Dark Horse has expanded their video game comic book lineup considerably in the last couple of years. After the success of Mass Effect, and of having the game company (BioWare in this case) included in the process, Dark Horse has since picked up Dragon Age, Tomb Raider, Halo, and many more, including both comic book and art book releases for existing game properties.
So, it's only natural that at New York Comic Con 2013, they'd announce their latest - like others, it's built off an RPG, but unlike others, it will be cast with the main playable character from the series. Teased just prior to the convention, Dark Horse and CD Projekt RED are teaming for an all-new story in the comic book version of The Witcher. Hailing from writer Paul Tobin, the series features Geralt in an all-new adventure that weaves itself into the canon of the games.
For more on the series launch and what to expect, Newsarama spoke exclusively with Tobin, who brought along the first two covers of the series.
Newsarama: Paul, can you please start by telling us how you got involved in this project?
Paul Tobin: I remember editor Daniel Chabon seeing me asleep on a sidewalk down by the train tracks, and rather than callously walking by in the manner of most people, he graciously took the time to read my "Will write comics and/or slay monsters for $$$$" sign that I'd made out of an old issue of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. Soon, he had me signed up on Witcher, as well as taking care of some trouble he was having with an undead Bigfoot... an unfortunately common occurrence here in the Pacific Northwest.
Nrama: That’s a completely believable story and we all accept it as truth.
What's appealing to you about working on properties from other mediums? It's something you've done with TV and movie properties before.
Tobin: I think it can be fascinating working on established characters, whether they're from movies, television, from games or even "classic" comic book characters like Spidey or Batman... I'm still delving into an established world where almost every reader is going to have a preconceived opinion of what's "proper" for that character. When writing, I can play it comfortable and stay within those established guidelines, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that: sometimes a character should just be who they are. But, sometimes, you can expand that box, open up new ideas. And then sometimes you can blow it up, revel in the chaos of an entirely new way of looking at the character. The fun is in choosing which method fits these characters at what time, or mixing the methods together, making a reader think you're doing one thing and then, whoosh – it's another.
Nrama: What's different about working from video games compared to those other mediums? I know you did Plants vs. Zombies, too, but this is a much deeper story-involved game series.
Tobin: Video games are always fun to work on, because so many people have such personal connections, having "been" those characters during gameplay. And, like you say, Witcher is a bit different than my work on Plants vs. Zombies, or Angry Birds, and games of that nature. Witcher has a strong storyline as a base of the game, and an even deeper base in the Andrzej Sapkowski novels. So I had to delve into the feel of not only the characters, but also the greater world. In fact, in many ways, the feel of the world was more important.
Nrama: Let's talk story! When in the Witcher series does this story take place? Is it Geralt starring, or is this being used more to flesh out the world around him?
Tobin: Projekt RED and I made a decision that we definitely did want Geralt as a central character, as THE central character, but we didn't want to tread on the toes of the game's ongoing storyline, especially in light of what may or may not happen in the third game. So, this one is a bit of a free-roaming adventure.
Nrama: How much of this story for The Witcher comic is yours? What's CD Projekt RED's role in the making of the book?
Tobin: The story is almost entirely mine. Projekt RED and I decided on a direction during a meeting, but it was more of a feel... a story type... that they were asking for, rather than establishing any plot points. With that in mind, I came up with a couple possibilities, and then they stepped back and let me do my thing. They've been fabulous to work with, trusting us with Geralt and his world, letting Dark Horse and I do what we do best.
Nrama: I know you're an RPG fan; have you played The Witcher series? Are they giving you any early access to the story from the third game?
Tobin: I've played the Witcher games for sure. They're big favorites of mine. I like the character quite a lot, and it was easy to roam into Geralt's brain, his world, and his abilities.
Nrama: A big part of RPGs is choice, but comics are naturally more linear. How does that present challenges to how you write this story?
Tobin: It's something that was on my mind a bit at the start, but something I ultimately moved to the side. This is a whole different medium, and rather than trying to approximate the strengths of video games, I decided I wanted to focus on the advantages of the comic book medium. That said, choice is really the central part of the story. Geralt has to make a couple tough calls on the nature of friendship, on what it means, and what it should mean, and how that differs for a witcher.
Nrama: Can you give us any teases, something particular you're really excited to do with this comic?
Tobin: Monsters and pretty women. Hard choices. Dark forces. And of course what makes Geralt a powerful character on a personal level is the tension between his humanity and his witcher training... that's where I really wanted to explore... the good man that's one layer beneath the unfeeling witcher. Well, maybe two layers.