Max and the Midknights are back in an epic new sequel and NYT bestselling creator Lincoln Peirce shared his inspiration for this new quest!
Max and the Midknights have returned and we are so excited! Can you tell readers what inspired this story (book 1 and 2!) and its 14thCentury setting?
I have always loved adventure stories that include a healthy dose of comedy, like the Tintin books or Carl Barks’s “Uncle Scrooge” A number of years ago, I wrote some comic stories that were spoofs of classic adventure tales — a pirate story, a mountain climbing story, etc. The one that I liked the best was set in medieval times. It combined elements of two classic adventures, “The Sword In The Stone” and “Robin Hood,” but the emphasis was on humor. There was a lot of slapstick, wordplay, and anachronistic dialogue. I really enjoyed working on it, but the format wasn’t all that practical. It was too long for a comic book and too short for a graphic novel. So I set it aside and didn’t think about it for quite some time. Years later, when I looked at it again, I realized that with a little work I could transform it into a full-length novel. As it turned out, I changed a lot of things about that original story. I added a number of new characters, and the overall narrative is quite different. But other elements that I liked — particularly the medieval setting — remained in place. I enjoyed working on Max & the Midknights so much that what I’d first thought would be a single book is now going to be a 3-book series.
What is it about medieval times and heroes that fascinate young readers (in your opinion)?
I think kids always enjoy reading about worlds that seem exotic. There’s something exciting about immersing yourself in a story that is utterly unlike your own life. Max’s world is one filled with epic adventures, fantastic creatures, and magical misdeeds — just the sort of highly imaginative story elements that I would have loved reading about as a kid. But the colorful settings and legendary events are only part of the appeal. As much as kids may enjoy reading books that are pure fantasy, they also love discovering parts of their own lives in those stories. That’s why I think it’s important that Max and her fellow Midknights are children. They’re the same age, more or less, as the kids reading the books, and they have many of the same problems, vulnerabilities and fears. My hope is that young readers identify with Max and her companions. Heroes are more compelling when you realize that they’re not superheroes, but ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations.
Can you share a little bit about how you came up with the designs for the characters and setting? Since it is set in the Medieval Ages, what kind of reference material did you use? Was having some historical context really important to you or did you embrace making it more of your own concept?
I’m not a historian by any means! What little I know about the Middle Ages in Europe (I imagine the kingdom of Byjovia as part of Europe) is that it was a difficult time to be alive. There was violence, widespread disease, malnutrition, mass illiteracy — not fun! So I knew that I didn’t want to write a realistic story about the Middle Ages. That would have been too depressing. I was interested in telling a story that takes part in a world that has the trappings of medieval times — castles, moats, swords, armor — but is filtered through a modern sensibility. I’ll confess that most of my visual reference points back when I started the book weren’t scholarly works but pop culture pieces like comic books, TV, and Robin Hood movies. But I subsequently consulted a number of books about medieval architecture, armor, clothing, etc. And I did quite a few Google searches so that when I drew a wheelbarrow or a gargoyle or a tapestry from the 14th century, I’d get it right. Language was something else to consider. I knew it wouldn’t be interesting reading if all the characters expressed themselves in language consistent with 14th century Europe. Instead, all of them — especially the kids — speak with modern voices. So overall, I’d say that it wasn’t important to me for the Max & the Midknights books to be accurate historical documents. Job #1 was to make them funny, and fun to read.
Can you share some of your favorite comics to read/ recommend?
I mentioned him earlier, but it bears repeating: Carl Barks was the king of Walt Disney comic books during the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. I particularly enjoy his Uncle Scrooge stories, but his Donald Duck comics are every bit as entertaining. His work is easy to find in book form. I’ve recently discovered Luke Pearson’s Hilda series, which is tremendous. Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series is pretty great, too. And because my own background is in comic strips, I always like to recommend some of the classics that are great for readers of all ages: Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, and — lesser known but just as wonderful — Richard Thompson’s Cul de Sac.
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