Graphic Novel Weekly 3/21/19: Battlecats Special

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This week, I have some very special content making an appearance on Graphic Novel Weekly! First up, I will be taking a look at Battlecats, Volume 1: The Hunt for the Dire Beast, the first collection of the series from Mad Cave Studios. I’m going to be following that up with a lengthy interview with the creative team behind the series, and then wrap up the column with a look at the complete sneak preview issue of the second volume of Battlecats. I hope you’re ready for an exciting ride!

If you like what you see in Graphic Novel Weekly, I’d love for you to check out all of the exciting reviews, interviews, and previews. You can access every Graphic Novel Weekly column right here!!

Battlecats, Volume 1: The Hunt for the Dire Beast

Writer: Mark London
Artist: Andy King
Colorist: Alejandro Giraldo
Letterers: Miguel Zapata, Christian Ospina
Publisher: Mad Cave Studios
Physical Copy: $14.99
Digital Copy: $12.99
Contains: Battlecats #1-5

You ever had one of those days where you thought that ThunderCats could benefit from a dash of The Lord of the Rings? You haven’t? Well, I’ll admit, neither have I. Yet, I’ve learned about myself that, when presented with something resembling that mash-up, I’ll invariably read it. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a fun, fast-paced action tale. Yes, I do also like complex plots and moral uncertainty in stories like Mister Miracle (check back next week for my review of that collection!). However, there is something very satisfying about slipping into something a little less emotionally brutal.

In the land of Valderia, the Battlecats are the elite group of warriors comprised of one member from each of the five nations of the kingdom. They function as the king’s personal guard, and act on missions at his command. However, when they are sent out on an urgent mission to slay the Dire Beast, Kelthan and the rest of the Battlecats find themselves mired in a mystery that could rock the foundations of Valderia and cause them to question their own morals and loyalties to the king.

The world of Battlecats is quite intricately planned out, and shows a lot of forethought. The structure of the different nations, as well as the pacts that bind them together, are all intricately wound together. However, Battlecats does occasionally come across as the efforts of less-experienced craftsmen. The world-building is extensive, and rather than having it introduced to the reader throughout the story, it is dropped in a bit at the beginning, and then takes up the entirety of the fourth of five issues contained within here. More disconcertingly, the full-issue history lesson occurs right in the middle of the hunt for the Dire Beast, and left me feeling pretty disoriented.

That said, there is also a lot to like in Battlecats. The action occasionally takes over the beginning of the book, but it quickly finds its rhythm and is a lot of fun. London is strongest at laying out difficult problems for his characters to struggle through, and then back half of the hunt for the Dire Beast flies by. By the time you reach the end of the first volume and the plot’s major twists and bends, it is easy to be fully engaged and ready to dive straight into the second volume. Michael Camelo’s art stands out as strongest in this volume, and I am excited to see he will be continuing into the second volume. The sample pages from the first volume are also his work.

If you are looking for a fun action fantasy, Battlecats, Volume 1: The Hunt for the Dire Beast is a good place to look. It starts a little bumpy, but it finds its groove and blasts along. I am very much looking forward to the next collection!

Check out these preview pages from Battlecats, Volume 1: The Hunt for the Dire Beast, and following those an exciting interview with the creators behind the second volume of Battlecats!

Preview from ‘Battlecats, Volume 1.’
Preview from ‘Battlecats, Volume 1.’
Preview from ‘Battlecats, Volume 1.’

Graphic Novel Weekly:
So, Mark, the first question that came to mind when I saw the announcement for Battlecats was, why Battlecats? Why not Battledogs or Battlehippos? What drew you to creating a medieval high-fantasy setting involving anthropomorphic, humanoid felines? How does having cat characters flow into your goals for this series?

Mark London:
Because I’m obsessed with cats! Okay, maybe obsessed is a little too strong a word, but I find them fascinating. Hell, ancient Egyptians were captivated by them and even treated them as superior beings. For the longest time, I’ve wanted to have a cast of cats that could accommodate the story I wanted to tell. As far as the humanoid aspect, I wanted to include that so the reader (on a subconscious level) could still relate to the characters.

Graphic Novel Weekly:
I’m curious, which came first: the story of the world building. It is clear that a lot of hard work went into Valderia and the world of the Battlecats. How much of that was developed before you started the plot? What did your process look like for this volume of Battlecats?

Mark London:
For me, it’s story first and the world building is a result of the story. From the get-go, I had a clear vision for the story that I wanted to tell with Battlecats. So as I rearrange all the scenes, like pieces on a board, the world starts coming to life because the foundation is already there.

Graphic Novel Weekly:
And then as you got that hashed out, you brought in Andy King on art. What about Andy’s art made him the right choice to help launch Battlecats?

Mark London:
Yes, you may have your own vision, but it’s really the artist who makes it real, who solidifies the image on the page. You see, my initial vision for the Battlecats was different, but when Andy began drawing concepts for the characters it was clear that he was a fan of Conan and Master of the Universe. As it happens to be, I am also a fan, so it became clear that that was the best route for the book.

Graphic Novel Weekly:
Now, Michael, you joined the series with the fifth and final issue of volume one. What drew you to Battlecats?

Micheal Camelo:
In my personal case, I think the most attractive thing of Battlecats as a series is the universe. So many secrets and stories are hidden in the world of Valderia that I can’t wait to explore the mythology. A great merit of Mark’s work is his ability to world-build and create these unexpected journeys in the series.

Graphic Novel Weekly:
What was it like picking up the series on such a pivotal chapter?

Micheal Camelo:
It was a great challenge, I had to adapt very quickly to what was already working, not only in the composition of the narrative, but in the designs of characters and locations. I feel that the last issue of Volume 1 was a good way to introduce me to this universe, because I had the opportunities to meet almost all the roster of characters and gave me time to get accustomed to each one of them.

Graphic Novel Weekly:
Mild spoilers here: the first volume ended with a number of momentous moments and a lot of tension. The two main plots set up here seem to be the Battlecats’ fall from grace and the gathering of an enormous army that threatens Valderia. How do you work to create these culminating moments of the first story arc? And what went into the art to create the tone and atmosphere you wanted to close the first volume with?

Micheal Camelo:
As I expressed before, it was difficult, but I knew how important it was to give a good close to this first arc, then I gave it my all to become better and showcase my growth in Volume 2 without clashing with my previous work. I took the opportunity to explore the terrain of Valderia, specifically, in Greenspyre, a place I tried to give its own personality and add a somber tone, for the events that would occur later.

Mark London:
I’m a big believer in tension to help drive your characters further to help them grow. The stakes need to be raised for their story to matter to the reader. So once the script was done, I sat with Mike and Gio (EIC) and went over the scenes so that we could start to visualize it. We all agreed that we wanted a strong cliffhanger moment for the first arc. Through Mike’s art and Julian Gonzales’s color we were able to set the mood for that last issue. The end result was seeing the fate of Valderia and the Battlecats hanging by a thread.

Micheal Camelo:
In principle, I managed to use contrast and Chiaroscuro with an increased use of the dithering and negative zones to create a more dramatic atmosphere in the panels which was what was needed for this last issue of the first arc: more drama.

Graphic Novel Weekly:
Looking forward, the story continues in the second volume of Battlecats. New story arc, new volume, new Battlecats #1. What was the goal behind restarting the numbering for the new story arc? Will this continue with each successive volume of the series?

Mark London:
It’s one big story arc of almost 17 issues that will be broken down into 3 Volumes and eventually they will be collected in one big and badass hardcover trade paperback.

Graphic Novel Weekly:
Readers get a taste of the world of the second volume of Battlecats in the sneak preview issue, but can either of you give us some more hints on what to expect from the second Battlecats story?

Mark London:
Unfortunately, I can’t go a lot in detail. But rest assured that this volume opens up the world and we get to know our characters even more. This is the story I’ve always wanted to tell fans and they are in for a real treat because the unexpected is coming in a spectacular fashion.

Graphic Novel Weekly:
Gladiator scenarios lend themselves to epic action sets. And, from the looks of things, some awesome beasts. Michael, did you design the creature that appears in the sneak preview issue? Can you tell us a bit about what went into its design?

Micheal Camelo:
Yes, I created it as the first antagonist for our heroes in this new arc. First I was inspired to a large extent with some scenes from the film John Carter especially the battle at the Coliseum, for which they created a four-armed beast.

Graphic Novel Weekly:
How about the designs of the Battlecats? I see that their looks have been updated. What went into their updated designs?

Micheal Camelo:
We set out to simplify the designs in Volume 2. This accomplished two things, it showed their fall from warrior status, as their usual armor was changed to simpler clothes, and by making their designs simpler, it allowed me to make their reproduction easier in later volumes without losing their essence as heroes of this story.

Graphic Novel Weekly:
What are the long-term plans for Battlecats? Is there an end in mind?

Mark London:
Yes, there will be an end, but it won’t be anytime soon. For now, we are just having too much fun creating the journey for these characters.

Graphic Novel Weekly:
It’s a thrill to be able to host you on Graphic Novel Weekly. Is there anything else you want to say? Do either of you have other projects coming up you want to spread the word on?

Mark London:
Mad Cave has an aggressive strategy for the next three years that we can’t wait to unleash on our Cave Dwellers. Our next title is Show’s End which is written by Anthony Cleaveland and drawn by Jefferson Sadzinski (two of our talent search winners from last year.) Speaking of the Talent Search, we’re ramping up to start that back up in the coming months so be on the lookout for that. It’s going to be a MAD summer to say the least!

Mad Cave Studios passed along a copy of the preview issue for the second volume of Battlecats, and were kind enough to let me share it with all of my readers. Check it out below!

‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Cover
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 1
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 2
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 3
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 4
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 5
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 6
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 7
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 8
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 9
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 10
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 11
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 12
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 13
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Page 14
‘Battlecats, Volume 2 Sneak Preview Issue,’ Back Cover

Luke Forney and/or GeekDad received copies of each of the graphic novels included in this list for review purposes. If you are reading this article anywhere other than on GeekDad or GeekMom, then you are reading a copy not authorized by the author. Please check out other Graphic Novel Weekly articles at www.geekdad.com

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