Arvid Nelson is a comic book writer based in Massachusetts. After graduation, he worked in film as a production assistant on a variety of projects (such as Woody Allen’s Small Time Crooks, The Toxic Avenger Part IV, and a documentary about The Paris Review), before becoming a writer.
He has worked for various publishers including Dynamite, DC, Dark Horse, and Marvel on work-for-hire projects, as well as putting out his own creation. He has worked on X-Men, Thulsa Doom, Kull, and JSA comics but is best known for Rex Mundi (Latin for King of the World ), which he published through Dark Horse and Image Comics.
Arvid tells us more.
IM: What is Rex Mundi about?
AN: In short, a quest for the Holy Grail told as a murder mystery. But I’ve been honing my book blurb pitch for years, so here goes: Paris, 1933. Europe is still in the grip of feudalism, sorcerers stalk the streets at night, and secret societies vie for power. Dr. Julien Saunière’s murder investigation becomes a one-man quest to uncover the deepest secrets of Christianity.
IM: The Rex Mundi comic began three years before Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code came out. Did its release help Rex Mundi (in terms of increasing interest in Grail lore)?
AN: Sadly, it sucked all the oxygen out of the air for us. We had a lot of interest from Hollywood, but doors started slamming shut when Da Vinci Code blew up. No one wanted to compete, I guess. I mean, good for Dan Brown. I’m just happy I got to tell the story. But it does annoy me when I hear Rex Mundi is a Da Vinci Code “rip-off”.
IM: What is Zero Killer about?
AN: Vicious gangs struggle for supremacy in a New York City ravaged by nuclear war, while Zero, an outcast bounty hunter, sees a chance to escape to “Africa,” a semi-mythical land untouched by the radioactive fires.
IM: What is Band of Crows about?
AN: Frost giants have pushed humanity to the brink of extinction. Sorcery is the only means of survival, and sixteen year-old Therial has just failed his final test, forcing him to go on the run when family rivals torch his home. He awakens a power inside him at a steep price— slavery to the darklings, a shadowy race bent on humanity’s destruction.
IM: You seem have an interest in mythology from around the world. Are there any cultures whose mythology and folklore you’d like to use in the future?
AN: First (I think “First” is more respectful and honest than “Native”) American religions fascinate me. A lot of common themes, Louise, from the Aztecs to the Algonquians. I’m actually surprised at how deeply the stories resonate with me, given that I don’t have a familial connection.
IM: The Band of the Crow is a novel, rather than a comic. Was it difficult to adjust to writing prose, rather than scripts?
IM: You’ve worked with a range of publishers. Is working for large publishers like Marvel different to working for small press publishers?
AN: Not only is every publisher different, but every editor has their own way of doing things. My philosophy in working for hire is always the same: “be a good boy scout”. Deliver scripts on time, and be receptive to change.
IM: Would you self-publish?
AN: Rex Mundi started out at Image Comics, which is self-publishing, in a lot of ways. Would I do it again? Absolutely! It’s wonderful having a publisher help with the million and one things that attend on producing a comic, but I do miss the glory days of patching together Rex Mundi all by my lonesome.
IM: How do you market your books?
AN: I sort of didn’t ’til now, so I appreciate you running this piece! I’ve realized, a little too late, that marketing’s really important. The idea that “good writing markets itself” is totally naïve. EricJ, the first artist and co-creator of Rex Mundi, was great in this regard. He understood the importance of marketing and worked hard at it. It contributed hugely to our success.
IM: Rex Mundi is available in six languages. Was it challenging to market them in foreign language markets?
AN: It could not have been easier, and this is one way in which Image Comics is very different from self-publishing. They— and then Dark Horse—have a foreign licensing specialist who handled it all for us.
IM: What appearances do you have lined up?
AN: None, unfortunately! But now that The Band of the Crow is finished, I’m more active again. Who knows what the future holds?
IM: Do you think the internet has made it easier for people to self-publish, and distribute their self-published work?
AN: Yes, but there’s so much available online that it’s really hard to stand out. But not all hope is lost! Producing an online comic in the run-up to Rex Mundi’s debut was a huge part of our success. We did it every week, without fail, for a year. So consistency, dedication, and passion are, I firmly believe, the road to success for everyone.
AN: I hope it’s always important. Comic book stores are one of the few commercial institutions that haven’t been corporatized, disrupted, and chain-stored. I’d be sad if ten years from now, Amazon shuttered every single independent comics store. So I always go to my local store— it’s worth it!
IM: What future projects have you got in the works?
AN: A few for-hire things I can’t talk about. I’d also like to do a story set during the Roman Civil War—we’re talking a few generations before August Caesar. For some reason, all TV shows and movies about Rome are set during the reign of Augustus, and for me, personally, it gets a little old. There are literally hundreds of years of fascinating stories to explore.
IM: Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t covered?
AN: Please, follow me on Twitter @arvidthetwit, “like” my pro FB page, facebook.com/arvidtheauthor, and check out arvidland.com. I’m really making a go of this whole marketing thing, and I truly make an effort to come up with interesting stuff to post.