In a strange juxtaposition at the San Diego Comic-Con, the WizKids booth sat next to one featuring adult film star Cheyenne Silver. As we gazed at preview figures for IndyClix, we couldn’t help notice the crowd to our left. So we checked it out. Cheyenne was there promoting an independent comic book series called The Villikon Chronicles. Though it had been available for over a year, its creators, Bryan J. Kinnaird and Roy Young were ramping up to do another book, and had brought Cheyenne in to be their model and their muse. Works for us.
I interviewed all three, and you can go to the Cheyenne Silver interview here. Bryan and Roy traded off, graciously letting me talk to them while selling their popular poster series featuring Cheyenne as Mystere. Writer Bryan J. Kinnaird is an intense, focused man, with a vague resemblance to actor Robert Patrick. After talking to him, it’s no wonder that his face shows up a few times as the model for his protagonist, Kort Villikon. I’m not positive I ever saw him blink.
Contrasting Kinnaird’s intensity, artist Roy Young has a more relaxed attitude. He’s been involved with some controversial moments in recent comics history, having gotten out of Chaos! just before that company went bankrupt. At the same time, he worked on the always turbulent Spawn line. Here’s hoping that The Villikon Chronicles has an easier history. As he says, it’s about karma.
What both men have in common is an absolute love of the medium, and a commitment to promoting it. But read for yourself…
Derek McCaw: The Villikon Chronicles started out as an original screenplay?
Bryan J. Kinnaird: The Villikon Chronicles started out as an original motion picture screenplay. (Saturn award-winning, by the way — Derek) It was more of an independent film endeavor with four principal characters to be shot in Monument Valley. When that didn’t work out the way we had planned it, I joined with Roy Young here, who had done all kinds of stuff with Chaos! Comics and Todd McFarlane Productions, most notably coloring on any of the Spawn series. Roy was also involved with the Metallica series.
Roy Young: I did most of the Lady Death, Cremator, Homicide, Evil Ernie, Purgatori, WWF Stone Cold Steve Austin and Chyna. And the Megadeth series. I have to really think about how many I’ve actually done.
Bryan: I joined with him because Roy also had other aspirations, of doing production design. Together we forged an alliance and said, you know, even though we would like to see this as a much bigger studio endeavor, let’s go ahead and turn this into a comic book series.
So we started making it into a comic; it turned out to be this three issue graphic novel. It’s become sort of an underground cult hit. We went through Diamond Distribution. We also went through Border’s Books, Virgin Megastores. We’ve got international distribution in England, Australia – people know of us.
We went ahead, and now that the series is out and a hit, and the film industry are now contacting us, yeah, now they’re talking again. But we never slowed down anyway. So as they’re talking to us about doing a film adaptation of the original Villikon Chronicles series, we’ve moved ahead and done a poster series featuring the character Mystere. Probably one of the most popular characters to jump out of the series itself. We’re going to do a prequel/sequel. We’ve contracted a model, former adult film star, and now she’s crossed over into some mainstream films, Cheyenne Silver. Using her look and our talents and the story we’ve already built, we’ve made quite an impression on a lot of people. She’s well-known. Her image and the stuff that we’ve put together is a fine mix.
We’re debuting a new website. We’re introducing a lot of new stuff here, mainly the poster series by Roy but also with a new artist that we have, Norm Mireles. What we’re going to do is, Roy is established with a surreal, almost photorealistic, painting style, with a traditional style which Norm does in pencils. We’re kind of fusing the two to create first a web series with Mystere, and then later publish that as a graphic novel series. Between all that, film, videogame, anything like that happens in between, hey, the more the merrier.
Derek: Did you have to make much alteration from your original screenplay?
Bryan: Absolutely not, as far as the story goes. When you take script pages, of course, Roy taught me a lot from that aspect. You take six pages of dialogue, it may move real fast when you’re looking at the realtime flicker of a movie. But on the comic book page, you’ve got to tell that story on one page in possibly five or six panels at the most. If you don’t just do a splash, a two page spread.
We didn’t take any liberties in dissecting the story and not including stuff. There are some sequences we may have wanted to go longer. There’s some epicness that we may have had to forego because of time constraints and deadlines to the publishers. Other than that, we kept the story intact, which is very sophisticated. It’s more adult-oriented, not that it’s adult-oriented material, but it’s a story that’s not your happy-go-lucky story.
Derek: People are going to think it’s more adult-oriented with Cheyenne’s presence.
Bryan: Exactly. And if that causes a stir or a controversy, we’re all about that as well.
Roy: The eroticism has a large element in the movie, too. When you talk about her character and who she’s associated with through certain parts of the movie, it’s very much an adult-oriented theme. I don’t think that kids will really get it as much as the adults will. But there’s a purpose to it; it’s not just gratuitous. There’s an absolute reason why it’s in there.
Female vampires are alluring.
Derek: Is that what she is? I don’t know anything about the story.
Bryan: She is one of the pivotal characters. The Villikon Chronicles are …I wanted to do a take on what Australia was as a prison colony to England. They cast off their prisoners there and lo and behold Australia became a continent unto itself. A culture developed and, well, here we are today.
The Villikon Chronicles is set in a universe where religious zealots and prophets control everything. Through a millennium or so, they gave their power up to the military. But they still don’t really believe in killing. So they came up with this system, “let’s take our most hardened criminals and banish them to a prison world on the outer fringes of the galaxy.”
The prison world is called Itasca. Of course, a culture starts to be born there. Ironically, there was a slave ship that crashed on that planet. The Mystere character was raised on that planet. Grew up there. Because once something lands on the planet, you’re not allowed to go back for it. She’s raised by hardened criminals
But it’s really about Kort Villikon. He’s just one soldier of misfortune; he was banished on the prison world. It’s the story of his ten year crusade to escape the inescapable world. In doing so, he meets a variety of characters, one of them being Mystere.
Does he fall in love with her? Well, there’s kind of that Batman and Catwoman conquest thing there. She is who she is, and Villikon is a man who was a soldier. Of course, the arc of the story is will they escape? Will Villikon and Mystere ever get together?
But they’re two very different and dynamic characters. Our sequel/prequel series, The Crucibles of Mystere, will explain more about the origins of Mystere and give her a story of her own. So it will be in the vein of The Mummy and The Scorpion King. They’re both kind of related, but they’re stand-alone projects unto themselves.
One of the things that happens to Mystere, she gets involved with Porphyrians, which is my take on vampires. I developed Porphyrians based on Porphyria, which is the real disease where people believe they are vampires. There’s always that allure of the female vampire, the succubus, that can get into your mind. Mystere kind of delves into that, as well as witchcraft on the planet. There’s a lot of facets to her personality. She’s really an intriguing character, with a little bit of edge. She’s sexy, but tomboyish. She’s everything that you’d want. She’s the Elektra, Witchblade, Jessica Alba, Charlie’s Angels.
I think that Cheyenne, even though she’s breaking into the mainstream, still has enough edge to get that same demographic. Let’s face it, the same guys that are buying your Playboys and Penthouses also like comic book characters like Vampirella.
It’s kind of a perfect mix. Bringing her onboard, will it alienate people? Possibly. Will it bring more fans on? Definitely. We’ve already proven that.
Roy: It was like a karmic thing. We needed someone to fulfill that role without having to fake it. Who better than an adult film star, basically?
Bryan: We’ve worked with models before. When we attack a project, we do a full on photoshoot against a blue screen, and we use those as templates to make our characters.
Cheyenne Silver, I mean, you see her or hear her on the Howard Stern show, you know her adult films, and regardless of what she does, she does have that look. She’s an adult film star, but she has that innocent girl next door look, but still that tough girl look. I don’t know how to explain it. When we saw it, we knew it.
Roy: She had all the facets we were looking for.
Bryan: I contacted her, she contacted me, we had a series of lengthy conversations via phone. We met and decided that this would be a good thing to do. So we contracted her to play the character. We’ve licensed her to use the Mystere character. We’ve got the poster series. We’re negotiating to do the Las Vegas ComicCon at Mandalay Bay (That has now been confirmed – Derek). Wizard World, they’re extending their expos into the Dallas area in November. We just keep moving ahead. We’re planning ahead, even though we can’t tell you what tomorrow holds. There’s a couple of studios that my agents are dealing with now, they could call me tomorrow and say “let’s make this happen.”
Will that change any of our plans? It could. We’re not waiting around.
Roy: One of the methods to our madness, when we started this, after working in the comics industry for so long, I kept seeing artists not getting their due. One thing we wanted to do with this was show that you could still do something of high quality without relying on all the big entities here.
We represent the really small guy that’s really trying to bust out. They’re spending so much time, wasting a lot of time and effort, trying to stand in line and get their stuff seen.
A lot of the artists out there, we profess this all the time, you don’t have to wait for someone to discover you. Birth yourself in another area. Pull together all your resources and you can do something that is just as good as anything else out there, and you do it yourself. The Villlikon Chronicles is a shining example of that. We really wanted people to know, when we did this, it was two people that created all of this. Yeah, it was a lot of sacrificing and a lot of hard work, but it can be done.
And we wanted to be one of the examples. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get hired by Todd McFarlane or Dark Horse. Don’t give up on it. Rather than waiting and waiting and waiting for someone to discover you, go out and do it.
Once you take that step forward in creating it, it will evolve itself. You establish yourself in whatever means of financing or whatever resources that you have, pull those together and make the best of it. We are open about artists that come to us. We never turn anybody down. We try to give the best helpful advice based on the criteria or circumstances and finances that people have available. We try to help them maximize their abilities.
Bryan: Norm Mireles is absolutely new. That’s how we found him, and we’re going to use him on the next series. He’s an unknown, and it’s been a long time before we decided to bring somebody else on board. That’s why we’re here at the Con. We notice that a lot of the big entities, DC and Dark Horse, there’s a lot of classes they want you to attend. You’ve got to go through a whole process before you can even get an artist to look at your work. We’re looking at your work because we’re looking for quality – we want to do something completely new.
Roy: We remember what it’s like to be standing on the other side of the table. We were fans. We still are fans. We play fan geek quite a bit. We stand in lines to get our autographs still. We haven’t changed at all.
But we want the small guys to know – it’s the small guys in here who really polish out this industry. And there’s some talent in here that surpasses, as far as I’m concerned, a lot of the big movie stuff that’s out there. But they don’t have the money to do the advertising to get all the sales.
Here at the conventions, not only are we trying to sell our wares, but we’re trying to get information out to people on how to make the process of creating a book much easier. It’s like a karmic thing. We try to put out something good for the benefit of the people and all the artists out there, without being completely self-centered in our own endeavors. We always get people that are into the story. And it’s the coolest thing. It’s like having somebody that wants to do work for you that is willing to do it because they like the story so much.
Everybody that’s involved with Villikon right now volunteered their services to us. You know, some of them we had to turn down because either they were too big for us to handle or they were too out of the area so we couldn’t really conduct good business with them. We do a lot of work freelancing with other artists doing submissions and stuff. We take their submissions, look at them, and if we think they’re good enough, we’ll go back to them and critique their work if they want to hear it, set them in motion. Give them people to contact. We share our resources.
That is one thing I don’t see here. A lot of people don’t want to share their resources because they’re making money at it. It’s a greed thing, I guess, but we’re not about that. The money is not so much the issue with us as getting the point across of what we’re doing.
It’s a karmic thing. What you put out comes back to you. If you’re doing nothing but focusing everything upon yourself, you’re going to get tossed away eventually. People are going to get tired of hearing the arrogant stories and stuff like that. We’re trying to help the small guys. We’re trying to get people to band together and get a stronger belief in the comic industry right now, because it is teetering.
I could go on and on about that, but I won’t.
Did Roy go on and on about that anyway? Well, the tape ran out. But it was a pleasure to talk to the guys, and if you see them at Las Vegas, you should absolutely seek them out.