BEYOND THE PANELS: A Behind the Scenes Look at the 5 Worlds Series

The 5 Worlds graphic novel series is one of our absolute favorite fantasy reads. From the beautiful landscapes and huge worlds to the complex characters tasked with saving the world, it’s easy to get lost for hours within the pages of these books.

5 Worlds: The Red Maze hits shelves today from Random House, and the creative team is celebrating by giving YOU an extra special treat. Go beyond the panels of the 5 Worlds series and discover how the writers and artists bring this thrilling series of graphic novels to life! They’ve shared insight into their characters, their creative process, and even animation tests.

5 Fun Facts about 5 Worlds

R. J. Palacio, #1 New York Times bestselling author of WONDER, hails this adventure series as “Mind-blowingly beautiful. . . . A must-read.”

Think Star Wars meets Avatar: The Last Airbender!

In book 3, Oona Lee is determined to light Moon Yatta’s beacon and continue her quest to save the galaxy. But reaching the red beacon means navigating an impossible maze of pipes and facing devious enemies at every turn. Luckily, her friend Jax Amboy has returned from his adventures transformed! Now he must confront the owner of his former starball team, a ruthless businessman who will stop at nothing to get his best player back on the field . . . and who can grant them access to the beacon. Meanwhile, Oona and An Tzu find a mysterious rebel leader and release a surprising power within Oona’s magic. Will they make it in time to stop the evil force seeking to rule the 5 Worlds?

5 Worlds: The Red Maze
AUTHOR: Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel
ILLUSTRATORS: Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun
PUBLISHER: Random House Books for Young Readers
DATE: May 7, 2019

Author Mark Siegel Shares 5 Fun Facts About the 5 Worlds Series:

5 Fun Facts about 5 Worlds
(5 Worlds authors on a creative call)

5 WORLDS is a team project. There are FIVE OF US creating this graphic novel series together. There are also FIVE BOOKS in this story. What is that called? A pentalogy? A quintet?

Each book is 250 pages, in full color. And each new volume comes out in — guess which month? That’s right! The FIFTH month — May. This May 2019, we’re proudly releasing Book Three: THE RED MAZE.

That’s a lot of work, at a breakneck rhythm, even for a ten-handed team. Just to make matters more complicated, we’re spread out across many time zones: I’m in New York. Alexis is in Geneva. Matt is in Portland. Xanthe and Boya are both in Los Angeles, so we have many video calls together, to check in and work together.

5 Fun Facts about 5 Worlds
(Animation Test by Siena Mae Allison)

The 5 Worlds series starts out on a planet called Mon Domani. It’s the Mother World, and the other four worlds are its moons. On Mon Domani is an ancient school known as THE SAND CASTLE. In this Sand Castle, people train in the magical art of SAND DANCING.

Oona Lee, our heroine, is one of these sand dancers. As the story begins, she’s also one of the worse, clumsiest sand dancers in the entire Sand Castle. Her older sister was always considered the talented one. Naturally, when destiny calls for a Sand Dancer to save the 5 Worlds from a growing crisis, Oona assumes her sister will be the one to rise to the occasion.

But destiny may have other plans.

5 Fun Facts about 5 Worlds
(Animation Test by Daisy Wang)

While Sand Dancers train high up in their Sand Castle, surrounded in beauty and luxury, down below a sprawling slum is home to An Tzu. He’s a half-sap, meaning he’s part human and part plant, and he’s street wise when it comes to contraband food and water canisters. An Tzu is much more than meets the eye. His origins will continue to reveal themselves later, and perhaps shed light on the mysterious VANISHING ILLNESS that afflicts him.

An Tzu is also a die-hard fan of STARBALL —the beloved sport on all five worlds. He worships one Starball player above all: the superstar JAX AMBOY.

5 Fun Facts about 5 Worlds
(Animation Test by Kami Aeropagita)

JAX AMBOY is beloved everywhere. His amazing triple-vault maneuver has won many a Starball championship.

But Jax may be . . . a little too perfect. And perhaps his secret will explain why he has no friends.

At the start of 5 Worlds 1: THE SAND WARRIOR, Oona, An Tzu, and Jax are thrown together by the outbreak of war—and team up to save the worlds, by lighting the five ancient beacons, left behind by an ancient race of feline beings—the so-called FELID GODS.

5 Fun Facts about 5 Worlds

How we work (with some cool time-lapse movies that make it look really fast):

Step 1: While Alexis and I are SCRIPTING each book, Matt, Boya, and Xanthe work up final CHARACTER and WORLD designs.

Step 2: Once our editor Chelsea gives us her script notes, I turn the script pages into THUMBNAILS. That’s like a storyboard, and gives the artist team a starter idea about staging, acting, and composing the comics pages.

Step 3: Matt, Boya, Xanthe split up the scenes among themselves, and each tackle PENCILING the pages out so they look readable, and often quite detailed. Alexis and I, and Chelsea then give any notes or comments for things to fix or change.

Step 4: Matt then goes to INKING. It’s not *exactly* inking, since all the final pages are made on Cintiq digital tablets — but it is the LINEWORK for the entire book. Matt unifies the slight differences in style which are apparent at the pencil stage.

Step 5: Xanthe then designs the key COLOR. 5 Worlds has complex and unusual color palettes! Each world has its own light, its own geography, and its unique cultures and fashions. Plus every scene has its mood and its color styling. Boya joins in here, too for a final clean up, throughout. Then Xanthe goes over the whole thing for final touches, like painted sound effects. And these are the finished pages, which I’ve been laying out in a program called InDesign, with words in the balloons and caption boxes. That’s what Random House sends to the printer, to produce the finished books.

The 5 Worlds creative team were kind enough to share a few extra images, illustrations, and goodies for YAYOMG! readers. Check out the gallery below.

5 Worlds Fun Facts

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The 5 Worlds Creative Team

Love getting lost in incredible fantasy worlds? We think you’ll love The Door at the End of the World by Caroline Carlson!

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