Squarriors isn’t just the best animal themed comic series – it’s one of the best comic series period. I caught up with writer and creator Ash Maczko to talk about what’s happening in issue #3 which is available June 24th (Ask your local comic shop to order you one now!). We also chatted about the influences behind the Devil’s Due series and why leaving an apocalypse unexplained is “lazy” writing.
Squarriors is written by Ash Maczko and drawn by the extremely talented Ashley Witter, who may be one of the best artists in the business right now judging from the ultra realistic and groundbreaking panels on display in the pages of this comic. Issues 1 and 2 are currently available if you ask your local comic retailers and issue #3 of the first four-issue arc is set for release June 24th.
Keven: You’ve mentioned before that when you came up with the concept for Squarriors that you weren’t aware of similar comics like Mice Templar or Mouseguard – but your series definitely stands apart not only in story but visually as well. Is there pressure on your end to really push Squarriors as far as possible from those other animal themed series?
Ash: I am still not very familiar with those books. I’ve seen them and I’ve flipped through them a few times — I don’t see the relation. I guess it’s because they involve animals. From what I’ve heard from other friends and fans, the stories are very different. No, there is no pressure.
Keven: Ashley Witter’s art is some of the most visually striking in any comic book series around and dare I say the most detailed and gorgeous today – has she been hesitant to draw some of the more insane and violent segments yet?
Ash: I don’t think Ashley has been hesitant. It’s only going to get more brutal from here. It’s not violent for the sake of violence though. I think the imagery is important for the setting of the story. Ashley is one of the best in the industry right now and it’s an honor to have her illustrating Squarriors.
Keven: What kind of direction do you give her with your scripts when it comes to the visual aspects of Squarriors? For example the massive battle flashback in issue #2 – what did you have in your head to try and translate such a chaotic sequence to the page?
Ash: I write a script for each book. The scripts have fairly detailed panel descriptions, but I leave room for Ashley’s creativity. I will give her the direction and the important elements of a panel, but I let it go from there. Many, many, MANY times Ashley has come back with a panel with a completely different take on it than I originally imagined, and they have always been much better.
Keven: The vibe of this book is more along the lines of Game of Thrones due to the warring faction politics and seemingly ‘no character is safe’ vibe, is that an accurate comparison?
Ash: I think that is accurate. Thematically speaking, it’s just supposed to be realistic. In war, in politics — no one is safe. And there aren’t necessarily any heroes. A hero to one side is a villain to another. Readers will see that in upcoming issues. Choosing a side, or choosing a favorite character, will not be as easy as your standard super-hero comic. All that being said, I am not a fan of Game of Thrones (the TV series). I strive to be a very different type of writer. I don’t like dragging the reader through dozens of episodes before anything significant happens. I like the Vikings style of storytelling. Every episode is important. The story is always achieving milestones and characters are always growing. I think that is more satisfying for the reader and seems less “cheap” than the former.
Keven: Are there any novels or films that you drew inspiration from while creating Squarriors?
Ash: I am sure there have been a lot of influences. I love The Secret of Nimh, The Last Unicorn, the original Lord of the Rings animated movie… I read a lot of novels, but none that would directly inspire the story – but definitely inspire me to write. My favorite book is White Fang.
Keven: This is your first comic as a writer – what has been the toughest aspect of learning the ropes for you personally and has anyone else in the comic business given you any advice or help along the way?
Ash: Honestly, I sort of took this on alone. We didn’t intend on Squarriors being a printed comic. It was just supposed to be a side project Ashley and I would work on for fun. I didn’t seek advice, or research “proper comic book story telling.” It never occurred to me. I had some ideas for a story and was going to tell it however it came naturally. So far it’s working. I have one really good buddy who also does comics, Mark Landry (Bloodthirsty). I send him scripts and such for notes and edits. We bounce some ideas off each other. I could see us working on something together in the future.
Keven: Issue #3 is coming out this June – can fans expect some retaliation from the Tin Kin tribe in the wake of Pasha’s death or will The Maw strike first?
Ash: It could be said that the Maw already struck first. Or did they? Issue #3 (“Ghosts”) is a build-up issue. There’s a lot of story elements that have to be revealed for the conclusion in issue #4. I would expect more intrigue and less blood. Then much blood in issue #4, which then kicks-off the start of the Squarriors saga going into issue #5.
Keven: You’ve mentioned that issue #3 is heavy on story and light on violence, which characters can we expect to flesh out even more?
Ash: You’re going to see a few more pieces of King’s background, a little development on some of the female warriors in the Tin Kin, a bit of Rustle, Spin, and Eli, and more clues to the events that lead to the demise of the humans.
Keven: Is there a definitive hero or main character in Squarriors – or only various shades of grey because I sense that there could be more depth to The Maw tribe than we’re initially led to believe – is that accurate?
Ash: I’m glad you picked up on this. As I mentioned earlier, there are no heroes. There’s a reason the book isn’t titled “Tin Kin” or “The Adventures of Tree Jump.” Squarriors is about a time and a place, not about a particular character. Right now it focuses on a tiny section of land, but as things develop, that focus will expand. There is a whole world that exists outside of these creatures. And they don’t even know it… yet.
Keven: The first four issue arc is ‘Spring’ and Devil’s Due has renewed Squarriors for a second volume/season – can you elaborate on the theme for Spring and how the sequel will differ?
Ash: Spring, as one would assume, represents the beginning of things. This is where the reader is first introduced to the world of Squarriors. And it’s the start of many journeys for the characters they have been introduced to. Naturally, the second series, Summer, is the events that follow. Each of these seasons affect the animal world in a very different way and that will be reflected in the stories. As one might expect, come winter… things get bad.
Keven: Will the end of the human race eventually be explained completely in your series or do you plan to leave that unexplained ala Walking Dead?
Ash: Leaving unanswered questions that big is lazy. I think leaving some things to speculation is good, however. Readers will eventually be able to answer every question they have. But it may take some research. You may have to put the pieces together yourself, but they will all be available.
Keven: Do you have plans to write other series or have you been approached yet? Because if Squarriors is any indication, despite your lack of experience, you’ve established yourself as a valuable prospect in the comic book world.
Ash: I have two other comics I’m working on pitching. I’ve also submitted some stuff to a few other publishers. I’d love to get working on another gig. It would be my dream to make a living from writing. Do you know anyone who’s hiring? 😉