Rhiannon McCullough is native of Rhode Island and studied Theatre and German Language at Roger Williams University and is currently studying for her MFA in Asian Theatre Performance at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. She has been writing and drawing comics for longer than she cares to remember, however Schwarz Kreuz is her first completed comic. She enjoys a wide range of films and literature, including but not confined to, a number of Anime series and she resents her work being referred to as "Manga" it is not. Favorite foods include clam chowder and honey cinnamon flavored coffee drinks, (though not in the same meal of course). In her spare time she collects chopsticks and rusting metal.

History of the Comic

Schwarz Kreuz has been an idea that has been with me, in some form or other, for a long time. I started the webcomic summer of 2003 and it has gone through a number of changes since I first started with the concept.

Early on the hardest thing to solidify was Nikolas, which is ironic since he was the centeral figure in the story since the begining. As the central character it was important that I decide on a concrete personality before taking the story anywhere. I kicked around a number of ideas, early on I was focused on a slightly less responsible character, more of a loner. The look I had was much younger, less harassed and worn down and the character seemed less concerned about his situation. Early on Schwarz Kreuz was looking to be little more than another action packed story with a vampire. But as I explored the character further I realized this couldn't work and it wasn't what I wanted so I dropped the whole comic.

After I dropped Schwarz Kreuz I started a project I never managed to solidify called, Firestarter. The story concept was too disjointed to work with, so I eventually folded the project. What Firestarter managed to contribute however was the proto-Nikolas, in a character called Finn, an older more conservative, highly paternal individual, and a bit of a tortured soul. Although I used Finn's personality as a jumping off point for Nikolas, what Nik really took from Finn was his more mature look and aditude. After all Nik is almost eighty years old, and grew up in a monastery, in the forties. Hip, he is not. He does not look, act or dress like a "vampire", which is one of the things that makes him cool. It takes some time to realize he is actually handsome, in a ragged scruffy way, even a bit boyish. (Well he is a drawing, he's supposed to be fairly handsome under the wear and tear, whether is comes across, is a question of artistic quality). In a similar vein, when I started designing Joan, I decided not to make her "pretty". She is more wholesome, sometimes beautiful, but not pretty, which is an important to her character. If she were simply pretty I feel she would come across as simply the female sidekick much of the time. Quinn, in her mannish clothes and glasses, is, oddly enough, the real feminine beauty of the ISNI.

-Old Concept Art-

It has been my experience that characters are not made, but develop. In that way they're kind of like children, you never really know what youŐre going to get until it grows up. I have been pleasantly surprised by the main characters of Schwarz Kreuz. When I first started the only character I had anything like a firm grasp on was Nikolas, and even that was tentative. All I knew about Joan was that she was her history, her personality was something that blossomed out of her relationship with Nikolas and the other people around her. Likewise, Nikolas, even in his relative complexity, was a very two dimensional character until put in the context of other people, many of whom do not even appear in the story.

So are the characters in Schwarz Kreuz based on anyone in particular? No, not really. However most of them have aspects that are based on numerous different people and characters from other sources. For instance, the colour of Nikolas's eyes comes directly from Vash from Trigun, but the mole at the corner of his eye does not, even though Vash does have one. Quinn looks like Integra from Hellsing but she is really much more like a female version of my German teacher. I wouldn't say any of my characters are like anyone other than themselves. At most some share certain characteristics with me, but I don't drink, smoke, start fires without matches, read minds, or feel the urge to suck the blood of the living, so they are only emotional, or behavioral, not practical.

Everything is influenced by something. Art, in my opinion, can not be created in a vacuum. There are numerous sources I could cite as having in some ways influenced Schwarz Kreuz, half of which I could say have influenced me as a person and artist from the beginning, but two of the most prominent, and directly related are Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura and Hexwood by Dianna Wynne-Jones.

Anyone familiar with Samura sensei's incredibly violent and breathtakingly gorgeous work can see his influence in Schwarz Kruez. I can only aspire to his level of achievement, and I must admit he has made it quite obvious to me that there are something that can only be achieved in black and white and that sometimes colour, for which I am so often praised, can be a hindrance. Fewer people are familiar with Jones' novels. I grew up on her work, childrenŐs and young adult novels that pull no punches, and come highly recommended for all ages. Mordian, a main character in Hex Wood, is a character that has influenced my work since I was a child, and can be seen as the root genesis for many of the characters in my various works, and specifically the sort of character represented by Nikolas in Schwarz Kreuz.

Disclaimer & Special Thanks

Schwarz Kreuz is the original work and property of Rhiannon McCullough ©2003/2008