cover by Dave
Dorman.Since 2009, Pathfinder has been a popular tabletop role-playing game from Paizo Publishing, inspiring multiple subsequent expansions. The latest horizon for the property is a new ongoing comic book series from Dynamite, written by Jim Zubkavich — of Image's Skullkickers — and art from relative newcomer Andrew Huerta. The first issue is out in August, and contains game-centric back-up features like profiles, stats and a map. Newsarama talked with Zubkavich about transitioning from a genre parody like Skullkickers to a more conventional take on fantasy in Pathfinder. Courtesy of Dynamite, we're sharing a five-page preview from the first issue, along with the exclusive reveal of Dave Dorman's cover to #1.
Newsarama: Jim, it's well known that you're a tabletop RPG enthusiast — what's your personal history with Pathfinder, specifically? Is it a game you had a lot of experience with prior to this writing gig?
Jim Zubkavich: It’s true, I’m definitely an old school tabletop gamer. I’ve been playing RPGs since the original classic red box D&D set was given to my brother and I when I was only 8 years old.Pathfinder #1
cover by Erik Jones.I played Pathfinder when it was first released, and read quite a bit of the world material as it was coming out around that time. I’ve always been impressed with the Paizo staff and their ability to balance gameplay elements with strong plot. Getting a chance to develop the main characters of that same world and make it a solid introduction for people who have never experienced Pathfinder before is a real thrill for me.
Nrama: You're best known for Skullkickers, which obviously has some fun with familiar fantasy trappings. With Pathfinder, you're writing a straight example of the genre. What was that transition like for you?Pathfinder #1
cover by Lucio
Parillo.Zubkavich: Although they’re both fantasy-based comics, the style of storytelling is quite different. Skullkickers is a violent send-up of the genre that bulldozes past characterization and goes straight for ridiculous action and banter. Pathfinder is a character ensemble with a much more involved plot and stronger focus on the group and how they grow and change together. It’s a classic approach to fantasy. I’m thoroughly enjoying having both fantasy writing outlets on the go at the same time. Pathfinder #1
cover by Matteo
Scalera.Nrama: Speaking of Skullkickers, what will fans of that book recognize in what you're doing with Pathfinder?
Zubkavich: Just because I’m writing a more head-on fantasy story with Pathfinder, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to have fun with it. The personalities of the Pathfinder cast have been a real joy to develop. Putting them in tough spots and figuring out how they clash makes for some really entertaining scenes, both in terms of action and dialogue. If people like the way I build up scenes or the type of banter I’ve put in to Skullkickers or Street Fighter Legends, they’ll enjoy this too.
Nrama: With a title like this, there's always a balance to be achieved between serving the existing fans of the property, while also keeping the door open so it's accessible to folks coming in cold. Has that been a tough challenge, or is more all part of the fun of a series like this?
Zubkavich: When I pitched my ideas for the comic to Dynamite and Paizo that was one of my absolutes — the comic had to be new reader friendly. When you write the words “issue #1” on the cover, I think that’s a clear message to a buyer that they should start here, plain and simple. I didn’t want to overwhelm them with reams of back story or unnecessary details. My goal was to create an engaging cast and fun adventure people would want to keep reading issue after issue. It was a challenge, but I feel very strongly that it’s the right approach to take with this kind of licensed book. I want to make it an outlet for people to discover what makes Pathfinder so great.The story works within the confines of Golarion, the Pathfinder world, and it will have all kinds of depth and detail for fans of the series as it moves along, but it introduces those elements gradually so new readers aren’t feeling left out.
Nrama: Andrew Huerta is illustrating the series. How has working with him been thus far? What's he bringing to the title that's unique?
Zubkavich: Andrew’s work is a wonderful mix of detailed dynamic art and strong storytelling. His expressions and action are really powerful and jump off the page, but he doesn’t sacrifice clarity in order to achieve that. With each new page he’s handing in, I can see him gaining confidence with his storytelling chops. It’s really exciting working him. I can tell his work is going to get a lot of attention.
Nrama: A cool element of the comic is the RPG elements in the first issue, with profiles, stats and a map. Are you involved in that part of the book at all? And as a gamer, do you think those types of elements are vital in getting folks who play the game to take a look at the comic, or is there a pretty natural crossover there?
Zubkavich: Once the Paizo editorial team approve the outline and scripts they come up with supplemental game material that enriches that comic material. It frees me from having to worry about whether or not the story is “game-ish enough” and keeps me focused on creating the best character-driven fantasy story I can. They’re the game experts so I know they can make it work within the framework of the RPG material. I think it’s a smart move in terms of crossover appeal. Anything you can do to give added value is going to be appreciated by a dedicated fan base like the one that Pathfinder has. It gives people a greater sense of the larger world our story fits in to and deepens the experience. When people like a property they want to experience it from all kinds of different angles — fiction, games, movies, you name it. The most empowering thing about tabletop RPGs is the ability for people to create their own characters and stories using the world that Paizo has created. If the Pathfinder comic inspires people to create their own fantasy tales, I know I’m on the right track. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!