With Further Ado #090: Cayrels Ring

I’ve collaborated with Pete Carlsson a few times over the years, and every time he brings a high level of professionalism and “creative oomph” the party. So when he told me he was working on new project, Cayrels Ring for Wave Blue World, my reaction was “Spill it! I need to know all about what you are doing, Pete.”

Cayrels Ring started as a comic book by Shannon Lentz , that has now grown up to become a beautiful hardcover graphic novel.   This is a science fiction tale with a big, sprawling cast told in 17 chapters, each illustrated by a different artist. The multi-level epic develops and reveals the nuanced and enormous stories of the characters, described as “everyday people”,  by the author.   Surprisingly, Lentz , and his many artistic compatriots, are able to make the reader wonder about and, in some cases, care for the characters in a just a few pages.

Cayrels Ring refers to, on one hand, a group of planets – each with their own rich backstory and history. On the other hand, it seems to refer to the wide cast of characters. That makes this GN, and each of the three comics as they were originally published, an expansive shared universe. “The shared universe idea shined out for me,” said Lentz. He has especially fond memories of that cohesive universe of Valiant comics when they first burst onto the scene. 

Just a few years ago, Lentz was enamored by comics like Prophet, from Image, and he got the itch. He kickstarted the first issue of Cayrels Ring with a line-up of strong indy artists so that no one artist had to contribute too much. And then he successfully did it two more times.

The art is clean and, with so many artists, varied. I liked the collaborations with the artists, and you can see that so many of them are enjoying the ride. Lentz has a scientific background and it peeks through now and again. There are a couple of plot developments driven by hard science, but in that “gee, I never thought of it that way”.

Reception to the comics were strong, and Lentz then shopped it around a bit. “I’m still learning how to pitch properly”, he humbly observed.

At one Emerald City Comic Convention, Lentz did catch the eye of publisher A Wave Blue World. They are an innovative start-up,  founded by the husband-wife team  of Tyler and Wendy Chin-Tanner.  They like to say that they create books steeped in stories of the world that are “very human stories”.

Tyler Chin-Tanner read the story and soon understood how it all worked, finding it evocative of Prophet and Island.  “It made me realize it’s a worthwhile story,” Said Tyler. 

Cayrels Ring almost seems like a European comic or a foreign film. But that’s intentional: Lentz likes the open-ended storytelling style. “There are no abrupt endings,” He reveals.

Anyone who bought the original comics should know that this GN actually is a new presentation.  Chief Operating Officer Justin Zimmerman revealed that Lentz reformatted and re-lettered the whole book to optimally synch it up as a hardcover.  A Wave Blue World added so many nice touches – everything from a stylish new logo to the planet-charts on the endpapers.

The timing of the book’s release was unfortunate. It was just as the COVID-19 virus took the wind out of every small businesses’ sails (and sales). But they all remain hopeful, nonetheless. ”It’s got a long tail; it’s a beautiful book,“ Zimmerman reaffirmed.

What’s next?  Well, Shannon Lentz teases he has a noir tale set in the Cayrels Ring universe he’s working on.  A Wave Blue World has a number of projects coming up, including republishing the hit All We Ever Wanted, a new one called Broken Frontier, and the sequel to All We Ever Wanted. I’m going to take a deeper dive in a few weeks with this publisher, so keep an eye out for that. I’m especially interested in learning about their upcoming The Phantom of the Opera GN by a very talented Hungarian writer-artist.

And, course, I want to find out more of what Pete Carlsson is up to.