Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Interview with the Writing Team of Chess-Masters

By: Nicole D'Andria

This comic book is about a group of superheroes who are out of time and about to be put in check. Or is it checkmate?

Chess-Masters is about a group of superheroes sent into the future from the 25th century. Each member of the team is named after a chess piece and includes King, Queen, Bishop, Rook and Knight.

The first issue of Chess-Masters was on Kickstarter until it was picked up by Insane Comics. Bradley Golden, the CEO of Second Sight Studios, is one of the writers on Chess-Masters. The other writer and creator of the series is Gary Mcclendon. The artwork is done by Marcelo Salaza and the colors are by Geraldo Filho.

Me: What is your role on Chess-Masters and what does it entail?

Bradley Golden
Bradley Golden: My role on Chess-Masters is co-writer and editor.  Me and Gary Mcclendon plot out each issue and then move onto the outline.  Afterwards he scripts the first draft of issue #1 and I go over it for the final draft.  During that time I'm editing the dialogue and pacing.

Me: You are also the CEO of the publisher, Second Sight Studios. Can you tell me a bit about the company?

Golden: Second Sight Studios is an independent comic company that is trying to become a one stop shop for all genres.  We started out with the horror comic Orision #1 from Lucha comics, which is available on comixology.  We also have our vampire title Hunt #0 on comixology as well. We are looking to expand with Chess-Masters being the first superhero title from the company.  It will be on comixology soon as well.  There are three more titles coming soon, Victoria Black, The Butcher, and Uncanny Cryptic Five.  What I'm wanting is for people to take a second look at what we are doing as opposed to Image Comics, Marvel, or DC comics.

Me: Gary, you’re the creator of Chess-Masters. What inspired you to write the series?

Gary Mcclendon
Gary Mcclendon: First, let me say I love the game of "Chess". Not very good at it, you understand. However, coupled with the fact that most of my friends and I grew up reading comics, I thought how cool would it be to create a continuing series "based" on the chess piece characters? (The KING, QUEEN, BISHOP, KNIGHT and ROOK. At some point, the eight PAWN members.)  My role is to develop the characters that comic readers can identify with. To show the world that our heroes are all about saving as many lives as possible in the dark world we live in.

Me: What is the story behind Chess-Masters?

Mcclendon: The series has a "back story" that starts out in the 25th century. The year is 2461. I love Mr. Gene Roddenberry's take on the future, (which is why I love everything STAR TREK!). It is a positive future where there are no wars, hunger, illness, greed and racial hatred! The only negative are the super villains that want to rule the world! CHESS-MASTERS and other heroes from that time period defeat ALL villains once and for all! And so, knowing this, you cannot tell a story where there are no villains to defeat. And so, someone our heroes thought they could trust, sends them, and the eight "ROYAL PAWNS", as well as themselves back into the 21st century! In a nut shell, CHESS-MASTERS must locate their arch-enemy, as well as find the eight pawns (they include a Canadian, African, British, Hawaiian, Native-American, Japanese, Russian and German, all of whom are now EVIL!).....and somehow find their way back to the 25th century.

Me: Why did you decide to make the "Royal Pawns" a variety of nationalities?

Mcclendon: Well, seeing as Chess-Masters are an African-American team of heroes and their arch-enemy, Pawn-Master, is also African-American (even the Bishop's arch-nemesis, "Sinevil", is... I don't even know what it is....LOL!), I thought it would be fun to create an international team of the eight Pawns (Canadian, African, British, Hawaiian, Native-American, Japanese, Russian, and German) to showcase the characters from around the world. With our heroes and their main enemy being one race, the obvious and logical next step, for me, was to create characters from all over the globe.
Me: As a co-writer, how do you and Bradley work on writing the book together and who decides on matters regarding plot, characters, etc.?

Mcclendon: Bradley "THE BOSS" Golden and I both share in the direction of the plot. Ultimately, The Boss makes the final decision, my friend. We both have the same results for the series.

Me: How would you describe your writing style?

Golden: My writing style is a bit of a cross between Garth Ennis (Hellblazer, Preacher) and Chuck Dixon (Airboy, Robin, Detective Comics).

Mcclendon: Well, not sure if I have one. However, whenever I write, I try to throw myself into each and every one of the characters. How they might respond to a situation. How they think and feel toward each other. In other words, I sort of.....pretend I'm each of them all in the same mind. Mine!

Me: Who is doing the artwork for the book and how would you describe their art style?

Chess-Masters #1 Page 1
Golden: Marcelo Salaza is doing the artwork for Chess-Masters.  I think of his style as a cross between George Perez (Wonder Woman, New Teen Titans, Avengers) and Curt Swan (Action Comics, Nightwing) actually.

Me: How is Chess-Masters different than other superhero stories?

Golden: Chess-Masters is different from other superhero comics in the fact that we pick the chess board as the base of the characters and names.  Also they are a team of African American superheros.  I look around comic stores and online and don’t really see many African American superhero teams.  I want to show people a good team can also be black.

Me: Why do you think there aren't a lot of African American superhero teams and do you find this problematic?

Golden: I believe that in comics we are so familiar with and used to our heroes being white.  I mean as far as I can remember that's really all I pictured superheroes to be from Spider-Man all the way to Superman.  I appreciate what Marvel and DC Comics are doing to diversify the characters.  I don’t really find it problematic, but I do feel like some great stories can come from an African American hitman or superhero.

Me: Can you describe each member of the team? How did you decide which member of the team was which chess piece?

Mcclendon: It was pretty easy for me to "envision" what each of the characters are like. And even how they appear.

1: "THE KING: Professor Louis D. Tarrytown". Age 27. Named in honor of my late father.

Clearly the leader of the team. Although the King is a true leader, he is in-fact a Physicist. He is always fascinated by the nature of science. However, he is a natural born leader, and will ensure the safety of everyone by taking on villains no matter how powerful they are! He is married to the Queen. The King is the only one on the team that addresses the Bishop by the nick-name "Magic". The King is endowed with the powers of "Telepathy". He can project images of himself to others as well as communicate with his mind. He and the Rook are best-friends.

2: "THE QUEEN: Ruth Lee Sumter-Tarrytown". Age 21. Named in honor of my late mother. 
The Queen, like the King, hails from a royal family. As far back as anyone knows, only the eldest female sibling of her family is "endowed" by having a mystical, enchanted device called the, "Omnipotent Casket" (some call it the "Magic Box"), that appears to the women only every ten years! With this device, the eldest female woman in the family can cast, or permit, wishes! Like the actual chess piece, the Queen is the most powerful member of the team. She is endowed with the powers of the "COSMOLAXY", or the COSMOS and GALAXY! Basically she has the entire power of the universe at her hands. However, with the aid of the Bishop, she is still learning to embrace her unique abilities! Whenever her powers kick in, she is engulfed with a golden aura called the "COSMIC CORONA" which protects her in the sea or in space. She is married to the King.

3: "THE BISHOP: Reverend Xavier Lazarus Baptist". Age: Centuries. 
Having been around since nearly the beginning of time, Reverend Baptist is in-fact the mysterious member of the team. Having been a totally different person many centuries ago, he would eventually embrace the religion of a Baptist! He has an arch-nemesis, "SINEVIL", who clearly represents SIN and EVIL. The Bishop met and fell in love with Meta Southern (named in honor of my late maternal grandmother). Meta lead a religious group known as the "Cross of Ascension" that preached about peace and non-violent practices. She was known by her heroic name, "CLEOPATRA"! The Bishop's golden cape, "The Cloak of Mystery", can take him and others across other universes simply by walking through the cape. He also has an orb, the "Sphere of Knowledge", that is located within the hooded part of his cape. He usually addresses it as "Majesty". No one else can hear the orb respond to the Bishop's command. Only the King calls him by the nick-name... "Magic". Whenever the Bishop is surprised, he usually yells, "BY THE WRATH OF RAGNAROK!!!".                                                      

4: "THE KNIGHT: Craig Steven Jerseyan". Age 18. (Named for my youngest brother). 
The Knight is the wielder of the "SOUL SWORD". The "Souls Of Unknown Legends" Sword is an enchanted and mysterious item that has been around for countless centuries! At one time in history, the sword was known as "Excalibur". Legend has it that those throughout time who have wielded the Soul Sword and passed away, their spirit resides within the sword. The Knight at times will call forth his golden-winged horse, "Warrior", and the majestic steed will appear from at brilliant flash of light. Only the Queen and the Bishop can wield the sword and use the power of it. Children can also hold the sword, but are prevented from touching the bladed part or using its power! (All children are pure in heart. That is why they can hold the sword). No one else can even touch the Soul Sword as it is protected by an invisible shield. If the knight is separated from the sword for an extended period of time, the sword will impale itself.....including sticking out of the ocean until the Knight can wield it again. A bit hot-headed, the Knight and Rook are always fighting each other. However, they have a great deal of respect for one another. At times, the Knight will point the Soul Sword towards the heavens and yell....."Excelsior"! He does this in honor of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee!

5: "THE ROOK: Glenn J. Yorker". Age 25. (Named in honor of my late middle brother). 
The Rook is endowed with a serum in his system called "LED" (Liquid Energy Diamond). The liquid within his blood provides the power throughout his entire body. The energy provides the powerful-like vitamins that help him move quickly as well as having healing powers! And the diamond factor has transformed the Rook's entire skeletal frame, including his skull, into a powerful mass of diamond! He is in-fact a walking diamond! This serum was created accidentally by his late uncle, Physicist Raymond Yorker. Whenever the Rook lands a powerful blow upon a villain, he loves yelling his catch-phrase....."CHECKMATE"! He is always feuding with the Knight! The Rook and King are best-friends.

Me: If you were a chess piece on the team, which piece would you pick and why?

Mcclendon: Favorite piece? Well, as I've created the series, I suppose it would be impossible to pick one as a loving mother would find it hard to pick one child over the others. However, IF I had to choose, perhaps it might be the Bishop as he is actually immortal.

Golden: If I was a Chess-Master, I would like to be the Bishop.  Mainly because I see him as the wizard character of the lot. I'm a really big fan of RPG games and I always would play as the wizard, and Bishop kind of reminds me of that wizard character of the group.

Me: How would you describe the villain and why did you make the villain “Pawn”-Master versus another type of chess piece?

Mcclendon: Ah, yes. The evil "PAWN-MASTER"! Age 35. Name: Lord Rockwell Longbranch. The Pawn-Master is an interesting character as he is not only CHESS-MASTERS' arch-enemy, he is very much "obsessed" with them at the same time! Before he took the villain name Pawn-Master, Lord Rockwell Longbranch was in-fact THE final villain of the world! However, everyone were fooled by his good-natured manner. When the Queen (who, like the King, loved him as a father-figure and mentor type) allowed him to use the "Omnipotent Casket" to make a wish, he showed his true manner as an extremely dangerous villain! He empowered the once respected and honored eight Royal Pawns (who at that time had no super powers at all) with powers that turned them all to the dark forces of evil! He then sent them, our heroes and himself back into the 21st century. Which is where the series actually starts.

The Pawn-Master was given that title for two reasons:

1: After having endowing the eight Royal Pawns with super powers, the evil-doer felt he would benefit himself by having the entire super powers of ALL the Royal Pawns! He has eight different powers (especially since he is only one man going up against five heroes with incredible powers of their own), thus giving him a huge advantage!

2: The Pawn-Master is a "master" at using people as "pawns". Often, by the time the victims become aware that they have been used, it is far, far, far too late!

The Pawn-Master is a bit like the characters of, "Lex Luther", "Darth Vader", and "J. R. Ewing"! LOL!!! He is extremely intelligent!

Me: Who are some of your favorite superheroes? Did any of them inspire any of the characters in Chess-Masters?

Mcclendon: Superheroes. When I was a kid, and as I got older, I loved.....Earth's Mightiest Heroes.....THE AVENGERS! The fact that you have so many heroes whom have their own titles, and yet, can come together and work in a group as part of superstars was pretty thrilling and cool to me. I've never had any ONE particular favorite, but I have always admired THOR! 

With CHESS-MASTERS, they most likely will not have a rotating line-up like the Avengers, or etc., however, you never know. I do have several "allies" that may show up on occasion. 

Chess-Masters #1 Page 6

Me: What inspiration words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?

Golden: What I will say to future comic writers is "write" and don't give up on your dreams.  No matter how big or small.  Put in the work, network, make friends with as many artists and editors as you can.  Even talk to random creators already in the industry and ask for advice on any and everything.  You will later be glad you did. 

Mcclendon: For inspiration? First and foremost, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER let anyone tell you your work is not good! If you feel in your heart your character, or characters, are exactly where you want them, then stay with that and build on it as your characters evolve. Don't let anyone try and put THEIR spin on your creation and storytelling. If you know the direction you want to take, stick with it. A helping hand from some concerning where your series might go can be helpful at times, However, in the end, it's your thing!  In closing, only you know best about the series you create.

Me: Thanks for your time Bradley and Gary! Best of luck with your project. 

Do you have a Kickstarter? Want to be interviewed about it and have it showcased on “Kickstart the Week?” Let me know in the comments below or message me on www.comicmaven.com.

Other “Kickstart the Week” features:
The Forever Maps

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