Helm - Web Comic Come hither, kind sir, and please lay your eyes upon thy following interview. T'is a good interview, says I, as I'm sure you will not take heed by these words. For these words have been written by Sir Jehanzeb of thy inter-web, and he develops games too, games and comics of the highest order. Jehanzeb, it's now over to you.

1) What are your own origins, Jehanzeb?   By day, I'm a mild mannered mobile video game developer. While by night, I wage war against boredom, masquerading as a comic book writer, '60's soul songwriter, and amateur guitarist. Or something like that, anyway. Usually I focus on my game development business during the workweek and spend a few hours on HELM on the weekends.

I've always fashioned myself a storyteller. I remember writing and drawing storybooks with scratch paper and crayons when I was a kid -- everything from Batman stories to original concepts inspired by the children's library books I'd pick up every weekend while I was growing up.

I originally entered college as a film major but quickly switched over to studying English lit and creative writing. From there, I got in my head the idea of becoming a college professor, so completed my Masters and moved to Massachusetts to start my Ph.D. That didn't last long -- I loved teaching but got fed up with writing papers I half-cared about and decided to do a complete 180 and do something I would enjoy -- create video games as my day job and moonlight as a novelist. 

I quickly realized that pulling off both was difficult and ended up focusing on my career -- the one that would actually provide me an income. Fortunately, over time, things worked out and I got to a point where I could carve out enough spare time to work on creative projects of my own.

Helm - Web Comic
2) What inspired you to create your webcomic, ‘Helm’?   The concept developed over a long period of time. Initially, I had wanted to create a video game -- an episodic choice / consequence adventure game, a la Telltale Games, but more 2D than 3D. I think I got 50 or 60 plus pages into the script before I had a lightbulb moment and realized the game approach would be a bit too costly for just a hobby project. I wasn't confident I could find a rockstar technical partner, as well -- and because, in the end, I only really wanted to tell a story, I decided to go the comic route. 

It's been an interesting learning experience -- learning to write for comics. I compare it to some people like writing poetry in an established form. You have all these constraints, like words per panel, a certain number of pages you need to hit and still provide closure, page breaks, bleeds versus boxed panels, etc. I'm sure there are better examples but poetry is what comes to my mind -- like writing a sonnet -- you have all these constraints, limits. Where you break a line can impact the meaning of the work, how you pace the imagery and ideas can affect, amplify the meaning of the whole.

Oh, and as for inspirations, I've thought a lot about this, myself. The first thing I can think of, especially in regards to the setting, is this PC RPG game from 2001 called Arcanum. I'm sure steampunk and fantasy had been done before but the way the folks at Troika pulled it off seemed really unique and appealing to me. It left a mark and I always wanted to tell a story in a similar world. You'll see homage paid to Arcanum here and there throughout the HELM story.

Other works I can think of that played a part in inspiring the story of HELM -- Star Wars, obviously. Probably the biggest one. Probably the reason why I ended up doing film, then English, then video games. Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Ronin Warriors -- may not be obvious just yet, but you'll see. And, uh, the Walking Dead, Season 1 -- the Telltale game, not the TV show or comic. I still think TWD Season 1 is Telltale's best work in the episodic adventure genre. It's really what I was looking to when I was developing the concept for HELM, originally, as a similar game.

Helm - Web Comic
3) In your own words how would you describe this story?   There's two major parts to it -- Eldrick's story, and then the Bastard King's story. I'll focus on Eldrick's story, as we're quite a ways from telling the story of the Bastard King.

Eldrick is a college dropout, an art student, who's on his way home for the holidays, when he gets swept up in an adventure -- a prophecy -- completely outside his imagination. He's accosted by Luna Lumere, a notorious witch, wanted for all sorts of crimes against the Commonwealth, and is forced to go on the run with her. 

She explains to Eldrick that he's part of an ancient prophecy -- destined to become a great wizard and, more importantly, someone that will find the hidden resting place of the Bastard King. The Bastard King is a legendary figure of yore, rumored to have been lying in wait -- in stasis -- to be reborn, retake the Kingdom, and crown a new, rightful leader in his place.

Now there's a lot that happens between Eldrick and Luna's encounter, and actually finding the Bastard King. That is, if that actually happens. I guess you'll just have to wait and see. 

4) What song would you say best represents this comic and why?   Hmm. This is a tough one. I listen to a lot of folk music, soul songs, and Motown stuff, Billy Joel, the Beatles. Even the contemporary stuff, I'm finding it hard to associate with HELM. It's a very unique setting. I feel like it's the kind that deserves an epic John Williams score, ha! No words, just an orchestra of the finest instruments. 

I'm really stumped here. This isn't a cop out but I really like the Arcanum soundtrack, particularly the main theme. It's all strings, which really sets the mood -- sort of a sad, depressed world in decay. The strings reinforce the setting, as well -- very Victorian, 1800's. 

AJ Locascio
5) If you could get a celebrity – either living or dead – to promote your wares, who would you choose, and why would you want to choose this particular person?   My marketing mind tells me Kim Kardashian. One tweet from her and I'll never have to spend another penny on advertising, ha!

Seriously though, if I set aside celebrities that would generate me a ton of relevant traffic -- people like Stan Lee, the Image Comics folks, etc. -- I think I'd go with a live action actor for Eldrick or Luna. 

When I was trying to find references for my artist friends for Luna, I struggled trying to come up with many. I did find the perfect voice though -- you can check that out in the trailer. As for Eldrick, there were quite a few references. One of them was AJ Locascio -- someone who I think is known more for his voice work than actual on-camera stuff. Funny enough, he also does a lot of Telltale Games stuff. So yeah, I think I'd go with AJ.

6) What have you learnt about yourself through this endeavour?   I've learned a lot of things, but about myself? Hmm, that's a good one.

I think I've become more inclined to follow my passions, my interests. For so long, I've invested so much time and energy into my career, and academics before that -- I just left so little time for fun, creative things that I always wanted to do. I would always tell myself I didn't have the time, that it would take so long, a lot of effort, to put out something of any real value, quality.

I think I've learned to just question myself. Like, you can do it -- you just have to be consistent about it, and make time.

7) During your time in this field, what is the one thing that has kept you in good stead?   Great question. I mentioned earlier that I had wanted to write novels when I was younger. I think one of the reasons why I never completed a novel was that they just take so long to complete, and without an audience, it becomes a very solitary experience. You need to be really committed, and it takes a lot of will. I'm remembering Stephen King's comments about "bum glue." Yeah, I don't have much of that around, ha!

Helm - Web Comic
I guess comics aren't all that different. But what's been different for me, at least -- the difference between writing a novel and writing a comic series -- is that there's this reward, a carrot on a stick, in the shape and form of art that comes back to me. I write a script, sketch thumbnails, compile references, send all that to my artists, and see my story come to life. It's a huge motivation for me.

8) If ‘Helm’ had a motto, what would it be?   Well, I've been using the tagline START YOUR ADVENTURE in a few places, although I guess that's more of a marketing call to action than anything else. So how about, TRUST ONLY YOURSELF? I'm sure there's something better I can think of that more wholly encapsulates HELM but that's off the top of my head. Pretty ominous, huh?

And on that note, I'd like to thank Jehanzeb for telling us about his comic, HELM, before directing you towards his official website, facebook, and twitter pages. 


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