We are releasing the first Chapter at Rose City as a special one-time promotional edition to kick off the new title. There will be a limited run of 200 copies exclusive to the Con. If we have any left after the show, we will make them available online. We envison having three books, each with three chapters. We see every volume having at least 50 pages of story and potentially supplemental material, if the format allows.
PopCultHQ: When can people expect to find NIX – Book One available for purchase? Will it be available in both digital and print formats? Where can people bookmark online to be among the first to snag one? With what frequency are you hoping to release NIX (monthly, quarterly, etc.)?
Beneville: Wow, this is the million-dollar question. Right now, a beautiful print version of Chapter One is available through our website: www.hesstoons.com. That’s what we’ll be taking to RCCC and other upcoming cons. We’ve already been approached by a couple of publishers, so Brian and I have been weighing our options. Ultimately, we’ve decided that “Nix” will work best in print as a full-length original graphic novel, rather than as a series of single issues that then get collected down the road. But, folks won’t have to wait to get onboard. We are going to be publishing “Nix” as an ongoing webcomic on a weekly basis on Webtoons. The first episode will be available as of September 5th!
Hess: Book One will release this winter on our store at www.hesstoons.com, we will be announcing the date as soon as we lock down our shipping dates. I am very active on Instagram, Twitter and the new Facebook page we have set up to cover all of our past and current titles. I have branded everything as Hesstoons so it’s pretty easy to find us (links below).
PopCultHQ: The timing of the release, and nature of the content, make NIX a fantastic holiday idea for any child or family. Do you have any marketing plans to coincide with the holidays, or possibly signing appearances or comic shop events?
Beneville: That probably would have been a great idea. Perhaps, we can think of a holiday tie-in? Dang, now you’ve got me thinking!
We love doing comic shop signings and I think we’re going to start at Miryam & Jane’s Comic Shop in San Leandro, California for Local Comic Shop Day on November 17, 2018. They have been huge supporters and it’s kind of a tradition for us to throw a little launch party there. In addition to comic shops, we love doing appearances at schools and libraries. If anyone is interested, they can reach us through www.hesstoons.com or via the Hesstoons Facebook page.
A very special thanks to Brian and Susan for speaking with us about NIX! Be sure to follow the creators online (links below) for all the latest news and announcements. Don’t forget to bookmark the LINE Webtoon site to see the first NIX reveal on Wednesday, September 5th. Plus, if you are in or around the Portland, Oregon area on September 7-9, you can meet both Susan and Brian at Rose City Comic Con, find out more about their incredible project, and snag the exclusive print edition of Chapter One for the fantastic, new all-ages series NIX! And watch for our spoiler-free review of Chapter One just prior to this year’s RCCC 2018!