For writing partners Don Handfield and Joshua Malkin, the graphic novel Unikorn was a chance to dive into the kinds of stories they loved as kids. Stories of overcoming loss, discovering secret worlds and growing up.
The 200-page graphic novel centers on Mae Everhart, a 12-year-old who inherits a horse with a nub in the center of his forehead, which leads her to believe the horse might be a unicorn with a broken horn. Soon, Mae realizes the horse has been kept hidden away in order to keep him from those who would harm him, and she embarks on a mission to find his horn to prove he really is magical.
“This book thematically sprang from both of our families experiencing the loss of parents and grandparents, so we sometimes just found ourselves talking about dealing with grief as both a child and a parent,” says Handfield, the co-creator of History Channel’s Knightfall. “It was new territory for us and we wanted to write about it in a way that was realistic emotionally but hopeful.”
The duo took inspiration from books like Charlotte’s Web and Watership Down as well as the works of filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, John G. Avildsen and Richard Donner.
The graphic novel is already in the works as a film, which is slated to be the directorial debut of Debbie Berman, the film editor whose work includes Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Handfield Malkin are penning the script for Armory Films.
“We started writing the screenplay after we had finished the graphic novel script, but because the art takes so much time to create, we found the screenplay did inform the graphic novel and the art then informed rewrites on the screenplay,” says Malkin.
While developing the film, Berman also gave input on the screenplay that in turn seeped back into the graphic novel.
“Our conversations with her that led to improvements in the screenplay often would find their way back into the graphic novel and vice versa,” says Handfield.
The book boasts art from Rafae Loureiro, who once worked as an architect in Brazil.
Notes Malkin: “Because of his technical background his range is so broad — he can do a Da Vinci-esque technical drawing of a horse or do graphic novel pages with equal artistry.”
Unikorn is available now from Scout Comics’ Scoot! Imprint and is distributed by Simon & Schuster.