There’s a world out there, just beyond our imagination. A magical realm running concurrent with our reality, yet facing just as serious threats as the earthly mortals. Perhaps moreso.
In THE NULL FAERIES from Action Lab Entertainment‘s Danger Zone imprint, a massive shipment of pixie dust is stolen from the Faerie Queen, she must summon a forgotten champion — wounded, aged, and mortal — back into service as her Inquisitor, to solve the Faerie crime of the century and save the Faerie world from ruin.
This story will appeal to adult fans of fantasy or magical worlds like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. It will also appeal to folks who enjoy Sherlock Holmes, police procedurals, and especially re-tellings of timeless myths, re-interpreted with modern sensibility, like Wicked or Into the Woods.
NULL FAERIES is a clever, beautiful, and thrilling interpretation of myths inherent in our culture and other cultures throughout the world. It shows us that the Faeries we read about in children’s stories or look for at twilight out of the corner of our eyes are not child-like or simple, but are fierce warriors, and experience crises, problems, intrigue, passions and sorrows as deep or deeper than any human would imagine, as they strive to serve and protect humanity from the dark forces of our world.
PopCultHQ had the true pleasure in speaking with the writer and artist of the series, Chad Cicconi. One of the founders of Action Lab Entertainment, Chad’s illustrations have been featured in the pages of Actionverse, Blue Hour, Baby Boomers, and Mercury & the Murd. He has also done a variety of cover art, including variants for Black Betty, DollFace, and Zombie Tramp. In THE NULL FAERIES, Cicconi tackles both the story and interior art to bring to life his fantastic vision of this magical, mythical world.
So sit back, relax, and get ready to be taken on an enchanting journey and witness the spellbinding wonder that is THE NULL FAERIES!
THE NULL FAERIES #1
32 pgs./ T+ / FC
Ionantha Hesperis was the greatest of all the Queen’s Harvester Faeries when she was felled by a cursed Fey blade and stripped of her magic powers. Forgotten, but bitterly refusing to die, she learned to exist on cunning — an aging mortal within an immortal society fueled by magic she could no longer taste. But when the queen’s pixie dust shipment is hijacked, putting the entire magical economy at risk, Ionantha is summoned into service once more and tasked by a vengeful Queen with solving the case of the century.
PopCultHQ’s Creator Spotlight:
Chad Cicconi of THE NULL FAERIES
PopCultHQ: Within the first few pages of THE NULL FAERIES, we begin learning about, and envisioning, this magical faerie world: their powers, their dominion, their practices. In addition, though one might assume a book about faeries would be childlike in nature, we’re witness to intense, violent battles and a good helping of adult-themed material (explaining why it’s under the Danger Zone imprint). What would you consider to be the best way to not only describe your series, but reach an adult audience with a tale about faeries?
Chad Cicconi: Well, the “elevator” pitch for the series is “Tinkerbell meets Silence of the Lambs.” The longer version is that I’ve always been fascinated by the myth of faeries, depicted as tiny human-looking people with wings. I wondered – what is their society like, and most importantly, with respect to the “tooth” fairy, why would a fairy want my teeth? In this series, I set about creating a world to answer those questions, and provide those explanations as the backdrop against which the story of our main character plays out.
PopCultHQ: From where did the concept of Ionantha Hesperis, the series’ protagonist (and perhaps sleuth), originate? Now mortal, has her relation to the Queen changed?
Chad Cicconi: I think the most compelling stories are those with a protagonist who is flawed in some way. A “hero” who is at a disadvantage yet manages through cunning and will to survive and succeed. Ionantha embodies that, as the wounded and mortal faerie forced to exist in a world steeped in magic — the one person who cannot use the central driving power behind faerie society. In honesty, she is also a literary representation and combination of my mother and grandmother, both of whom were powerful influences in my life and strong women who shaped me. And as an older woman, she represents a character type that is not often enough featured as the main protagonist in an adult or action story. Regarding Ionantha’s relationship to the queen, there is more back story to it than is shown in the early parts of the series. It is clear that Ionantha was at one point the Queen’s most powerful commander, but her wounding early in our story and the eventual changes to her abilities does change her relationship to the queen in many ways, but as will become obvious over this series, there remains a deep loyalty and love between them. The relationship is touched on as the series progresses, and will continue to be revealed in future arcs of the Null Faeries, if and when produced. In one very practical way, Ionantha’s relationship with the Queen provides Ionantha with a key tool she still can wield. Even in her diminished state, when called back into duty by the Queen, Ionantha can command the respect and obedience of other faeries due to having the Queen’s trust and favor.
PopCultHQ: Another intriguing character is Lieutenant Betula, member of the faerie border guard and Ionantha’s guide. The more we learn of her in issue one, the more it becomes apparent she will play a significant role in the series. What can you reveal about this interesting character?
Chad Cicconi: Betula also has a detailed back story which is intertwined with, and in some ways emblematic of, some difficult issues which confront the faerie world. She has mixed heritage, with parents of two different faerie “tribes” which clearly do not see eye to eye about many issues, including the production and distribution of pixie dust. This dilemma spawns the main “maguffin” driving the story in this series. Her heritage gives her special insight into the relationship between these two (of many) tribes, and also places her in a certain amount of peril. Her part in the story takes a significant turn in a later issue, which I hope may prompt some reaction from readers.
PopCultHQ: One thing I found fascinating was this almost spiritual warfare being applied to the faerie world. These warriors facing off in fierce battles just beyond human’s awareness. Though there are a scattering of mentions to the humans, we don’t encounter any, at least initially. Will that possibly change?
Chad Cicconi: I don’t want to give away too much of the story from later issues, but rest assured that this story very much involves significant interaction between humans and faeries. And we do see a few humans in the first issue, namely the children in the initial scene from whom Ionantha and her squad are retrieving teeth. One central fact which is key to the plot of the series is that in this world, human children CAN see and interact with faeries, but they lose that ability in pre-adolescence at around 6-8 years old, and they also lose all memory of the experience, other than as a waking or sleeping dream. Faerie magic can have a calming and hypnotic effect on human children.
PopCultHQ: Pixie dust has been hijacked from a caravan and this turns out to be the impetus for the series’ conflict. After reading issue one, we see “pixie dust” isn’t as innocent as it would seem. What can you tell us about this drug-like pixie dust?
Chad Cicconi: Pixie dust, or faerie dust, or magic powder as it is sometimes referred to, is one of the main commodities of the faerie and magical world existing outside most humans’ perception in this story. The central purpose of the faerie economy, and the reason for the existence of “tooth” faeries in this world, is the production and distribution of this substance. Pixie dust is the only power repository of faerie magic, outside the actual bodies of the faeries themselves. All magical creatures in the world use it and desire it as a magically-nourishing and powerful (and often addicting) substance. And the raw material used by the faeries to produce Pixie dust is the teeth of human children. In the world of this story, all magic is powered by the life force of human children. And their teeth, bones, and other tissues act as a source of that magic. The discarded teeth of a living human child are a vastly powerful source of that magic, and are coveted by both the tooth faeries, and other, sometimes darker and more dangerous magical creatures. This is why in this world, tooth faeries are warriors, sometimes required to fight other, darker creatures in order to both protect human children from harm, and secure the precious raw materials for pixie dust.
PopCultHQ: What can you share with us about the darklings our heroes will encounter? What can you reveal about the Spirit Blade? It is a little reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Sword of Gryffindor. What other magic does it possess?
Chad Cicconi: The darklings, sometimes referred to as groundlings, are a tribe of faeries who live in forests and sometimes underground. They do not possess the same level of magic mastery as the high or light faeries, which is the tribe to which Ionantha and the Queen belong. The groundlings do possess innate magic, but cannot manifest faerie wings or fly using faerie magic. The magic of the groundlings tends more towards influence over plants and some small creatures like rats, snakes or cats. The groundlings tend to be greenish or earthy in coloring, and a few of them are born with actual physical wings, resembling those of a bat, on which they can fly for short distances. The groundlings as a group despise the high faeries, largely because the Queen restricts them from receiving any of the pixie dust, due to some past transgressions by the groundling leaders, in allying themselves with an even darker tribe known as the night-children.
The spirit blade, or fey blade, wielded by a groundling warrior named Zanthedeschia in a key scene in issue 1, is a blade infused with dark faerie energy and magic, which has the terrible power to consume a victim’s aura, draining the magical source and severing a faerie being’s tie to the ambient and innate faerie magic which they all possess a deep connection to. It’s other powers are dependent on the skill and power of its wielder. The blade is legendary in the faerie world — to the extent that some — including the queen, do not believe in its existence. It is featured in legends and fables the faeries pass down in their society, but only rarely surfaces in actual use. How Zanthedeschia came to possess it is not clear, and I will reveal one spoiler — when we encounter Zanthedeschia later in this story (and she plays a key role in later issues) she is NOT wielding the fey blade. This story does not make clear what became of this blade in the intervening time. The story of the legendary Fey blade and that of Ionantha Hesperis only touch at one moment in time.
PopCultHQ: What challenges did you face throughout the creation of THE NULL FAERIES, being both the writer and illustrator?
Chad Cicconi: This is my first project which I wrote as well as drew. The biggest hurdle for me in assuming both roles was to separate the two tasks. I debated when starting out how detailed a “script” I needed to create, knowing that I would be doing the drawing myself. In the end, I trusted my art skills enough to work “Marvel” style, by creating a detailed outline without any dialogue and using that as the template for thumbnailing and drawing the pages, and then after the art was completed, doing another pass as the writer to create the dialogue based on both the outline and the artwork on the page.
As an artist, the main challenge was that of creating an entire visual world for this story to inhabit. I’ve drawn superhero comics and more recently a science fiction story, but I had never before explored a magical or fairy story. On top of that, the story is a period piece, taking place at various times between the civil war era and the late 1920’s. So in the later portions of the series when there is some interaction with humans, I also had to reference period architecture, clothing, cars, etc. in order to accurately portray the period. All very challenging.
PopCultHQ: Let’s talk about your creative team. For colors, you’ve brought on Eddy Swan, Action Lab vet Adam Wollet is handling the lettering duties, and you’ve tapped Sorah Suhng for variant cover artwork (Her variant for issue two is breathtaking!). How did this team come together to be a part of your new series?
Chad Cicconi: I initially found Eddy Swan through my affiliation with Action Lab Entertainment. I’ve published work with them before, and was aware of another book for which Eddy did the colors. I liked his style and thought it would fit well with my line work, so I reached out to him and he agreed to work with me on the project. Unfortunately, after coloring the first two issues, his schedule would not permit him to complete the project, so for issues 3-6 the coloring duties have been assumed by Federico Sioc, Jr., an amazing colorist who was able to match Eddy’s style with his equally nuanced work, and I think the whole series is going to shine due to the work of both of these guys. Federico is a colorist whom I had been using for some time on pinup and other spot projects, so I knew his style would mesh with mine and not create a difficult transition with Eddys work. I was thrilled Federico was able to jump in and finish the series. Truthfully, they made my line work look better than it ever has, and I’m lucky to have found not one, but two colorists to collaborate with.
Adam Wollet has done lots of work with Action Lab and I’d seen how good his lettering was firsthand in that context. When it came time to find someone for this project, his name was the first one that came to mind, and luckily he was willing to work with me on the project! He’s produced amazing work and is one of the key reasons the book looks and reads as well as anything I’ve ever produced.
Finally, the last piece of the creative puzzle was finding a great artist to create some variant covers which would draw more eyes to the project, help expand our audience, and generate even more buzz. Sorah was suggested to me and I’m embarrassed to say I wasn’t familiar with her work. So I checked out some of the amazing covers she’d done and I knew I had to get her for the Null Faeries. Luckily, she was attending the same convention I was early last year in Pittsburgh, so I just strolled up to her table, introduced myself, and pitched the project to her. She agreed to do it and the work she’s done is nothing short of incredible. I actually received her line work for the cover of issue 6 today, and she’s outdone herself over and over again on each variant cover. I think my covers are pretty darn good, but I have to admit hers are at another level, and I know people are going to want to pick up the book when they see them.
PopCultHQ: What are your long-term plans for this magic, mystical, and mysterious series? How much of this world you’ve created (on paper or in your head) can we hope to see?
Writer/Artist – Chad Cicconi