The city of Ismyre is changing, as is the world surrounding it. Through the course of his graphic novella fantasy series, cartoonist B. Mure brings readers into Ismyre through a series of potentially catastrophic events, all of which explore ecology, craftsmanship, corruption, capitalism, climate crisis, colonialism, and the imbalance created when living creatures take advantage of the land to suit their own needs.

Currently, three graphic novellas from the series are on shelves: IsmyreTerrible Means, and The Tower in the Sea, all published by Avery Hill. Each explores a different period of time in Ismyre and the surrounding countryside, with fantastical creatures navigating strange mysteries and attempting to solve problems that could have disastrous consequences for everyone in the world.

Following the publication of The Tower in the SeaThe Beat caught up with B. Mure via e-mail to talk about the Ismyre series so far, his plans for the future, and his favorite media of the moment.

Map of the Republic of Ismyre and the surrounding area
Map of the Republic of Ismyre and the surrounding area, courtesy of Avery Hill Publishing

Samantha Puc: In what order did you craft the stories of Ismyre? Did you write and illustrate them in publication order, or did you take a different approach?

B. Mure: I worked on them all in order, but sometimes stuff escapes while I’m doing one book that doesn’t fit in it, or alludes to something else.

Puc: How did you go about the world-building for this universe?

Mure: Is it weird that I don’t remember? It feels a bit like a fever dream. I just knew that I had ideas about a big old lonely city with towering buildings for years, and anything I wanted to happen I just sat and thought about what that would mean for the structure of it, or what laws would exist or something like that. I have ideas and I sit and think about what feels right and talk to my friends and partner about it.

I sort of feel like someone building a model castle while blindfolded, which I think I wanted so I don’t think too hard and trip myself up with inertia and depression. It’s exciting.

What inspired the world of Ismyre, if anything?

I read a lot of stuff like Howl’s Moving Castle and Redwall when I was younger and, uh, played a lot of Ragnarok Online and that deeeefinitely seeped in there.

When you are working on these stories, do you limit yourself to ingesting only certain types of media that fit the mood or theme of the project? Do you use music or movies or books to keep your head in the game, so to speak?

The only thing I really do is to make a lot of playlists because I never escaped being a teenager, mentally making mixtapes for my favourite fictional characters.

Can you speak to your creative process, particularly the ways you use color?

I made myself watercolour it so I can’t be too scared. I paint on top of the lines directly. I pick a general colour scheme, or I have a thought in my head that in this scenario it will be mostly red or something.

From The Tower in the Sea, courtesy of Avery Hill Publishing
From The Tower in the Sea, courtesy of Avery Hill Publishing

Puc: I can’t help but read these comics as a commentary on the dangers of capitalism and the climate crisis — what is your intention with these books, and what do you hope readers take away from them?

Mure: It is not a surprise to anyone who has spent a small amount of time with me that I think capitalism, colonialism and all its associated prejudices and outcomes are ruinous. I feel, like a lot of people, very impotent in the face of these things and I think about them a lot, so I cannot help but put them in there. I would hope that readers feel a call to action, or some sense of camaraderie.

Puc: Do you have a favourite character, or a character you relate to more than others?

Mure: I like the axolotl teacher because they do not make any sense, Emlyn because he’s very angry and fun to draw, and the crocodile gallery owner from the first book because she is very fashionable and talented.

Puc: Are there moments in any of these three books that stand out to you as being favourites to draw or write, or that simply stick in your mind? If so, which moments, and why those?

Mure: The bit in the first book, where Ed meets Faustine in the pub. That was a real treat to draw. Also the opening for scene for The Tower In The Sea. I like drawing waves and any big swooping dramatic scenes.

Puc: Do you have more planned for this series?

Mure: Yes! I have plans for three more books. I’m starting planning on the next one right now and contemplating doing some shorter self-published stuff to go alongside them. I think I will just keep going and going…

Puc: Is there anything else you’re working on right now that you can talk about?

Mure: No, they are all secret! There’s no NDAs or anything, I’m just terrified.

Puc: What media are you really into right now that you think our readers should check out?

Mure: I got the collected book of Laura Grace Ford’s fanzines, Savage Messiah, printed between 2005 and 2009. It details London’s gentrification and it’s. Really good.

Puc: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Mure: Just that if you have the money and means, donate to those who need it… and regardless, hold each other close. It’s real important.

B. Mure is a cartoonist and educator based in Nottingham, UK. He is the creator of Ismyre, Terrible Means and The Tower in the Sea, out now from Avery Hill Publishing. You can keep up with Mure’s work on Twitter and Instagram, or support him on Patreon.

Terrible Means, the second book in the Ismyre series
From Terrible Means, courtesy of Avery Hill Publishing.