Very excited that my copy of Archaia’s The Reason for Dragons arrived today. The original graphic novel was written by Chris Northrop with art by Jeff Stokely. Northrop also provided the colors, with Andrew Elder, and did the lettering for the book.
The first thing you notice about The Reason for Dragons is the feel of the book. It has a good, strong hardcover that has a nice textured feel. It is the type of book your hands want to hold. The second thing you notice is the pullout map of the medieval fair grounds with a ‘draw your own dragon’ space on the back, which can be sent back to Archaia. It is a really cool little touch that instantly gives the book some personality and fun.
After you get past the design, which has become Archaia’s bread and butter, you just notice that it is a really good story. It presents an entertaining, thoughtful, and engrossing coming-of-age story of Wendell, a bullied teenager trying to find his way after the death of his father and amongst the presence of his mum’s new man, Ted. Wendell gets conned into exploring the abandoned fair grounds by the local bullies and when he’s there he meets Sir Habersham, a somewhat crazy individual who thinks he is a knight tasked with slaying a dragon in the forest which may or may not be real.
I tore through the story as soon as I got it. Habersham is a great character, who is instantly likable. The story also evolves from being a typical teenage coming-of-age story to being more about identity, how people can change, and how people are defined by their actions. It also demonstrates how the fantasy genre can be a great vehicle for expressing and addressing real world anxieties, problems etc. Visually it is a feast for the eyes. The design of the package is matched by an equally well-designed and plotted story. The art in the image above shows off the high quality work by Stokeley, Northrop, and Elder. Everyone is on the same page for how the book should look.
The book also has a ton of other extras like short stories by other artists and writers, pin-ups, process pages, the whole shebang. From a design point of view The Reason for Dragons is everything I believe printed books should be going into the future: beautifully designed and produced artifacts that you want to display on your shelf for the way they embrace the physicality of actually being a book. More than that The Reason for Dragons is everything a good all-ages comic should be: fun, adventurous, and meaningful. Buy it now from good bookstores and comic shops.