Wednesday, June 15, 2011

INTERVIEW WITH ERIK EVENSEN (GODS OF ASGARD), Part Four

Heimdall & lur by Erik Evensen
KS - You portray Heimdall’s horn as a lur (an ancient Scandinavian wind instrument) instead of the animal horn that appears in many representations. Why did you make this choice?

EE - The lur is Germanic and Nordic, it predates the Vikings, and looks and sounds awesome. In the Icelandic sagas, similar horns were used as war instruments to rally the troops. That’s exactly what Heimdall does with it, so it seemed to fit. Did I mention that it looks and sounds awesome?

KS - Since the 19th century, artistic interpretations of the Norse gods have tended towards the bombastic and the fantastic. Your gods are human-like figures in realistic settings. Why did you decide on this approach?

EE - I see the gods as extensions of humanity, in many ways, especially because of their relevance as characters. They seem to work best that way. Stripping away the religious elements, most of the big stories we know come from tales that were told around the campfire – more for entertainment value than spiritual practice. The gods served as familiar characters, and Thor, specifically, is meant to represent the everyman and be identifiable to people. I went with an approach that treats the gods as extensions of their own people.

The Midgard Serpent by Erik Evensen
KS - In your version of “Thor vs. the Midgard Serpent,” the god of thunder doesn’t swell to gigantic proportions, like he does in the Edda. Was this part of a conscious decision to downplay fantasy elements of the mythology?

EE - More or less. I didn’t see any reason for him to do this, because it seems to downplay the epic threat of the serpent and it’s not a trick that he frequently uses.

KS - You depict Andvari as a dwarf, not in his fish-disguise (as in the source mythology). Was this part of an attempt to bring consistency to the stories by connecting him to other dwarfs that Loki deals with?

Loki & Andvari in Gods of Asgard
EE - Actually, yes. I liked the concept of the dwarves I had come up with and wanted to use it again. Plus, dwarves have treasure hordes, and I didn’t want to confuse things. Since it parallels Loki’s previous dealings with dwarves, it gave me a chance to emphasize how much darker and meaner he is now.

KS - When Loki delivers Andvari’s cursed treasure as a ransom for Odin and Hoenir, you conspicuously leave out any mention of Andvaranaut – the mystic ring that was so important to both Wagner and Tolkien. Why did you decide to remove it from the narrative?

EE - Ha! I don’t know. I did start an adaptation of the Völsunga Saga, and of course I used it there. Either I didn’t find it relevant to the narrative within the context of Gods of Asgard, or it was simply sloppy storytelling on my part. I’d believe both.

KS - In some ways, Gods of Asgard reminds me of the old Classics Illustrated comic books that adapted great works of literature. Did you read that series as a child?

EE - I didn’t. I did read a lot of Spider-Man, Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, and Dick Tracy, and gradually worked more and more mainstream comics into my rotation as I got older. I wasn’t even aware of Classics Illustrated until I was an adult, but I’ve found that many fans of my book are fans of that series, as well.

Freya & Valkyries by Erik Evensen
KS - Your book includes detailed notes and insightful commentary on the myths, but the graphic presentation itself gives straightforward depictions of action. Can the medium of the graphic novel integrate deeper meaning or ambivalence – or does its visual nature predispose it to literal representation?

EE - I think it can, and I think, ideally, it would. One of my traits as an interpreter, for good or for ill, is that I ground these stories in a believable world that works in ways we understand when we see it. I’ve seen other people who have some very interesting interpretations that I wish I had thought of. Chris Studabaker, who worked on Power of the Valkyrie, is one. His interpretation of Yggdrasil and the Nine Worlds as different metaphysical planes is great  – and not something I was able to come up with at the time.

Loki in Gods of Asgard
KS - You write that the story of “Loki’s Insult” contains references to “several events that do not appear in any of the existing mythological documents” and that “this is one reason why it is assumed that many of the original stories of the gods and goddesses were somehow lost.” When you write Gods of Asgard II, will you take on the challenge of imagining and illustrating these lost tales?

EE - I would love to fill in some gaps, to be honest. I’d love to do something with Ód, Freyja’s husband, or some of the minor characters that flit in and out of the myths.

Cover to Gods of Asgard
KS - The cover to Gods of Asgard features beautifully-rendered color images of your characters – images that seem almost three-dimensional. The interior, however, contains stark line art with solid blacks. Did you originally intend to color the art with Photoshop? Will there be a color edition in the future?

EE - Thank you. I didn’t originally plan on coloring the book. The reason was mainly production costs, but the number of pages and amount of time it would take to do a good job was intimidating to me, too.

KS - Your fantastic color art is also featured in the film you created for Twilight of the Gods, your collaboration with composer Andrew Boysen, Jr. How did this piece for wind ensemble come about?

EE - Well, Andy and I have known each other for a long time. I was a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire when he was hired on as the Director of Bands, and – as a band kid – I knew a lot of people in the music department. We stayed in touch, and when I started Gods of Asgard, I shared some of the artwork with him. He had the idea to write a piece using some of that artwork, and when a commission came in, he asked if I’d be interested. I said, “Why use old artwork when we could create something new?"

KS - What role did each of you play in the creation of the work? How did the art influence the music – and vice versa?

EE - We started by determining a story. Andy likes to work dark, so – after toying around with a few options – we settled on Ragnarok as a theme, because you can’t get much more epic than that. Then, we worked out story beats, and there were an awful lot of back-and-forth phone conversations that gave us that structure. I sketched out key scenes as thumbnail sketches, and Andy sketched out musical structure, and we shaped the story to fit. After that, we kind of worked on our own, then I assembled everything in a video format.

The Midgard Serpent & Thor by Erik Evensen
KS - Have you looked into the possibility of producing a fully-animated version of Gods of Asgard?

EE - I have not, but if anyone is interested, they should get in touch. That would be great!

KS - Do you have any upcoming projects related to Norse mythology?

Erik Evensen
EE - I sure do. I’m working on a book illustration project for Saga Publishers International which will essentially illustrate the Saga of Fridthjof the Bold and his ancestors. It won’t be a comic, but it should be pretty cool. I’ve got an adaptation of the Saga of the Völsungs in the works, but I shelved it because I was afraid it was too similar to P. Craig Russell’s Wagnerian adaptation. But I’d like to pull it back out, someday.

This concludes the Norse Mythology Blog's interview with Erik Evensen. More information on Erik's book can be found at the Gods of Asgard website.

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