Once & Future's Kieron Gillen Talks Arthurian Legends, Bridgette's Past, and Teases What's To Come

Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora's much anticipated Once & Future #1 has finally hit store shelves, and fans are already falling in love with the world and its delightful cast of characters. That includes the main two leads Gran (Bridgette) and Duncan, her grandson, who find themselves at the center of a prophecy that seems to involve the legendary King Arthur, though we also learn that not everything is as it initially seems. ComicBook.com had the chance to speak with Gillen all about the new series, and if you haven't read the issue yet, just know there are some spoilers here, so only read if you've had a chance to check out the full issue. You can also check out our spoiler-free review right here.

First and foremost we had to talk a bit about Bridgette, who is already one of my favorite new characters of 2019. She's simply a delight and has a serious kick-ass Golden Girls Sophia vibe. It seems Gillen would very much agree with this.

"I live in a house where the Golden Girls are worshipped as modern Saints," Gillen said. "I am very pro this kind of comparison."

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(Photo: BOOM! Studios)

As for who exactly inspired her, she's a bit of a mix, but part of the character does come from Gillen's own family tree. "While I had the core mythical idea for Once & Future a long time ago, in terms of what I wanted to do with the mythos, it was only when BOOM! said Dan was interested in doing a book with me that I did the heavy lifting on 'Okay – I want this to be a fun adventurer comic. Who are our adventurers? Why are they interesting – to me, and anyone else?'"

"Then it struck me: there’s not exactly many grandmother/grandson stories in fiction, especially genre fiction, especially like this," Gillen said. "Which got me thinking about my own life, and the gran who lived around the corner to me when I was growing up. She was a fascinating prickly human being, and I thought doing something which explored those energies with a lot of fictional twists could be fun. There’s various elements I’ve lifted (Irish, came over very young) and a lot I’ve changed (she was deeply superstitious, has never murdered vampires). As far as I know anyway. When I had that core, the rest snowballed from there. She instantly had a voice. She was instantly a force of nature."

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(Photo: BOOM! Studios)

Fans quickly learn that there's much more to Bridgette than it initially appears, and Duncan is just as surprised as the reader. We learn that Bridgette's actually a monster hunter, and it appears her job isn't finished. As she gets Duncan up to speed, we hear a few promising things from her past adventures, so we had to ask if we'll get to dive back in time and see some of those adventures play out.

"Not in this first arc," Gillen said. "The things that struck me when pulling this together is how much other stuff we can do, which is great – both in terms of Bridgette’s past as a monster hunter and the mythology generally. I suspect I’d hold off on showing Bridgette’s adventures for a while though – I haven’t quite unpacked it entirely, but I think having an older character and then immediately spending significant time with her younger adventurer creates the idea of “we should be more interested in her past than her present.” That’s kind of in the mix anyway – 'Once' in the title applies to her as much as Arthur – but I don’t think we need to dive in. However, her past is right at the heart of the book."

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(Photo: BOOM! Studios)

Enough can't be said for Mora's work on the book, especially when a rather massive Questing Beast shows up to ruin Duncan's day, but that's far from the only surprising visual Mora will deliver in the series.

"Dan is going to surprise people on every page," Gillen said. "The Questing Beast is one of those relatively deep cuts – I say, relatively. Anyone who digs Arthurian stuff at all will likely know it, but it’s not something everyone instantly knows like – say – The Sword in the Stone or Lancelot or similar."

Gillen even teased something coming in a future issue. "In terms of things which have popped up so far? I think his Ladies of the Lake are interesting," Gillen said. "Note the plural then. There was never just one."

The legends of King Arthur and all the myths that surround him have been mined countless times, but Once & Future finds a fresh avenue to explore those legends by not making certain assumptions about Arthur and his motives.

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(Photo: BOOM! Studios)

"At least in my research I couldn’t find a story which actively leaned into the possibility of Arthur Not As Hero," Gillen said. "As someone who has always looked at the boundary between patriotism and nationalism with suspicion, an active interrogation of the national myths and how they’ve changed across time and what they say about ourselves. That’s what appealed to me when I had the idea years ago – you can see it in stories like THE MANCHESTER GODS over in Journey into Mystery. Clearly, in modern Britain, that’s only become more acute. This isn’t a serious treatise about Brexit or anything, but it’d be disingenuous to say it wasn’t a book which gained urgency with Brexit."

As for what he's enjoyed most about the series thus far, you need look no further than Bridgette.

"Bridgette is just it," Gillen said. "From the first line I wrote, she was just there. That line is in the first issue, and it’s where Duncan and her have a chat about Vampires. Any time I’m writing her, she’s barging in, both feet first. As someone who grew up with characters like Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax, I can see that I’m getting in touch with that."

While the book definitely draws from Arthur's legend, the most surprising part of the first issues the absence of certain hallmarks of those stories.

"The biggest surprise really came when I was plotting these six issues," Gillens said. "I realized exactly how much of the classic Arthurian stuff that isn’t going to be part of the story. No Lancelot. No Guinevere. Hell, no Merlin even. I just didn’t need them to tell the story, as much as I would love to dance with them. Of course, this does mean we have much more to play with in the future. I’m excited."

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Once & Future #1 is in comic stores now.

What did you think of the issue? Let us know in the comments and hit me up on Twitter @MattAguilarCB for all things comics!

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