A Visit to The Land of Eternal Clouds

This excerpt shares behind the scenes material from NBM’s The Mercenary remastered editions, available now.  To see all posts, click HERE.

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Here you can see two unpublished panoramas of the Land of Eternal Clouds. They are taken from an illustrated story version of this volume, published in France.

Look closely at the one above because it says many things. To start, it summarizes the first part of the volume that you have just read, but it also reveals, in some way, the size and way of life of this strange country. You can see that it is large and mountainous but has wide plateaus that allow for food to be grown. There are large cities and there is the lighthouse, necessary for nocturnal navigation in a valley full of cliffs and jagged outcroppings. Or the dragon bones that the Mercenary used to construct his glider: strong but hollow to lighten the load of the flying animals.

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Regarding the women of the Cult of the Sacred Fire, we will go a long time without knowing more about them.

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Only in the twelfth volume of the series will we discover that they ran out of gas and fell into a frozen land outside of the Land of Eternal Clouds. They will be near death, but will be able to save themselves at the last minute thanks to the monks from a mysterious underground monastery.

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THE MERCENARY The Definitive Editions Vol.1: The Cult of the Sacred Fire is available now.

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Everything But The Story

This excerpt shares behind the scenes material from NBM’s The Mercenary remastered editions, available now.  To see all posts, click HERE.

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And the day came. It was 1979, there sat the six finished pages. It was a different comic, revolutionary to a certain extent at that time, since it was painted entirely in oils. So my agent took the samples to an Italian book fair to see the reactions of the other editors. It could be a success or could also be completely rejected, especially by the most orthodox who liked line drawings and, if possible, black and white. I had used all of my resources to make sure the samples would call attention, but it would not be the first time that my hopes in search for work would be dashed. But no, my agent came back excited: the samples had been such a success that he brought a half dozen signed pre-contracts.

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After the initial excitement, I realized that I had a new problem: I had to continue the story. I had always liked to write but had never written a script. What’s more, I didn’t even know where to start. But maybe due to this, and due to being new in the world of comics, I had many new ideas taking root in my passions that could be used. So I started to think about how to extend the story. The ideas, I don’t know why, would occur to me in the middle of the night and I can’t count how many times since then I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to jot down something interesting because I know that in the morning I won’t remember.

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In this first issue of The Mercenary everything was chaotic because, in addition to having to alternate that with working on covers, there was no pre-set script. I was adding ideas as I went along, and in fact you can see that there are three different stories: the initial rescue of the girl, giving her back to her husband, and the adventure that happens under the clouds with the appearance of the hot air balloon. But the first thing I had to do in order to continue with the story was find a suitable setting to justify the presence of these flying animals.

 

Daring to Include The Full Nude

This excerpt shares behind the scenes material from NBM’s The Mercenary remastered editions, available now.  To see all posts, click HERE.

Just as a well-proportioned young horse with good musculature, a tiger, or a peacock are instinctively beautiful to us, so too is the human body. This, intensified by sensuality, acquires extraordinary dimensions and for this reason a well-constructed, nude human body has always been a point of reference in art. To me, as a painter, it is fascinating to paint female nudes.

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As an illustrator I have done many covers including partial nudes. On very few occasions were they fully nude and much less on covers for the USA where censorship did not allow it. Here, in Spain, with the advent of democracy, we went from an opaque, ecclesiastic censorship of everything, to the wildest and most widespread openness.

Given these circumstances, and as I had to call attention, if I wanted my samples to have a future, I dared to include a full nude.

 

The Penetration Power of a Projectile

This excerpt shares behind the scenes material from NBM’s The Mercenary remastered editions, available now.  To see all posts, click HERE.

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As for the warrior, in principle he was nothing specific, just a character in these circumstances, so I didn’t put too much into him: partial body armor was less work and one supposes that it is enough if he protects himself with his shield. At that time, I already had experience drawing armor and all kinds of weapons, of which I am a big fan. Years before, in 1978, I had written and illustrated a monograph about this topic called Universal History of Weapons. In these supplements you can see some of the illustrations from that book.

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For the sample, I had to do something spectacular and I inserted this scene. An arrow goes cleanly through the shield and then the warrior’s head.

This is not an exaggeration: the penetration power of a projectile, if it has sufficient velocity, mass, and tip, is massive. In fact, an arrow has more penetration power than a high caliber bullet from a pistol or revolver.

Bullets are always made of soft materials like lead to adapt to the rifling, therefore when they impact they flatten and deform. But although their penetration power is low, the impact and take down power of a bullet is very high. One shot from an old Western Colt 45 can take a rider out of his saddle and thrown him to the ground.

3Conversely, as you can see here, the sharp point of tempered steel of an arrow would give a very different result, especially if the bow were sufficiently powerful.

In the 14th century, there were some two-meter-long bows of such power that, in the battles of Crécy and Agincourt, the Welsh, English, and Flemish archers decimated the French nobility protected by shining, heavy armor.

Gerald of Wales, a clerk of the era, testified to the power of these bows during the battle of Abergavenny: one of William de Braose’s mounted soldiers was shot by one of these arrows, which punctured the soldier’s armor, chain mail, thigh, breeches, the chain mail again, the armor again on the other side, and the saddle tree wood, before sinking deeply into the horse’s flank, killing it.

There Be Dragons…

This excerpt shares behind the scenes material from NBM’s The Mercenary remastered editions, available now.  To see all posts, click HERE.

As to story I could tell in those few sample pages, it occurred to me to do an aerial combat in World War II style, but with dragons ridden by medieval warriors and the rescue of a girl who, of course, would have to be nude. The protagonist would be the knight-rescuer and the setting would be any invented building, trying my hand at my reserve of fantasy.

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In fact, this was not the first time that I did a sample to get work; a rejection was something that only affected me for a few hours. What I didn’t imagine was that this simple story would go on for so long…

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One of the issues that I had at the beginning was how to deal with saddles. In all the iconography about the topic, it was common to see dragons with four legs and two wings.

I had even painted covers with flying dragons in which I had given them this configuration. But I was never comfortable with it. It was not logical, mainly because there was an evident basic structural failure. Even accepting the wide margins allowed by fantasy and admitting that nature has done stranger things, I thought that with this solution we were creating an animal that was absurd to a certain point, because any being with wings on its back, whether reptile, human, or angel, needs very marked musculature to move them, an issue that is always avoided.

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So it seemed more logical to use the solution adopted by nature where the front feet of primitive flying reptiles were sacrificed, transforming them into the bird wings that we are all familiar with.

m6For the first flying dragon that the Mercenary rides, I was inspired by the head of a tuatara lizard, a species dating back to much earlier than dinosaurs and the only one that has survived to modern times. It is said, as well, that they can live up to 100 years.

These exceptional characteristics were what led me to use it as a flying dragon in my samples.

‘The Mercenary’: “Tebeos” No More

This excerpt shares behind the scenes material from NBM’s The Mercenary remastered editions, available now.  To see all posts, click HERE.

bottom-mercSome interesting circumstances got me into comics. In the middle of the 1970s, at the beginning of Spanish democracy, there was a repeal of many prohibitions from the dictatorship in Spain that affected culture. This prompted a kind of revolutionary movement in the comics world that led intellectuals to investigate what was behind this curious thing that now was called “comics” and used to be called “tebeos” (silly, nonsense). The media talked about them and soon this dying genre revived itself. Editors with new magazines and illustrators appeared. Competition grew which led to “full color” pages which was more marketable although at the beginning it was only a few pages out of the magazine.

mercmachineAt that time, I had switched illustrator agents and the new one, in addition to selling our work, had become an editor of comics magazines. I liked comics and, seeing that there was demand for color stories, I proposed to my agent that I do some sample pages for free, with the intention of expanding my field of work. Naturally, the agent-editor said yes. I painted covers in oil paints. This technique was completely unusual in the comic world, but it was a way of working that I felt very comfortable with and I wasn’t going to change my system. I wasn’t sure how this might be accepted, particularly due to the absence of the classic black ink lines and the novelty of the technique, but despite my doubts, I couldn’t just stop doing what I knew best.

To have some guarantee of success, it had to be something remarkable, but given the circumstances, it also had to be easy and comfortable to do and for that reason, better to do it all from my imagination. I did not want to start a period piece that would require me to research tedious documentation about clothing, buildings, furniture, and settings.

The most practical would be to pick a fantasy topic and invent everything. I have always been a big fan of the middle ages with their armor and dragons, as well as weapons, castles, aircraft, the female form, and, especially, orientalist fantasy, so I got down to it and mixed all of these ingredients.

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Background of ‘The Mercenary’

NBM Graphic Novels will be reprinting all 14 volumes of Vincente Segrelles groundbreaking graphic novel series The Mercenary in updated, remastered volumes.

In anticipation of this exciting release, we’re previewing the supplementary pages that will be included in the back of every volume.

To see all posts, click HERE.

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merc2When I was little, just like most children, I liked to draw—although in my case it was a somewhat unhealthy hobby. I was born in 1940 and my childhood took place during the Spanish post-war period, an era of hardships and rationing. I remember that, when I was very young, but old enough to remember with some clarity, I secretly got up at 6 in the morning and shut myself in a room so I could draw, making sure to cover the crack at the bottom of the door with a towel so that the light shining through wouldn’t give me away. They found out and my nocturnal adventure was over, but I continued drawing during allowed hours. Storybook illustrations fascinated me and I tried to copy them. Later came comics and especially movies.

And then there was the influence of my uncle José Segrelles, my father’s brother. Uncle Pepe, as we called him at home, was a well-known illustrator in the 1930s, a great watercolor painter specialized in fantasy.

In the apartment where we lived, we had books illustrated by him and a few framed reproductions of his work, but the crucial thing was the artistic atmosphere that I breathed in at home. The “Uncle Pepe” atmosphere, as would be expected, affected me a lot and framed my professional aspirations for the future: my dream was always to be a painter-illustrator.

But life took me down many roads before reaching this profession. My stint in a truck factory and in advertising did not quash my vocation, and in my free time I continued drawing.

And finally I achieved it, first illustrating trading cards, then research books, and finally book covers.

When I reached the comics world, I was already much older than is usual for authors in this specialty, but I had a background of hundreds of covers in a wide variety of topics including fantasy and dragons, some of them mounted and ridden by warriors, iconography that I would use to create samples and to find work in comics.

 

“I remember well when these books first came out. I bought all of them. They had a great influence on me as a painter; also on my interest in sequential art. Vincente Segrelles is a superlative storyteller in both words and pictures. Like the extraordinary art of his Uncle, Jose Segrelles, the work of Vincente is not to be missed!”

– Joe DeVito, creator and illustrator of King Kong of Skull Island