Interview With Kristen Gudsnuk and Rafer Roberts of Modern Fantasy

Modern Fantasy header

Due out in June is the first issue of Modern Fantasy. It’s written by Rafer Roberts (A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong, Plastic Farm) and illustrated by Kristen Gudsnuk (Henchgirl), and here’s the description:

A young Ranger woman who came to the city with dreams of adventure, her drug-dealing reptilian wizard roommate, and her boisterous Dwarf maiden BFF embark on a modern day quest to save the world while struggling to keep their crappy day jobs and pay off their student loans. The roommates become embroiled in danger when one of their significant others finds himself taken by criminals, and the trio must save him.

It’s published by Dark Horse and can be pre-ordered NOW from your local comic shop with Diamond code APR18 0030. Rafer and Kristen were kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the title through email.

Modern Fantasy cover

Judging from the cover, Modern Fantasy is a mash-up between classic fantasy game-style characters and boring I’m-now-an-adult lifestyles. How far off am I?

Rafer: That is pretty much spot-on, so I guess the cover did its job!

We’re still perfecting the elevator pitch, but it’s basically the cast of Broad City in a modern day Dungeons and Dragons world. Sage, the small town ranger who came to the big city with dreams of adventure, has found herself stuck in a dead-end data entry job. She and her friends (Gondra the dwarf-maiden waitress, Lizard Wizard the stoner-mage, Darquin the struggling elf actor) are just keeping their heads above water when they get caught up in an ancient plot to bring about the apocalypse.

I really do love this cover, by the way. Kristen really nailed the emotion and tone of the entire series in this one image. I feel bad for our main character, Sage, in this image. She looks so miserable! She just wants to go on an adventure! And, unfortunately, she’s about to go on one!

Kristen: We’ve been having a lot of fun combining those two elements, and building a world where magic and technology (and capitalism) exist. I love drawing this book, because I can do almost anything in terms of character design, thanks to the fantastical setting.

How did you both come to work together?

Rafer: We met at a New York Comic Con a few years ago. I was crashing at Justin Jordan’s table, totally mooching off of his generosity, when Kristen dropped off a copy of the first issue of Henchgirl, looking for collaborators. I remember hitting it off right away, talking about comics, and I got super into the possibility of working on something together.

Then I went home and forgot to follow up for like a year. Ha ha! Luckily, Kristen was still free and still game to work together. I didn’t have anything in mind, but Kristen mentioned something about wanting to do something with magic in it which somehow evolved into a modern-day fantasy world.

Kristen: I remember meeting Rafer at NYCC and hitting it off immediately. Then, when he sent me the pitch idea, I immediately related so hard to Sage, having withstood many a soul-destroying office job in my day. I knew it would be a really great comic, so I jumped at the chance to work on it!

Kristen Gudsnuk and Rafer Roberts

What’s your working style?

Rafer: I’d say it’s pretty laid back. There’s a lot of texts and emails, a lot of “what are some good funny fantasy-style store names for the mall food court” or “what if instead of another rock giant security guard, we put the Owlbear’s part-fawn kid in?”

I think this is the first time I’ve worked with another writer/artist, and I’m having a blast. Kristen keeps coming up with good ideas for background gags, character moments, and pacing. It really is a true collaboration.

Kristen: Working with Rafer is so great! Neither of us is particularly precious with our own work, so we’re always spitballing ideas and changing things up. I’m used to working on my own, so it’s nice having someone to toss ideas back and forth with.

Why is Dark Horse the right publisher for this project?

Rafer: I’ve been a Dark Horse fan for a long, long time, and getting to put out Modern Fantasy through them is a dream. Dark Horse has had a long and illustrative history putting out some amazing creator-owned comics, and to my mind, helped to steer the comics industry in a much more creator-friendly direction.

Dark Horse has also published books like The Guild and Critical Role, books whose core audience I think would love Modern Fantasy. Which is not to say that our book would only appeal to a fantasy audience, but there’s good cross-over potential.

Also, shout out to our amazing editorial team and everyone behind the scenes who’s been doing a killer job.

Kristen: Dark Horse published the collection of my comic Henchgirl, and I had such an amazing experience with them that it was a no-brainer. They are also really supportive and enthusiastic about Modern Fantasy, which makes me feel like we’re in the right hands.

Modern Fantasy sample page

It seems that there’s been a mini-boom lately in hipster fantasy projects (such as Moonstruck or Brave Chef Brianna or Kim Reaper). Why do you think it is that creators these days are using magical and fantastic characters to explore mundane life?

Rafer: That’s a real good question! I’m not sure I can speak for others, but for me and with Modern Fantasy, it’s perhaps a way to comment on modern society in a way that sugar-coats any cynicism. I mean, I wasn’t thinking about that while I was writing the comic, but it kinda sounds smart! Besides, getting to write a big, dumb, barbarian in a dull, boring office is way too much fun!

Kristen: A fantasy setting releases you from having to strictly follow reality in your story, which opens up so many exciting possibilities. Combining that with mundane, immediately relatable problems gives the reader an entry point to self-identify, and reflects our world in ways that can be over-the-top and satirical. Plus, fantastical creatures are just fun to draw and look at!

My thanks to Kristen and Rafer for their time! Modern Fantasy #1 will be on sale June 27. It’s a four-issue miniseries, but Rafer says, “we’ve got ideas for further adventures. Hopefully folks dig this enough that we get to do some more, because I am having way too much fun in this world!”

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