Warning: This Writeup Contains Minor Spoilers
Thieves & Kings is a living example of the term "Graphic Novel". Written and published by Mark Oakley, it is released in both comic book form every two months, and in trade paperback form whenever he's completed a story arc. He has written that he plans for the story to run 100 issues, but at the same time has also written that he occasionally overestimates how much story can be fit onto a single page, and that he imagined at first that the entire first six comics (the first trade) would fit into a single issue.
As of the time of this writing, there are the following trades released, available from his website at http://iboxpublishing.com , or from amazon.com.
Volume 1: Issues 1-6: The Red Book
Volume 2: Issues 7-16: The Green Book
Volume 3: Issues 17-24: The Blue Book
Volume 4: Issues 25-36: The Shadow Book
Volume 5: Issues 37-45: The Winter Book
The story has a fairy tale
feeling to it almost nonexistent anywhere else in modern writing. Magic
, mysterious, strange, following rules that truly are beyond the reader's grasp making everything seem dangerous. Things happen that are beyond our belief, and yet have a dreamlike sanity to them even Piers Anthony
doesn't quite approach. And twisting about the tale are all kinds of narrative tricks that bring magic
to the very medium itself.
From the very issue, you are hit with a full page of prose at the utter beginning. A story about a mediocre King and his anything but mediocre children, and how to decide who the magical crown should pass to when he passes away. Beautiful artwork illustrating the story lines the borders. The written story continues for pages, subtly illustrated each step of the way and leaving you feeling like you just found a long lost and forgotten Grimm's tale, and then it cuts back to a more traditional panel comic book format.
The author writes:
One of the more singular elements about the book is that the story will alternate from standard, frame-by-frame comics pages to decorated pages of prose text. I go to lengths to integrate the two, and shift back and forth between them depending on the needs of any given scene. I find the text passages provide me with a wonderful tool that other comic artists don't have at their fingertips, while being able to draw gives me a powerful means of expression that classical book writers can only dream of. A picture is worth a thousand words, but just try drawing a life philosophy, or 'emotional turmoil'. Of course, it can be done, but you can also drive a nail in with a screw driver. It's so much easier when you use the proper tools!
What he leaves out in the above quote is that it also sometimes allows him to tell two seemingly unrelated stories at the same time, allowing him to connect them later. In The Green Book1
, for example, we come to a chapter in which our hero
is wounded from a poison
he wasn't even shot with2
, and he goes and fights with a cave troll
, steals back an old lantern
, breaks into the palace
, gets found by the guards
, engages in a long dramatic chase sequence
ending in him falling several hundred (possibly thousand) feet only to be saved by luck
, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, the center of each page is a long, beautiful fairy tale
about an utterly perfect man
and his completely perfect daughter
. Both stories going on simultaneously, seemingly unrelated...
So yes, throughout it all, both mediums are indeed used to their fullest extent.
Rubel the Noble Thief
Varkias the Imp
Quinton Zempfester, Wizard Extraordinare! (aka: the madman of Millbrook)
Heath Wingwhit, Sorceress Apprentice
Princess Katara, Young Royalty
Soracia, the Shadow Lady
Kimithin, Young Witch
The Sleeping Wood, Dark, Brooding, Mysterious forest
King's Crossing, Tea House
Nove, Where Fairy tales are history
I would highly recommend anyone interested, or even curious, to at least sample Oakley's artwork at his website. Specifically,
His cover paintings: http://www.iboxpublishing.com/archive.htm
Sample Pages: http://iboxpublishing.com/examples1.htm
You might also find his editorials an interesting read, and there's also the webcomic he has on the main page (now on its tenth strip and released biweekly).
Thieves & Kings is simply a fantastic story written by a fantastic storyteller and illustrated by a superb artist. If you ever enjoyed fairy tales, it would be a favor to yourself to check out this little known work of art.
1Easily my favorite book of those currently written, due to the artful way he weaves so many seemingly unrelated tales and styles together. You simply must read it to understand, lest I spoil the wonder it has to offer with to many descriptions.
2It's kinda like time travel. He wasn't shot with the arrow, but then, after an encounter with some magic, he had already been shot with the arrow for quite some time and had only now just noticed it. Or something like that. Going from perfectly intact to hours worth of old injury in the space of a moment can be quite confusing to describe.