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Hey Eric Shanower...Take 5!
Interview by James W. Powell
Posted May 30, 2005

Fans, critics, and historians take note: Age of Bronze Vol. 2: Sacrifice, the second chapter of Eric Shanower's take on the Trojan War, ships this week in tradepaperback. Collecting issues #10-19 of the successful series published by Image Comics, Sacrifice continues the tale Publisher's Weekly named one of the best books of 2004. But before the collected volume and the first issue of the next chapter hits stands, I caught up with the creator and asked him to Take 5...
 
 
 
 

Age of Bronze: Sacrifice, the second chapter of a much larger tale about the Trojan War, ships this week. How have you made the story accessible to those who have never read the series?

 

I’ve included a synopsis of the first volume as well as a glossary of names and places. New readers won’t be left out in the cold. But even so, it doesn’t make much sense to start with Part 2 and ignore Part 1. I’d really recommend reading A Thousand Ships before starting Sacrifice.

 

Whether through scholarly studies or via media such as film and television, every reader is going to have experiences with the Trojan War. How have you made your story stand apart from everyone's preconceived notions on the topic?

Age of Bronze: Sacrifice coverTwo major ways. First, I’m including every episode of the story as it’s developed over the past 2500 years. I don’t think there’s ever been a version of the Trojan War before that’s done that in the dramatic detail of Age of Bronze. Second, I’m setting everything in the correct period—the 13th century BCE. Many illustrated versions of the Trojan War have the characters wearing clothing or armor from classical Greece (or even later) which is hundreds of years too late—sort of like dressing the warriors of the Norman invasion of Britain in uniforms from World War II. So I hope that if the Trojan War actually took place as the legends tell us, Age of Bronze is pretty much what it would have looked like.

 

One thing I’ve done in Age of Bronze that’s not unique, but which goes against preconceptions, is to suppress the supernatural. Eliminating the gods from the story is a tradition centuries old--I’m nowhere near the first to do it. But readers seem to seize on that aspect. It’s fine with me if someone finds it interesting, and it certainly presents a few challenges for me in retelling the Trojan War, but it’s nothing new.

 

Age of Brozne Vol. 2 collects 10 issues of the ongoing saga, which means readers will get a substantial chunk of the story in one book. Do you think the collected version of this tale might read better then the serialized version?

Absolutely. The Trojan War is very episodic, so Age of Bronze can be enjoyed in smaller chunks. Within Sacrifice there are four distinct episodes—the arrival of Paris and Helen at Troy, the Achaeans’ disastrous attack on Mysia, the regrouping of the Achaean army, and the sacrifice of Iphigenia. But to really understand the sweep of the story and the development of individual characters, one will have to read the whole thing. I conceived Age of Bronze as a whole, so even though market conditions dictate its serialization, it’s still one story.

 

Publishers Weekly chose Age of Bronze as one of the best books of 2004. It's been praised by fans and critics alike. Does this praise have any effect on you as the creator of a continuing story? Is there any added pressure for you to meet expectations?

I’m extremely grateful for any praise Age of Bronze gets. The plot of Age of Bronze, of course, existed before I began the project, so the overall story can’t be affected. Criticism of Age of Bronze, both positive and negative, makes me determined to do the best job I can. I’m not sure what others’ expectations are and I doubt there’s a consensus, but I do hope to undercut preconceptions about the story. I also want to progress as a writer and illustrator and make each new issue better than the last. So there are influences and pressures both external and internal. But when I get into that place of creativity where I’m living in the world of Age of Bronze, the real world disappears and I let the story tell itself while doing my best to shape it into comics art.

 

Age of Bronze continues this month with issue #20 and beyond. What's in store for us for the rest of the series?

Issue #20 features a major battle, so if body counts are what interest a reader, that’s a good issue. Issue #21 deals with the battle’s aftermath and Philoktetes’s famous snakebite. This third story arc is titled Betrayal. Its three main plotlines are: one, the Great Foray of Achilles as he conquers the cities and islands around Troy; two, the betrayal of Palamedes by Odysseus and Agamemnon; and, three, the tragic love of Troilus and Cressida. That will take the story of Age of Bronze up to the beginning of Homer’s Iliad. My adaptation of the Iliad will be the fourth Age of Bronze story arc, titled Rage. Three more volumes will follow for a total of seven.


 

Be sure to check around the web for more information on Age of Bronze and Eric Shanower.

 
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