Norm has spoken previously about some of his influences while writing The Last Viking. This week I thought I’d talk about the influences I had while doing the drawings.
I’ve been a huge fan of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes for many years. It was written and illustrated by the incredibly intelligent and talented Bill Watterson. The comic looked at the worries of childhood with humour and sensitivity. I was a teenager when I first start reading the comic, and I often didn’t understand the deeper philosophical side of each story, but the inventive and expressive artwork was more than enough to get me hooked. It’s easy to see the similarities between Calvin and Josh- both are young boys, both are loners, both have animal friends, and both get lost in their imaginations on a regular basis.
Another major influence for me has been the Asterix comics, written by Rene Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo. I loved the historical references, the attention to detail in the costumes and backgrounds, and the ridiculous puns. That’s all come through in The Last Viking (except for the puns… though I feel that Norman’s gentle, daggy sense of humour is very much in the same vein as Goscinny’s, and also mine). And of course, there is an animal companion- a little white dog, called Dogmatix… very much like Wolverine in The Last Viking.
I thought people were hard to draw. Turns out ravens are impossible.
Okay, I’m being melodramatic. They’re not impossible- just difficult. I’ve never made a habit of drawing birds before, so I’ve had to start practicing.
I’m paying attention now. In the last year whenever I’ve seen crows or ravens about, I’ve stopped doing whatever it is I’m doing and I’ve stared. I’ve chased crows around the park with my mobile phone, trying to take videos and pictures. I’ve sat on the grass with my sketchbook and tried to draw them as they hop around, then inevitably fly off, their opinionated squawking trailing into the distance. And my drawings have gotten better (mostly).
Ravens are incredibly intelligent birds, capable of logic and problem solving- I had no idea how intelligent until I started researching on youtube.
There are two ravens in Norse mythology- their names are Huginn and Muninn, which mean Thought and Memory. They belong to Odin; every day they fly around the world (the land of humans known as ‘Midgard’) and note the events taking place. Then they fly back to Odin to report.
So in our story, the ravens provide a vital link between Josh’s world and the world of the Viking Gods. When the ravens turn up, the Gods aren’t far away.
My first sketches in the storyboards were merely placeholders- rough ideas of where the ravens would go, once I knew how to draw them.
Many sketches later…
…and I’ve learnt to draw some better looking birds.
Random facts about ravens:
You’ve probably heard that a group of crows is called a ‘murder’. The same name is used for a group of ravens, but there are some other suggestions floating about too : a conspiracy, an unkindness, a storytelling, a congress and a parliament are also used. (Or at least, that’s what a quick google search told me).
Ravens were used as symbols in Viking times, and can be found on flags, in the Bayeux Tapestry, and on helmets.