Doug Wheatley talks illustrating George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood

Image: Barnes and Noble
Image: Barnes and Noble /

Illustrator Doug Wheatley recently sat down with the folks from to discuss what went into illustrating George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, his upcoming volume of Targaryen history. Before Disney acquired Lucasfilm and gave the comic rights to Marvel, Wheatley was known for illustrating Star Wars comics for Dark Horse, and also provided several illustrations for The World of Ice and Fire book. HIs work checks out.


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Wheatley, who is largely self-taught, remembered getting his break as a professional illustrator on Marvel’s Blade the Vampire Hunter. “I gained a lot of experience on that book over the year that I was illustrating it,” he said. “I believe this experience gave me the tools that I needed to continue on as an illustrator.”

The artist was “a huge fan of the books and the HBO series” before he started illustrating Westeros, but his familiarity didn’t help much when it came to deciding which scenes from the voluminous Fire & Blood to illustrate. “I read the manuscript once, just to enjoy and get a feel for the overall tone of George’s work in this book,” he explained. “On the second read, I broke the manuscript down to ten page segments with the idea that we would choose one scene to illustrate per segment. I chose two scenes per segment (a first and second choice if you will).”

"I was completely overwhelmed with all of the “inspiring” images. The book was so rich with characters and story, it was hard to know where to start. I realized that I had to approach my “wish list” from the point of what was the most important image in that ten page segment. It wasn’t always the one I wanted to draw the most, but the one I felt was the most complimentary to the story George was telling. One of many images that I recall grabbing me was the second wedding of Jaehaerys and Alysanne at King’s Landing. I remember reading that scene and just thinking this is an absolute must. I sent them in and crossed my fingers."

That’s Jaehaerys and Alysanne above, in their younger days. Jaehaerys was the longest-reigning Targaryen monarch, and Alysanne his sister-wife, because they did that sort of thing back then. George R.R. Martin talked a little about this pair for Targaryen Appreciation Month, which is now:

“There’s was a great romance, if you’ll accept that an incestuous relationship can be a great romance.” Look at the kind of judgments you’re forcing us to make, Martin.

Although Wheatley got to choose a lot of what he illustrated, Martin did have some suggestions. For instance, the author wanted a portrait of Archmaester Gyldayn, the man who “wrote” the book. The only caveat was that Gyldayn not resemble him. “The funny thing about these notes, I misread them the first time,” Wheatley recalled. “I thought I read that George wanted Gyldayn to look like him, I got so excited about drawing George’s portrait I was jumping around my studio whooping and hollering. After I calmed down and read the directions again, I was like….oh, he shouldn’t look like George….right, of course.”

What do you think? Did Martin creep in anyway?

Martin also had notes about how to draw Aegon the Conqueror’s son, Aenys I, who was so very different from his father and half-brother Maegor the Cruel.

"As I understood George’s description of the character, Aenys seemed to be more of a “benefactor” than an “Heir”. He used all of the resources left by his father to explore his interests and improve himself. His characteristics included wanting to please everyone and being indecisive. I thought to approach these attributes through his pose, one hand up, one hand down, one hand open, one closed. Sadness in his eyes, a smile on his lips, at the same time I made an effort to make him seem charming and approachable."

Speaking of Aegon, he was the only figure Wheatley had much difficulty illustrating. “I am deeply inspired by [Martin’s] writing and a huge fan of the work; and like anyone given this kind of opportunity, you want to make the editors and the author happy,” he said.
So for me, it was the first illustration that I needed to get through and that was King Aegon I on Balerion the Black Dread.

As far as we can tell, Doug Wheatley knocked this project out of the park. Fire & Blood will be released on November 20.

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