Christof Bogacs and Marie Enger Shed Light on Diversifying Conflict Resolution with Their New LGBTQ-Friendly YA Graphic Novel
Dark Horse Books has a new young adult graphic novel, Under Kingdom, coming your way. This LGBTQ-friendly fantasy was written by Christof Bogacs with art by Marie Enger. If you’re a fan of Adventure Time or Critical Role this promises to be right up your alley. Under Kingdom follows a high school freshman who gets charged with saving his mom and the citizens of Under Kingdom while trying to solve things peacefully.
We had the opportunity to ask the creators behind this new adventure a few questions. Check it out below:
GN: Under Kingdom is a young adult graphic novel. What made you decide to create this fun book for kids as opposed to an adult graphic novel?
MARIE: YA is what the publishers want, so that’s what they got!
I’m not really sure if Under Kingdom would have ever worked as an adult graphic novel – it would have had a totally different vibe. I would have drawn it darker, more violent… which is the exact opposite of what Under Kingdom is about and what we were goin’ for!
All my other work (at the time) was adult horror, so I was a little worried about doing something for YA, but I knew Christof could do it! Turns out, doing YA stuff like this was actually really good for my mental health and creative hygiene, so I can’t wait to do more in the future.
CHRISTOF: To speak to Marie’s point, I had originally envisioned Under Kingdom being an adult story but quickly found myself in a rut where it became real dark, real fast. It was essentially a fantasy ‘Breaking Bad’ which seemed boring to me. Like I’m sure someone could nail it, but it’s not my jam.
And then, Marie approached me saying they had been invited to pitch a MG/YA story to a publisher and wanted to collaborate. Suddenly Under Kingdom came to mind and the thought of doing it for kids was liberating. The book took on new life at that moment and found its heart.
I think it’s easy to look at writing for kids as limiting – sure there’s lots of things you can’t do. However, I found the whole experience insanely freeing. Kids are more open, more accepting, and you can resolve conflict in ways that are far more hopeful and idealistic than in adult media.
GN: For Christof: A major theme in the book is pacifism which isn’t usually the case for fantasy writing. What led you to the decision to have the main character find non-violent ways to achieve their goals?
CHRISTOF: The message of pacifism came from me reflecting on the media I consumed as a child. Stuff like Pokemon, Digimon, Beyblade, Dragon Ball and even Narnia – all these stories revolve around violence and physical conflict. There’s more diversity in girl’s media, but for boys, a lot of it is centered around learning to fight and getting physically stronger.
Under Kingdom is a reaction to that. It’s about trying to diversify the types of conflict resolution kids see in their stories. How can we expect future generations to rise to the problems of the modern world if we tell them the only way to solve problems is by punching the bad guy really, really hard? I joke, but kids are idealistic and have a strong sense of justice, they tend to see the best in people. It’s critical we have stories that tell them those impulses are correct, and that they should hold on to them. Growing up doesn’t have to mean becoming cynical and cruel. We need to honor the nobility of childhood. Hopefully Under Kingdom does that!
GN: It seems like this was purely a joint effort, with Marie creating characters that Christof wrote into the story as well as ideas Christof had that Marie brought to life. Did you find working together to be effortless and what was your favorite part of collaborating?
MARIE: YES. Well, except when Christof would tell me not to over-pack the backgrounds, and that maybe every page didn’t need to be nine panels. Those were my favorite parts – he caught my weak spots and helped me strengthen them. That’s how collaboration is supposed to be!
CHRISTOF: Don’t mind me just trying to create LESS work for you, Marie! But yeah, the feeling is super mutual in terms of pushing each other to get better. If you are gonna work with a storyteller as skilled as Marie you gotta bring your A-game.
In terms of my favorite part of the collaboration, as you alluded to earlier, Marie would send me character designs and tell me what their deal was. I would then just riff on that, but it really felt like they were just handing me these fully realized characters.
Lemon is a great example of that: Marie sent me a sketch of Lemon and was like ‘This is Lemon he has wings on his butt!’. That’s all it took for Lemon to be put into the book.
But yeah, I can’t stress how effortless and organic the experience was. I think Marie and I synced very early on in regards to what the book is and what fits, and doesn’t fit, into this world.
GN: For Marie: Your art style is very fun and vibrant, with cute characters and lots of colors. Out of all the characters and monsters in this book, which one is your favorite?
MARIE: Well, Jackie Daytona…the VAMPIRES of COURSE!
But, Lemmon is a close second. In 2012 I started drawing him all over the dive bars of St. Louis. From bar trivia, to pinball machines, and bathroom stalls, Lemmon has been a guardian of good times for my friends and family – now he gets to guard Shay!
GN: This book is said to be LGBTQ-friendly and is for young adults. What are you hoping your young LGBTQ audience will get from this story?
MARIE: We’re not doing anything groundbreaking with our LGBTQIA+ rep here – our characters are LGBTQIA+ because most of the team is also LGBTQIA+.
I got to draw a book I wish I had gotten to read growing up in a dying, rural town in the middle of the country, with the sort of friend I needed back then. I hope Under Kingdom gets all our LGBTQIA+ youth excited about making comics and drawing monsters. I hope it’s a book that makes them feel good.
GN: You have a unique and fun art style. How did you develop this art style, and did you have any influences?
MARIE: I didn’t start REALLY drawing until I saw an episode of Invader Zim as a kid and then I drew EXCLUSIVELY in adobe illustrator until about 2015 – so that’s why I draw like this.
I know everyone points and screams “MIGNOLA!” at me – but I didn’t pick up a Hellboy until 2012. My artistic foundations have always been Jhonen Vasquez, Karl Christian Krumpholz, and German Expressionist films (specifically, NOSFERATU) – but Kate Sherron was the one who taught me not to be afraid of a curved line.
Under Kingdom will be available to purchase at your favorite local comic shop on April 5, 2023.
Source: Dark Horse