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by Haiko Hörnig

[Billed as a romp featuring “Pirates, Bandits, Tiny Monsters, a Sentient House, and One Unforgettable Orphan Heroine.’ A House Divided: The Accursed Inheritance Of Henrietta Achilles kicks off a new four-part graphic novel series created by two lifelong friends, Haiko Hörnig and Marius Pawlitza. The YA book goes on sale today April 7, from Lerner. The publishers have provided s with this exclusive essay by the author, Haiko Hörnig, explaining what went into the making of the GN – it’s a nice look at all of the work that can go into making a graphic novel – it’s not just writing and drawing, it’s world building. –– The Editors]

A House Divided is the story of Henrietta, an orphan who inherits the magical house of a notorious wizard—as well as a whole company of squabbling squatters! Bandits, kobolds, soldiers and arcane critters fight over quiche, search for secret vaults, and make life quite difficult for Henrietta.

The Accursed Inheritance of Henrietta Achilles is the first book in our four-part story, and we’re very proud of it. But the finished graphic novel is just the tip of the iceberg.There’s a whole rest-of-the-iceberg-size load of work that came before we started drawing a single panel. Before we finished the script, even!

You see, when you’re making a comic and inventing a world from scratch, you are faced with a never ending series of interesting questions and choices: from the look of brave girls and hulking soldiers, to the tone of mysterious towns and quaint countrysides, right down to the style of furniture. And if your story features a gigantic, magical house, there might be quite a bit of furniture to consider. Here’s a sneak peak at our process.

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Look and Feel

With A House Divided, we wanted to tell a big fantasy epic that was inspired in part by our love for Dungeons & Dragons and classic animated movies from Disney or Studio Ghibli. We set out to create an art style that would reflect those influences and landed on flat-colored characters in front of painterly backgrounds.

 

Our Heroine – Henrietta Achilles

Our protagonist Henrietta is a bookish 15-year-old girl who is thrown into the chaos of the wizard’s house and has to rise to the challenge. Since she’s our heroine and learns things at the same speed the readers do, we wanted her to feel real and relatable. For that she needed to have some human imperfections—like the tenacious strand of hair that always falls across her face and the little gap between her front teeth.

 

Flemming and the Bandits

Since the wizard’s untimely death, a bunch of squatters have taken residency in the wizard’s mansion. Among them are the rogue Nate Flemming and his band of ne’er-do-wells.

Originally, we wanted to base Flemming’s look on contemporary actors such as Owen Wilson and Brad Pitt. To our own surprise, the final design ended up looking more like the old Hollywood legend Errol Flynn.

 

The bandits are a colorful bunch of misfits. Although they are just supporting characters, it was really important that each of them had a very interesting look. Ideally, readers should want to know more about them and their past adventures. If you look at the German text under those initial designs, you see that we didn’t have names for all of them at this point. Here they were just called “The Pirate”, “The Knife-Sharpener”, “The Bludger”, and “The Treasure Hunter”.

 

Captain Booner and the Soldiers

Captain Booner has sworn to bring Flemming to justice, and now he and his men have taken the battle to Henrietta’s new home!

Booner is a stern leader, and his design reflects his no-nonsense attitude. For his magnificent moustache, we took some inspiration from actor Tom Selleck and his equally impressive facial hair.

When it came to designing his fearless soldiers, we tried to use a range of different silhouettes, so everyone would be easily identifiable from far away.

The Kobolds

The kobolds are a tribe of hungry little monsters who were exiled from their kitchen kingdom by Captain Booner and his men. Now, the Kobolds and their King want to reclaim their former glory and win the rights to their kitchen kingdom back. Their king, Cornelius, started as little more than a funny side character, but grew into a much bigger role in later books.

A Town and its People

We knew early on that the cursed town of Malrenard would be the first stop in Henrietta’s journey. Here we would set the tone for the story and the mystery surrounding the wizard’s house.

To get a feel for the town, Marius drew this map highlighting the different areas like the town square, the local tavern, and the graveyard.

The idea was a Henrietta would move through the town, Marius would always know which parts he had to draw in the background. Still, the town changed quite a bit in the finished book.

Of course, Malrenard would feel pretty empty and lifeless without a few people walking the streets. Here’s the first batch of townsfolk Marius’ scribbled. Some of them were “promoted” to much more important roles, like the shifty Mayor Brassington, or Edna, the warm-hearted owner of the local tavern.

No Place Like Home

Henrietta’s new home, a gigantic tower that houses many mysteries as well as traps and treasures, was built by the wizard Ornun Zol. In the beginning of the story process, Marius drew several key moments to get a sense of the scale of the house.

 

In Henrietta’s house, there are huge stone figures that will show you the way, should you ever get lost. Since we didn’t have those when we created the place, we had to draw D&D-style maps to navigate our way through.

 

We hope you enjoyed this glimpse into our creation process. On our hard-drives, there are folders upon folders with even more concept art. Some of it barely resembles the finished book, and some of it holds secrets for the next installments of A HOUSE DIVIDED.

And just to be clear, this is by no means the only way to tackle your world-building if you want to make your own comic. There’s simply no wrong way when it comes to creating your own story. This is just the process that worked best for us (and was the most fun!)

[A House Divided: The Accursed Inheritance Of Henrietta Achilles is on sale today from booksellers and online.]

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