Kid Beowulf Eddas: Lay of the Last Survivor

I’ve got a new short story on the drawing board and wanted to give you guys a sneak peak. This continues my stand-alone, Kid Beowulf Eddas, short story series and focuses on Beowulf and Grendel’s mother, Gertrude.  The idea for the story came from the sketch above, where Gertrude comes across a village after a viking raid discovers an orphan child.  The rest of the story follows Gertrude as she tries to keep the baby safe from the raiders who come after her and the last survivor.

Astute readers will notice that the Gertrude in the sketch is older, post-birth of her twin sons.  In the original timeline of the script I figured this story would take place while Beowulf and Grendel were on their adventure in Spain.  But an interesting thing happened as I began to draw the story – Gertrude became younger, more sprightly and a little awkward in her movements: she morphed from the adult version of Gertrude into the teenage version of herself (who we see in part two of book one, “The Blood-Bound Oath”).  This change immediately felt better for the story since it put an untested Gertrude and the baby in more danger against the viking raiders and alludes to the nature of Gertrude being a natural mother figure.

I view the Kid Beowulf Eddas series as testing grounds for concepts I want to try that I may not necessarily want to tackle in a 200 page graphic novel.  For Paladin’s Tale I wanted to do a story with multiple narrators, in Lookin’ for Lingonberries, I wanted to do a light, comedic story.  For this story, which I titled “Lay of the Last Survivor,” I wanted to do a wordless story – aside from sound effects, all the storytelling is done through the pictures.

Some folks don’t like wordless comics (I think they assume they are getting cheated), but people forget that comics is a visual medium and good comic storytelling comes from panel-to-panel narrative; if you can understand the story without words then you don’t need the words to begin with. That was the challenge I posed to myself with this story.

Students of the epic poem Beowulf might be familiar with the title of this story too. “Lay of the Last Survivor” comes from the end of the Beowulf poem (lines 2211-25-15), when we learn about the dragon who is going to terrorize Beowulf’s homeland after a jeweled goblet has been stolen from his barrow.  Apparently that golden treasure-horde came from a long-lost tribe and was buried in a mound by the tribe’s last survivor.  We don’t know what killed off his people (war? famine? plague?) but the last survivor laments the loss of his people and how useless all the gold is when there is no one left to share it.  It’s a sad part of the poem that echoes the themes of melancholy, ring-giving, and the ephemeral nature of life in the hard world of war-tribes and cold landscapes that runs through Beowulf, all of which I hope comes through in this short story.

Keep a lookout for the finished story which will be available to read later this year.