Songs for the Dead introduced us to Bethany, a young minstrel and necromancer who tries to use her dark powers to bring light to the world. Followed by cute, undead animals and accompanied by a warrior who makes more dead bodies than Bethany could ever think to raise, their story now continues in The Necromancer’s Map from Vault Comics. The creative team of writers Andrea Fort and Michael Christopher Heron return, along with illustrator Sam Beck, and letterer, Deron Bennett. Here, Heron and Fort share some thoughts on this new path in Bethany and Elissar’s journey.
Why necromancy? What was it about this form of magic that captured your attention?
Heron: I’ve always loved exploring themes about death in my work, and as a big fantasy fan, I saw a missed opportunity when it comes to the portrayal of necromancy. Too often it’s a role delegated to decrepit old wizards, portrayed as enslaving the dead. But through a different lens, it can be a power for good, a power for healing and closure.
Fort: Necromancy is a form of magic that doesn’t get a lot of attention, and rarely gets any love. I loved the idea of subverting the expectation of necromancy. Everything about Bethany is unexpected, her optimism, humility, her appearance and motivations.
Was it always your intention to continue Bethany and Ellisar’s story in this way? How much more of their adventures do you have to tell?
Heron: Way back when we were in the starting phases of Songs, we mapped out several ways that the story could go. I like to think we’ve mostly stuck to that plan we made those years ago, and in an ideal world, we could keep telling Bethany and Elissar’s story for years to come!
Fort: It’s always been important for us to tell the story of Bethany searching for the Covenant, but her adventure doesn’t stop there. If people want to know what happens next, we’re more than happy to keep telling her story.
Are the main characters inspired by anyone in particular?
Fort: I think Elissar has a life of her own. We wanted to create a “straight-man” to balance out Bethany’s fumbling and her persistent optimism. Elissar took shape by virtue of trying to ground Bethany’s character. As for Bethany, she evokes a lot of those prototypical “fairy-tale princess” standards but subverted. Can’t you picture her singing to her undead animal friends?
Heron: Honestly, we should all be so lucky to know someone like Bethany in real life!
Tell us about your creative process. How do you bounce ideas off of each other and what does your script look like when you hand it over to the artist?
Fort: Since Sam is so awesome, our scripts are filled with random references that she always understands and realizes. She never fails to amaze me with how she knows exactly what we mean! As far as Mike and I are concerned, I like to think our scripting process is pretty organic. One of us makes a suggestion and we go back and forth refining it until everybody is happy or concedes.
Heron: Yeah, one of the many things I love about working with Sam is that, from the very beginning, she just always knows what we’re thinking. I think there was a learning process near the beginning, going from being really detailed in our panel descriptions, to eventually just trusting Sam to see our vision for the book. And I mean, there’s also been tons of times where she takes what we wrote and comes through with something infinitely better.
As part of Vault’s Vintage cover homage series, which are drawn and designed by Nathan Gooden and Tim Daniel, the variant cover for The Necromancer’s Map’s first issue calls back to Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest. What made Elfquest the ideal candidate for the vintage cover for your story?
Heron: We actually first learned about Tim’s idea for the cover from speaking to him at ECCC, and we were just immediately sold on it. I have a ton of admiration Richard and Wendy Pini, and what they were able to achieve together as pioneers in the industry. Seeing our #1 out there with the Vault Vintage cover has been incredibly humbling, to say the least!
Fort: Tim and Nathan really did such an amazing job with that cover, I really can’t say enough how much I love it! And it’s such an honor to pay tribute to Elfquest: it’s a fantastic series, the longest-running independent fantasy series I believe. The legacy the Pinis have created for themselves is the kind of thing Mike and I can only aspire to!
The first issue of The Necromancer’s Map is available now. Check out these preview pages below.