I am a big fan of comics and of epic fantasy quest novels, so when Robert Louis Smith asked me if I was interested in hearing more about what influenced the epic world he created for Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans, I was all for it. How exactly does an epic fantasy novel tie into comics, you ask? Well, Geof Isherwood, who has created art on numerous Marvel Comics titles, including The X-Men, Spider-Man and The Avengers, contributed 70 full page illustrations to bring to life Smith’s world.
Here’s a synopsis of Antiquitas Lost:
From American cardiologist Robert Louis Smith comes the unique fantasy novel Antiquitas Lost, peppered with more than 70 eye-popping illustrations by Marvel Comics legend Geof Isherwood. This epic fantasy tells the story of a 15 year old boy named Elliott, a bullied kid with deformities on his hands and feet who is uprooted from his home after his mother falls gravely ill. When they move to New Orleans so his grandfather can help care for her, Elliott learns that the old man's eighteenth century mansion hides an ancient secret. From a dungeon-like basement far beneath the estate, Elliott strays through an ancient doorway into Pangrelor, a tumultuous parallel world full of bizarre creatures and warring races. Unable to return home, he discovers wondrous abilities he never dreamed he possessed, and an abiding connection to the primitive, alien world that will forever change him.
But he must proceed carefully. For he soon learns that his actions in the ancient world will impact the upcoming battle for Harwelden, Pangrelor's mightiest civilization, and will also resonate all the way back to New Orleans, perhaps deciding whether his mother lives or dies.
Mr. Smith stops by today to talk about his inspirations behind some of the characters and to share a couple of Geof Isherwood’s amazing black and white drawings. Enjoy!
Smackdown: Pangrelor vs. Middle Earth
By Robert Louis Smith
Author of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans
In 1954, J.R.R. Tolkien published the first of a breathtaking series of books that would go on to become some of the most influential novels of the 20th century. As anyone who has ever read The Lord of the Rings knows, Tolkien's books are so imaginative and unexpectedly powerful that his fantastic tale still captures our imaginations more than a half century after its original publication. These stories gave birth to the modern fantasy genre, and it is perhaps inevitable that so many contemporary fantasy books replicate aspects of Tolkien's writings. So pervasive is Tolkien's influence that the Oxford English Dictionary offers a word for it: Tolkienesque. Perhaps this is why we see so many fantasy tales that feature elves, dwarves, wizards, magic rings, and magic swords. The presence of these features is, in many ways, what we have come to expect from a modern fantasy novel.
But over the course of 57 years, these constructs of classical Northern European (or Tolkienesque) fantasy fiction have been imitated to the point of monotony. In tome after tome, we see elves and dwarves wielding magical swords or speaking in Northern European conlangs (fictional languages) as they follow some particular heroic quest. And let's be honest. Although there are many wonderful and imaginative novels that feature these elements, no one has done it as well as Mr. Tolkien.
When I sat down to write Antiquitas Lost, I promised myself there would be no magic rings, magic swords, elves or dwarves. A major goal was to create a fantasy novel where the creatures and setting were fresh. Pangrelor, the fantasy world described in Antiquitas Lost, is envisioned as a pre-industrial, medieval society with beautiful artistic accomplishments set in a savage and magical natural environment -- the Renaissance meets the Pleistocene, with magical beings and crypto-zoological creatures. Devoid of elves and dwarves, Pangrelor is inhabited largely by creatures that we are familiar with, but different from the usual fantasy fare -- gargoyles, Bigfoot creatures, Neanderthal types, Atlanteans and dinosaurs, to name a few. These differences give Pangrelor a much different feel from Middle Earth and the countless, adherent worlds that have followed. Hopefully the reader will find this refreshing. Over time, I have come to think of Antiquitas Lost as more of a "North American" tale, with many references to new world mythologies, as well as a hint of Native American influence.
Although Antiquitas Lost is not immune to Mr. Tolkien's sweeping influence, it is unique in many ways. When you take your first journey to Pangrelor, it is my sincere hope that you will experience a hint of the joy that accompanied your maiden voyage to Middle Earth, and that you will connect in a meaningful way with this unprecedented new cast of characters as you explore an altogether unique fantasy destination.
Elliott arrives in Pangrelor
In this illustration, Elliott has just arrived in Pangrelor and met Marvus and Jingo, with whom he will form a close bond. Marvus and Jingo belong to a diminutive race of primitive hominids called gimlets, and Geof and I had many discussions regarding how they should look. For example, we had a lengthy back-and-forth regarding the appearance of their ears, and eventually settled on the shape you see here. Geof also fleshed out their garments and boots, which they have shared with Elliott in this scene. To the right, Geof improvised the six-legged lemur to add to the sense of otherworldliness.
Sarintha Stabs a Serpan
In this scene, Princess Sarintha plunges a dagger into the belly of her serpan tormentor. The serpans are envisioned as massive hominids from Pangrelor’s icy northern continent of Vengala. The serpans are loosely based on Neanderthal men, though it was my intention that selective pressures on Pangrelor resulted in a much different appearance for these creatures when compared to the Neanderthals of earth. Inspiration for the serpan’s eventual appearance was broad, and came from many different archaeological sources, as well as artistic interpretations of the monster in Beowulf (some speculate that the monster described in Beowulf was a surviving Neanderthal), as well as Geof’s own imagination. Serpan culture is remorselessly violent. In the background, we see serpan warriors laughing as Princess Sarintha thrusts her dagger into their comrade’s belly.
Hooks in the Dungeon
Again we see the character Hooks, though in this chapter he has been captured by the forces at Harwelden and is slated for a grisly execution the following day. Though he has spent many years involved in a life of petty crime, Hooks has never before landed in such dire straits, and the sad expression on his face perfectly fits his inner dialogue as he contemplates how he finds himself at such a sorry pass. In this scene, the guard is asking him to choose his final meal. On a technical note, the depth in this picture is amazing, and really showcases Geof’s artistic skill. As with the earlier Hooks illustration, we see a hint of Bernie Wrightson’s influence.
The Darfoyle, Ecsar.
This is breathtaking. Depicted here is the Darfoyle, Ecsar, commander of the serpan legion that is preparing to storm the gimlet enclave of Scopulus. Darfoyles share remote biological origins with another species in Pangrelor, the grayfarers. Both are loosely based on gargoyles. As you might have gleaned from this illustration, these are some of Antiquitas Lost’s many bad guys. In the novel, the darfoyles are described as larger than grayfarers and darker in color. Unlike the grayfarers, darfoyles have tails. When Geof asked me to give him a feel for how I thought darfoyles might look on paper, I told him I thought they looked something like demons. Geof prepared for this drawing by creating a number of anatomic sketches focused on the musculature that would be needed to power the massive wings.
© 2011 Robert Louis Smith, author of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans
Robert Louis Smith, author of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans, has numerous degrees, including psychology (B.A.), applied microbiology (B.S.), anaerobic microbiology (M.Sc.), and a Medical Doctorate (M.D.). He serves as an interventional cardiologist at the Oklahoma Heart Institute. He is married and the father of two young children. He began writing Antiquitas Lost in 2003 while studying at Tulane University in New Orleans.
Robert Louis Smith and the kind people at Medlock Publishing has offered up a copy of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans to one lucky Working for the Mandroid reader. Because it’s a hard copy, the contest is only open to the US and Canada. The contest will run through noon Central on Thursday, December 15 and the winner will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.
No special entry fee this time around. Just sign up below and you’ll be put into the drawing.
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