Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your comic book series! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the series’ premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Mark Nasso: Land of the Rats can best be described as a sci-fi / fantasy series with an otherworldly setting. The story centers on a race of hybrid rat-humans who live deep in a jungle kingdom and their dealings with the humans and other races of their planet. The main character of the first four books is Jack Natari, a rat and former thief, who ventures out from his homeland into the wasteland on a quest. After many life-changing adventures he struggles to find his way back home to Raelak, the land of the rats.
I Am Soildweller Parts 1 and 2 are actually a “story within a story” meaning that as human cultures have myths, legends, and religious stories (Homer’s Odyssey, for example) the characters in the Land of the Rats comics also have stories that are passed down within their culture. I Am Soildweller Part 1 begins with a wise sage telling Jack about “The Sojourn of the Soildweller” which the reader will come to realize is an alien invasion story. Over two issues, Jack, as well as the reader, are left wondering how much of the myth is based on true events in the Land of the Rats world.
For this two-part series, I wanted to introduce sci-fi elements into the mythos because the four issues that preceded it were more focused on the fantasy aspects of Land of the Rats. Also, I was intrigued about the nature of myths and how they are usually based on real historical events but have been exaggerated, distorted, and retold. Most importantly, there is a great love story and arc for the main character, The Soildweller, as he is trying to infiltrate the alien invaders to rescue a princess who has been abducted.
BD: What can you tell us about your creative process in bringing this story to life, and what (or who) have been some of your creative influences?
MN: In terms of art, I create the interior of the comic using traditional tools. I love ink and Bristol board. Covers are either painted in acrylic or digitally.
I am heavily influenced by the 1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Cerebus comics and the black-and-white explosion that happened in that era. Because of this influence I’ve never given much thought to coloring my comics, and I’ve been told they work best in black and white. Future issues of Land of the Rats may be in color, but I’ve chosen to keep the first six issues true to its 1980s influences.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Jack’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
MN: Jack is sort of an everyman figure. Not the best fighter and not the best leader. He’s sort of faking it until he makes it. “Gastrolithicus” (the first issue) begins when he is in his early 20s and just starting to figure things out about himself and how the world works. He’s spent some time in prison so he’s trying to get his head on straight. He makes many mistakes in politics, war, and love which hopefully the reader can relate to and laugh at his impulsive nature. Jack is often caught up in adventures that are much bigger than he is, he doesn’t fully understand, and he feels he is the last guy that should be saving the day. But he still grabs his sword and does it anyway. Hopefully the reader sees and appreciates the character progression.
These stories write themselves. I take situations I’ve experienced or that I’ve seen friends experience and I find a way to weave them into a Land of the Rats story. I feel compelled to bring these stories to life to reflect on and make some cathartic sense of my younger years.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
MN: I am currently working on the seventh Land of the Rats comic, but before I undertake this endeavor, I’m busy promoting both issues of I Am Soildweller at conventions this summer beginning with Comicpalooza in Houston.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Land of the Rats: I Am Soildweller?
MN: Readers can visit my website at www.theundergroundforest.com to learn more about Land of the Rats and to order hard copies of the books. Also, there are currently three issues available at Comixology.