Sunday, December 8, 2013

Brain Splatter Exclusive: Interview with Saltire Creator John Ferguson

The other day I was afforded the opportunity to review Saltire, the story of Scotland's first original superhero, over at Superhero Movie News. I really enjoyed the books so I reached out to John Ferguson via Clare Ferguson and was fortunate enough to get a chance to ask a few questions about the character, the book and the process of developing an independent comic in a market dominated by big names. Both John and Clare were very generous and accommodating and I'm very grateful for their time and the opportunity to ask some questions about a very cool project!

Comic Book Brain Splatter:  You've conceptualized and written an independent comic book. Could you tell the readers about the process of it...sort of the story behind the scenes from the inception of your idea to the finished product? I think it's probably quite a bit more difficult than people imagine.

John Ferguson: The idea came from an article i read some years ago that suggested Scotland was an impossible place for a superhero to frequent due to it’s lack of coolness. This inspired me to prove this attitude wrong. Superheroes are all based in modern mythology so where better to form a new character than a country famous for its myths and legends that also happens to be the oldest country in the western world. There’s a lot of scope there.

Working on the scripts, creating the characters and their world is the fun part. I took quite a while reviewing the concept from every angle and edited over and over until it had a realism to it.
Then comes the difficult part. Finding an artist or team of artists that can complete a project is quite an undertaking. Luckily, after a couple of false starts, the idea of a competition with a cash prize and the paying job of creating the first Saltire book, brought an excellent creative team to the project.
Being patient with the process is the main thing, it takes a while.

CBBS:  One thing that stuck out to me while reviewing Saltire was how entirely symbolic the hero was to the nation of Scotland. The name, the colors, etc.  Could you talk a bit about the genesis of the character's look and give your take on the symbolism of the character?

JF: Scottish people are often jovially referred to as being blue because of the paleness of our skin. We’re also quite hairy and ginger with a fairly fiery temperament, so the building blocks were essentially your average Scotsman. His cross scar tissue and markings are quite iconic and come from his connection to the Stone of Destiny, Scotland’s national stone. The markings actually say “Saltire” in an ancient Caledonian script. In the upcoming books we discover the flag of Scotland is named after and based on Saltire, not the other way around.

CBBS:  I read a quote from you in which you touched on Saltire's immortality and how that would enable you to set the character in anytime in history (past, present and future). I think that's a wonderful idea and obviously frees you up to tell any number of stories. Without giving too much away, what plans do you have for the settings in future books?

JF: Yes, this is the exciting part. Scotland’s historical records were destroyed twice (13th and 17th century) which opens up the past to a lot of “what ifs?” How did Scotland defeat the Romans, Saxons, Vikings, English who all attempted to invade? And the future, with even more scope than the past, with populations exploding and scarcity of essential commodities makes places with a lot of fresh water, food and energy reserves (see Scotland) quite desirable to unscrupulous villains.

CBBS: Speaking of the past, I love how you included the infamous Ninth Legion and retold the construction of Hadrian's Wall. Could you explain your thoughts on why you chose that time period as the one in which you began your story?

JF: It’s one of the earliest parts of Scotland’s history that is known universally. Typically told from the perspective of the Romans it immediately tells you this is a pseudo history and it’s not your usual, “poor wee Romans being gallantly outnumbered by the pesky savages who are standing in the way of progress” but exists from the Scottish perspective, where people are defending their right to live freely. I think the story of freedom is one that resonates with everyone, wherever you are from and whatever your perspective. It’s also nice to bring in something so visually memorable as Hadrian’s Wall to define Saltire’s line in the sand for future stories.

CBBS: The majority of my audience is in the US.   I felt each of the guardians and the immortal protectors were probably much more deeply tied to Scotland than I realized, though I was able to see into some of it. Could you expand a bit on some of the mythology of your nation that you've put into the first two books?

JF: You’re right. Scotland has a distinct highlands in the north and lowlands in the south. Within each lies a stone footprint carved out of the natural rock, in reality they became the coronation point of kings, but they are of much more ancient origin and legend suggests they connect to the Otherworld and the Fae.

The unicorn is the ancient heraldic symbol of Scotland, and the last dragon is said to have been slain in Scotland with it’s connection to the Loch Ness monster dating back to the Dark Ages. The ancient belief system of Scotland was very similar to Taoism so the yin yang, dark and light is very deliberate. The individual guardians are very representative of each region of Scotland, both visually and, as will become apparent in books to come, in personality and beliefs.

CBBS: Have you clearly defined what powers Saltire will have or are you open to developing them as you go?

JF: Saltire’s powers are fairly defined, he’s existed for thousands of years (you know how old people get set in their ways), but he will develop his ideology, particularly in the futuristic stories where he is quite isolated. The big development will be unveiling his weaknesses in the next book. Even Superman has Kryptonite!

CBBS: Will Saltire be decapitating anymore deities?

JF: Deities, demi-gods, supernatural beings and just plain dastardly villains. There’s some fairly iconic bad guys coming up in Saltire’s future.

Incredibly thorough and insightful answers on John's part! I am very thankful for the opportunity to have gotten a chance to talk to him about his creation and look forward to our future conversations about the book.  Remember, you can pick up your copy of Saltire over at at Amazon by clicking HERE...Saltire Invasion