What Did I Learn?
Harkovast by Daniel and Julie Stribley has an opening with a nice build-up of tension. It also handily introduces a sword and fantasy world full of animal based races, courage weapons and merciless foes (and maybe a touch of steam-tech or powder and musket sneaking in there, too.) Now, one might be tempted to think of this comic as being a … what did Ron Edwards used to call these things? A Fantasy Heartbreaker.
That’s potentially a loaded term, so let me hone in on a few things. One of the keys of this ancient internet term is that it is a labor of love. Another key is that a Fantasy Heartbreaker is, more or less, based on a Tolkienish world and therefore somewhat imitative. At first blush, Harkovast might strike you that way.
You see, something simply imitative does not inspire fans. It does not inspire participation in Harkovast Quizzes. The forum is very active. As a matter of fact, there is one whole forum section for BAD Harkovast reviews.
One of them is a really, really demeaning commentary on the comic which Daniel responded to with a lot of class. You don’t do that unless you have pride in your comic and a firm sense of vision. You have a story to tell and the perseverance to tell it when the rough spots hit; whether that be from your own perspective or someone else’s. In the end, your work will improve and you will have told your story.
That said, you may find things you don’t like about Harkovast. Where some might see homage, others might see the same fantasy tropes. Where some see talking animals of all different kinds, others may see an easy shorthand for different races. The characters all talk about being men or people, for instance, and it does throw me a little bit. I expect them to realize they are animals and act like them, but that’s just me being unreasonable.
The art (in terms of form and clarity) and dialog made a pretty dramatic improvement in the last year or so. There are moments of surprise, too – I’ve never conceived of a frost berserker but I really like the concept.
In the final analysis, Harkovast is not just a standard fantasy comic, despite it relying on some comfortable fantasy tropes.
What Did I Learn?
Short and sweet: Have a vision and stick to it. Check out Harkovast and see if you don’t agree.
Note: Sample image to be added later.