Interview: Chris Roberson talks SOVEREIGN and His First Epic Fantasy

December 11, 2013

Photo by Kevin ChurchAward-winning novelist and comics scribe Chris Roberson teams with white-hot artist Paul Maybury for SOVEREIGN, an epic fantasy set in a world that once knew gods, demons, and magic before they faded away. Now, in a world shaken by internecine conflict and gamesmanship, ancient threats are crawling their way back to reality and eager to complicate a difficult situation. Roberson gave us the details on SOVEREIGN below, and he brought a few preview pages along with him!

Your work has run the gamut from sci-fi to superheroes and beyond, and SOVEREIGN is described as "epic fantasy." What appeals to you about working in fantasy?

Chris Roberson: My tastes are fairly catholic, both as a reader and as a writer, so I like to work in as many different genres and styles as possible. Before beginning to work professionally in comics I was a science fiction and fantasy novelist for a number of years, but this will be the first time that I’ve done a proper epic fantasy, by which I mean one set in an invented world, with magic and swords and all that kind of thing!

When the first issue begins, what's the status quo like in the world of SOVEREIGN? What kind of world are we stepping into?

Roberson: The principle action of SOVEREIGN takes place in the country of Khend, a country rocked by a war of succession, inspired largely by India in the seventeenth century at the height of the Mughal empire. The Khendish have traditionally followed a rigid caste system, but they are ruled by the Tamurid, who invaded and took over the country several generations before. Another group of characters are from Albelund, an island months away by sail, that is modeled on early renaissance England. And finally, there are a trio of Luminari, sword-wielding, masked undertakers who have been living in seclusion since the invasion, but who are going to the capital with news about a big supernatural threat that’s on the way.

What's your collaborative relationship with Paul Maybury like? Do you have a favorite aspect of his art?

Roberson: SOVEREIGN was originally an idea for a novel back when I worked exclusively in prose, and I spent a couple of years working out the history of the world and its cultures, its religions and philosophies, magic systems, and things like that. But just as I was finishing up with that development work, with this enormous bible of material, I started working in comics, and got sidetracked. Early last year I was talking with Eric Stephenson about the possibility of doing something with Image, and it occurred to me that it might be possible to make an interesting comic out of all this stuff I’d cooked up. And when I thought about who be a good fit on the art side, Paul Maybury’s was the first and only name that I could come up with. I asked, he answered, and that was that. And my instincts were correct, because the pages that Paul has been turning out have just been fantastic. The character designs, the motion, the depth and richness of the world he’s portraying, it’s all just phenomenal.

Fantasy often pulls from or is directly influenced by the real world. Are you working in allegory at all here, or is this an entirely fresh new world?

Roberson: We’re drawing inspiration from history, but this is an invented world. And while there is a lot of discussions about various philosophies and life views as the story unfolds, there is also a fair amount of sword-fighting and monsters and intrigue!

Look for SOVEREIGN #1 in comic shops on 3/19. Pre-order the issue, featuring a cover by Paul Maybury, with Diamond Code JAN140538. Photo by Kevin Church.