Tito W. James: In the first issue we are introduced to this interesting magical world. There are no witches, only wizards. It’s a familial thing that’s passed down through generations.
Khary Randolph: There are ten clans, yes.
TWJ: Excellence has a very intricate and original magical world. How did you get involved with the project and what attracted you to it?
KR: Maybe about a year and some change ago, the guys at Skybound hit me up about the idea. I was trying to figure out what my next job was going to be. I had just finished up Mosaic at Marvel and I was trying to figure out what my next move was. Skybound mentioned there was this project with Brandon Thomas; I’ve known him for a couple years and I’m a giant fan of his. They said that Brandon Thomas had specifically wanted to do this book with me.
We sat down and Brandon broke down the pitch for me and I was like “this is different.” I only want to do things that haven’t been done before and are already in the comic book world. Excellence was something that would stand out and be different enough to where it wouldn’t conflict with everything else on the stands. There’s a million magic books out there. But when you get to the things that are going on behind the surface of this book where it’s all about families and there’s a racial aspect; it touches on a lot of things that are personal to me. This is a project where I knew I could do a good job.
TWJ: What is your artistic approach to designing this world and these characters?
KR: With every book I do, I try to figure out what the hook is, and why it’s different than the last book I did. With Excellence, I wanted a cinematic look. I was watching a lot of Alfred Hitchcock and a lot of posters for those movies had an eclectic graphic design quality to them. And so I wanted to bring that into the vibe of the book.
I wanted the magicians to have a look I hadn’t seen before because I knew the comic would get compared to Harry Potter or The Magicians TV show. So, I came up with this idea of magical Assassins Creed ninjas. The wands are sheathed–kind of like swords on their backs. We can have them do crazy parkour stuff. I just wanted an action vibe to it.
When me and our colorist Emelio talk; I knew I wanted the color palette to be different than what we’ve done before too. I wanted a pop art vibe to it. There’s certain panels you’ll see where, out of nowhere, there will be a big splash of red or green, just to accentuate things. I want it to make it feel like a comic but you could also put it on a wall at the MOMA or something.
TWJ: There’s a strong graphic design feel to this book. There’s angularity not only in the lettering but also in the characters’ features.
Do you have any thoughts about creating fantasy fiction which people truly haven’t seen before?
KR: It’s funny, because whenever I’m creating anything I take a look to see what’s out there and then follow my own path. I don’t want to be influenced too much by what’s already out there. It’s a lot of conversations between the artist, writer, colorist, and editor about what makes this book special to us.
We’re also thinking about the future. Comics is our love and our passion but we’re also thinking in terms of Excellence be translated into different mediums. I want to paint a picture for you cinematically, as a moving image, like a cartoon. A lot of the people I draw in this book are straight up caricatures of real life people. I’m looking at actors and saying this person would be a good fit for this character.
TWJ: If you could have any other media adaptation would you prefer live action or animation?
KR: Animation is my background. That is what I think about the most. But hey– I ain’t going to be picky. If someone was to say they wanted to make a live action version, it’s fine by me.
I’d like to thank Khary Randolph for taking the time to do this interview. Excellence is available from Image Comics Skybound Imprint.