• FIENDship is Magic #2—Interview with Christina Rice and Tony Fleecs

    "'Is he friend, or is he foe?' the pony wonders. I can assure you... I am no friend."—Lord Tirek

    He was the first villain in the franchise, way back in 1984 when the My Little Pony Special: Rescue at Midnight Castle first aired. So it made sense to bring him back for the 30th anniversary of that show.

    And what a comeback it was!

    Tirek's going to be the second villain featured in FIENDship is Magic. This past weekend I was fortunate to sit down with Christina Rice and Tony Fleecs—the writer and artist for this issue respectively—and chat about what went into bringing the origin story for this very bad… centaur to life.

    Some of the answers might surprise you.

    Also, be warned for the spoileriffic sneak peeks Tony has released over these past few months are peppered throughout the interview.

    So if you dare to brave the danger that is Tirek, venture forth beyond the break!

    Tony Fleecs: We've prepared for exciting questions. You think you got good stuff today?

    Well I've got 5 questions prepared for you two. Not as in-depth as what I did with you earlier, Tony, but right now I just want to focus strictly on Tirek.

    TF: Do you say Tirek?

    Yes. Lord 'Tie-rek' or Lord 'Teer-rek.'

    TF: I say 'Teer-rek.'

    Christina Rice: I say 'Teer-rek.' You say 'Tie-rek?'

    TF: I say 'Teer-rek.'

    CR: I say 'Teer-rek.'

    TF: Yeah. Not like T-apostrophe-rek.

    CR: Yeah.

    TF: I say 'Teer-rek.'

    Tirek. heheheh

    TF: It's okay if you say Tirek, Q. It's not weird. What did they say on the show? Tirek, right?

    (laugher) Well, which show?

    TF: The guy's only been around since 1985 or something, right?


    TF: Ah right! (laughter)

    So yeah, I'm not going to be asking for any spoilers about the issue. It's just going to be your thought processes and what you're actually thinking about when you approached this issue.

    TF: I have a feeling that stuff will probably come out, but nothing that's going to ruin anything.

    Yeah. If anything—

    CR: I'll throw pillows at you, Tony! If you start …

    TF: If you want me to shut up.

    CR: Yes. That will be your cue, when a pillow goes flying …

    TF: If you hear a hilarious pillow fight, that means—

    CR: That means Tony's said too much! (laughter)

    (laughter) Yeah! Well, if anything does end up getting leaked by accident, I'll just put in a "[REDACTED]" in the interview, like I did with Jeremy [Whitley]'s and Brenda [Hickey]'s interview for Sombra.

    TF: Well, you know we killed Celestia, right? That's been released.

    CR: Yeah. And Mayor Mare! We just wanted to break Bobby [Curnow]'s heart, so we killed Mayor Mare.

    Aw, dang it! That's just before his issue comes out too. tsktskstk

    CR: (laughter)

    All right. So, first question: when and how were you both approached to work on Tirek's issue of Friendship is Magic?

    CR: Bobby had told me really early on, I think in the Fall, that there was going to be some sort of event in April, because it was a 5-week month. So I figured, because he was telling me about it—he wouldn't give any details about it—I was going to be asked to participate. Which I was really surprised and really happy about. When he finally told me that it was going to be villain origins, he also told me that, because I'm kind of the low writer on the totem pole, that everybody else was going to get their pick and then I'd get whatever is left over. And again, I'm totally fine, because I'm just happy to be part of the team.

    The point that he told me about it, Sombra, Tirek and Nightmare Moon were still up for grabs, and of those I absolutely did not want Nightmare Moon. Simply because I couldn't think of what I would do with her. So I actually really wanted Tirek of the three, and when it came back that he was the one left over, I was totally happy to grab him.

    TF: Yeah, it was pretty much the same deal. I was working on the Equestria Girls Holiday Special at the time—usually I'll be in the middle of working on something when Bobby will start to feel around to see if I've got room in my schedule, or what I want to do next—and he told me about this. At the time there were a few books that I could choose from, and I decided to work with Christina because we're friends, and I had such a good time working with her on the Granny and Flim Flam Brothers issue of Friends Forever.

    CR: Although you actually texted me to make sure there would not be any double-page spreads with 100 ponies!


    CR: We did verify that. (laughter)

    TF: Just so we're clear.

    That's still an impressive spread.

    TF: Once I made sure Christina was going to make me draw the least panels per page. Equestria Girls was forty-eight pages long and I knew I was going to be tired, so Christina promised she would take it easy on me. Actually it didn't end up being that much easier. It was different, and it was difficult in its own way. But it was super fun to draw, so I'm glad I ended up on that one.

    Sweet! So, what do you find when it comes to working with a villain, in this case Tirek, as the protagonist of the story that's different than working with a hero like Granny Smith or Fluttershy?

    CR: I don't know if "hero" is the right word. He's the one moving the story forward. I think the hardest thing with him, or with the issue, is that it's definitely dark. He's a really vicious fellow, but some of the early ideas I had—at one point I had him killing a unicorn—I thought, 'Wait, isn't this actually a kid's comic?' So I really needed to reel it back. So trying not to make it too dark, yet still be appropriate to his character was definitely different than writing the ponies who are clearly much lighter.

    TF: Well, pony stories are like morality tales. They're all sort of like, 'Here's a problem. The ponies go through this. They learn this lesson.' It's sort of like the same thing with Tirek, only instead of learning a good lesson, he learns a bad lesson. It's sort of like the opposite of writing for ponies, and that it's still going in the same direction, but the thing he's learning is the wrong thing instead of the right thing.

    CR: Yeah. He does not learn that friendship is magic. I'm going to give that away right now! (laughter)

    Gee, I never would have guessed. (laughter) Can I assume that you approach things differently with the arc, Tony, or is it still more of your top-notch art that we see all the time?

    TF: I would say it's top-notch, absolutely.

    CR: It is top-notch. It's absolutely top-notch!

    TF: I guess I approached it in a different way, sort of. Because this is an origin of Tirek story, it takes place around no ponies. It takes place in a far off land. So there's a lot of designing to be done as far as:

    • where does he live, 
    • what does his family look like, 
    • what does the guard look like in the kingdom where Tirek comes from, 

    so I got to make up all kinds of new stuff. But then I also took it upon myself to do my version of a 1970s fantasy comic. When I do ponies, I'm doing my version of "My Little Pony," and this was me getting to do my version of something else entirely while still keeping it in 'My Pony' style, and while drawing a Tirek which you can tell is Tirek but doesn't look like the Tirek you've seen.

    It was a lot more to think about than a regular issue of 'Pony' where everybody is already designed for you, and maybe there's one new character, but it's going to just be a pony, so then you're just dealing with like a cutie mark and a hairstyle, and maybe they're wearing glasses or something. With all of the Tirek ... Like Tirek's people. Scorpan's in there. So just coming up with what they look like when they're younger. Yeah, there's a lot more to think about.

    Very cool, very cool!

    TF: I did a lot more rendering. There's a lot more of cross-hatching and detail work in the inks, just because I could make it look different. Heather [Breckel] did the same thing with her colors. She colored it in a completely different palette than what she's ever done on the regular issues of My Little Pony, or the micro-series, or Friends Forever.

    CR: And it looks amazing!

    TF: Yeah, it's pretty cool.

    CR: It really looks amazing.

    I'm looking forward to seeing it. Heather and I actually talked about that briefly when I interviewed her about the different styles that she experimented with on the Sombra and Tirek issues...

    TF: Yeah, I read that. I keep up with your work, Q!

    CR: Yeah, I read it too!

    TF: (laughter)


    CR: We do. We're lurking! (laughter)

    TF: Yeah!

    CR: We're always lurking. One of my concerns with the issue is because, in the land that they live in at least—you know, as it's kind of implied in that episode in season 4—it's kind of a barren landscape, and it is. That's absolutely how it's portrayed, and I was concerned that it would come off looking uninteresting and boring. It's not. It looks awesome and it's gorgeous. It's actually gorgeous.

    TF: I told Heather ... When I send her over on my line, or I usually send her an email, that it could be as simple as, 'Go ahead and do this type of thing if you feel like it. Or if you have a better idea, do whatever you want.' Or on the Nightmare Moon issue, I sent her a big, long email like, 'here's all the very specific things that I think we need to do.' But with this one, I was just like, 'this will take place on a land that we've never seen before except for in the storybook pages in Season 4. So you can do whatever you want. If you want the sky to be green, the sky can be green. If you want the land to be purple, it can be purple.' She took that and ran with it and did really interesting, cool stuff.

    CR: That's amazing.

    I think you probably just got a lot of people excited for this issue just for that.

    CR: I hope so. I hope they're excited!

    Well, at the very least I am! 

    So, while Tirek was featured heavily in the season 4 finale, as most Bronies should know by now, he first appeared in the franchise in the 1984 My Little Pony special, Rescue at Midnight Castle. How much of an impact, if any, did that special have on this story?

    TF: Well, Christina didn't even watch it.

    CR: (laughter) I've never seen it!

    TF: I watched it, so I incorporated a lot of the stuff into the designs from Rescue at Midnight Castle. I did not include any of the pony stuff or whatever that ... What was that guy, like a troll? Or an elf? I don't know. There was a very annoying elf character that lost his car keys or something.

    Voiced by Tony Randall.

    TF: Right! (laughter)

    CR: Wow! How'd I miss this?

    TF: Star-studded!

    CR: Wow.

    TF: But yeah, there's some stuff in young Tirek's design that's taken from that Tirek to bridge the gap a little bit between those two. Then the castle where he lives, it's my take on what Midnight Castle looks like. So yeah, I took some influence from it, but it's not like I was trying to make it fit exactly into the Friendship is Magic universe, but I thought it would be nice to bring at least a little bit of it over.

    CR: I apparently didn't, because I've never seen it. I was aware that Tirek was in it, but I didn't go further than that. I don't think I wanted it to influence the story that I was writing, because as soon as I found out I was going to write his origin, I had a story that immediately came to me. So I didn't want outside influence.

    TF: Very artistic.

    CR: That's why I didn't watch it. (laughter)

    TF: (laughter)


    CR: I hope it's not held against me that ... I don't know, should I have watched it? I'm very sensitive now, Tony, that you brought it up.

    TF: You've seen it, Q. It doesn't count, right? It's not important.

    Yeah, it's not important at all.

    CR: It's not like people are going to come to this issue expecting there to be--

    TF: Midnight Castle.

    No. They're not going to come to this issue expecting it to be Midnight Castle.

    CR: You've covered it, Tony, so hopefully they're not going to hold it against me. (laughter)

    TF: Wasn't Scorpan a man that was turned into Scorpan?

    In the original? Yes.

    TF: So, it's all crazy.

    CR: Okay.

    It's crazy. It's dark. Seriously, if you ever watch the first 5 minutes of the special, you're going to go like, 'This is My Little Pony?'

    TF: Yeah!

    CR: You might think that reading this issue of the book though! (laughter)

    TF: That's true. This book will have a big, pink My Little Pony logo on the cover. And there's one pony in it. I don't know what kids are going to think.

    I think that older fans will definitely be able to dig it and see what's going on, but if a dad goes and just buys the newest issue of My Little Pony for his kid, they're going to be like, 'What is going on here?'

    CR: I think my own daughter is not going to be all that taken with it. (laughter)

    (laughter) So, if the opportunity were to present itself for another story with Tirek, would you both be willing to return?

    CR: Yes.

    TF: Yeah, absolutely!

    CR: Absolutely.

    TF: I would love to build on the designs and the world that we created. It would be cool to, like ... This takes place far enough back. I would say this takes place ... I don't know how Tirek ages, but in the book he's a teenager, right?

    CR: Yeah. An adolescent.

    TF: And so, to be able to do what the 25-year-old Tirek was like, at the peak of his powers before he got thrown into ... What'd he get thrown into? Hades?


    TF: Right! I get all of my mythology mixed up. But yeah, it would be cool to jump back in and revisit those characters.

    CR: Yeah, I like him. He's a son of a bitch. I would love to revisit him.

    TF: Yeah. He does not learn a thing.

    CR: No, he does not! (laughter) And he's not misunderstood! (laughter)

    TF: Everybody's looking out for him and he does not care at all.

    This is going to be such a fun comic. I can already tell.

    TF: I hope you like it!

    CR: My mom is going to be totally thrilled that I drew upon my own personal relationship with my older brother with this comic. My brother—

    TF: So you're the Scorpan in the relationship?

    CR: Oh, I'm Scorpan. I'm definitely the Scorpan in this relationship! (laughter)

    TF: (laughter)

    (laughter) This is going to be great!

    TF: Yeah, I can't wait for them to come out for people to see. It's going to be nice that they all come out in that one month.

    CR: Oh, yeah, and not have it be drawn out—

    TF: Drawn out for half a year.

    CR: Yeah, definitely.

    (laughter) Well, that's everything I had for you two.

    CR: Okay. (laughter)

    TF: Thanks, man.

    CR: Yeah, we appreciate it.

    Thank you both for very much for taking the time out of your schedule for this. It was a joy, as always, to chat with people in the comic book industry who I greatly admire.

    TF: Thanks, man.

    CR: Thank you.

    No, Thank you!

    TF: Thanks, man. We'll talk to you later.

    CR: Take care.


    CR: Bye.