Monday, June 1, 2015

Western Rome Crashes and Burns: Was it Pushed?

Did Rome fall on it’s own (as in, the way most empires fall) or was it pushed? This is the question explored by Amiculus,  a genuinely interesting comic book series by  Travis Horseman, wonderfully illustrated by Giancarlo Caracuzzo. It’s a tremendous yet somewhat overlooked part of world history , and  Horseman starts his saga with the last remaining emperor of the Western Roman empire, the young Romulus.  This will no doubt appeal to fans of all the Fantasy/Historic genres currently rising in popularity, and as a fan of history AND historic fiction, I recommend it. 

RK: Travis, your project, Amiculus, is something quite unique in that it hits upon the Later Roman Period, especially the Western part of the empire in its final days. People generally focus on the Julius Caesar years. Why did you pick this particular time period? And even with the invention of the mysterious figure of Amiculus,  how much did you stick to actual events?

TH: I myself have always been a fan of the High Roman Empire. However, a lot of the stories from this period have been told and retold, at least as far as the lives of great men are concerned. The late Empire by contrast gets relatively little attention, and yet is as dynamic, if not more so, than the days of Caesar and Augustus. It offers a lot more fodder for distinctive stories. This story is based solidly in Late Roman history. I got great use from historians and histories such as Procopius, Priscus, Jordanes and the Anonymus Valesianus, and I try to make a sharp distinction between established history and some of my own speculation and invention. The use of Procopius (who was in Italy at this time) as a character in the framing device, commenting on the history v. the speculation, is meant to aid that distinction.

RK: How would you say your background in theater and your education affected your choice in picking this story? What pulled you to it, and would you describe your research?

TH: This idea started as a ten-page play.  I was attracted to the dramatic potential this period offered. Think of it: the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire was a metaphor for the Empire itself at the time: a powerless figurehead, revered only due to tradition but otherwise controlled and manipulated by outside forces until he was finally judged to be irrelevant and disposed of.  I was also drawn in by what I imagined to be the relationship between Romulus, who was twelve at the time he was deposed, and his father, Orestes, a warlord who used him as a puppet. What could that relationship have been like? What would Romulus, whose voice was never heard, have to say about this arrangement? The lack of historical data on these things offered a lot of opportunity for creative speculation.

RK: Why did you decide on Giancarlo to illustrate your book?  How did you guys decide to collaborate on this?

TH: I became acquainted with Giancarlo via LinkedIn, of all things, and I was immediately blown away by his art, which has a classic comic book appeal and vital character realization in his panels. I approached him with the pitch, and he loved it, which surprised the hell out of me. I mean, I'd never done anything before, and he was the pro with 30 years under his belt. The story really appealed to him, not in the least because it was about his city (Giancarlo is an Italian from Rome) and its history. We've been working together for three years now, almost entirely by email. We've only met once in person, last year. Still, we work amazingly together.

RK: What are your plans for future story arcs and beyond within this universe? I know you launched a second Kickstarter campaign. 

TH: I have a Kickstarter for Volume II starting June 1. It provides a closer look at Romulus and Orestes's histories, and how they became who they are, and it's a very cool story. We also get a look at Amiculus, not necessarily who he is, but when he started his mission of sabotage, and how his influence has driven the course of this war. Lots of exciting twists, betrayals, action and revelations come out in this book. Another interesting thing about the book is that it is subtitled Flagellum Dei, which was the title the Romans gave Attila the Hun: The Scourge of God. Attila, who knew Orestes in real life, makes an appearance in his personal history, and their interaction ends up driving many of the events that take place in the series.

RK: What would you say are the similarities between EoB and Amiculus in terms of the scope of subject matter? How important will the Eastern Empire of Rome, which was growing at this time, be in your future stories?

TH: The Eastern Empire is pivotal to this series, because the event occurring in Procopius's present is Justinian's campaign to reconquer Rome and the West. A lot of people don't know that the Eastern Romans survived the fall of the West, much less that they tried to take the West back from the barbarians. Procopius discovers Romulus's history just as the East is reaching the height of their success in Italy, and that discovery ends up having significant consequences to the course of that war as well. Also, the Persians and an Armenian general, Narses, end up making appearances later in the series.

RK: The state of books are reading today. Are we beyond books? Why Kickstarter, and describe how people can support your project more.

TH: I think that most people still desire a book they can hold in their hand over something they can only read on a screen. I read a recent article on how bookstores are holding their own by making books better, of higher quality, not trying to compete with digital media by trying to conform to their format. As for Kickstarter, I think it's a great platform for passion projects, and I feel that the conveyance of that passion to backers is the thing that creates successful campaigns just as much, if not more, than a rewards-based system. Not that I'm skimping on either one! As far as support, just sharing the project and spreading the word is the most effective form of marketing that goes these days. If you can't back personally, send the link to your friends!

RK: Lastly, how would you say learning of Later Roman history (east and west) is relevant to us today, given the turmoil the world is in? How did the fall of Rome change the world, and what aspects of Roman Heritage did the continuance of Byzantium preserve?

TH: Late Roman history has a lot to teach us. I've had a fascination, as have many of us, with things falling apart, of centers not holding. We look at our civilization as being like Rome, to which we apply terms of finality such as "fall." However, Roman civilization didn't vanish without a trace in A.D. 476. It changed and adapted, and survived for another thousand years. Its history and innovations survived as well, enough for us to inherit and rediscover.  I think in our most fearful moments we draw upon the fall of Rome as the inevitable fate of our own civilization, and there may be changes somewhere along the line of our history in that direction. But as with them, it doesn't mean we will go extinct. We can change and adapt as well, while preserving the core values and qualities that define our culture.

Monday, May 25, 2015


At the Edge of Rome and the Gates of Persia...
are the historic settings of  East of Byzantium 
a Fantasy or Reality?  

a conversation between East of Byzantium creator Roger Kupelian 
and Armenia Tree Project deputy director Jason Sohigian

Roger Kupelian: Your organization, the Armenia Tree Project, and my project, East of Byzantium, have related missions, in my view. In fact, when I learned about ATP, I took to it from more than an environmental angle. The idea inspired the imagination, and in the imagination, Armenia is a green and lush place. How is this different than the reality of it?

Jason Sohigian: There are certainly places in Armenia that are very lush and green, notably some of our protected areas like the Shikahogh Nature Reserve and Dilijan National Park, to name two. Of course we have seen some loss to our forest cover in recent centuries so our landscapes are changing.

RK: In EoB Vol 1: War Gods, King Tiridates goes mad and loses himself in the Forests. We assume this was close to his palace. The area seems much too dry to suit the description. Assuming that’s a true account, was Armenia greener in the past, especially 17 centuries ago when the EoB story arc takes place 

JS: We think Armenia did have more forest cover in past centuries. There is a study published in the International Forestry Review, which uses archaeological data to estimate that Armenia’s forests may have covered 35 percent of the land area 2,000 years ago. Present day estimates of the forest cover range from 8 percent to 12 percent, with the actual number probably being somewhere in the middle range. It's interesting because we actually planted a new forest around Khor Virap starting in 2001, to commemorate the decision made 1,700 years ago by King Tiridates to adopt Christianity as Armenia's state religion. The area around the monastery is quite dry and it was a challenge, but visitors will notice the dramatic greening adjacent to the site.

RK: What caused all this deforestation, and what is going on today in Armenia that is dangerous?

JS: There have been many causes of tree loss and deforestation. Some of it is natural and some of it is man-made causes. For example the climate has changed which means a shift in plants and biodiversity. Of course you know many families in rural Armenia use wood for cooking and heating, even today. And this is completely acceptable if our forests can be managed responsibility, since trees are a form of renewable energy. More current drivers include industrial logging including by mining companies over the past 100-200 years and unsustainable livestock grazing which can prevent the regeneration of new forests. Forest loss is certainly a risk for Armenia, because we lose topsoil and our land becomes more dry. This desertification makes it more difficult to sustain agriculture and sources of clean water for drinking and irrigation. This can make us less self-sufficient, and more dependent on neighboring countries for our survival.

RK: During ATP’s 20th anniversary celebrations, you quoted a Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” One wonders where the most ancient trees in Armenia are located, if we even have any ancient ones? 

JS: There are some notable trees. In fact my friend and colleague Anna Asatryan has published an entire booklet about Armenia’s remarkable trees. One is a giant plane tree in the village of Skhtorashen in the Martuni province of Artsakh. The tree is believed to be more than 2,000 years old! There's also the story of Vartan's oak tree in northern Armenia. The story goes that Vartan Mamigonian planted an acorn in the town of Aknaghbyur in the Tavush region. He stopped there with his troops to drink from the spring, which still flows today. The tree grew but was struck by lightning in the 1960’s. Parts of the tree are still preserved, and we have been planting new trees in this town in a project supported by the Knights of Vartan and Daughters of Vartan since 2008.

RK: What is your favorite part of the Graphic Novel series, and did the art do the ancient locations justice?

JS: Armenia does have some vast and dramatic landscapes. It's quite a testament that you have been able to capture that in the graphic novel. I was so excited about volume one, War Gods, and was especially proud to be a part of your cover series for volume two. When you created a cover with a tree, of course it struck a chord for me. The thing that's most compelling for me, is that you are telling a story of bravery and pride, of a time when Armenians stood up for their rights and fought against the odds. It's a very powerful narrative and one that Armenians should be proud of, especially when a lot of our modern discourse is about the genocide when we were on the verge of annihilation. We are a proud people who have persevered, and your project is proof that we fought, we survived, and we continue to create and contribute to the fabric of our society in the 21st century.

Thanks for giving me a chance to talk about ATP and the situation with our forests. So tell us more about the EoB project, what is the general storyline/time period that the graphic novel covers?

RK: The East of Byzantium Story arc takes place from the late 3rd Century AD to the latter part of the 5th. The major events are the conversion of Armenia 301 AD and the Armenian uprising against the Persian Empire in 451 AD. Those two events are pretty related considering St. Vartan is a descendant of St. Gregory the Illuminator.  The stories are full of gritty action. No punches pulled. Men and Women make difficult and sometimes horrific decisions to hold to what they have.

JS: We’ve been hearing about this project for a few years now and I know you have made some progress in bringing the story to fruition. What are the various elements of the project and how have things been moving along?

RK: The dramatic documentary is in post production and is being shopped around as we write, and the Graphic Novel series is in its second volume. Both are efforts I am proud to be part of. The Second Volume deals with 451 AD, the life of Vartan and those around him, his rivalry with Vasak Sunik, and the enormity of the Persian Empire in the events of the world at that time.  ( A Graphic Novel is basically a long- form serious version of a comic book.)

JS: I was glad to be a part of the project and to get a one-of-a-kind cover for volume two that you designed especially for me. Can you tell folks how they can join the campaign and get an individual work of art to support the publication of volume two?

RK: Yes the One of a Kind Covers are important because they fund the mass printing of the second volume, WARRIOR SAINTS. Each owner will be listed in the mass printing and when all 100 covers are out there, the fans will vote on the best one for the mass printing. Then the winning owner will get a full refund and a special prize.  Not to mention 100 people will own completely unique versions of this special visual book. All purchases off this special site will go towards the printing of volume 2.   They can be purchased here:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


You are invited to be one of a 100 special owners of our next graphic novel.

We need to publish 1000 copies of the standard edition of book 2, WARRIOR SAINTS. This will help us do it.


- EACH BOOK WILL HAVE A UNIQUE COVER** (no two covers the same...)

- LIMIT: ONLY 100 WILL EVER BE MADE, one for EVERY YEAR since 1915




Elite Collector's Issue of Volume 2
Each will have it's own uniqe
cover, TBD by Artist.


War Gods, the Graphic Novel has been marching on as the independent art  experience it is. It has been presented in Chicago, Toronto, Boston, New York, and yes, Glendale ... a few times.

EoB Vol 1: WAR GODS has fans from all around the world. There was even a fan who took a photo with a copy at the South Pole .

Many of you have been asking when the second book,  WARRIOR SAINTS, will be become available.  Creating Graphic Novels take time, especially one that has a digital painting for every panel, but now it is done and I can't wait to share it with

So here's my totally unique, NON-Kickstarter  plan to get this bad boy published and into your Sequential Art-Loving Hands.  The book is lovingly rendered in full color at 256 pages including a special features section.  Tax and Shipping not included.

I create up to, but no more than, 100 Special Collectors issues, EACH WITH A UNIQUE COVER (meaning each proud owner will have a completely one-of-a-kind issue, as in, " one of ONE").  One-offs are pricey to make, and so in order to raise funds in a timely fashion, each one will go for  $150.00 USD.  The unique covers from PHASE ONE will never be duplicated. No two covers of that original collector's offering will ever be the same.   Once we sell enough of these to reach the amount needed to publish the first edition standard printing, I'll stop making the Special Collector's Issues and move on to...

Mass Printing of the Standard (Yet Still Cool) Issues of WARRIOR SAINTS.  These will be published to the best quality.

Over time, I'll add art prints, sketchbooks, etc to the online store .

So lets get this party started. It will be a lot of work for Yours Truly to raise funds this way, but the project is worth it. YOU, the fans, are worth it.

Here's the link to the store. You can buy using Pay Pal. 

** Cover art is provided for exclusive use on each individual cover but remains the copyrighted property of EoB, LLC. 



Volume 1 already available
(both Special and
Limited Edition of Vol.1
have this cover).
Collectors Limited Edition of Volume 1
has this numbered interior page.

Spanish Language Version of Volume 1

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

East of Byzantium Indiegogo Special "Thank You"

The Production Team of  East of Byzantium's Special Documentary Mini Series : War Gods and Warrior Saints, wishes to thank the following individuals for your help in our recent fund raising efforts. 


Grish Tadevosyan


Sev Rosomyan
Khatchatur Papyan
Gevorg H
Nathan Websdale
Samvel Shahbazyan
Vardan Baghdasaryan


Vardan Baghdasaryan
Levo Sahakyan
Ara Markosian
Shant Abraamyan
Nani Shirikjian


Armen Megrabyan
Gagik Avagyan
Nzhde Barseghian


Mary Victoria
Karina V Thompson
Artur Sayan
Frederic Boyadjian
Tsoghig Hekimian
Stephan Khukoyan
Eddie W Avedikian
Kegham Kupelian
Armineh Hovanesian


Eugenie Parsekhian
Harothyun Demirchyan

Ashot Margaryan

Special Thanks from our Production go to 

for being our exclusive on set caterer for our Los Angeles Shoots: 
Two Guys From Italy
405 N. Verdugo
Glendale, CA 91206

To Peter Lee for all 
those amazing swords:

Pacific Solutions
1220 E. Belmont St.
Ontario, CA 91761

Friday, August 1, 2014

Laying it all out on the table, Historically speaking

East of Byzantium : War Gods and Warrior Saints forges yet another  industry standard.   

EoB Creator and Director Roger Kupelian has helmed a breakout look for Series Writer William Marten's concept, which was to get all the historic experts in one room and engaged around one table.  Los Angeles-based historians were joined by colleagues from Italy and New Zealand, many of whom had already been working with Kupelian on his Graphic Novel series. Due to his experience in documentaries and reality television, it was agreed Martens would direct this key segment.

In order to give the assembled experts something to physically interact with during their discussions, Kupelian designed the table and accompanying tabletop pieces to reflect a raw, primal look and reflect key locations, symbols and characters of the epic two-parter.  Please check out IMDB for a list of credits on this project.

Friday, July 11, 2014

You Asked and We Accept: Here is the Wish List.

After 12 years of research and prep, East of Byzantium:War Gods and Warrior Saints is finally underway! We faced our challenges head on, and are moving forward.  Our latest round of filming was in Armenia and the footage looks exciting.  Now we are gearing up for our Los Angeles schedule.

Many of our fans have written us asking if there is anything they can do to help or contribute to the production.  The best way for our amazing supporters to help us at this time would be to assist with certain needs in order to focus our resources on making this special miniseries even more amazing.

So the following is a wish list of things the production could use. Please contact with any questions if you want to help supply the items below, or go to our Indiegogo page if you would rather come on board financially.

Donors will receive screen credit in the show, in whichever department suits your contribution as well as advertisement through our Facebook page if you are providing certain goods.

Our Wish List
  1.     Frequent Flier Mileage Award Tickets to help bring EOB Experts and Scholars to Los Angeles for a Shoot.
  2.     Travel Award Points for Car Rentals
  3.     Unused Gift Cards from Restaurants, Electronics, Home Improvement Supply Stores
  4.     Hotel Point Award Nights for EOB Experts and Scholars
  5.     Catering a meal for our crews on 07/19 - 07/20/2014 (smaller Crew) and then a larger crew on (08/16 through 8/26). Call us for an actual count.  Also Snacks/ Finger foods/ Energy bards/ Bottled Water.
  6.     Red Epic, Red Scarlet, EX-1, EX-3, and 5D Camera Gear for 07/19, 07/20, and 08/16 thru 08/26
  7.     Sound Recording Mixer - up to 6 Mics for Expert Roundtable 07/19 - 07/20
  8.     Lighting Package for  in studio shoot 07/19 - 07/20
  9.     Fabric to Create Costumes (please call and ask)
  10.     Collapsible Blue Screen/ Green Screen (20 ; by 20 ' )  for  08/16 through 08/31
  11.     Portable Hard Drives for Data Storage
  12.     Open Land with Horses (for Shooting Big Cavalry Sequences)
  13.     Trucks, Cube Vans, Cargo Vans (to move people and/or props and costumes)
  14.     Mini-Jib for Expert Roundtable and Exteriors (07/19-20 and 08/16-26)
  15.     Artistic Interns to lend us some time to create amazing props and costumes.