The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!

By Will Brinkman


Don’t call the Wolverines, but the Russians are here! Ben McCool and Mario Guevara teamed up with Cryptozoic Entertainment, Trident Media, and IDW Publishing to bring the story of Alexander Nevsky to modern audiences and created Nevsky: A Hero of the People. This graphic novel, releasing this July 31st, is an adaptation of the classic 1938 film, Alexander Nevsky and tells the story of the great Russian figure and how he led his people to victory over their oppressors.

Ben McCool, the story’s writer, came to the Cryptozoic Store here at San Diego Comic Con to sign autographs for his Cryptozoic projects, Nevsky and The Lookouts. We were able to steal a few minutes from his busy schedule to sneak in a quick Q&A session.

William: Why Nevsky? What drew you to this project?

Ben: I was approached by John Nee, CEO of Cryptozoic Entertainment. He was working with Trident Media. They had acquired the rights from the original film distributor in Russia and they wanted to showcase this classic film to a contemporary audience. With the success of films like 300, Trident felt like it was time Nevsky deserved the same treatment. After a small pitch, I responded “That sounds incredible!” Then I went into research and learned so much more about this story.

What did you find in your research?

The story of the film itself is incredible. The movie was completed in 1938 and released mid 1939. The movie was a massive hit after two weeks, but after that Stalin signed a peace treaty with Hitler in order to protect Russia’s borders. The movie was seen as political propaganda, so the movie was swiftly taken away out of movie theaters. A few years later, Germany invades Russia. Stalin then takes Nevsky and orders it to be shown twenty-four-seven. Not only was it shown to revere this Russian legend, but it was shown to show the history of Russians kicking German ass. Incredible work.

Why a graphic novel?

You can do anything with words and pictures. With the film, there’s technical and technology restrictions, plus budget restrictions, it being a 1938 film and all. Mario’s able to draw whatever. So you can have hordes and hordes of soldiers. It’s all visually grand and we’re not limited the same way a film is. 

What do you hope that today’s fans will take from this graphic novel? The same things that drew you to the film?

The thing that impressed me most about the film was the visual dynamic. The epic battle sequence, the battle on the ice. The sense of action, it was so busy. That’ what we tried to communicate to the reader here.

This story of the hero rallying his people is an exceptional story, but common across thousands of years of history. What makes Nevsky stand out?

He’s so well revered and respected in Russia. There was a poll taken amongst Russian people a few years ago and he’s voted the most influential and significant Russian in history. He was even made a saint. He banded together these ill-equipped and undertrained warriors, at least compared to the Teutonic Order, and he took them to battle and victory. Though revered in Russia, it’s not a well-known story here, and he’s still so cherished even 800 years later.

What’s your favorite part of Mario Guevara’s work?

I’m impressed with the amount of detail—the uniforms and the landscapes. He was really true to the way the Teutonic Order looked and the way the landscape was shown in the film. He did a painstaking amount of historical research to be true. It’s very detailed, dense, but it all appears very fluid. A good comic book should read as if it’s animated. Seamlessly pass through the panels and drum up an overall sense of atmosphere. Mario achieved all of that and more.

Thank you to Ben for taking time from his busy San Diego Comic Con schedule to talk with us and visit with the Cryptozoic fans out there! If you want to learn more about Nevsky: Hero of the People, you can visit the website or view the YouTube trailer. You can also read Ben McCool’s blog and follow him on Twitter.