Alana Joli Abbott (alanajoli) wrote,
Alana Joli Abbott

Guest Blog: Sarah Schanze

For the last two years Lora Innes of The Dreamer has spearheaded the Comic Creators Alliance, which raises funds to end human trafficking. In the past two years, I've discovered two incredibly awesome comics through the fundraiser: in 2010, I found an awesome comic that deals with the American Civil War, Dovecote Crest. This past year, I discovered Thistil Mistil Kistil, a compelling story that features characters from Norse Mythology with a distinctive art style that I love. I corresponded with creator Sarah Schanze and asked if she'd like to talk about using mythology for her comic -- I did a little jig when she said yes! So, without further ado, here's Sarah. After reading her blog, check out the comic from the very beginning. You won't be disappointed!


My name is Sarah Schanze, and I write (and draw and color, etc.) a fantasy webcomic called Thistil Mistil Kistil. It’s about Vikings and Norse mythology and follows a fifteen-year-old boy (who happens to be a dead warrior) named Coal on a quest for the gods. To complete this quest he needs the help of none other than Loki the Trickster. Coal and Loki then embark on a journey (with a somewhat living ship no less), picking up a few stragglers along the way.

Norse mythology is popular. It’s in comics, movies, books, video games, you name it. Its characters are re-imagined and recreated by different people every day. There are several other webcomics out there taking inspiration from the same source I am – as well as a big blockbuster movie based on a comic book character whose entire world was ripped right out of the Eddas (Thor). Lots of other people have ripped things from these Eddas, including me.

My interest in the mythology started with the history. I did research into Vikings for some other thing not related to comicking, and the culture and the world spoke to me. I read about what the people wore or ate or how they were buried before I read about the mythology. I’d already known about Loki and Odin and Thor just from random browsing on the ol’ Wikipedia. After reading specific Wiki articles, then books, then the Eddas themselves (the Poetic and Prose Eddas respectively), I decided to incorporate the gods and myths into the vague story idea I had with Coal.

But then I ran across a problem, or at least a concern. I felt taking characters -- like Loki -- and using them as my own personal characters for my own personal story ran the risk of people waggling a finger at me and comparing my interpretation negatively to the original. I even worried about reading other people’s interpretations of the characters for fear I might come across a reinterpretation like my own. I’m happy to say that, so far, neither concern has actually materialized, but in the beginning it definitely colored how I thought about the story. How could I make my version unique?

(Chapter 2, p. 22)

As it stands now, Coal has to find three pieces of the gods’ weapons before his quest is over and everything is hunky-dory. When I first started, he had to find seven pieces (maybe even nine) since seven and nine are magic numbers. He also forced some demon-dog thing to help him, and this demon-dog thing was related to Loki. Originally I didn’t intend to use the actual Norse gods as anything more than side characters, Loki included.

Then, after brainstorming and whittling, I decided to just bring in Loki as a mainstay. He’s the most intriguing character from the myths, and probably the most popular thanks to his sly ways (and coercing Thor to dress like a woman). He’s often the antagonist, the sidekick, the loveable jerk, or the hapless victim, but he never seems to be a hero. In the myths he’s the villain, a representation of chaos and evil (as all the jotnar were), so it stands to reason he’s more an obstacle than a throughway in most retellings.

Then there’s Ragnarok. Whether or not the myths were skewed by Christianizing monks, Ragnarok is still our basis of the end of the world in Norse mythology. Loki plays a pretty big part in it. While he’s shown for most of the myths to be on the gods’ side, he fights against them in the last battle. The biggest reason for this, in the myths, is simply that he was always a bit evil to begin with. He’s a jotun, a giant, and that race is considered the embodiment of evil and destruction (no matter how many of their women the Aesir married and slept with).

When I was figuring out TMK, I struggled with this particular aspect of Loki’s character. In the stories it’s simply written that Loki became bitter and angry. It’s not understated, it’s spelled out for you. I couldn’t really do that in the comic. I wanted to show, or at least allude to, more subtle reasons for his growing bitterness. This involves a departure from the myths, establishing a different personality, and incorporating elements hardly mentioned in the myths–like Sigyn and Angrboda, the two women in Loki’s life. They’re given only a passing mention in the Eddas, but who knows how they could have impacted Loki’s development?

When TMK begins and Loki makes an appearance, it’s kind of obvious (or I hope it is) that he’s not some exuberant prankster out to make everyone miserable. Those myths he’s famous for happened in his younger days. In TMK, he’s matured. He helps Coal throughout the story, and becomes a parental figure to Coal and the other secondary characters. The real difference between TMK Loki and other Lokis is that he is a parent. He feels that responsibility. The third chapter has him going home to his wife and kids, and he obviously loves them and cares about them. He’s a family man; he’s an adult. He’s grown up. He’s changed. I can’t go into the reason behind those changes without spoiling the story, but he has changed nevertheless.

The fact he has changed is what makes him unique in Thistil Mistil Kistil.

(Chapter 3, p. 4)
Tags: comics, guest blog, lora innes, sarah schanze

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