What happens when you've been told your entire life that you were supposed to save the world? What happens when, after you set out to save the world with your dog Daisy, your journey turns out to be a little different from what you expected?
Dream team Ryan North and Erica Henderson (best known for their work on Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl)'s newest graphic novel series Danger and Other Unknown Risks delves deep into that idea, following Marguerite de Pruitt and her dog Daisy as she tries her best to be the chosen one.
Here's Penguin Random House's synopsis of the new series:
"Danger and Other Unknown Risks is the brand new series from Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl creators Ryan North and Erica Henderson that combines high-fantasy mysticism, a new take on the 'chosen one' arc, and 90s/early-2000s nostalgia into a gloriously hilarious tale of a girl who’s been told her whole life she’s the chosen one.
"Years after a Y2K-like apocalypse unleashed magic into the world, protagonist Marguerite de Priutt has spent her entire teenage life being told she’s the chosen one, the only person who can stop the world from tilting into deadly chaos. So what happens when she sets off with her canine companion Daisy, and finds her 'destined' journey is much harder than her uncle made it sound?"
Read an exclusive excerpt of Danger and Other Unknown Risks below and check out the creator commentary below that:
Erica Henderson: Despite the fact that we were on draft twenty-something when we finished this book, I think this chapter barely changed from the original draft. A couple of tweaks in dialogue here or there, some narration cut when we dropped that aspect, but largely this is what we started with.
Beginning the main narrative in media res made a lot of sense for us. You get to very quickly understand that this is not the world as we know it, that there’s magic, we establish the relationship between Margueritte and Daisy and we immediately get the sense of danger (like the title of the book)! Some more actual exposition comes later, but it’s always so much more satisfying to watch these things unfold before explaining why they happened. Even the carefree attitude in the face of death is something that winds up being so important to the idea of youth, feeling invincible, and not seeing the crisis in front of you.
This scene was also laid out before most of the rest of the book was written because I wanted to get a sense of how this story would move. That set up a few things that got carried into the other chapters, mostly in the use of text. I started playing with more handwritten, exaggerated word balloons, the chapter titles are all handwritten and incorporated into the scenes and this really started me on the going further and further with the sound effects.
A lot of the costuming from this section comes from folk festival dress. Even though we don’t spend a lot of time with these characters, I thought it was important to root them in tradition. There are themes of past and future in this book and it made sense to have even our weirdest, most ancillary characters be part of that. Margueritte is very specifically dressed in clothes that are more instantly recognizable to us. She’s practical, but she’s also different from the wizards in a way that should make you wonder what’s going on.
Speaking of character design, I don’t know how long we spent trying to figure out what sort of dog Daisy would be. At first it was just endlessly wondering if he should be large or small, because that would really effect what he could do in a story. We agreed on large. I think the chow was my idea. They’re a fiercely loyal breed of ancient guard dogs, and they’re very, very cute. They make for difficult pets but great for a story.
The jerky joke on page 18 is Ryan’s and I love it because so far, we’ve only seen Daisy speak in a way that feels human and wanting to chow down on a desiccated piece of monkey is extremely dog.
All of the wizards falling on each other on page 16 was maybe one of my favorite bits to draw. Just big, lumpy guys flailing around- very satisfying.
The broken window grate on pages 17-19 is another tiny detail that I’m very happy with because they window high up, with no supports or footholds, and the bars are bend inwards from the outside. It’s just another small thing where, if you notice it, lets you know that things are not normal out there.
Color as a storytelling tool is important to me. We know where we are at a glance because inside is warm (light is red, shadow is purple) and outside is cold (light is sickly green, shadow is blue), the magic is either yellow or a spring yellowy green so it can cut across any of these background shades and still stand out, Marguerite is wearing a shade of teal that’s nowhere else in the chapter so you can follow her as they run from light to dark. When you see the rest of the book, it should be apparent what chapter you’re on based on the color. Each one is its own adventure in a different place and I wanted them to all feel unique immediately.
Ryan North: Erica covered this really well! I will say that beginnings can be the hardest part, because you need to answer so many questions just to get started. What are the characters like? What genre are we in? What's the tone, the mood, the style? Sometimes you can figure these out as you go but I find it really helps to have a strong idea from the beginning. Erica and I had that in Squirrel Girl – her drawings of the character helped inform my writing, and vice versa – and we did the same thing here. Only more so: with Squirrel Girl there was a much greater line between writer and artist, while here Erica and I collaborated way more closely.
This section is meant to introduce you to the world and the characters, but also feel like a fun romp - it's the most "normal" the book is for our heroes, and it's fun to meet them at their finest, already on an adventure, already solving problems and improvising. Things get much more crazier from here! And Erica's right: this section barely changed from its very first draft. We set a foundation we both liked and built the rest on top!
Danger and Other Unknown Risks is created by Ryan North and Erica Henderson and is published by Penguin Random House. The book will be available April 4. You can pre-order the book now on Amazon, Bookshop.com, or Barnes & Noble.