Meredith Finch is bringing readers to a world of swords and sorcery this April. The bestselling writer of such books as Wonder Woman and The Little Mermaid is introducing fans to a new fantasy realm in Rose, her new Image Comics series with collaborating artist Ig Guara and colorist Triona Farrell. The book’s eponymous protagonist finds herself in a world that’s fractured and skewed to the point of deep internal damage. Rose will be faced with attempting to mend that wound for both her people and the world at large.
Ms. Finch spoke with me recently about the genesis behind Rose, collaborating with Ig Guara and Triona Farrell, and what she hopes readers take away from experiencing the series.
FreakSugar: For folks considering picking up the book, what can you tell us about Rose?
Meredith Finch: Rose is the story of a young woman on a quest to save her kingdom, and restore peace and harmony to her land. But on a deeper level this book is about the journey to find and balance one’s own personal strengths and weaknesses, and what our preconceptions about other people often say about ourselves. I reference the idea several times of finding “your truth” in Rose, and I hope that Rose as a comic does that, as much for the protagonist, as for the reader.
And if, as a reader, you are looking for something special, something that pushes the boundaries of traditional comic books, then this is the book for you. The combination of Ig Guara’s artwork and Triona Farrell’s colors are nothing short of a visual masterpiece. Add a plethora of engaging characters and a heroine you can’t help but love, and you have a book that you won’t want to stop reading.
FS: Can you talk about the genesis behind Rose?
MF: Even before I started writing comics, I always believed that one day I would write a fantasy novel. And around the time I broke in to comics, writing for Zenescope and DC, [Ms. Finch’s husband and frequent collaborator] David [Finch] and I were in the initial stages of developing a creator-owned project about which we knew two things: The heroine would have white hair, and it would be called Rose. I’ve said it before; this comic is very much my love letter to fantasy fiction. It is everything I love about the genre, magic, knights, cool mythical creatures. It just doesn’t get any better.
FS: How would you describe the state of the world when we first meet the characters in Rose?
MF: Ig Guara, the artist on Rose, does such a great job of showing a land that was once beautiful, now ravaged by war and famine. The magical creatures called Khatz, and their human guardian, once responsible for bringing peace and harmony to the kingdom, have vanished and a civil war has resulted in a broken land, ruled by a tyrannical queen bent on the destruction of all magic. You know, just the usual stuff.
FS: Rose, our protagonist, seems to be wide-eyed and brimming with optimism, despite the darkness she has seen of the world. Once she sets out on her hero’s journey, will it be difficult for her to retain that optimism?
MF: Rose’s innocence and optimism will definitely be challenged, but when I started writing her character I envisioned her as one of those people (and hopefully we have all had a chance to encounter someone like this in our lives) who just can’t help but see the good in everyone. In a lot of ways, Rose is modeled after my youngest son, Isaac. He just approaches the world with such honesty and openness, and his moments of heartbreak or despair are less about him and more because he doesn’t want to let you down. It’s so special to have someone like that in your life, and I wanted Rose to be that. She’s a light in the darkness.
FS: Magic—who uses it, who can use it, and why—plays a huge role in Rose. What can you tell us about the magical elements of and Who’s Who that populate the world you’ve constructed?
MF: One of the most fun parts of doing a creator-owned project is that you don’t always necessarily need to have everything completely hammered out when you start. The magic in Rose is an evolving thing for me. As my characters and I encounter new situations it allows me the opportunity to continually shape and mold something that is very much a part of the land itself. That being said, I have always had a few parameters around which I base those decisions. I know exactly where Rose’s power comes from as well as the power of the Khatz. Drucilla’s powers are a little more nebulous and I’m really looking forward to exploring how far I can take her as a character to counterbalance Rose.
FS: Many tales set in worlds of fantasy have real-world allegories woven into them, from Tolkien to Rowling to McCaffrey. Have you done that with Rose?
MF: I would definitely say that I have tried to address concerns I have about the state of the world or society today in this issue. That’s the nice thing about doing a creator-owned project. I can include honest feelings and concerns without needing to work around established parameters of a particular character. This book definitely expresses my feelings about femininity, and what I believe it means to be a strong woman. I really wanted to explore my feeling that it’s our differences that make us strong, and the idea of equity versus equality. I feel like right now in society there is so much negativity, and people seem to believe that the only way to get to the top is to tear down everyone around them that is perceived to be different. I think we’ve actually become very tribal, as intersectionality causes us to balkanize in a divisive victimhood contest. We’re losing the spirit of unity, respect, and understanding. As we go deeper into the story we are really going to explore how Rose’s magic comes from some of these ideas.
FS: While Rose is such a unique tale, it’s clear that you have a love for fantasy stories. Are there any particular fantasy yarns that share DNA with Rose?
MF: Absolutely. I think that the structure is very Tolkien-like, but the characters are much more influenced by Ann McCaffrey and Melanie Rawn, and Patricia McKillip’s Forgotten Beast of Eld really was the inspiration for Thorne. I also really love how Marion Zimmer Bradly and Guy Gavrial Kay integrate history and myth into their stories.
FS: Ig Guara’s linework on Rose is stunning. The characters are gorgeous and how he composes pages couples so well with your words. What was the collaboration process like with Ig?
MF: First off let me say that I could not agree more. When I saw Ig’s artwork I knew immediately that it was right for my story, but what you can’t predict is creative synergy. He loves the fantasy genre probably as much as I do and I think that really comes through on the page. And his way with facial expressions…! We just really seem to be on the same page from a creative point of view. I also think that if a writer is working with a great artist, it is really important to just get out of the artist’s way. At the end of the day, I may come up with the script, but Ig is the visual storyteller. Credit also has to be given to our colorist Triona Farrell not only because she has really picked the perfect palette for Rose, but because her work over Ig is something truly special. They make magic happen on the page, and that is something I couldn’t have predicted when I was putting this team together. I really feel like this is one of the best looking books in comics today.
FS: Another character who plays a pivotal role, both directly and indirectly, in the first issue is Drucilla. You hint that some of her worldview is informed by her upbringing. Will we see how she views magic and how it relates to and impacts her in contrast to, say, Rose?
MF: In a lot of ways, Drucilla is a dark mirror for Rose. It is very important to me as I develop the story and the characters to show that they come from a very different place in terms of motivation because they come very different upbringings. In issue seven, we get some backstory on Drucilla, and I think it will really help the reader to get an understanding of her world view – how and why she has ultimately come to regard everything, including magic, as a means to accomplish an end.
FS: Following up on that, the character designs for the folks populating Rose are beautiful. While conceiving the story, did you have any clear ideas of how you wanted the characters to look? Did those notions evolve as you worked with Ig?
MF: I have to give Ig all the credit for how amazing and engaging and different every single character is in Rose. I have a bit of an advantage in that I live with an artist, so I’ve known for years essentially what Rose would look like. This is a story that David and I have been talking about me doing for a long time. David even did a concept design for Rose’s character in a Gnomon Workshop video. I gave that one image to Ig and he was able to take that idea and completely make it his own. So much so, that when Dave was doing an alternative cover for issue four (which looks amazing by the way) he commented on how iconic each character feels to draw, and how much he was trying to be true to Ig’s designs because they so define each character and their personality. The only other character that I really had specific ideas around was Thorne. I knew I wanted him to be a huge, prehistoric sized black panther. Again, what I couldn’t have predicted, is the personality Ig was able to give to him. It would be disingenuous to not say that Ig’s artwork has helped shape who and what these characters are evolving into.
FS: What can we expect to see in Rose going forward?
MF: I think the thing I am most looking forward to in Rose is the relationships. There are some very fun, very unexpected pairings coming up that, even as the writer, have surprised me with their chemistry. And of course any good fantasy needs a sword fight, some battles, and a sacrifice.
FS: Do you have a takeaway that you want readers to have reading Rose?
MF: Rose is a story about finding your truth, and how that can set you free. From a creative point of view, I want readers to know that Rose is a really accessible book that truly gets better with every issue. There is something in it for everyone. I’ve given it to a lot of non-comic readers and the response I get back is always the same… where’s the rest of it?! What happens next?!
Dave does a lot of my initial editing, and when it comes to looking at the pdf of a finished issue, even he has to keep reminding himself of what he’s doing because Ig’s artwork is just so captivating, you can’t help but be drawn into the story and the characters.
Rose, written by Meredith Finch with Ig Guara on art and Triona Farrell on colors, goes on sale April 12 from Image Comics.
From the official issue description:
SERIES PREMIERE: A classic fantasy tale about a girl trying to restore balance to a broken world. Rose must connect with her Khat—Thorne—to become the Guardian the world needs. But aren’t easy for Rose and Thorne; the powerful sorceress Drucilla has many powerful and demonic allies—all of them focused on stopping one scared little girl who’s desperately trying to stay alive and do what’s right.