Announced at Image Expo today, ISOLA is an original collaboration between writer Brenden Fletcher (Gotham Academy, Batgirl, Black Canary) and artist Karl Kerschl (Gotham Academy). It’s an epic fantasy tale about two women on a quest to enter the underworld, hoping to undo a curse that turned one of them into a tiger.
“In a mystical land, the queen’s brother enacts a treacherous plot to transform her into a tiger. The captain of the guard, a woman of great skill, brings swift and lethal vengeance, unaware the wicked prince alone has the power to reverse the spell. The two women—one on two legs, one on four—must undertake a perilous journey halfway across the globe to the fabled island of ISOLA, gateway to the underworld, where they hope to find the spirit of the queen’s late brother who has the power to return his sister to human form.”
The Daily Dot caught up with Kerschl and Fletcher about their goals when creating ISOLA, their lifelong friendship, and their creative influences including Miyazaki movies and the Dark Souls video games.
I thought I’d start by asking how you came to work on this project together. Was it something you conceived of while collaborating on Gotham Academy?
KK: It goes back so much farther than Gotham Academy! Brenden and I have known each other since we were 10 years old. We grew up sharing comics, drawing pictures and making up stories. We actually came very close to publishing a book with Image Comics back in 2000 but life got in the way and it never panned out. In a lot of ways, ISOLA is the culmination of years of collaboration.
BF: Exactly. ISOLA represents pretty much everything we’ve been working toward as friends and colleagues for so many years now. It’s always been our dream to be able to tell our own stories, on our own terms. Now, working with Image, we’re finally able to make that dream a reality.
Can you tell me a bit about the story and background of ISOLA? What were your influences in terms of fantasy storytelling? And Karl, how did you go about designing the world of ISOLA?
BF: The title, ISOLA, refers to a mythical island in our story. It’s said to house a passageway to the land of the dead, the underworld. We follow our two main characters, Rook, the Captain of the Royal Guard and her Queen, Olwyn—now trapped in the body of a tiger—on a journey halfway around the world to find it.
KK: We’re both heavily influenced by the films of Hayao Miyazaki and ISOLA’s overall tone owes a lot to that, but it’s also an opportunity for us to indulge in the kind of deep, character-driven storytelling we’ve always been attracted to.
In terms of design, I’m inspired by the environments of Princess Mononoke, the Dark Souls video game series and old German fairy tales I grew up reading, but most of all by the forests that grew behind our houses in southern Canada. I explored some of these themes in my webcomic, The Abominable Charles Christopher and in a lot of ways this comic is an extension of that.
What kind of audiences do you think will be drawn to ISOLA?
BF: I think ISOLA offers a great mix of influences and will appeal to a unique cross section of readers.
As Karl said, those who enjoy the work of Miyazaki will find a lot to love here, as will fans of fantasy-quest narratives like The Lord of the Rings. But the core of the story lies in the hearts of two women, in their fondness for one another and their longing to be close, despite the challenges of station and now species. That longing is universal.
What did you both find most interesting and exciting when working together on this comic?
BF: The exciting part is having a perfect excuse to hang out with each other and talk comics, just like old times. But now it’s our job!
But seriously, it’s such a crazy cool pleasure to be able to kick around ideas about monsters and alien worlds with my childhood friend. It’s incredible that we both still find it as invigorating as it is after all these years.
KK: Yeah, I still can’t believe this is finally happening. I’m several pages into drawing the first issue and each page presents a new set of challenges for me as an artist and storyteller. I feel like we’re both pushing the boundaries of our abilities and discovering something new.