The Mortal Kombat franchise is a shade over two decades old now, spawning a pair of movies, an animated series, live-action series, a comic book, and several sequels and off-shoots along the way. The Mortal Kombat characters themselves have been featured recently in DC video games and even were at ends with DC characters a few years back with the game, DC vs Mortal Kombat. Their relationship didn’t stop there: NetherRealm made a game called Injustice: Gods Among Us featuring DC hereos, which DC turned around and made into a digital-first comic, which has been an international superhit.
Sunday at the DC Digital panel at New York Comic Con, DC announced a new wave of digital comics featuring a comic based in the Mortal Kombat universe – specifically centered around the new game debuting in 2015, simply called Mortal Kombat X. Newsarama spoke with series writer Shawn Kittelsen about the series as a whole, what it has to offer to Mortal Kombat fans, his excitement as a fan to have the chance to take the reigns, and some aspects that were never explored until now.
Newsarama: Shawn, tell us a little bit about the relationship between DC and the Mortal Kombat universe here?
Shawn Kittelsen: Yeah, so there's been 25 years between the 2011 Mortal Kombat game and Mortal Kombat X which comes out next year. In those 25 years a lot of stuff happens that isn't covered in the games. There's a lot of stuff implied and so much detail in the games now that I have this fertile ground to grab all the details I wanted and the things I loved about the franchise growing up. So now the world takes on a whole new life and the world is very real for me. So NetherRealm and DC have been very supportive of helping us tell the best story. At one point I actually asked if there were any secret files or stories that you guys wanted to tell and they said "yeah, there is some stuff, but we just want to see what you guys bring to it". Dexter and I are getting this oppurtunity to introduce a lot of new elements and to pay off a lot of elements, too.
Nrama: How are you approaching the story here? Is it fantasy, is it super-hero action, or something inbetween that Venn Diagram?
Kittelsen: It's actually a lot of things! There's so many characters, and the first year alone I'm drawing from characters throughout the franchise history, even ones that might not appear in MKX. So, I guess it's been a lot to plot out and keep track of but we're trying to give each character their own area of the worlds we focus on, give them their own flavor, and find out what happens when those worlds collide. Cassie Cage's story is very different from Scorpion's, so their stories have to have different tones and vibes. Mortal Kombat sort of has this East meets West philosophy with so much of the lore based in Easterny mythology, but also you have guys like Johnny Cage showing up and you have that collision of things. It's a variety of tones.
Nrama: It sounds like you had Carte Blanche here...
Kittelsen: I did! I really did! [laughs]
Nrama: So who was a character you just wanted to dive into with their story?
Kittelsen: Definitely Scorpion! Kotal Khan was another one that I felt, as a new character, there was a lot to set him up and he's so cool! I can't wait for everybody to see him and the different ways power is wielded in Outworld. There's a "Game of Thrones" thing going on in Outworld and I can take all these characters I love and throw them at Kotal Khan find out what happens. It's an emotional story just as its an action story. Fighting, Fatalities, blood and then let's talk and find out who these people are and why they have beef with one another. I always have this thing where I say "where's the beef" before I begin a new chapter.
Nrama: Who was your go-to character playing the game as a kid?
Kittelsen: My go-to was Sub-Zero from MK3.
Nrama: Mine was Shiva.
Kittelsen: Oh, really? Awesome! Maybe Shiva shows up in the book, too. That's the wonderful thing about the book, there's so many characters. Even possibly some of the more forgotten ones from Deadly Alliance or Armaggedon. I'm so excited to be able to work with those. Like you said, you have this favorite character and there's this combo that's like high-punch, high-punch, low-punch, low-punch, low-kick or something, I can do it with my thumb right now, it's all muscle memory. I'm looking forward to write that combo and it's like there's these five micro panels and then BAM! splash page, he kicks him across the page. Moments like this are extremely rewarding to me.
Nrama: You're working with Dexter Soy on this, what's the collaboration like and why do you think his style fits perfectly in the Mortal Kombat universe?
Kittelsen: Boy, isn't he great? When you look at his work on Captain Marvel and Justice League Beyond, he keeps switching up his style that, to me, is still uniquely his. What you're going to see from him here, is that it's super authentic to a fighting or martial arts book, but that is also polished. So he's really coming into his own and what I've seen so far from him knocked my socks off. It's going to be a big book for him.
Nrama: Is the level of over-the-top violence still displayed? I mean, are you going to have spines ripped out or anything like that?
Kittelsen: Uh, without spoiling anything [laughs], I'm going to be told to back off or to keep punching through faces. But again, it's not all Fatalities, but you have these character moments, as well. Though, I will say I sent in some pages and the notes my editor left was just "f--k yeah."
Nrama: What are you hoping that Mortal Kombat fans, old as well as new, get out of this book?
Kittelsen: I hope they look to this book that it was something made by fellow fans. I got a really incredible opportunity to tell some amazing stories they have never seen before. It's been a while since there's been an ongoing MK series, I think the last one was the Malibu in the 90's and as the games as evolved, comics hasn't had the chance to tell this type of story just yet. This is the Mortal Kombat comic fans deserve.