The Darkling Band: Lay on, Macduff ... again

With his latest novel, The Darkling Band, comics writer Jason Henderson returns to the story of Macduff and creates a sort of Western with dark elves

Jason Henderson, one of Austin's most varied writers (and occasional Chronicle contributor), has covered some of the world's most famous characters: Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, Highlander, and Dracula. Now he's returning to Macduff.

Drawing on a rich background of writing for video games, movies, comics, and novels, Henderson has moved to Dallas to head up mobile gaming strategy for Verizon Wireless. But that hasn't stopped him from writing his own work. His latest book, The Darkling Band, came out Oct. 31 from Dragon Moon Press.

Henderson describes it as a sort of Western with dark elves: "It's 13th-century Germany, and the human population is growing and exploding, pushing back the wilderness with towns. And that leads to a problem with all of the elf creatures that no one has ever noticed before. It's a Comanche problem. And if you've got a Comanche problem, you've got The Searchers."

He is quick to note that, at heart, it is still a fantasy – and an elf problem.

The Darkling Band returns to a world Henderson explored in his first book, The Iron Thane, a sort of sequel to Macbeth in which Macduff must redefine his life now that he's outlived his destiny. Fortunately, the German Erlking, based on Goethe's ballad of the same name, and his Darklings have decided to take advantage of Macbeth's death to steal the souls of Scotland's children.

In a return to the Western feel, after a showdown with the Darkling's king, Macduff "has taken complete responsibility for the protection of their race and become a monk who has set up a camp patterned after the Society of Friends camps for the Comanche across Texas and the Southwest. Macduff is fighting for the survival of a race he has essentially doomed."

If Henderson's take on fantasy sounds more educated and contextualized than most genre writing, it's because it is. Between a law degree and a love for scaring up arcanetrivia, Henderson's writing is all about research.

"You have to do the research," he says. "The thing that makes me most angry about pop culture is that it's very poorly thought through. Even if the research doesn't go into the work, the confidence it gives you to know your character does."

But just like Henderson is quick to point out the fantasy elements of his Western-sounding books, he's certain to point out that research only gets you so far.

"I'm one of those writers that loves to have the intellectual background, but I don't want to belabor it. It's great when three sisters come together to talk about their problems, but then something has to blow up."

Watch for the explosions.

The Darkling Band is available at,, or as an e-book from Fictionwise.

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Jason Henderson, The Darkling Band, Dragon Moon Press

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