Jon Tsuei is a comic book writer best known for the Image Comics series RUNLOVEKILL. His most recent work is Sera & The Royal Stars from Vault Comics. I chatted with him at San Diego Comic Con about his epic fantasy series inspired by Asian and Middle Eastern mythology.
Tim Midura: So the first issue of Sera And The Royal Stars just released. How would you say the reception has been?
Jon Tsuei: It seems pretty good. I mean, I’m kind of in a bubble. You know, with reviews, people always tag me on social media and stuff. So I see a lot of it. Reception from my end seems to be pretty positive. People seem to like the story, they really connect with Audrey’s art, which is amazing.
Tim Midura: Can you give a brief overview of the series?
Jon Tsuei: Yeah, it’s Sera And The Royal Stars. Sera’s the main character. She’s a princess of the kingdom, Parsa, and the kingdom is currently going through famine, as well as a Civil War, with her crazy uncle who wants to kind of take the throne for himself. And the reason why there’s a drought is because the four royal stars are bound and their light is starting to dim. And they need to be freed in order for the seasons to start turning again. So she’s visited by a deity that kind of, basically, doesn’t give her much of a choice, saying, hey, do this thing, or people are going to die, you know. So she decided to set off on this quest and leave her family in the midst of the war. And she’s a huge part of it because she’s actually a huge tactical mind. But she decides to go, and along the way, she’s gonna meet the various royal stars trying to free them and hopefully save the world.
Tim Midura: So I feel like a lot of Western mythology is represented in comics, but not a lot of Asian mythology. What do you think that is? And why was that important to you to explore?
Jon Tsuei: I don’t know why that is really. I mean, we could get very political. (Laughs) But I think the short answer to that is, that that’s what we’re taught in our schools. Right? The literature that we read is by Western writers, right? And mythology that we come across is typically Greek and Roman. Right? And it’s no knock against those because they’re rich worlds. They’re very, super interesting. And there’s tons of stories to tell within those worlds. Me though, seeing fantasy, having a lot of European influence, you know, typically like middle medieval Europe, and talking about European mythology, I didn’t have anything to say.
And as far as Sera And The Royal Stars, my research started with the idea of the royal stars. And that seems to have originated through the Zoroastrian religion, which started in ancient Persia. And I thought it’d be a disservice and kind of a jerk move on my part, if I were to just take that and transport it somewhere else. And that’s where that’s where that mythology was first created was ancient Persia, was important to me, I was like, you know, it’s only right that the story takes place in a world that’s similar to that. So the main reason behind it was I wanted to honor where the story began.
Tim Midura: Can you talk a little about the world building of Sera And The Royal Stars?
Jon Tsuei: I started with research into the royal stars and just kind of where that led me. So it led me to Persia. It led me to sorcery and also led me to astrology. Because astrology seems to be this place that kind of still uses the concept of royal stars. I just kind of started this story specifically about the stars and Sera came about. The more I kind of dug into it, I, I don’t really see myself as the creator of the story. I kind of see myself more as a person who excavated it from where it existed somewhere. And I was the one chipping away and discovering the story. And really, when things opened up is when it’s when I pitched it to Audrey and Audrey was on board.
And then when she started to do character designs around it, that’s when the story really, really opened up. Because I’ve always been very inspired by art. So seeing, seeing her art really helped us just kind of establish the look of the world, the feel of the world. And I would say I couldn’t have done it without Audrey. It’s definitely like a hand-in-hand collaboration.
Tim Midura: How did you team up with Audrey?
Jon Tseui: I just knew her online through Twitter. This before she did this stuff with Archie like Josie and the Pussycats. She had a website was just selling a couple like fan comics that she made. One of them was about the two war boys from Mad Max. And I saw the image she had online. I was like I have to I have to own this. I have to see what it looks like. So when I got it, I was like shit. Like why isn’t she working in comics? Shortly after that she started doing Josie and the Pussycats. But we just kind of kept in touch, you know, and I asked her about this story I’m cooking up and are you interested. She’s like, I’d love to take a look. And she’s like, yeah, that sounds great. Let’s do it. So it was great. The magic of the internet.
Tim Midura: RUNLOVEKILL ended prematurely. What’s the long term plan for Sera And The Royal Stars?
Jon Tsuei: Long term plan, we are doing 10 issues for sure. Where the story ends, I think it’s going to be a solid ending for the readers. But there’s also room for us to do more. So it depends on if sales have given up you know. D epends on Audrey has time to do more, you know, cuz she’s in high demand. I would love to do more than 10. Yeah, I do have ideas planned out for a couple of story arcs.. But it’s also something that I wouldn’t want to just go on forever without ending. I feel like stories need to end at some point. So in my head, I have a plan of where I think the story would wrap up as a whole but I think even if 10 issues is all people would get to see, I think it’d be a very satisfying ending this way.
Sera And The Royal Stars #1 was released July 17, 2019.