I was recently given the opportunity to read one of the UK’s most popular independent comics called Saltire about Scotland’s first superhero set in pre-medieval times. It is written and drawn by John Ferguson and Claire Roe, whom are both Scots with great patriotism for their nation.
Like Priya’s Shakti (which I wrote on in a previous article: HERE ), I was extremely excited to read this book in hopes of getting a better insight into a different culture and society, because although they speak the same language as us (unless they speak Gaelic which a version of this comic is translated, and that’s super cool). Our general knowledge of Scotland comes from an anti-Semitic Australian who portrayed a Scottish national hero and a cartoon janitor voiced by an Italian-American. So the idea of reading a comic about Scotland by Scots was fairly eye opening.
Ferguson’s love of his country pours through the pages as he is obviously passionate about both his country’s history and forgotten lore. Roe is a masterful comic artist who I predict will have long career in the industry if she sticks to it.
I will say I have a few faults with the read, but they are all personal preference. One major issue is a fault I commonly have with ancient genre comics and books (and occasionally films). It is the flowery, Yoda-esque speech patterns everyone talks with in these productions. And I’ll say, to not merely fault this book, at times even Tolkien has tired me with this lofty form of dialogue. So that is my one warning on this comic to those who have a similar take on speech patterns in writing, but if that doesn’t bother you then you’re in store for one hell of a read.
I didn’t sit down with Jonathan because he lives in Scotland and I live in South Carolina, but he was gracious enough answer a few of my questions sent via e-mail. How about this: my first interview!
Kevin McVicker (for Nerd Nation): How long have you been writing comics?
John Ferguson: “I have been writing for years as a music journalist, then on to history and mythology books, before moving into comic books.”
KM: How long has Claire been involved in sequential art?
JF: “Claire is a recent graduate of the prestigious Duncan of Jordanstone art college which produces many of the finest digital and graphic artists in the fields.”
KM: What was it that made you feel need to bring this character to fruition and had you been sitting on the idea for a long period prior to that point?
JF: “Scotland is the oldest country in the western world but its mythology is seldom portrayed. It’s a great untold pseudo-history of a very proud and patriotic nation. It was a fairly new idea brought on by a dislike of the way Scotland was seen, particularly internationally, as all kilts and bagpipes.”
(Kevin’s Note: as a stupid American, I was seriously thinking about asking him why no one was wearing kilts in the comic. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t. But to be fair, we also generally include the caber toss or haggis for the ignorant trifecta.)
KM: Will Annihilation Part 2 be the completion of the Saltire saga, or are there more stories planned?
JF: “There are eight books in the series that takes Saltire right through the pivotal moments in the country’s history. Saltire Annihilation is really just the beginning.”
KM: As an American reader what are some things I should know prior to reading this that may be a culture roadblock for me to understanding this project completely?
JF: “Probably too many to mention, it’s very nuanced for Scots. The fact that almost all the mythology, from the Stone of Destiny, the stone footprints, the mountain of ether and the beasts are based on real belief systems and practices from the country’s past. The separation of Scotland into highlands and lowlands is very real and the main antagonists are, if imbued, actual villains from those time periods.”
KM: I found the books on Comixology, but is there other ways for international readers (especially those who don’t like digital) to enjoy your books?
JF: “We have a few American publishers interested in the series with the idea of releasing a single volume of the first three books with revamped art by Claire Roe, a prequel to Annihilation and some additional pages.”
(note: if you are interested in reading a digital copy, you can purchase one here.)
KM: Are the two of you collaborating on anything past the second part of the Annihilation story or do you have other separate projects you can talk about yet?
JF: “Claire and I are moving on to the next Saltire book, about the Viking era of Scotland, after the three book compendium. We are also looking at two other projects that are modern, comic noir style, but set in the underbelly of Scotland’s cities.”
Be sure to check out Saltire: Annihilation Part 1 currently on Comixology, with Part 2 planned to be released in April of this year. Also on Comixology is the first story in the Saltire series called Invasion which introduces the characters.
Columnist: Nerd Nation Magazine