Image Comics: What was the approach to architecture in this series? Why does Karsgate look like it does?
Sloane Leong: The terrain around Karsgate is very arid, a desert butted up against a massive mountain range, so I took a lot from Indian and Ethiopian rock-cut architecture, as well as Puebloan and Morrocan clay architecture. It just made sense to me to implement a building style that utilized materials the people in this world would use. Everything is responsive to the environment they live in, so that's why I chose that specific look.
IC: How did you decide on a look for the fashion of Karsgate and Lady Elena in particular?
SL: Marian already had some really beautiful outfits designed. She's amazing at detailing costumes and putting together a cohesive palette. I took a lot of inspiration from her costume pieces and then jumped off from there. I wanted to incorporate more piercings, tattoos, and a more varied style of clothing depending on a person's class or occupation.
For Elena, and the noble-class women of this world, I really loved the classical airy movement of the sari, the flow and patterns used on Zapotec dresses, and also the more structured look of the Laotian sinh. Elena, and all the characters really, go through a lot of outfits, and I try and make them match their moods and also the color scheme of each scene. I also really want there to be a sense of fashion moving outward from the capital, trends influenced from new materials traded from other kingdoms, so you'll notice characters coming from Ahkar will have a slightly different sense of style.
IC: The mythology in From Under Mountains seems really well-defined. Were you creating it out of whole cloth, or were you inspired by real-life belief systems or myths?
Marian Churchland: No one real life belief system, but certainly the function of myths in a general sense. It occurred to me with this project (it was a new thought for me, if not particularly original) that we could try to put less emphasis on the gods themselves as static entities to be prayed to, and more emphasis on their role in stories. Stories being the framework around which people triangulate their experiences, at least in this case.
I can imagine the mythologies in this world shifting with time, reflecting what people need to hear—never really offering a set list of tenets or rules or whatever.
IC: The covers are very clean, evocative without clearly delineating what's going on inside the book. What did you want to make sure you expressed about From Under Mountains?
MC: I let myself be a little inconsistent with the style on these covers. I guess I was thinking about being a kid in a bookstore, allowed to choose one book to take home, and how at that point the cover art was the make or break feature for me. I thought about what would lure me to a book, now.
It was also fun to up the saturation on my usual style, to better match Sloane's interiors.
IC: Marian, does your experience as an artist change how you and Claire write for Sloane?
MC: I should point out that Claire has done all of the scripting. But Sloane is really impressive to collaborate with—she'll take two people standing around and talking (we have a lot of that) and add a second conversation going on silently in the scenery. She gives the scripts a lot of extra weight.