‘The Legends of Aveon 9’ is a comic book series, a first of its kind in the SF genre from Rovolt Entertainment. Book 1 – Train to Vexadus opens with a grand, far future planet hanging in sky as a small spaceship is about to land on it. The prelude to the story follows and you find yourself drawn into a map of a strange continent.
There is something about a SF book with a map. You look for imaginary mountains and rivers and savor the waiting before the journey begins. Just as you are turning the name of the country “Vexadus – the cradle of the civilization” on your tongue, an imposing palace appears in the first half page panel. It is golden, glittering, with clouds in the background – a fantasy land, in ecstatic detail. The spell is cast and you walk into the enchanted wood.
You hold the comic in your hand and as you admire the print, quality and colour it does something magical to you that all comic books have done to children and grown-ups alike. It pulls you into a wormhole of its own.
If you haven’t read the first book the Train to Vexadus, you must.
But this isn’t a book review. I got in touch over email with the Rovolt team to know a little bit more about how the book came about.
Shamik Dasgupta – Writer
Abhishek Malsuni – Artist
Interviewed by Geetanjali Dighe
ISF: There is a princess, there is love, there is a young boy running away from his village to save his father. There is drama, politics and even raiders chasing a train! Tell us a bit about Aveon 9.
Aveon 9 is the first of its kind in India, an epic sci-fi action adventure of the grandest scale possible. The story of Aveon 9 is influenced from old Indian classics like Devkinandan Khatri’s Chandrakanta and told with modern, occidental sensibilities kept in mind. Though following the trend of great western epics like Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, The Legends of Aveon 9 is intrinsically an Indian story at heart. It is a high concept science fiction extravaganza but tells the more personal story of the journey of a humble hero who falls in the midst of planet changing incidents. It has action, adventure, romance, comedy and all the elements of tent pole content.
‘The Legends of Aveon 9’ is a comic book series from Rovolt Entertainment. For a story set in distant future, Aveon 9 is also inspired by mystical tales of the past and also inspired in some way or other with our daily lives. This translates to artwork wherein showcasing the human emotions on alien body forms was a challenge for me which I had never done before.
In many ways, it’s very close to my heart. It’s my first project as a co-creator. It’s the first sci-fi/ fantasy project I have ever worked on. I started it from scratch along with writer Shamik Dasgupta, my colorist friend Shashank Mishra and our CEO Manish Kumar Sinha. Renowned American comic book Ron Marz (writer – Green Lantern, Silver Surfer, Witchblade, Artifacts) is the editor of the series. Aveon 9’s first glimpse as a preview book was showcased in this year’s Comic Con India (Feb 2012) and we got a huge response from the audience and readers. We are developing Aveon 9 as an IP wherein the content will also be available in alternate forms like games, animation movies, merchandise etc.
The objective of the story is to present a very free world, where although the encumbrances of war and parental pressure exists. It a story where the many contrasting characters interact in a complex environment which is quite similar and true of our lives today. The story has a lot of emotions and about how people express their emotions when faced with challenges. The story has very strong and modern characters.
ISF: So how did the idea of Aveon 9 come about?
My prime influence was Devkinandan Khatri’s Chandrakanta. We Indians have done so many rehashes of Ramayan, Mahabharat and other mythological tales, but no one actually has ever done anything with such gems of Indian literature. Our intent was to base a story on Chandrakanta but not retell the same story, rather make something grand out of it which people across the globe can enjoy. Like Chandrakanta, Aveon 9 is also a tale of love, loss, betrayal and war. Though half the cast are aliens very strong human emotions drive them, quite alike Star Wars.
ISF: How was the ideation process? Did you work on the story with the whole team? How did the plot emerge?
Our prime goal was to design a world several years into the future on a different planet ruled by humans, so the design pattern was very important. Though it is in the future, humans have lost much of their previous technology since the geo-physics of Aveon 9 has rendered most of it useless. Humans have regressed a bit but they have developed new sets of technology adapted to the new world and a society which is ruled by monarchy rather than democracy. Our design language has followed elements of steampunk and the renaissance age grandeur of Europe combined with futuristic technology.
Initially me and Shamik started to work on a different project. But over the course of time when we realized that it wasn’t coming out the way as we wanted it to be so we dropped it. We both had worked earlier on Arkin Comics’ IRITH series back in 2009. Also, I was a huge fan of his critically acclaimed Ramayan 3392 AD series for Virgin comics and longed to work on fantasy / sci-fi series for a long time.
We discussed. Some ideas came out in that conversation, and we further fleshed it out with Rovolt’s MD Mr. Manish Kumar Sinha. We actually ended up by starting the magnum opus The Legends of Aveon 9. The idea just clicked and when it happened, we just never let it go and followed it up.
ISF: We can see the reference to hindi movies, the familiarity of packed train and a coastal village. They all resonate with the world around us. But did you have anything specific in mind while building this world of gargantuan proportions?
Since it is a completely new concept a lot has went behind the world building. We had to justify the society, the culture and the technology of this new world, and we did everything from scratch. There was no pre-established paradigm we could follow and hence we developed each race, each, city, each landscape, and each weapon on the text pages and drawing board.
In India no one has ever done this level of world building this much I can vouch for. We spent the first six months developing the visual language for this series; planning out each culture, how the clothing will be, how the architecture would look like, how each set of technology will be different from the other. It was a lot of hard work.
From the moment the idea of Aveon 9 struck, we all wanted to give it a global appeal yet have an Indian soul. Before starting the 1st book ‘The Train to Vexadus’, a lot of R&D went for developing Aveon 9’s characters and environment. Western Sci-fi and Indian mythology were our main sources of inspiration but both Shamik and I, never wanted to come out with usual Indian interpretation of myths.
So I mixed Steampunk, a sci-fi sub genre with it. I also researched Japanese culture and artworks. For storytelling art and style, I researched some of the best French and Italian graphic novels. I also wanted push myself and take new challenges as an artist. I had worked mostly on contemporary modern world stories so Aveon 9 really helped me to improve my developing and creating skills as an artist. In many ways, it’s very close to my heart. It’s my first project as a co-creator. It’s the first sci-fi/ fantasy project I have ever worked on.
ISF: Tell us a little about the story, the species and characters you created.
The prime protagonist is Tez who is surprisingly an alien, contrary to the general belief that the point of view person should always be a human. Tez though being a young alien boy of the Eyar race is very human to begin with, in the way he perceives the humans. The usurpers have brought new culture and technology to Aveon 9 which was predominantly a primitive planet before human invasion.
The result of human invasion of Aveon 9 is quite akin to the British colonization of India and the 200 years of Raj afterwards. The westerners ruled over us but also brought with them better technology; Tez shares a similar world.
Tez embarks upon a quest to find his missing father who was a chief ally of humans and in the process befriends the beautiful human princess Lunestra. He gets involved in the politics of Aveon 9 and a dark conspiracy – to destroy Vexadus, the most powerful kindom of Aveon 9.
Lunestra the heir princess of Vexadus is a shining beacon in the land on which a constant threat of war and doom looms. She understands how humans are responsible for their own downfall and how unjustly they are dominating the other races. She works as an activist to stop this within the system. But how can one woman fight against a custom that’s there for a millennium? The humans consider themselves superior over all the natives of Aveon 9. How how can she bring equality among such biased people?
Apart from Tez and Lunestra there is a huge cast supporting them. Zayan, the prince of Naugra, the second most powerful kingdom of Aveon 9 who is exiled from his own land and happens to be the lover of Lunestra.Gomorra, a female warrior of the barbaric red skinned alien race of Gnorms. The Gnorms were subjugated by humans and were used like slave labour until they revolted and went renegade. The Gnorms hate humans and continue their guerrilla warfare against all the three human kingdoms.
Agorra Tanashah, the ruthless monarch of the outlawed human kingdom of the north Chunargh. Agorra is the chief antagonist of the series. He wants to save his kingdom as the people are suffering and dying from the lack of resources and harsh weather of the North, they live in miserable condition. Agorra wants to invade the southern kingdoms and arrange a mass exodus to the rich and fertile lands of south, but first he must destroy both Vexadus and Naugra for that. Though his intention is noble the methods he use are treacherous and evil. Count Krura, a nobleman of Vexadus and hopelessly in love with princess Lunestra, his love edges over obsession which will prompt him to make very bad choices.
There are several more characters to come.
ISF: Tell us how the art emerged. What came first? How did it evolve?
Before Aveon 9, I tried a lot of new stuff stylistically but couldn’t implement on my previous projects. A project like Aveon 9 was just perfect for that. Both Shashank and I have worked really hard to find a suitable style. As Aveon 9 is mix of sci-fi and fantasy so colors play equally important part for this genre. I reduced the use of black, added extra details in the artwork . We discussed and Shashank came out with amazing colors. Shashank is my classmate from Arts college and we had worked together for last few years including Top Cow Productions, so the synchronization has come out really well.
The work in tandem with Shashank had two aspects:
One being to color on the inked artwork. It is very difficult but the way Shashank did for Aveon 9, I can proudly say that he is certainly one of the best in the business worldwide. He has amazing grip on painted style over pencils, very few colorists have same command over both format of art. He colored in a way that pages are looking equally beautiful even after printing.
Secondly, I knew that it would be difficult for me to push my boundaries and deliver my best. As I was the co-creator of the series, so this responsibility also added strength to my determination. I did a lot of R&D and worked really hard on my storytelling and art style to bring something different from my previous works. I incorporated new stuff to the artwork. Such a tremendous and never imagined response and appreciation for the artwork of Aveon 9 has further boosted my confidence and I will continue to deliver the best work.
Going forward getting the right balance between content creation quality and delivering content at the right speed is again a major challenge.
The quality of the content is very critical since the readers need to get the feel of the story by just having a look into the panel of the story. But with able support from our visionary leader Mainsh, I overcame this obstacle which recommended me to create quality artwork only and should not be bothered by other constraints.
Watch the Legends of Aveon Trailer: