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Metal Life Magazine interviews Nick Percival

Interview by Terry Bunch

While at San Diego Comic Con 2010, we had planned on interviewing Nick Percival about his new graphic novel, Legends: The Enchanted. However, several airline screw ups left Nick heading back to London and not to San Diego. We followed up with Nick afterward to do our interview.

1. Metal Life Magazine: “Legends: The Enchanted” is your first graphic novel where you wrote and drew everything yourself. Tell us about the story and what readers can expect.

Nick Percival: ‘Legends’ takes the beloved fairy tale characters of old, such as Red Riding Hood, Jack the Giantkiller, Goldilocks, Hansel & Gretel, Rapunzel, etc and violently drop kicks them into a dangerous gothic style, post industrial, decayed world. The graphic novel re-interprets these classic characters, now known only as the Enchanted, as harsh, conflicted adult versions, protected by ancient magic and modern hi-tech weapons.

The Enchanted are looked upon with fear and distrust by normal everyday folk and despised by their dark counterparts, known as the Wicked. Most of the Enchanted operate as vigilantes, outlaws, bounty hunters and so on – trying to find their place and purpose in a land that is growing increasingly hostile towards them. Armed with a hard attitude, unique abilities and customized weaponry, the Enchanted’s world is shattered when they discover that some unknown enemy has found a way to break through their mystic immortality and begins slaughtering them one by one beginning with the brutal killing of the half bionic/half wooden warrior, Pinocchio.

These events force the remaining Enchanted to form an uneasy alliance as they fight for their survival, while trying to unravel the origins of the mysterious killer that is tracking them down and who seems to know more about their past and powers than even they do.

Add to that mix, punk-rock giants, bionic fairies, wolf creatures, demon street gangs, a bio-mechanical witch and her sister, big powered up motorcycles, seedy nightclubs, cybernetic forests, the Troll from under the bridge and all manner of twisted creatures and characters and hopefully there’s something for everyone.

2. Metal Life Magazine: What inspired you to create a new story about these characters from fairy tales?

Nick Percival: It’s material that’s always interested me and certainly the original texts that the Brothers Grimm collected together were very dark and downbeat, so the source material is very rich to use as a good starting point – full of weird and bizarre characters as well as the more familiar ones that we all know.

The book contains a lot of themes and ideas that I’d planned to explore for a long time both in the storyline and visuals. I wanted to create a dark, compelling tale of my own where I could use characters from these fairytales and then revamp them, give them a new hard look and gritty style and introduce a serious threat that would bring them all together in a unique adventure set in a unique looking world.

3. Metal Life Magazine: The artwork is stunning, as expected from you. How did working on the art differ in this book since you also wrote the story?

Nick Percival: Thanks very much. For one thing, it can be tempting to only play to your strengths as an artist and just include all the cool things you want to paint since you’re in control of the storyline but for ‘Legends’ I was very disciplined in wanting the art to service the story. So while there are still the big, head kicking ‘money shots’ in there, I worked hard at making sure it was the strongest artistic job I could do with the storytelling as well. I played around with a lot of cinematic lighting, heavy shadows, textures, FX and wide screen style action to give it an epic feel – something fully painted art is particularly good at.

4. Metal Life Magazine: Did you find yourself adjusting the story to fit the art and vice versa?

Nick Percival: I made sure the whole script was written before working on any of the interior pages and I’d created a large amount of character concept paintings and environmental and creature stuff alongside the script. So by the time I was ready to start on the interior art, I had a pretty solid idea of how I wanted the world and the cast to look. Some things did change artistically along the way – I was always trying to push the art more and more – making it more extreme and detailed but still, as mentioned before, making sure it also told the story clearly and dramatically.

5. Metal Life Magazine: Our readers are fans of heavy metal music and we couldn’t help noticing that almost every page of this book could be a cover for a heavy metal CD. Have you done any artwork for music related projects?

Nick Percival. That’s one area that I haven’t explored yet and it’d be cool to do so. I’d love to do some cover stuff for heavy metal bands – the whole genre and imagery associated with the music is very much in line with a lot of the work I’ve produced in the past and, as you say, there’s a lot of images in ‘Legends’ that would be a great fit for that style of music. So, yep, open to any serious offers on that oneā€¦

6. Metal Life Magazine: Do you listen to music while you draw/write? What types of music do you typically draw inspiration from?

Nick Percival. When I’m actually drawing, it’s normally stuff without lyrics, since I’m focusing on creating the art from just a blank page and need to concentrate a bit more. I listen to tons of different movie soundtracks – all different styles depending on the type of image I’m working on. When I get around to the painting, it gets a bit more fun and I actually ‘watch’ DVDs. Normally it’s stuff where I don’t have to pay too much attention to what’s going on the screen, since I’m looking at my own monitor as I digitally paint. I have a massive DVD collection and worked through hours and hours of TV shows, movies, commentaries, everything when I was doing ‘Legends’. Some really cool stuff, down to some real crap – anything is good for background noise and it’s a good way to catch up on a load of stuff I’ve missed, albeit in a kind of bizarre edited way, since I occasionally miss some of what’s going on, if I’m focusing too much on actually doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I finally got into ‘Dexter’ as I was on the last few pages and that kept me going while I was finishing the graphic novel. Great show.

7. Metal Life Magazine: Has there been any progress on the “Legends: The Enchanted” movie?

Nick Percival: Since Ron Howard and Imagine Entertainment have come on board to produce, I believe it’s in the process of going out to their stable of scriptwriters and talking about the possible directors they’d like to work with. I think it would adapt very well for film, certainly visually and it’d be great to have a strong, visual director on board to interpret the look of the graphic novel. I hope to be involved as much as possible, so it’s moving at its own pace as everything does in Hollywood. I’m quite realistic about these things, so only when I finally see it on the big screen in 3D, will I totally believe it all.

8. Metal Life Magazine: Tell us about your impressions of working with Radical Publishing.

Nick Percival: I’ve worked with a lot of comic book publishers in my career, including the big ones like Marvel Comics. Radical, I think are quite unique. I’d created the script and a ton of concept stuff on Legends before Radical existed and became involved, so I knew where I wanted to go with the project. Since their involvement, I’ve had some constructive input and been left to develop it myself and get on with it, which is a great scenario for any creator. We had some tough deadlines near the end, which always seems to happen on any project, so I was prepared for that and I think everything has been handled very well. Radical have done a stellar job on the production and marketing of the book and they really have a love for the material, so I’m certainly pleased with the final result.

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