FALSE GUARD: a martial arts fantasy graphic novel by Merwan

Created by Neurobellum Productions

The complete graphic novel omnibus by the author of the award-winning ASTER OF PAN. (10 DAY FLASH CAMPAIGN!)

Latest Updates from Our Project:

An Interview with Merwan!
about 1 year ago – Fri, Sep 10, 2021 at 10:05:23 PM

Hey everyone!

Happy Friday! We're already down to the FINAL WEEK! 😄

The third foil bookmark has been unlocked! Will we unlock the coin before next Friday? Keep spreading the word and let's push past that to whatever lies at $30k!

While this campaign is admittedly a spontaneous party to celebrate author Merwan's awesome work and immense talent, he's thrilled by the turnout and excited by the new life being given to this, his first style-defining solo graphic novel project! We were chatting a bit on email, and he was gracious enough to take a few questions from the peanut gallery --

FALSE GUARD (Fausse Garde) was your first solo project as both writer and artist after working on CARMEN+TRAVIS by Fred Duval. What made you want to create your own story? And what lessons did you take from C+T?

Working on C + T was a great experience for me. First, because the Série B label trusted me when I had never been published, and then because Fred Blanchard, Fred Duval, and Olivier Vatine were very enthusiastic about the result. It gave me the confidence to persevere toward my next project (False Guard). I realized that I took pleasure in composing my own comic pages.

But to clarify the question, my real first completely solo project to be realized would have been Biotope, my first animated short film was my real baptism of fire.

The story takes place in a fictional land, but it draws from a multitude of cultural inspirations to create an exotic new fantasy world. What was your goal when designing Irap?

I grew up in a city in the suburbs of Paris and I studied in Paris. Irap is an anagram, minus the "S". Like Mané, I came from nowhere and I had to make my place there.

The eastern universe of Irap is a fantasy inspired by the stories my father told me about Algeria, his country of origin, which I did not know. So I let my imagination run wild between the miles and one night in my own dreams. Japan is also present in the characters' outfits, but I don't need to explain why!

Pankat is the central sport of the story, a mixed martial art style and philosophy that is the primary form of entertainment in the world of Irap. What was the inspiration for Pankat, and does it draw from any specific real-world martial art schools?

I've always loved combat sports, maybe because when we were little, my brothers and I weren't allowed to fight. So I was playing street-fighter and animating fight scenes on my PC. But when I thought about telling a Martial Art story, I didn't feel legitimate.

During my studies, I started taking Martial Arts with my two friends and I really got involved in Kung-Fu then MMA. We can also sense that development in FALSE GUARD -- the first part is more Kung-Fu and the rest becomes more MMA.

The complex relations between fighters are certainly inspired by my own club which was anything but classic but where I made great friendships.

But the reality is that the practice of Pankat, and the choices that Mané must make, paralleled the choices that I had to make in the drawing.

Mane is a very real, complicated hero who wants an opportunity to prove himself, but becomes the victim of his own success when his ego gets in the way. This is also a challenge for Eiam, the school’s master who is threatened by this newcomer. What was the inspiration for these characters?

False Guard has been from the start, even if the reader does not immediately realize it, a story about brothers. Eïam and Fessat are radically opposed but intimately linked to each other. I wanted from the creation to end in a big fight between the one who boxes within the rules and the one who does not respect them. Mané is the catalyst for this meeting because he refuses to choose between the two paths.

So when Eïam realizes Mané's activities, it’s too late for him to back down and he must change his way of looking at Mané in order to keep his school alive.

The character of Mané is the portrait of a talented young man who grew up in a disadvantaged and abandoned environment. He is accountable for life, but he lacks wisdom.

While the primary agenda for Mane, the main protagonist, is to achieve fame and fortune, he is surrounded by characters with other goals, such as Fessat who wishes to tear the system down. Do you see any parallel in making comics and telling stories – entertainment vs making a statement?

As I mentioned above, this story is also the story of the formation of my own artistic choices. How to combine entertainment with strong messages that hold your guts. Personally, I have never been able to give up one for the other. I believe that the works that have built me are always part of this tension between reading pleasure and human depth. Also, I always try to work in this direction, it is what I call the Great Popular Art.

The story ends with many new beginnings. Do you think you will ever return to the world of Irap?

More than anything, I like open endings, the epilogues that open a new horizon. I have often thought of writing another story in the world of Irap, maybe one day life will give me the opportunity to come back to it. In fact, in writing these lines, I feel the energy of Mané running through the top of my head…

(Off the record, I asked if Irap could exist on the far side of the map from Pan, and he said he liked the idea that they could exist in the same universe... who knows, maybe someday Aster and Mane might come face to face!)

We're off to a great start!
about 1 year ago – Wed, Sep 08, 2021 at 01:49:57 PM

Hi everyone!

Well, for a last-minute strategic decision, things seem to be working out nicely! We hit our goal in 3 hours and unlocked the first two stretch goals within the first day - the first two of three sweet metallic foil-stamped bookmarks by Merwan... our fingers are crossed that the third might even be unlocked by tomorrow! These should be really nice - we found a printer who specializes in foil printing, so we're excited that this campaign gave us an opportunity to try them out! 

We're staying hopeful that we might unlock another exclusive coin, and yes, we do have several ideas past that if momentum allows... spread the word, and let's see how far we can get in 10 days!

Expectations and additions

As an abbreviated campaign, we're not sure what to expect this time around... our database of past performance data is based on 24-day campaigns, so this one will be a bit of an education. We normally see the most activity on Day-1 and then on the last day, so we're curious what trimming out those flat middle weeks might do overall. Granted, this also being a last-minute campaign decision also meant that we weren't able to do the usual amount of pre-launch promotion (press, etc), and this being a book already printed and inbound meant no variant cover or stretch goal upgrade treatments. And while Merwan is fully behind this campaign and excited by the turnout, he is head-down and focused on his current new project (which I believe is related to ASTER OF PAN), so no time to sign bookplates or offer sketches.

All of those things sound like strikes, but we knew they would be factors going into this, so we adjusted our expectations accordingly. And you awesome people have already exceeded them. 😊

One thing in our rapid campaign construction, however, is that we realized after launching that we totally forgot to include PISTOUVI, the fantastic Eisner-nominated book by Merwan and Bertrand Gatignol! So if you pledged in the first couple of hours, you might not have seen that title is nowa  offered. 

Visit the PISTOUVI page for sample pages and trailer!

We added a "triple-feature" tier that includes all three books by Merwan (with a sweet $10 discount), so if that sounds like something you'd like and you didn't see it at first, please feel free to adjust your pledge to that new tier! 😊 PISTIOUVI is also available as an add-on if you'd like to create your own bundle.

A question a few of you have asked...

"Why no hardcover edition?"

Yeah, that's a logical and reasonable question considering the string of beautiful hardcover campaigns we've released up to this point. ASTER in particular is a gorgeous hardcover volume. The answer, however, boils down to a strictly business decision made at the height of pandemic uncertainty (which we're still navigating through...)

Here's the full story:

We knew we wanted to publish FALSE GUARD last year, and ASTER's relative success sealed that decision. But the market was -- and is still -- reacting to the many various effects of the pandemic, not the least of which was more cautious ordering from a lot of book stores and comic shops. Frankly, the (very reasonable) price point of our premium quality hardcovers made it harder for many (struggling) book stores to carry our titles. Yet with printing prices going up for the past 18 months, there was no way we could reduce our cover price (and we certainly don't want to raise them...). So we were a bit stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Kickstarter has proven to be an excellent way to counter that gap by allowing us to sell directly to you, the wonderful community. The thing is, we had (and still have) several awesome top-shelf campaigns scheduled for 2021-2022, and there just wasn't room in our plan to insert another 24-day campaign for FALSE GUARD. They take a lot of time to set up, and even more time to manage during those six weeks, and our calendar was (and still is) pretty full.

So our next best option was to reduce the cost and cover price of FALSE GUARD to something that would be not only more reasonable for book stores to carry but still have a high "Magnetic-quality" presentation: a $25 oversized paperback with extra-sturdy cover stock that is both embossed and spot-glossed, and with our signature curved corners on not just the cover, but the entire page block. We've produced a few softcovers like this in the past (including PISTOUVI), and they certainly stand head-and-shoulders above your typical "trade paperback".

But the market is still being very cautious, particularly with "unknown (in the US)" authors and indie titles like this fall to the curb against the Big Publisher books. Retail orders continue to come in lighter than we would like.

So after our 13th successful Kickstarter, we thought "Why not squeeze a short campaign between the other scheduled top-shelf campaigns?" We knew you previous ASTER backers would be interested, and since the books are almost in our warehouse, we can turn it around quickly. And heck -- we can even offer to ship it with previous SHANGRI-LA or CARBON GREY packages for no additional cost! Most of our pledges come in the first five and last five days anyway... Maybe we don't need 24-days per title? LET'S GIVE IT A TRY!

So, long story already too long, that's why this volume is not being offered as a hardcover. It was formatted and printed for a struggling retail market and not with a premium Kickstarter plan in mind until after it was already printed. But we stand by the premium signature quality of the design you will be getting. 😎

Here are some pix of the advance copy here in the office -- believe me, it's a thing of beauty 😊 :

"Will there be a hardcover edition later?"

Right now, there are no plans for one. BUT... who's to say that one of the yet-to-be-revealed stretch goals might not be a super-limited edition hardcover upgrade add-on...?  I just throw that out there as a possibility -- it would be somewhere near the $50k unlock mark, and the item price would probably be ~$50-60 per copy, so I dunno if that would even make it a reasonable offer. Honestly, it seems very unlikely (but we never say never)... 

While that may not seem like a satisfactory answer for you hardcover buffs (which we consider ourselves to be, too), this past year and a half has been a crazy time for making spontaneous difficult decisions, and this was one of those. 😊

We're pretty sure you're gonna love this book regardless!