There are a lot of small press publishers popping up these days. Some have been around a while and some are literally brand new. So when I ramble around the floor at New York Comic Con I try to seek out ones that I haven’t crossed paths with before, and that was how I found Terminus Media. They boasted about 5 titles all in their own separate universes that all looked quite interesting. I asked the guys at the booth which title I should buy, if I were to buy only one. Without hesitation I was handed The Gilded Age. Into my bag it went and I went back to wandering the aisles in search of more stuff…
On the train home I pulled out some of the books I had gotten at the con that day and settled on this one for my trip home, it was a good choice…
1877. The full dawn of Industrial Revolution has collided with the twilight of the age of magic and alchemy.
Trying to find its own way in this world, the Branning Troupe, made up of actors and carnival folk, moves throughout Europe performing its acts night in and night out. For some, the Troupe offers a direction to their lives; others seek the adoration of the crowds. For all, it represents a fragile, simple refuge from a world which has cast them out. They are a new family.
And each member has their own desires and secrets…
I’ve read more than a few books that try to merge the Steam-punk astetic with the more mysterious and magical elements of fantasy. The Gilded Age has found a really good mix. You’re teased into this world with the feeling that, with the exception of the giant steam powered robot, it’s the same 1877 we know and love. Then the magic comes into play it’s handled in a way that, while it is other-worldly, it isn’t overly shocking to the characters in the book. That made me very comfortable in the story, it made the world I was experiencing feel more real.
Issue one gives us the story of Hannah, a member of the Branning troupe. When we meet her seems quite enamored by the troupe’s stage magician Elias Gladstone, his tricks range from the mundane to the fantastic, does he possess true power or is it all smoke and mirrors? She’s swept along with him on an adventure that may just answer that question but will she like the answer?
This book is a well drawn and well written introduction to a new and exciting universe. Having enjoyed the first issue as much as I did I thought I’d reach out to the creators and see what they had to say about these characters, and the world they’ve created for them…
Both the writer/creator John McGuire (whose work includes projects for Terminus Media and Arena Comics) and artist Sheldon Mitchell (who has worked on several Top Cow properties) were nice enough to answer our questions, check it out…
WR: So John tell us about your vision for the series, how do you see it taking shape?
JM: The current plan for The Gilded Age is to have a first arc of 5 issues where each issue focuses on different members of the Branning Troupe in an effort to build the world up through the different characters. It has the side benefit of allowing me to do different types of stories to better reflect those personas. Every issue of those first 5 will be a complete story (done in one)… after the first 5 I have a longer form story ready to go (that would probably take us up to issue 10). Past that I have plenty of ideas, but I’m trying mostly to get this first batch out before I worry too much about the rest.
WR: This (The Gilded Age) is one hell of a universe. I noticed in the forward you mention that the gunfighter (Silas) was the inspiration for the world. Why did you decide to highlight the Branning Troupe in the first issue?
JM: As to why I didn’t focus on Silas (the gunfighter) in the very first issue… while he did get my brain going it was Hannah (our eyes for the first issue) who actually was created first within the world. She was closely followed by Elias (the stage magician). Those two were the main characters in that longer story I mentioned above (“Machine Heart”), but when I hit upon the idea to do the smaller stories first, I felt like the two of them should still be that first issue’s focus. Silas will have a story for the second issue titled “Faster”.
WR: I love the style of the world you’re building, how much of that world’s look is yours (John) and do you give Sheldon room to explore in the script?
JM: Mostly I tell people that I try not to screw up Sheldon’s beautiful art with my word balloons. Sheldon basically took my script and managed to make some kind of sense of things and like magic pages began appearing!
SM: John has been very flexible in allowing me to be creative with the art and world of “Gilded Age”.
WR: The “steampunk” aspects aren’t overdone as in some other books, was this a conscious decision?
SM: The story was basically an intro to the characters from the “Gilded Age” world, as a result I chose to make the focus the characters. The fun stuff will unfold more as the stories unravel.
WR: What are some of the cool things coming in future issues that you’re looking forward to showing us in the pages of The Gilded Age?
SM: With the traveling troop each story has a different feel as they take place in exotic locals. This make the Gilded Age a rich ground for bring new characters into the stories give a vibrancy to the universe.
It was really nice of them to take time to share their thoughts on what I think will be interesting series. They also extended us the courtesy of a few preview pages! Enjoy!
This is a great opening effort in what I hope will be a long running series, I give it a 4 out of 5 and look forward to see who we meet next!
So, where do you buy this cool new series?