Maestros makes its debut on Image Comics this October. The comic follows a millennial whose all-powerful father — the Wizard King — has been murdered, leaving him the only one alive to claim the throne. It’s a multidimensional rollercoaster of a story. We recently caught up with creator Steve Skroce via email to discuss the book and what’s to come in this new, fantastical series.
Rogues Portal: Maestros is a pretty wild ride, even just in the first issue. There’s a lot of information packed into the exposition. How did you go about building this world and deciding what information to reveal in this first issue?
Steve Skroce: I’ve spent years working on many different versions of a more traditional sword and horse fantasy story full of dark lords and prophecies before it evolved into Maestros. I don’t feel like that work is wasted though; it’s all there in the background of the Infinite Realms. All the unused characters and settings became the Maestro’s subjects and lands. I tried to make the story fairly straightforward and simple. The Maestro is murdered and his banished son inherits his throne. Now with his father’s old enemies everywhere, can this Orlando, Florida native hold onto his new Magic Kingdom? That’s basically the elevator pitch.
There is a scene near the end of the first issue where the Maestro is explaining to young Willy who he is and what the Maestros are. It’s full of references to events and places that have all these crazy names like ‘The Restitution of Zlorzzax’ or ‘The Sea of Unrelenting Placidity beyond the myriad sunsets of Old Dimarth’, it’s all suggestion, a vast history that’s hidden between the lines, just there to color in the world and not necessarily pertinent to the plot.
RP: Can you tell us more about the talking sword?
SS: One of the Maestro’s favorite punishments for his enemies is to imprison their soul within an object for eternity. Loyal Backstabber was once a great king of the Infinite Realms until he provoked the Maestro’s ire. No one remembers what he did; perhaps he defied the Maestro’s command or he may not have laughed at one of his jokes.
It’s a cross between Elric’s soul eating sword, ‘Stormbringer’ and maybe some Disney objects who seem to be having a great time as an anthropomorphic clock or tea kettle, but Loyal Backstabber isn’t haven’t such a good time of it.
Later on in the story we visit ‘The Hall of Conquest and Torment” where objects with imprisoned souls line its endless walls.
RP: Is Maestros inspired by anything in particular?
SS: It’s kind of a finely seasoned stew of everything I love about fantasy and action adventure genres. I’ve always liked wizards and I’m not exactly sure why. They possess secret knowledge and power and can travel to other dimensions, etc. What’s not to like? I can’t say it’s inspired by anything in particular, I think it’s a result of my life long narrative media diet bubbling to the surface. It has action, adventure, romance and more than a little wish fulfillment thrown in there as well.
RP: Where did your inspiration for Will come from? Why write a millennial inheriting this throne?
SS: I wanted to avoid the ‘chosen one’ or any ‘prophecy’ fantasy tropes. Willy gains his power and position by simply not being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s the new Maestro by pure chance. There were points in my young life where I felt I understood how our complex world works and that I could probably fix a lot of its problems if I only had the power to do so. It didn’t take long for me to realize how clueless the twenty something me was, but I thought it would be fun to give Willy, who’s young and probably feels a little like I did, ultimate power and see what kind of trouble his best intentions got him into.
RP: You don’t shy away from sex in this issue, and you briefly touch on some of the politics of sex work — will that be a recurring theme in the series?
SS: Not specifically, but the idea that too much power and privilege can erode your empathy and enable a lot of certainty around your own perspective is at the heart of things. It’s hard to police your own desires and bad ideas when no one ever tells you ‘no’ and it becomes easier to ‘unsee’ the challenges other people may be dealing with. I think that can be true of anyone, including fat cat oil men, like Big Bob — who you meet briefly in the first issue — and all powerful wizard kings.
RP: Do you plan on establishing more women in the main cast of characters as the series progresses?
SS: Yes, as well as his mother who’s by his side for most of the adventure. Issue two introduces Will’s childhood friend and lover, Wren, who he gets to free from the indentureship of Lord Rygol, a member of his father’s old retinue and one of the series main villains. In issue four we meet the demon Princess, Zeela who rules the Underworld with her father the Demon King. She takes a liking to Will and some sparks fly.
RP: Margaret and Will’s relationship is a focal point here, but it seems infinitely complex. There’s a good balance of current action and flashback to explain that. Can we expect more flashbacks? Do you enjoy writing them? Do they serve a larger purpose for the plot?
SS: Margaret has watched her son endure some difficult trials over the years. For him, learning to wield magic isn’t fun, it was a brutal education and the punishments for failing were severe. You’ll definitely see Will and Margaret’s early life in the Realms and its challenges. They only have each other in this strange and often hostile place. Their life in the Maestro’s world is about doing what they have to do to survive in a dreamland that becomes a nightmare. Eventually we’ll see the events that caused the banishment and how it affects events in the present.
RP: Without spoiling me or our readers, can you give us a general look at where Maestros is headed after the explosive first issue?
SS: We’ll get to see Will on the throne, canceling all cold-blooded, sadistic and draconian customs, pissing off the demoted wizarding powers that be. There’s a rekindled romance with Wren and we get a taste of the disciplinary style of wizard school; we introduce Lord Rygol, an elvish arcanist, and the brain behind Will’s father’s murder. ‘The Book of Remaking’ is revealed; it’s the most powerful spell ever created. When used, it recreates reality in your image and births a new age with its caster at its center. That’s just the second issue!!! Later we meet the Demon king of the Underworld, the inspiration of all Hell myths on Earth and across the Realms and a lot more. So you know, the usual….
RP: Do you tend to eschew consuming other media when you write a comic? Why or why not?
SS: In the old days I was always reading or watching or listening to something while I was working. Now, there’s a nine month old in the house so generally I have time for GOT and Rick and Morty and that’s kind of it. I’m going to be depressed when they go away.
RP: Is there anything in pop culture that you’ve been really into lately that you want to recommend to our readers?
SS: I just finished Green Valley by Max Landis and Giuseppe Camuncoli, a really cool time traveling adventure. Jimmy’s Bastards by Garth Ennis and Russ Braun is a fun 007 spoof. Kamandi Challenge is also a good time. Netflix’s Glow was fun as well.
RP: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
SS: Maestros is colored by the coloring Maestro, Dave Stewart. He literally built his backyard grotto using the Eisners he’s won over the years as bricks. It’s an enormous structure! Letters and graphic design are handled by the unbelievable and exalted Fonografiks.
The first issue of Maestros is 34 story pages long for the measly price of $3.99!
Maestros hits stores October 18.