If you’re looking for the next big fantasy hit, we think we’ve got you covered. The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer is the latest and greatest graphic novel we got our hands on, and let us tell you: it doesn’t disappoint. In a modern culture where literature, film, and television are certainly no strangers to the nerd culture that is fantasy and role playing, we think we’ve found a fresh story that will breathe some fresh air into your usual Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones lives. The story centers on a lost soul, a man who was brutally murdered alongside his family members and banished to purgatory. 10 years later, he is granted the opportunity to seek vengeance upon those who murdered him, and finally find peace. “7 days for 7 souls,” is the theme that carries this graphic novel from start to finish, and is complimented by gorgeous artwork by Peter Bergting and an impeccable world full of characters and lands by Sebastian A. Jones.
Sebastian A. Jones first concocted his plan for The Untamed almost 25 years ago. A dark tale of vengeance and violence that most fantasy readers will find comfort in, The Untamed breaks from the norm and is built on a strong foundation of an extremely well-evolved and established world that differs from your usual fantasy stories. In this new-age tale, elves aren’t just your typical blonde-haired, blue-eyed dainty beings, but rather have races, ethnicities, and cultures depending on their homeland. Cities are similar to our own: a melting pot of cultures and creatures living together. The attention to detail is clearly evident in the extensive map of Asunda, the beautifully crafted world that Jones and his partners have been working on for years. Astounding artwork by Peter Bergting brings this rich and vibrant world to life in an incredible way. Your eyes will thank you after you get a chance to admire Bergting’s work as it flourishes across each page. Oh, and did we mention that one of our favorite fantasy actors with a knack for winding up dead, Sean Bean, is attached to voice the lead character in an animated TV show adaptation?! If you’re not already sold, check out our interview with author Sebastian A. Jones below.
Geek & Sundry: What was your inspiration for creating the story of, The Untamed?
Sebastian A. Jones: Wow, so I’ve been creating my own fantasy genre for over 25 years now, and I used to play a lot of TableTop games and a bunch of live action roleplaying. You know, in fantasy, we’re so used to seeing the huge kind of epic sweeping, good vs. evil, Christian background, European perspective. I was very inspired by Akira Kurusawa and Sergio Leone and that classic cinema from the 50s and 60s, and I wanted to introduce my world, I guess, in a more stifled, claustrophobic situation. So, I set it all in one town. That way, we could really get to know the characters. We wanted to really focus on the content, the conflicts, and then each character without having to be introduced to so many different worlds, countries and languages before you even get to know the story. The other thing is, I was going through a lot of personal conflict at the time and it was a very kind of cathartic release for me to cloak my own demons and whatnot and claim my own salvation. One night, I was putting my newborn to sleep, and just got a pencil and pen and came up with a concept: I’ve got seven days to claim seven souls. Before I knew it, I had a full page treatment and I thought, “Wow, this is cool.” So I guess it was a pretty organic, visceral reaction to what I was doing in my own life. I played D&D and I was inspired by Sergio Leone very much, which really came out in those pages. As a kid, I read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and a lot of fantasy novels and, I’m mixed, so I wanted to have a more multicultural kind of landscape. You know, we’re used to seeing things like all the elves are all blonde and the all live in one forest, and it just felt weird to me. So I wanted to introduce my world as a sort of “Medieval Morocco”…a melting pot of lots of different cultures, traditions, and so on.
G&S: So, needless to say…the world of The Untamed is very rich and elaborate. What was the process like in creating this diverse and unique world? How long did that take you and your team to flesh out?
SJ: Yeah, it took 25 years. You know, going from playing table top in other people’s worlds, like Middle Earth or others as a young boy growing up in England, I think every kid likes going around and creating races, cultures, and so on. I was heavily into live action roleplaying as well, so it was like I was the über geek. The process is great. When you play consistently, (TableTop or live action roleplaying or any kind of narrative), you’ve got guys turning up every week and every weekend expecting something fantastic. You kind of go, “Oh crap, I’m the dungeon master. OK, we’re in this part of the world now, and…oh, now we’ve got to do this,” and you can’t just step back and go, “I’m alright at Dungeon A. There has to be more story and content.” I had a bunch of great guys, throughout gaming, who really helped with sculpting the universe, just by playing. But to me, it was just something that I really needed to see come to life. So I started writing scripts and comics. I was always a big comic head and I always thought there was kind of a void in the comic landscape for rich, epic, fantasy storytelling. You know we had Conan, Red Sonja, and a few others, but I wanted to see it exist in a way that Marvel and DC had their characters like Batman, Wolverine, and Superman, but have that as a fantasy character. As a fantasy novelist, you want to enjoy a year or two before the next book comes out, but I thought it was great to check in with your heroes every month, and also kind of grow up with them. I also wanted to get away from some of these very obvious fantasy things. You know the perfected English accents and everyone’s a bit tongue-in-cheek…I just wanted to make it sort of Medieval and prickly, with beautiful violence and Shakespearean influence and all that good stuff. I had a great bunch of guys, including our amazing illustrator Peter Bergting (Baltimore, Harry Potter) and cover artist Hyoung Taek Nam (The Last of Us) that loved that whole process of sketching out the town that we’ve just arrived in, and sketching out new creatures, and making everything as rich and real as possible. One of my guys, Darrell May, who ended up being my Art Director, he’s an anthropology major, so everything’s based on checks and balances. You come across stonework and floor and artwork, as well as it being fantasy and having its own mythos. Here we have our gods and our dragons, but we have all of this deeper stuff to ground a serious reader.
G&S: It sounds like this is a well-thought out and established world. The book is called, The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer. One might assume that the goal is for this to be an ongoing series of books, correct?
SJ: Yeah, the hope for The Untamed is that this is kind of our Hobbit, our introduction to our world, and it’s taken many years to put together. But I have a plan for there to be actually 8 books in total, in The Untamed, itself. So, you’ve got The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, and the two books after that, so if you look at The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer as our Hobbit, you could expect a series of limited books to follow. I have other graphic novels that I finished, based in the world of Asunda, so there are definitely more books that are around and coming out that you can start to cross and intertwine and mingle in the larger world.
G&S: Your company is called Stranger Comics. How did Stranger Comics come to be, and how has the experience been, bringing The Untamed to life through your own company?
SJ: I worked with a record label for about 10 years, and I was really kind of exhausted, honestly. I just wanted to create. I had The Untamed, and I shopped it around a couple different places, and there were a few people who wanted it very much. But I knew I needed to start another company to produce the vision that I’d created, and so many people had poured their souls into it. It felt wrong seeing it get ripped from its foundation. I think a few times when I was talking to people, they just assumed I was a kid off the street with a comic book saying, “take my book,” and it kind of upset and inspired me a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, there’s great guys out there, but I just had a bunch of guys who had put 20 years of their soul into this and to just hand it off didn’t feel right. So, I got together with a buddy of mine, Joshua Cozine who I played games and heroclix with, my art director and some of the chaps, and said, “Who’s with me?” And from running a record label in a tough industry, in that kind of fashion, I learned it’s one of those things where you can brand your company at least to some degree, but at least you can keep the integrity of your material. For me, I was always inspired by labels like Blue Notes with beautiful album covers, the passion. Or HBO, you know, which is sort of synonymous with quality. And I’m not a rich guy. I knew I didn’t have the funds to compete with any of the top 10, but what I can do is at least carve a niche for myself and my company by going, “I’m going to make sure that when someone picks up a Stranger Comics graphic novel or kids book, they know that they’re going to get A+ quality, and a lot of love and care goes into each project that we put forward.” So that’s basically the concept of Stranger: it’s a philosophy of quality over quantity.
G&S: Awesome! Now, in addition to crowdfunding on Kickstarter, you also have been fortunate enough to have producers sign on to create an animated TV adaptation of The Untamed. Probably a name most of our readers will recognize is Sean Bean, of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings fame. He’s also perhaps most famous for dying in nearly all of his roles. How was it like getting him involved and can you explain the character he is playing?
SJ: It’s pretty cool! I mean, it’s kind of like the epic casting to get Sean Bean. In The Untamed, our hero is a bad guy who is stuck in purgatory, and after 10 years, the devil comes along and says “I’ll give you time to reap the seven souls that murdered you and your family. You’re given 7 days to kill the seven souls.” And the hero says, “I’ll take that deal. I’ll come back from the dead and exact my vengeance.” Along the way, he’ll meet this little girl, Niobe, and she’ll remind him of his daughter and give him an opportunity at redemption and maybe even salvation, without giving away any spoilers. Sean Bean is PERFECT for the role because he dies in 90% of his movies that he’s in. A friend of mine, Andrew Sugarman, had been trying to make The Untamed into a movie for a while, and it had been optioned a few times by producers and whatnot to try and make this a live-action project, but I had met with an animation company, Film Roman, who had done work on Ultimate Spider-Man, Hellboy Animated, Watchmen: Black Freighter, and lot of the main projects that you see out there. I met with the general manager there, Dana Booton, she liked The Untamed and we talked about it being an animated TV series. We talked about the option to write, and they kept me on as producer, along with Lloyd Levin, who produced Hellboy Animated and Watchmen: Black Freighter (and funny enough, produced the live action films as well). So we got that deal signed, and then Andrew said he just finished a film with Sean Bean, and I said, “Wait a minute…are you crazy?! Did you tell him about The Untamed?” So Andrew contacted Sean who was in Los Angeles finishing up something, and we showed him the comic and he loved it. Before long, Sean signed on and another producer buddy of mine, Andrew Cosby, who created shows like Eureka, was brought on. So we were working on the pilot and all of a sudden, here we are in the studio and Sean gets patched in. So there he is, speaking the words that we wrote. It was really pretty exciting to see it come to life. Considering that I’d wrote the first idea of The Untamed over 10 years ago, the irony of it being about a guy stuck in purgatory for 10 years….finally here it is. It’s finally done. The graphic novel is finally painted and it’s all getting there at the same time. If I take a second out of the day and step back from the work, it’s just very rewarding and I’m proud of the guys I work with. It’s pretty amazing, Sean Bean’s opening line is, “I was a dead man,” and you just go…”YES!” We’re very lucky. Very lucky. We’ve worked very hard on it. The company and all the artists are in very good shape.
G&S: Now, for the graphic novel, you also have Hunger Games star, Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue, as your inspiration for the role of Niobe. What will readers and viewers find most fascinating about Niobe, and is the goal for Amandla to also join the animated series in a voice role?
SJ: We hope that is going to be the case. Amandla, I met her a year ago last summer, when I was showing off my kids book series. One of them is called, “I Am Mixed”, about all cultures and traditions and so on, and she was there. When I first saw Hunger Games, I thought, “That girl really looks like how I imagined Niobe to be.” And now, here I am at an event, and she’s there with her mum. I was like a mad man, like “I’ve got to have a chat with you. I really want to work with you or write with you.” This character has been in my head for 20 years. Niobe is elven, she’s mixed, and she’s the face of my entire franchise. So I did a reading at this big convention hall, and there was no one there until her and her mum showed up, so I was just reading it to them. It was a really funny moment. Afterwards, we just started talking and it occurred to me immediately that she was not your regular teenager. She is very concerned about things that go on in the world. She’s very much a renaissance woman, she plays the violin, and in a folk band, but also listens to Wu-Tang and has seen The 7 Samurai and loved it. I mean, that stuff blows my mind, for a teen. I wanted to write more stuff for Niobe, but I’m not a 15-16 year old girl from America, and I might be mixed, but I’m 41. So it wasn’t just that I thought she looked the part. I just knew I needed her voice injected into this character and to help make this character as rich and as right as she needed to be. I’d met with a couple of other people over the years, and a lot of them were a bit panicked about The Untamed being so dark, but Amandla had every sense of what we needed. And her mom and dad are great. They’re very good people. So I’m hoping that she’ll be the voice. That’s certainly who I’m pulling for, as one of the producers on the show. But more than that, she and I are actually writing a graphic novel series based on that character, and it’ll actually come out this year. It’ll be called Niobe: She is Life. It’s pretty stunning, with amazing art by Hyoung Taek Nam. Amandla’s got great support. We also have a comic series out right now called, Dusu: Path of the Ancient, which I wrote with Christopher Garner, is about a guy with the spirit of the jaguar and when the spirit of the wolf comes calling he has to unleash the beast within and risk destroying the tribe he loves in order to save them. Well, that tribe is actually Niobe’s tribe, and there will be all sorts of cross-story connection. James C. Webster did some truly beautiful illustrations on that. But Amandla Stenberg is perfect for Niobe, who is our Luke Skywalker. She has a great series of videos highlighting culture appreciation in America. You should check them out.
G&S: In your own words, why should our Geek & Sundry readers check out “The Untamed” and how can they prepare for the future, in regards to the TV show and future books to come?
SJ: When I think of Geek & Sundry folks, I go on the channels and see all of you guys playing TableTop and LARP, and watching TV shows based on all of that, and essentially, that’s how this was born. It was born out of me being a huge fantasy nerd…a huge geek. You know, the guy who would steal his mum’s bathrobe, make a sword and go out and hit somebody over the head with it. The guys who want to see fantasy whether it’s in comic books, film, TV, or novel, with rich character settings and not with any dumbing down. I feel like we have those covered in Eragon, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and all of these various fantasy universes or worlds, but The Untamed and the world around it is for folks who want to really enjoy gritty narrative with moral conflict and consequences with real character perspective. I think if you’re a nerd and want to take it seriously, check out The Untamed. As far as what to expect to come, there are hints of the outside realm that we bring to the town of Oasis, which we call “a watering hole for the devil.” The town of Oasis used to be this beautiful place between two cities, and it really wasn’t a place where people would come. But good things happen, and then bad men come to try to make a profit, and over the years cities get buried upon cities, and get buried upon cities, and new ones rise. Currently, the town in The Untamed is a hell hole, but the outside elements from the other parts of the world make you go, “Oh, I want to journey off into other areas of the world.” So people will be able to go on journeys with our heroes and go and find different landscapes and our Europes, and Scandivias, and Africas, and Asias. We have a very rich world to geek out on. You can really sink your teeth into these stories.
No matter where you come from, you will probably find a relatable character and story within the pages of The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer. In such a well-represented and diverse world, with every culture and race accounted for, Sebastian A. Jones and his team of creative thinkers have created a luxurious, beautiful playground for us to explore, hopefully for many years to come. We’re definitely going to be giving this one a thorough read and gearing up for some bloody battles, awesome standoffs, and insanely entertaining character stories!
Check out the video below for a sneak peek at the upcoming animated TV series, The Untamed, featuring the vocal talents of Sean Bean! Tomm Coker (Daredevil, Punisher, Batman) kept with the dark and gritty feel of the graphic novels, and Alex Soto (Ultimate Spider-Man) served as director.
If you would like to preorder The Untamed, or download the digital graphic novel, you can check out the links below, or you can always check out Stranger Comics and their other great products at www.strangercomics.com or on their social media pages: @strangercomics.
Amazon and Kindle:
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