Body Count By Battlecats
Mar 26, 2018
by Vince Brusio
New publisher Mad Cave Studios debuts in the December PREVIEWS catalog with a limited series that should be received warmly by those who grew up on anthropomorphic comic books. Take that sort of fandom, add it to an algorithm that would include King Arthur and Thundercats as variables, and you’ll come out the other end with a new book that looks like Battlecats #1 (DEC171694) by creator/writer Mark London, who is also the CEO of Mad Cave Studios. In this interview, Mark reveals that what started out as a comic book quickly turned into an encyclopedic-sized concept that had him world building like a mad god jacked-up on D&&D and energy drinks. It’s a recipe for creativity that could be used quite frequently.
Battlecats #1 (DEC171694) is in comic shops March 28.
Vince Brusio: What is the premise of Battlecats?
Mark London: Battlecats follows a group of fierce feline warriors sent on a quest by King Eramad III to slay The Dire Beast. This undertaking will lead our heroes through different regions of Valderia: the majestic world they swore to protect. Along the way, they unearth secrets that will place Valderia at a greater risk than they initially thought.
Vince Brusio: Who are the main characters in the story, and who is the supporting cast?
Mark London: As the title states, our main characters are the Battlecats — Kelthan, Vaela, Zorien, Kaleera, and Mekkar — hailing from Valderia’s five, main regions, each with their own personalities, combat skills, and weapons of choice.
Battlecats also introduces a strong cast of supporting characters that integrally promote the epic storyline. The Lion God, eternal deity and creator of Valderia. King Eramad III, maned heir to Valderia’s proud ruling lineage. Natharien, Eramad’s trusted canine adviser. Eltoreq, a once promising Battlecat candidate who now rebels against the throne.
Vince Brusio: What's the timeline for Battlecats' development?
Mark London: Creating the Battlecats lore proved a cathartic, “World-Building” experience for me. Although my initial focus was to immediately dive in and begin working on the comic itself, the overall concept pieces assumed a mind of their own. The result? A full-blown encyclopedia--The Tome of Valderia--that explains this expansive medieval fantasy setting, which included deities, maps, timelines, character descriptions, etc. This concept phase became an obsession aimed at fleshing out Valderia’s history and add as much context as possible. The work on this front still continues! Nevertheless, once I found the backstory, the direction where our warriors will go next became clearer.
Vince Brusio: Did you and artist Andy King both take on this project at the same time?
Mark London: No, I formed the idea of Battlecats years before. Once I had the opportunity to begin developing concepts, I needed an artist to bring my ideas to life.
Vince Brusio: Was there anyone else brought into the creative fold?
Mark London: Mad Cave Studios, Inc. (“Mad Cave”) is not a one-man operation. Mad Cave is, really, a group of talented artists and designers whose skills breathe life into every issue. With Battlecats, specifically, it was Alejandro Giraldo’s coloring technique that elevated those initial concepts and established the vibrant color palettes and personalized features evident throughout Valderia.
Vince Brusio: What was the process like for developing the characters personalities and costumes?
Mark London: I have always been fascinated with King Arthur and The Knights of the Roundtable. In a way, the Battlecats represent Arthur’s knights. However, instead of having a story focus mainly on the King, our story focuses on the fierce warriors sworn to protect the throne. Doing so allows every Battlecat reader, and me, as a writer, to explore further and see the impact other influences like The Lion God’s mandates or Valderia itself have on the Battlecats. Themes like loyalty, recognition of a higher power, and knowing when to fight are important aspects I wanted to embed in each character. Obviously, the Battlecats — as the king’s elite force entrusted to face Valderia’s most serious threats — required a strict adherence to these core values and their unique qualities. Kelthan, for example, is the principled leader of the group. Zorien is your introspective monk with an impressive physique. Kaleera is your agile tactical scout. Vaela is your nurturing magic wielder. Finally, Mekkar is your smart aleck, master of the mace and shield.
As far as costume designs, clearly we took several cues from classic medieval fantasy works like, again, King Arthur, Howard’s Conan, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and even Lewis’ Narnia. Yet, from these standards, we created our own stylings which add yet another layer to Valderia’s distinctiveness.
Vince Brusio: How many revisions were there of Battlecats? What ended up on the cutting floor?
Mark London: Battlecats is the result of a four-year creative process full of careful designs and revisions. Many, many revisions. One of the main challenges focused on how the series would use the premise of anthropomorphic felines. What was the right feel for these characters? Some versions were too human and other versions were plain animals. After a lot of brainstorming and painstaking sketch work, I think we got the organic designs fitting to the story I was writing. Also, in my first draft, I crammed so much backstory that the end result was too much of a “slow burn.” I had to go back to the keyboard several times making the edits necessary so that the story could begin with the Battlecats in the middle of the action and, before they know it, both they and the readers are sent on a path of discovery.
Vince Brusio: Give us a sense of what readers are in store for with this series.
Mark London: All I can say is that Battlecats builds. It’s an emotionally-charged, action-packed adventure enveloped by a captivating medieval fantasy setting that constantly grows both in size and appeal. Battlecats offers something for every comic book reader —from fantasy fans to overall indie lovers, from the avid comics lector to the more passive ones. Our desire is to submerge each Battlecats reader into Valderia’s rich environment and experience this world through their eyes.
Given this reality, much is in store for the series. Volume 1 will contain three complete story arcs consisting of Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3, each with five issues. Also, Mad Cave will publish The Tome of Valderia, an encyclopedia/concept art book that offers readers more content and backstory. Again, the aim is clear: Battlecats provides the roadmap towards a medieval fantasy world that continually evolves while bringing different aspects that engage a wide-ranging audience.
Vince Brusio: If you had to compare it to any contemporary books out there, what comes to mind? Or is Battlecats an all-new kind of beast?
Mark London: Exposed to so much creative content growing up including comic books, novels, movies, videogames, and animation, it is hard to pinpoint what titles or overall influences can relate to Battlecats. This series is such a unique, world-building experience where each reader will tackle their own journey accompanied by the Battlecats!
Vince Brusio: Could you tell us what future projects are in the works for Mad Cave?
Mark London: Absolutely. There are many projects in tow at Mad Cave. Here is a quick description of each title:
Midnight Task Force
A mystery, thriller set in Detroit, 2055. The story centers on the anti-hero, Det. Aiden McCormick, and his struggle with mental illness while trying to solve a series of grisly murders plaguing the city. Will Aiden be able to solve the case? Or is there more going on than even he can imagine?
Knights of the Golden Sun
Our biblical take on historical fiction and mythology during the events that divide the Old Testament with the New. For four hundred years, God was silent. Without His leadership, the angels and their fallen brothers fought over His throne. What will become of humanity and the angels that watch over them? The struggle for Providence begins.
Honor and Curse
Set in feudal Japan, this martial arts inspired, action/adventure comic follows a young shinobi: Genshi Sakagura. Haunted by the questions about a tragedy in his past, now his doubt is beginning to manifest itself supernaturally. Will Genshi be able to control this spirit or will he lose himself to the darkness?
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.