When The Best Fence Is Offense
Nov 13, 2017
by Vince Brusio
One of the most common pieces of advice writers are given is to write about what you know. In the case of C.S. Pacat, she loved fencing. So the die was cast. In a new series by BOOM! Studios, Pacat brings her passion for sports to comic books with Fence #1 (SEP171282), which follows sixteen-year-old outsider Nicholas Cox as he joins the world of competitive fencing. It is a world where raw talent counts, but making the cut is brutal.
Fence #1 (SEP171282) is in comic shops November 15.
Vince Brusio: From where did you draw inspiration to create a comic about fencing, and do you have any personal attachment to the sport?
C.S. Pacat: I fenced épée all through high school and fell in love with the sport. It has such a rich history, and it’s a solo combat sport that is intensely strategic and psychological. Add in the striking visuals that fencing is famous for, and I thought it was a fantastic premise for a comic.
I also got really into sports comics in Japan, where I lived for about five years. I love the intense rivalries, the striving, the way you can take characters to their breaking point. Haikyuu!! and Hikaru no Go are easily some of my favorite comics of all time, and I'm equally inspired by the more recent takes on the genre, like Check, Please! and Yuri!!! On Ice. Fence is my love letter to the genre.
These days I’m working with Pieter Leeuwenburgh, one of Australia’s top épée coaches, to choreograph and bring authenticity to the comic’s fencing scenes.
Vince Brusio: Give us an introduction to the main characters. Who will we like? Who will we dislike? Who is someone we can’t quite figure out, and should we watch because he’s most likely to push us into the alligator pit?
C.S. Pacat: Fence follows the rise of sixteen-year-old outsider Nicholas Cox as he joins the world of competitive fencing. Nicholas grew up poor… but tough. Talented but roughly trained, Nicholas has the potential to be a world-class fencer if he can only learn discipline and control. Unknown to anyone else, Nicholas is also the illegitimate son of Robert Coste, a former fencing Olympic champion whose “real” son Jesse Coste is a young fencing star and captain of the rival team.
Nicholas’s foil is Seiji Katayama, a fencing prodigy who has been training since the age of six. Everyone who meets Seiji wants to beat him or be him, but Seiji is untouchable. His abilities seem unfairly effortless—but the truth is, Seiji has worked harder than anyone else in a life dedicated to fencing.
They join a cast of other characters, including Harvard Lee, the team captain with the heart of gold; Bobby Rodrigues, who’s shy (but working on his confidence!); Dante Rossi, the stoic type; Eugene Labao, the jock; and others—all led by Coach Sally “Sal” Williams, a sabreuse (sabre fencer) who is driven by her long-time competition with her fencing rival, Alessandra.
And if you want to avoid the alligator pit, keep your eye on Aiden Kane, the school playboy. Too rich and good looking for his own good, Aiden breaks hearts and treats others like crap, getting his own way thanks to his family’s money and connections. Whatever you do, don’t fall in love with him.
Vince Brusio: Interpersonal relationships appear to be the foundation for this story, as the plot takes place in the elite all-boys school known as Kings Row. Will the tensions between the players on this stage stem primarily from competition, or will there be other emotional obstacles put into play to slow everyone down, and make them think twice?
C.S. Pacat: I think the best sports stories mix competition with outside tensions that further heighten the stakes of each match. Each boy will have his own issues to work through, and there are a few explosive secrets and conflicts that will drive the story. But everything comes back to fencing, which lies at the heart of the comic.
Vince Brusio: Have you studied certain personalities for inspiration to give these characters life? Are any of them been based on people that you know? What eccentricities might you accentuate to give these people a pulse and swagger?
C.S. Pacat: I’m fascinated by archetypes: the power of archetypes, and the way they resonate with readers. Some of my favorite characters—from superhero comics to sports comics—harness powerful archetypes, and then make them into unique, well-rounded, and fascinating individuals. That’s what I hope to do in Fence.
A lot of the characters are drawn from facets of my life and self. Like Nicholas, I was a working-class kid on scholarship at a super-rich, preppy high school. Seiji embodies the struggle I have with perfectionism, the way I often set impossible standards for myself. Dante and I share ethnicity. And so on. But as for whether I've based characters on people I know... that's a secret I'd better not tell!
Vince Brusio: Is there is any particular tête–à–tête that occurs between Nicholas Cox and a rival athlete that could act as a moment in time that best represents the drama of Fence? If such a moment occurs, what sound bite would we hear?
C.S. Pacat: Nicholas’s epic match against Seiji, and the throwdown promise, “I’m going to beat you fifteen-zero.”
Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.