Welcome!

Welcome!

  • date
  • December 30, 2013

Hello and welcome to the inaugural post for the Sword & Barrow website.

For fans of the Artesia comic series, I realize that this may come as a sort of good news/bad news kind of thing, but for several years now trying to figure out how to continue with the story of Artesia and the Known World has been a tricky one.  Archaia, the company that I founded to publish Artesia after leaving my first publisher, Sirius, has continued to grow and expand (most recently becoming an imprint at BOOM! Studios, where we now have our new home), and finding time to draw while continuing to participate in publishing a lineup of what I think are truly special books has been extremely difficult.  Comic art needs 8-10 hours a day of solid work day in and day out to do right.  But while I couldn’t find time to draw, I could find time to write, and so was born The Barrow, the first prose novel set in the Known World.  It’s set a year before the events of the first comic series, making it a prequel of sorts, and its central character is one that readers of the Artesia comics might find familiar.

The Barrow is coming out via the fantasy/sf imprint Pyr in March, and I hope that readers of the Artesia comics will find it a welcome return to the Known World, if perhaps not the exact one for which they were hoping.  It’s available for preorder from Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.

The new website will combine a lot of the information from the old Artesia site, along with new material to support The Barrow and any subsequent novels.

Best wishes for the New Year!

26 Comments on Welcome!

  • David says:
    December 30, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Congrats on new site Mark – looking awesome! I’m going to enjoy perusing it thoroughly. Happy New Year! (And here’s wishing that you find time to get drawing done some day or year!)
    Ever hopeful,
    David

    Reply

  • Kristin says:
    December 31, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Great looking website, and here’s to Artesia, and the Known World in the New Year!

    Reply

  • Thomas says:
    January 1, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Great to see Mr. Smylie back in the Known World. Hope we see some Artesia this year. Good luck with the Barrow.

    Reply

  • David says:
    January 4, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Hey, just saw that the Artesia trades are being offered again in PREVIEWS. Yay! I would’ve preferred a full page ad (to really catch the eye), but I’m content with just having them appearing again. If any of the RPG fans haven’t tried the source material, I’d highly recommend them.
    Looking forward to the novel coming out!!!!
    David

    Reply

  • Moragion says:
    January 6, 2014 at 8:50 am

    Well well, a new site and some new items :) Like those new maps, which I suppose are from the novel. Nice to see a map of Therapoli Magna, and looking at the black and white Middle Kingdoms maps, I saw the Woat’s Inn, so this place and the family are to appear on the novel? We shall see ;)

    Reply

    • Mark Smylie says:
      January 6, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      Happy New Year everyone! Moragion: Yes, the new maps are from the novel. And [spoiler alert] Woat’s Inn is a location visited in the novel, for better or for worse. I will probably post soon the first full map of the entire world (the Known World map included here on the site and in the novel is basically just a section of the larger map.

      Reply

      • Moragion says:
        January 6, 2014 at 3:54 pm

        Oh great! I really want to read the novel, and see how the Middle Kingdoms are more fleshed out. It’s goona be an standalone novel or the beginning of a saga? Can wait :)

        Reply

        • Mark Smylie says:
          January 6, 2014 at 8:43 pm

          Moragion: Originally “The Barrow” was presented to Pyr as a stand-alone novel, but in theory the ending was left so that it could tie into either future novels or the comic book series. My editor at Pyr asked for a pitch on some follow-ups novels, and it looks like I’ll do at least two more, with the events of the novels eventually tying into and covering the events of the comic books, just from multiple perspectives and with other events being revealed in detail. So the books will actually cover the Thessid invasion of the Middle Kingdoms, the assassination of Derrek of Warwark, and other things that are talked about in the comics but never shown.

          Reply

          • Moragion says:
            January 7, 2014 at 6:20 pm

            Great! Nothing more can be said

            Reply

  • Fran says:
    January 7, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Hi from Barcelona, Spain

    Thanks for ALL your work Mark (graphic novels, AKW, this novel…)

    hope we could get it overseas…

    Reply

    • Moragion says:
      January 9, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      Ey Fran, I’m also from Barcelona. Tiny world ;)

      Reply

  • Marcus B. says:
    February 3, 2014 at 12:59 am

    Greetings to you Mark !

    Just finished reading Artesia 1 + 3 which I found at my local bookstore. A ripping adventure story comparable to past great works such as Prince Valiant, Conan, or Elric’s Saga. You’ve worked hard to create much original material with an involved backstory reminiscent of the players in the Hundred Years War, or the Crusades. A marvelous blending of sword, sorcery, eroticism and myth. I delight in the mystery, strength, and passions of your female character Artesia and am rooting for her – as her adventures unfold. I will look for “The Barrow”. I look forward also to your next creations May Calliope fill your dreams with continued inspiration ! May Inanna Queen of Heaven and Earth favor you and illuminate the paths before you.

    Sincerely,

    Marcus

    Reply

    • Mark Smylie says:
      February 3, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      Thank you, Marcus! Glad you’ve enjoyed the story so far.

      Reply

  • Jahanpanah says:
    April 4, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    I don’t know how to respond. Coming out of this book means continuation of the long delay to one of my most favourite graphic novels. I’m not particularly happy especially since there will be sequels to this book. Artesia was one of my most beloved heroines in any medium and not seeing her anymore would be cruel. Also, Artesia is centered around compelling female characters, I would have been more responsive to this book if there were a female main. Reading a story focused on a male is tedious and I find less enjoyment in it.

    Mark! I had read somewhere that you planned to do more than 20 graphic novels which was ambitious to begin with. Best wishes to you if you are still sticking to the idea. Alternatively as a compensation, I would like you finish the Besieged book and then continue Artesia’s story in prose form and it would be bonus if some of your art is thrown in between the pages as fantasy and sci-fi novels of the yore used to do.

    Also I would like to add that even though this book The Barrow is set in the same universe but just looking at it I do not get the feeling that this book belongs in the same universe as my beloved series. The reason is simple: I’m missing your art there Mark. I can understand that this cover art of the book doesn’t indicate any ties to to your previous books and will help in bringing in the new readers but there must have been something for the fans of your fabuolus world. A cover art by you with your take on the characters would have been enough for me and I would not be so wary about keeping the book next to my Arteisa volumes. This cover of the book with their costumes and everything leave a poor impression and not look like the characters belonging to the Known World. For your reprints, please do an alternative cover Mark at least for us fans.

    Still hoping for Artesia to return and reclaim the position that is rightfully hers.

    Reply

    • Mark Smylie says:
      April 4, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      Jahanpanah: Yes, I know that for many readers of Artesia that the publication of The Barrow is less than ideal. Unfortunately, as long as I still have my day job at Archaia/BOOM the chances of a successful return to the comic are pretty slim, though I’ve had some discussions with our LA office about how a return to finishing Besieged might happen. In the meantime the sequels to The Barrow will start to work in Artesia’s storyline; she will start to appear as a character in the next book, along with the Highlands household of King Bran, and then the third book will cover the events of the first graphic novel from multiple perspectives (with the aim being that if a return to the comics seems impossible then at least I can continue with her story in further novels; indeed, there’s a bit of ‘sleight of hand’ involved, if you’ll pardon the pun, as the ongoing story is of course hers and not Stjepan’s, though he remains a major character in the narrative throughout). I’ve already thought about the idea of an “alternate” cover that I provide down the line, whether for print or epub editions, so we’ll see how sales go. If the demand is there then perhaps an illustrated/annotated edition might be workable.

      Reply

      • Jahanpanah says:
        April 4, 2014 at 5:26 pm

        Thanks Mark for quick response. Much to my utter dismay, as you yourself mentioned that the chances of returning to the comic are pretty slim, I think it will be in the best interest not to expect anything and be ready for surprise. Hope you take a break from your job and complete the story. In worst case scenario I wouldn’t mind even if you continue ‘Besieged’ as a novel. Will be missing your art though. Wish you good luck.

        Reply

        • Jahanpanah says:
          April 4, 2014 at 5:51 pm

          On a different note Mark (I hope I’m not interfering too much into this), can’t the series be continued with a different artist sharing the same vision so that your burden is decreased? I know you must have given prior thought on this. Perhaps the things are lot more complicated.
          Still hoping the best possible outcomes for you.

          Reply

          • Mark Smylie says:
            April 6, 2014 at 2:25 pm

            Jahanpanah: Yes, I’ve thought about the idea of bringing on board a different artist to complete the rest of Besieged (the remaining issues are all thumbnailed in layout, so it’s just the art part that needs to be done), but I haven’t quite decided if that’s the best route to go. In the context of a book cover I actually preferred a different artist to take over (and personally I thought Gene did a great job of capturing the look and vibe of the book), but I am not sure if I am quite willing to hand the comic over to a different artist quite yet.

            Reply

            • Jahanpanah says:
              April 7, 2014 at 7:42 am

              At least it’s good to know that only artwork remains to be done. Since there have been 3 issues of ‘Besieged’ already, bringing a new artist on board would not be prudent but it can be done for more comics after Besieged is finished.

              Reply

  • Jason says:
    April 15, 2014 at 2:33 am

    Having bought everything Artesia in comic form, all the Annuals, special covers, RPG, everything, even the expensive printed map pack, and I have to say I am heavily disheartened about the lack of a resolution to the last Artesia arc.

    I stopped buying Hellboy comics when Mignola gave up the art in his belief he was just a good a writer as he was an illustrator. I have, however, bought Barrow just now and will reserve judgement on whether or not to continue support purchasing and spending my personal and limited escapist time in the Known World, especially since a great part of that escapism is hanging in the air, and from what I’ve read above, never to be concluded.

    The company’s success is your bread and butter, I can understand that, that is prime, and as a customer I do also buy The Killer and Mouse Guard. But I was also stung with some of the comics not being completed before they were finally released as graphic novels in the transition periods by your company. I then refused to spend extra monies on said fully completed graphic novels. It also in the end led me to stop buying comics in lieu of collected annuals.

    I love your creative work, Mark, yet to not complete a project so loved and supported by thousands of people has lowered my expectations of what may come. In that regard that Barrow as a standalone is a chance I will take. If it was part of an ongoing series I wouldn’t even touch it and I’d never again be interested in your endeavours.

    I wish you all the best with the novel, though the inference there is it will lead to more novels and not more Artesia in graphic story form. Sure she might well pop up in the books, or maybe she could continue her story purely in prose in the future, but that’s not just the reason I bought and invested a lot of time and money (just like you did) in her.

    Here’s hoping I enjoy Barrow, loyalty is a two-way street.

    Reply

    • Mark Smylie says:
      April 15, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      Hi, Jason —

      Thanks for posting. Well, there are several different (potentially unrelated) things to address there. The decision at Archaia to shift from comics series (and with them collections) straight to finished graphic novels was not really my decision; our then CEO felt that the comics market was in decline and that our titles were better suited for the OGN format rather than the comics format (60% of Archaia’s sales have historically come from the book trade market rather than the comics direct market). This decision was reinforced by the message we were getting from many customers, which was in effect “I bought the first issue or two to try it out and liked it, so now I’m waiting for the collected edition that I know you will put out rather than buying the rest of the single issues.” It was very difficult for us to continue putting out whole series knowing that the last few issues of it were destined to lose the company (and our creators) money. I should note, however, that with our merger with BOOM (and with it a change in top management) that we have returned to comics series format on several titles we are releasing this year; BOOM is much more of a direct market-focused company overall and so we’ll see how a new, invigorated approach to the direct market works for us.

      Though you might choose not to read it because of this, I should warn you that at this point The Barrow is no longer a standalone, but will be followed by two more volumes. The aim of those volumes is in fact to specifically tie in the Artesia storyline directly into the novels, so that the second book (tentatively titled Black Heart) will introduce Artesia and her Highlands surroundings into the storyline, and the third book (tentatively titled Bright Sword) will incorporate the events of the first Artesia graphic novel (this time from a variety of perspectives, not just Artesia’s). If I am able to figure out how to finish the art for Besieged during that time (I’ve had some discussions with the guys at BOOM about how that might happen but we haven’t quite figured it out yet) then completing the fourth comic series would ideally be next on the agenda. At that point I hope to then make an evaluation about how to best continue with her story, either in graphic novel format or in novel format, but I will admit that I am leaning towards novels as the continuing format after that.

      The reason is pretty simple. I love comics and graphic novels (I would hope that would be obvious) but as the years have passed I have realized I might be faced with a “Robert Jordan” problem, namely that to successfully tell Artesia’s story in graphic novel format (at least as I have it currently planned out) will take (on paper) at least 36 years (roughly two years of work per graphic novel times the 18 more graphic novels currently planned after Besieged). Since I’m 45, that means I’d have to make sure I was still healthy and kicking until at least the age of 81 to finish it properly (not impossible, but hard to predict). However, writing novels takes considerably less time, and the same story would be structured differently as novels rather than as graphic novels; so on paper, I can write Artesia’s story in a total of twelve novels (including the first three beginning with The Barrow), which might only take twelve years total. That’s a much more manageable goal, one in which the promise of the full story as originally intended might actually be deliverable. So I am confronted with a simple math problem; in order to give readers something resembling a complete, finished story, either I have to change the format (graphic novels to novels) or change the story (take the full arc of Artesia as a character and eviscerate it to, say, 7 graphic novels, or perhaps 9). [As an aside you can see elsewhere on this thread for discussions about the question of using a different artist to finish out the series.] I know that there will be readers that are not happy about not being able to finish out the Artesia story in graphic novel format; but her story is pretty epic and I would be loathe to cut it up and turn it into something less than it could be.

      Of course, all of that is dependent on the question of whether The Barrow and its sequels finds enough of an audience as novels. If they don’t, then I’m stuck with a very difficult quandary, and at that point would probably have to cut up and shorten Artesia’s storyline by at least half to see if that makes it more manageable as graphic novels.

      I’m sorry if this is disappointing news to you, but I hope that it gives you some idea of my thinking. Believe it or not, my end goal is (and always has been, even with the detour into building Archaia as a publishing company) finding a way to give readers the complete Artesia storyline as it was originally envisioned.

      Reply

  • Thomas says:
    April 28, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    It is disheartening news that we are still so far away from at least concluding Besieged in comic form (already half way there!). As the saying goes, however, where there’s a will there’s a way (especially after 6 years :P), and I perhaps forlornly hope that the writing of these novels will fire up the will to return to drawing. Not to say that you don’t want to draw.

    By the way, I’m quite ok with not seeing the entirety of Artesia’s story. It’s been so long I’d just like to have Besieged finished as it was just getting interesting.

    Reply

    • Mark Smylie says:
      May 12, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      Hi, Thomas — It’s never been a question of will, as much way. To finish the Besieged series, even halfway through, is at least a year’s worth of 8-10-hour days. I’ve only got about 4 hours a day to spare at the moment. Writing seems to come easier for me in small chunks; art requires you to sit down for a whole, uninterrupted session. I suppose there might be some for whom it’s the reverse. But I think there’s a reason why writers in comics have a much faster and wider output than artists.

      Reply

      • bjkofron says:
        March 7, 2015 at 12:38 pm

        The amount of time required is directly related to the quality. Comic authors may have huge output, but so little of it is worth wasting the ink. I “read” most comics for the art. In 26 years of collecting comics, there has been only seven times where I believe I could have happily enjoyed reading just the script for a comic. One of those was Artesia. Based on that I will give your book a try. Hopefully, the writing didn’t come to easy for you.

        Reply

  • Basiliea says:
    June 6, 2014 at 2:48 am

    Damn it, I was enjoying reading a comic that passed the Bechdel test for once. Ah well *wanders off to buy the books.*

    Reply

    • Mark Smylie says:
      June 6, 2014 at 2:13 pm

      Basiliea: Coincidental to your mention of the Bechdel test, I very deliberately put The Barrow right on the edge of passing/failing the Bechdel test, depending on how you interpret several conversations.

      Reply

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