Nir Levie Heads To The Age Of Canaan For His Stunning New Zoop Campaign

Age of Canaan Nir Levie Interview

The new Nir Levie graphic novel Age of Canaan is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The 160-page book, which launches a crowdfunding campaign on Zoop today, is based on the Canaanite myths, a relatively underserved mythology versus, say, Greek or Norse.

For Levie, tackling these stories was part of the point. “Absolutely, this mythology is lesser-known, and that’s precisely why I found it so compelling,” Levie told Comic Book Club over email. “While Greek and Norse myths have become mainstream and possibly overused, I believe it’s the perfect time to introduce a fresh source of material to the world of fantasy storytelling.”

And based on the preview pages provided, these stories are fresh, new, and exciting. All of that is helped by Levie’s stunning style, which evokes everyone from Tradd Moore, to Paul Pope, to Moebius (one of Levie’s main inspirations). To find out much more about how the book came together — and what to expect from the crowdfunding campaign — read on.

Comic Book Club: Before we get to the book proper, what inspired you about this source material? What drew you to these unfinished poems in particular?

Nir Levie: After completing my work on Bioripple, a science fiction project that explored themes of human-machine interaction, I found myself yearning to embark on a new creative journey in the realm of fantasy. While my writing background primarily focused on science fiction, I felt compelled to explore the fantastical and mystical elements of storytelling.

As I began to delve into the world of fantasy, I couldn’t help but notice that many fantasy stories draw inspiration from well-known mythologies such as Christian, Norse, or Greek. However, I wanted to explore a different path—one that would not only challenge me as a writer but also resonate with my Jewish heritage.

My search for a lesser-known source material that aligned with my cultural background led me to the Ugaritic texts. These ancient writings, with their rich and complex narratives, struck a chord with me, evoking a sense of wonder and awe similar to that found in the epics of Gilgamesh and the Iliad.

What particularly intrigued me about the Ugaritic texts was their visual nature. The vivid imagery and profound themes they contained seemed tailor-made for adaptation into a visual medium like comics. I felt a deep-seated desire to bring these ancient stories to life in a way that would not only honor their origins but also make them more accessible to a modern audience.

In adapting the Ugaritic texts into a comic format, I aimed to not only showcase the richness of these ancient stories but also to share a lesser-known aspect of my heritage with a wider audience. It was a creative endeavor that allowed me to explore my cultural roots in a meaningful way and to shed light on stories that deserve to be told and remembered.

Age of Canaan Page 1

Speaking for myself, this is a mythology that I don’t think is as well known as, say, Greek or Norse myths, necessarily. Are there challenges there in terms of getting the story across to the audience without shortcuts?

Absolutely, this mythology is lesser-known, and that’s precisely why I found it so compelling. While Greek and Norse myths have become mainstream and possibly overused, I believe it’s the perfect time to introduce a fresh source of material to the world of fantasy storytelling.

The Ugaritic texts and Canaanite mythology are not widely known to the general public, yet they contain fascinating elements. Interestingly, figures like Baal and Asherah, who are depicted negatively in the Bible, are revered as positive figures in Canaanite culture. This stark contrast adds layers of complexity and intrigue to these ancient narratives, making them ripe for exploration and adaptation in modern storytelling.

One of the things I was very struck by in the preview pages: your sense of movement, despite (obviously) this being a still, comic book page. Can you talk me through some of how you approached that, as there are a number of takes – from inserting “give” on a wrist to imply movement, to multiple figures showing the path a character moves through.

When approaching the creation of a comic page, I view it as an opportunity to craft a piece of art that truly shines in its comic form. Unlike still art, comics imply movement and progression, yet they are not quite the same as a fully animated movie. I see comics as a unique medium that combines the visual impact of a single image with the narrative power of sequential storytelling.

In my process, I strive to find ways to express movement and action that go beyond simply depicting a moment frozen in time. I aim to avoid creating panels that feel like static snapshots from a camera. Instead, I seek to infuse each page with a sense of dynamism.

At the same time, I recognize the importance of [a] page’s ability to stand alone as a visually striking image. Each panel should be visually captivating and engaging, drawing the reader in and encouraging them to linger and explore the details. However, I also ensure that each panel contributes to the overall narrative flow, serving as a building block in the sequential storytelling process.

Finding the right balance between creating visually compelling standalone images and serving the larger narrative is key to making a comic compelling. By carefully considering the visual and narrative elements of each panel, I aim to create a comic that not only tells a story but also immerses the reader in a rich and dynamic visual experience.

Age of Canaan Page 6

You also flip between the epic and the intimate very quickly. How do you modulate that, so it’s not too jarring for the reader? Or is jarring the point?

In developing my comic, I made deliberate visual choices to emphasize the shift between the fantastical and the mundane aspects of the story. Each part of the story is distinguished by a unique color palette: vibrant for the fantastical elements and subtle for the mundane. While the fantastical elements add a layer of wonder, the core of the stories revolves around simple human interactions, politics, and conflicts that are deeply relatable.

The fantastical elements serve as a lens through which to explore these fundamental human themes in a fresh and imaginative way. They help to illuminate the unknown aspects of the narrative, filling in the gaps and providing context. This interplay between the epic and the intimate is central to the flow of the story.

While this juxtaposition may sometimes be jarring for the reader, particularly at certain pivotal moments, it is also intended to create a sense of harmony and continuity. The fantasy and the mundane are not opposing forces but rather complementary aspects of the same narrative tapestry, each enhancing the other to create a rich and immersive storytelling experience.

Color also seems vitally important to this book, and doesn’t always explicitly match the lines of the inks… Was there a specific inspiration there?

In my approach to coloring, I treat colors as a design element rather than just indicators of objects. For this story, I selected a color palette that distinguishes between the fantastical and the mundane, as I mentioned earlier. However, I also use colors to convey depth, form, and volume, employing flat colors and a minimalist style.

When I add shadows, I do so during the coloring stage to enhance the forms and volumes of the objects. I use differences in saturation and luminosity to indicate depth, adding complexity and visual interest to the artwork.

In terms of color inspiration, the work of Moebius has been incredibly influential to me. His use of color palettes has had a profound impact on my own choices. More recently, I’ve been inspired by artists like Tomer Hanuka. Additionally, I draw inspiration from Art Nouveau illustrators and their use of graphic, flat coloring techniques, which has influenced my approach to color in my work.

Age of Canaan Page 12

Same, in general… I very much found your art style reminiscent of Tradd Moore, among others. But do you have any specific inspirations you look to?

For “Age of Canaan,” I made a deliberate decision to adjust my artistic style to better suit the narrative. My artistic approach is continually evolving; with each new project, I integrate new techniques while sometimes leaving others behind. 

To enhance the storytelling in “Age of Canaan,” I embarked on a trip to Greece to study the black-figure pottery illustrations, aiming to incorporate a sense of ancient illustration into my work. I also sought to infuse my art with elements of my Jewish heritage. In this pursuit, I studied the works of E.M. Lilien, a remarkable Art Nouveau artist known for his depictions of Jewish themes. Additionally, I found inspiration in the work of R.S. Sherriffs, another talented illustrator.

These artists, along with others such as Moebius, Otomo, Darrow, and Miyazaki, have all played a role in shaping my artistic style. Their work has influenced my approach to storytelling and visual narrative, helping me to create a unique and cohesive visual language for “Age of Canaan.”

What’s more important to you: story, emotion, art? Or all three at the same time? What do you start from?

In my approach to storytelling through comics, I believe that both the narrative and the art are equally important and work in tandem to create a cohesive and immersive experience for the reader. I see them as two halves of a whole, each complementing and enhancing the other.

When I start a new project, I first focus on developing the core of the story. This is akin to creating a logline, a concise and compelling summary that captures the essence of the narrative. This core concept serves as the foundation upon which the rest of the story will be built.

As I delve deeper into the storytelling process, I constantly switch between visual and narrative elements. I visualize how each scene will be depicted artistically, considering composition, framing, and style, while also ensuring that it aligns with the overarching narrative. This iterative process allows me to refine both the visual and narrative aspects of the comic, ensuring that they are in perfect harmony.

I believe that the true magic of comics lies in the seamless integration of art and story. When these elements are in sync, they have the power to evoke a wide range of emotions in the reader. Emotion, therefore, is not something that is tacked on after the fact; rather, it emerges naturally from the combination of compelling storytelling and evocative artwork. This approach ensures that the comic resonates deeply with the audience, creating a memorable and impactful reading experience.

What can pledgers expect from the Zoop campaign?

To start, backers of the campaign will receive a meticulously crafted graphic novel that illuminates a forgotten chapter of history and mythology. Additionally, because I work traditionally, particularly in the inking process, backers can look forward to a variety of original artwork, giveaways, and other exciting rewards.

The Age of Canaan Zoop campaign is live today, so get pledging!

Age Of Canaan Preview:

Check out 13 preview pages from Age of Canaan, below!

Comic Book Club Live Info:

Want to watch Comic Book Club live? We stream every Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET to YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and Twitter/X. Come hang out, and ask questions of our guests (and us!). And you could potentially win a $25 gift card to Midtown Comics, or Long John Silvers. You can check out a current list of upcoming guests and other live appearances on our Shows page.

Leave a Reply