by Edie Nugent

REYN artLong-distance collaborators Kel Symons and Nate Stockman who worked together on I LOVE TROUBLE for Image have banded together again for their new sword and sorcery series REYN, also for Image, which saw it’s first issue debut this week. I spoke with Symons and Stockman about how they formed their partnership, what it’s like collaborating across the ocean, and how Dungeons and Dragons inspired their work.

Comics Beat: What brought the two of you together to work on REYN?

Kel Symons: I “met” Nate (closest we’ve ever come is a Facetime call) a couple years ago as I was wrapping up the end of my first comic series for Image (my first comic series ever, actually) I LOVE TROUBLE. My original co-creator left to do other things before we got our sixth and final issue, and the colorist, Paul Little – who returns for REYN – recommended Nate. At the time I needed somebody fast, because we were already weeks behind schedule and the book was pushed – I just wanted the last story to fall into place so I had a complete trade volume to publish. But aside from being fast, Nate was really good. And a joy to work with. I was off to do THE MERCENARY SEA next at Image, but was thinking up new ideas I could bring to Nate. We had a series of email and video conversations last year that led to the creation of REYN.

Nate Stockman: Yep it was like Kel said. Our short collaboration on I LOVE TROUBLE was very enjoyable so we had a desire to work together again on something new.

Comics Beat: Technology has really paved the way for collaborations that, due to distance, would not have happened 15 years ago. What challenges do you face due to the remote nature of your interactions and how have you adapted to overcome them?

KS: We haven’t had ANY hiccups in terms of production or communication. In fact, the process and our partnership on REYN runs so smoothly that before issue 1 hit the stands this week we had the first five issues fully drawn, colored and lettered. This is our first mini-arc for the series, which will later comprise our first trade volume. Honestly, I have no idea how creators separated by great distances did things before the internet – the idea of sending original artwork back and forth to the creative team actually makes me nervous just thinking about that. I wonder how many comics got lost along the way.

CB: What excited you about telling/illustrating a story within the realm of fantasy? What do you feel REYN brings to the genre that readers haven’t seen before?

NS: For me, Creating a world from the ground up is a huge amount of fun. I love character design and having a diverse land populated by monsters and beasts is an artists dream. There’s a great mix of action sequences and quiet moments which I both enjoy. I like giving a bit of extra personality to our characters in the way they act or hold themselves. I find breathing life into the land of Fate very exciting!

KS: Longtime fantasy and sci-fi geek here, so playing in that sandbox is always going to be fun for me. If I were 12, Reyn would be a great character to roll up in D&D. It’s fun toying with the swords & sorcery tropes, and I told Nate that I’d love the art to look like it was airbrushed on the side of a custom van in 1976. In terms of something new we’re bringing to this genre, it’ll probably take a couple issues for that to get up fully up to speed. But right from the start I wanted to add some Old West to the mix. Reyn’s freelance swordsman borrows heavily from Western mythos – the solitary but reluctant hero who does the job not because he wants to but because he’s given little choice. In Reyn’s case he’s haunted by voices and visions. He’s also not someone I think you can fully expect to be a “hero.” He’s very much cut from the same cloth as Leone’s The Man With No Name.

CB: Were there any surprises along the way? Any characters that changed their look or personality from what you’d originally envisioned?

NS: It definitely takes a couple of issues for me to get used to drawing the cast. Around issues 3 or 4 I start to get a better handle on how I want them to look. I find myself really enjoying drawing Seph and I really enjoy drawing her interactions with Reyn. They have a fun partnership going forward.

KS: So far, no real surprises (but my favorite part of writing is when a character says or does something that surprises me). But as for changes, I think my original concept for Reyn was much more altruistic and chivalrous… then I wrote a first draft of the script and found him pretty bland. That’s when I sat back, looked at it, and decided to approach him from a different, slightly coarser angle.

CB: What do readers have to look forward to in the coming issues?

KS: Quite a lot I think (and hope!). Next issue will have a little more with the Venn, M’Thall. And in issue 3 Reyn and Seph meet up with the other Followers of Tek and the main quest is begun – this introduces a variety of new characters, but it’s still the Reyn and Seph show. Issues 4 and 5 is where things go off the rails we’ve laid down – without getting spoiler-y, there will be some unexpected turns, answers to some of the questions folks may have, and probably even more questions posed. Also Reyn’s interaction with Aurora becomes more defined.

NS: Yeah, I can’t wait to introduce readers to more of Seph’s people. They’re a cool bunch! Opening up and exploring more of the land of Fate is going to be really exciting too. It’s a challenge bringing it to life but it’s one I relish! I’m very much looking forward to issues 4 and 5 coming out. They’re my favourite issues story and art wise! There’s a lot of cool stuff to come! The reaction to the first issue has been quite positive in general. The main criticism being it can feel cliche in areas. I think if readers stick around they’ll be pleasantly surprised regarding that.

REYN #2 comes out on February 11, 2015