Armored Up: Inside ‘The Mercenary V.2’

Enjoy some behind the scenes process development of The Mercenary V.2.
For previous posts, click HERE.

HIS ARMOR, BARGAINING CHIP
LOOKING FOR TROUBLE

merc1The Mercenary’s adventures take place around 1,000 A.C. but the armor he acquires is not typical of that era, besides being of European design. Let’s just say the tools contributed by the monks of the Crater had placed the people of the Land of Eternal Clouds several centuries ahead.

Actually, full armors did not exist at the time in western civilization; at most, coats of mail and iron helmets were used. Armors like the one used by the warrior shown to the left would not appear until the end of the 13th century. This is an Italian armor from 1400, an age when apparently the trunk pieces were covered with fabric or leather to identify oneself on the field or protect iron from rusting.

Armors were always very expensive, an elaborate handcraft work. Nowadays, tons of steel sheets can be manufactured by huge machines at low cost, but back in those days armors were made with hammer and anvil. They were custom-made suits for people with large financial resources. No wonder the Mercenary accepts Claust’s conditions without much hesitation…

The Mercenary will use this armor, which almost cost his life, through all the series with some slight modifications suggested by the master armorer of the Monastery of the Crater.

I need to tell you that when the Mercenary went to the armory to buy his new armor, Claust’s presence at the store was no coincidence.

The Mercenary had been followed by order of the alchemist, who had him already in his sight for his next trip to the Crater.

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Claust’s relationship with the Monastery of the Crater went back a long way. Ten years before, when the alchemist made a living swindling people with snake-oil formulas, he watched some merchants exchanging manufactured products for food. The quality of their merchandise caught his attention and he decided to discreetly follow them to find out where they came from and whether he could somehow benefit himself. To his amazement, he watched a string of flying dragons enter the pass into a bleak zone of freezing cold. He had to give up because he was not prepared to get inside that labyrinth, but soon he found them again and this time, better prepared, followed them, steadily reaching the Great Frozen Plains. Stunned, he saw from a distance how they disappeared into a steaming crater. That was so mysterious and promising that it deserved to be explored in depth. Always alone, so he wouldn’t share anything he found with anyone, he managed to leave the merchants behind and, well camouflaged at the edge of the crater, he spied the string passing through the waterfall at the precise moment he was detected.

What he never knew was that the monks considered two options: one, make him disappear and the other one, obtain his silence rewarding him with gifts he could not refuse. It was a mistake to choose the second one. The alchemist became rich, powerful and more and more demanding.

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I bought this armor replica to check what it was like to be inside one, and it was an interesting experience. It is made from a 1/32” iron sheet and it’s very heavy, slightly less than the real ones which weighted about 65 pounds though later some reached 220 lbs. This armor’s design is not correct: the shoulder pieces are not properly jointed which does not allow raising the arms adequately. Besides I found the chest and back pieces too rigid, so I did the right thing putting two pieces for the chest and back in the Mercenary’s armor.

 

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The Process: Inside ‘The Mercenary V.2’

Enjoy some behind the scenes process development of The Mercenary V.2.
For previous posts, click HERE.

GUNPOWDER, THE IDEAL “FORMULA” TO START A SERIES

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For this second volume of The Mercenary, the way I worked was more reasonable. With this I mean I wrote the full story, a script up in the air but a script anyway, and from the very beginning I already knew how it was going to end. Considering how I made the first volume, this was a great leap forward.

The central theme was gunpowder. It turned out to be a good choice, because this explosive would make regular appearances in the following volumes of the series and play a relevant role. To be clear to our readers, the monks of the Crater secretly wandered all over the world on their mission to gather all human knowledge to later share with other countries as they saw fit.

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These trips included China, where gunpowder was already known by that time. Actually the Chinese knew gunpowder way before 1,000 A.C., but used it for pyrotechnics and fireworks. Apparently there were some fireworks used for military purposes. Somehow, the formula reached the West and circulated through the small guild of alchemists and a select group of people, many of them monks who knew how to read and write.

Gunpowder is much more dangerous than it looks. It has lots of power. Just to give you an idea, the small amount inside a Mauser cartridge (smokeless gunpowder) creates a pressure of 3500 kg/cm2 inside the chamber. Pressure is relieved through the weakest part of the chamber where the bullet is located, but we need to understand the bullet is wider than the cannon’s bore and pressure needs to deform it to adapt it to the grooves, and the bullet is still capable to travel 1 ¼ miles with enough power to pierce armor. The old Mauser I used in the army shot bullets more than twice the speed of sound, which meant the bullet always reached the target before the sound of the shot.

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So having the exclusivity of the formula and knowing how to use it, was holding absolute power.

 

The Formula: Inside ‘The Mercenary V.2’

In this gallery, I will tell you first hand how I was about to quit The Mercenary after the first volume due to the large amount of effort it required, but gunpowder lit the fuse of the series. I will also include some interesting information on gunpowder power, the world of aviation and crossbows and how I created the main characters.

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BEGINNING THE HARD WORK

I had finished volume one of The Mercenary, and it was time to measure things up. Regarding work, with my slow oil painting technique, I need more than a year and a half to finish it and, to be honest, what I was being paid was not worth it. Each page took me on average ten days of work while, in the same amount of time, any other illustrator made at least four pages, and the price per page was the same for everyone. But there was something that, despite everything, made me go on: the good response from fans and critics. There were some specific moments that cheered me up, like the enthusiastic comments from movie maker Federico Fellini, big fan of comics who even called me at home to congratulate me.

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With that said, if I wanted to continue the comic, the only logical option seemed to be move on with the character and make a series, which I was told was the sound thing to do economically speaking. So that’s what I chose. I went back to my ideas reservoir making sure they were original and unreleased. I wrote the script for a second story, which continued from the previous book without necessarily being a sequel, and drew it in a very simple way to fit the 48 pages for the episode. That was the real beginning of The Mercenary. That was the moment to create and shape the characters.

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From the very first page, I had to face an important decision: to dress up the warrior, who had lost his armor, with what would be his distinctive attire for the rest of the series. When it came to armor, I was very knowledgeable thanks to some previous works, like the helmet from the previous page which is an illustration I did in Indian ink for THE UNIVERSAL HISTORY OF WEAPONS, plus the endless magazine covers on medieval subjects.

To be continued…