A drug-addicted warrior in ninth-century Norway sacrifices his leg to the gods, replacing it with a parasite that gives him great and terrible power. It's a dark, intense premise for a story — a far cry from, say, a Disney Channel series about two twins and their "suite life." But, for author Dylan Sprouse, it's a very personal one, and it's a saga he's excited to tell when Heavy Metal and DIGA Studios release the first issue of his comic, Sun Eater.
"I've learned that people kind of want to 'trial-by-fire' me," Sprouse tells SYFY WIRE, reflecting on the possible expectations people might have for his comic book debut — or any of his non-acting endeavors. "I generally live up [to expectations] because I don't really give a f*** about what those people think anyway — excuse my French. But, the truth is, no, I don't feel the need to prove myself. I feel the need to get out a good story that's from my heart and one that I think is interesting, and I think other people will take something away from."
"I love fantasy-action and I wanted to create something that would appeal to newer fans of the genre while tackling an elevated story," Sprouse said in a press release. "The characters I wrote are from actual tales and bardic songs, and the story is about the adult, dark, grotesque, and somber world of Sun Eater and its desperate, faulty protagonist."
Sun Eater, a Heavy Metal Original, is illustrated by Diego Yapur and will hit comic store shelves in August. It is largely inspired by the folk stories that Sprouse's Scandinavian-American grandparents told him and his brother, Cole, while they were growing up, as well as the 27-year-old's own faith as a practicing Heathen. And, of course, a longtime appreciation for comic books.
"I grew up particularly being a Marvel fanboy," Sprouse says, adding that his favorites were Iron Man and Avengers titles. (He's fine with Thor, for the record, saying he views Thor comics as a Pagan the way "a Christian would think of, like, a Jesus comic book. I'm sure it would be fun to read, and I did read them growing up.") Eventually, Sprouse became an avid reader of many Oni Press titles, including Black Metal. It was Charles Burns' acclaimed comic Black Hole, a unique coming-of-age story about a sexually transmitted disease that causes mutations, that really showed Sprouse what comics could be.
"When I read Black Hole, that kind of changed my complete perspective on what comics were doing," Sprouse says. "The story and the setting just blew my f***ing mind."
Sprouse has been working on Sun Eater in various forms for half a decade now, and the resulting title combines all of his influences and beliefs to create something new. Readers may think they know what to expect from a comic about Vikings or Norse mythology, but Sprouse promises Sun Eater will stand out — especially because of his collaboration with Heavy Metal.
"I think the story stands on its own, because many of these stories, of a similar nature, stand on their own," Sprouse says. "But I will say that the one that we're making here, particularly, couldn't be made anywhere else."
Sun Eater is available for pre-order here and will begin shipping on July 17. It will be available in select comic stores starting on August 7.