Writer Chris Roberson & ELRIC on FCBD
There's chaos. There's order. And then there's Elric.Created by legendary writer Michael Moorcock, Elric has had a long and storied history in both prose and comics -- a history that Chris Roberson, Francesco Biagini and BOOM! Studios are taking to the next level starting on Free Comic Book Day with Elric: The Balance Lost. With our chalk-skinned hero needing all the help he can get from a threat against the entire multiverse, we caught up with Roberson to discuss the appeal of the character, how Moorcock's other heroes come into play, and to give readers a crash-course on the cosmology of order versus chaos. Newsarama: Chris, just to start us off, what drew you to Elric as a project? He's definitely a character with a long history -- was there any point of any of these runs that stood out to you as a reader? Chris Roberson: This series had its genesis at the 2009 San Diego Comic Convention, when during a very late night conversation Matt Gagnon of BOOM! Studios and I discovered our mutual love for the novels of Michael Moorcock. A few months later Matt approached me about writing a prequel comic to Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and he and the rest of the team at BOOM! liked what I came up with. Early in 2010, Matt called me up to ask whether I thought Moorcock might be interested in the idea of original comics based on his characters and concepts. I've been lucky enough to get to know Mike personally over the last few years, thanks in large part to our geographic proximity (I live in Austin, not far from the Bastrop home where Mike spends a large part of every year). I said that it couldn't hurt to ask! So I emailed Mike, put him in touch with Matt and the folks at BOOM!, and a short while later they asked me to start putting together a proposal. I have been a HUGE fan of Mike's work since I first discovered a copy of Count Brass in my high school library, a quarter of a century ago. Every few years I go on a big Moorcock reading jag, and it's only been a couple of years since I sat down and reread virtually EVERYTHING that Mike has ever published. Nrama: For those who aren't familiar with Elric as a character, can you tell us a little bit about his temperament, and his rule of Melniboné? If you were selling Elric to someone unfamiliar with his world, what about the character resonates with people? Roberson: Elric, the last emperor of Melniboné, is doomed to carry the cursed sword Stormbringer, and even though the black blade gives him life and sustenance, it comes at the cost of blood and souls, including those who Elric cherishes most. Elric is just one incarnation of the Eternal Champion, a hero who is fated to serve the Balance in the many worlds of the Multiverse, sometimes fighting on the side of Law, sometimes on the side of Chaos. Nrama: There always seems to be this recurring theme with Elric's vampiric sword, Stormbringer. You've always been known for your rule-based world-building, and I was curious what the "rules" of magic might be in your series? Roberson: One of the key aspects of Moorcock's cosmology is the notion of an eternal struggle between Law and Chaos. In the more fantastical settings, this plays out as a literal war between supernatural powers on either side, with gods, demons, and demiurges directing the movement of human agents like chess pieces moving across the board. But in the more mundane settings, stories set in what is effectively the “real” world, this same tension between Law and Chaos plays out, but more often as philosophical tendencies that push characters one way or the other. But readers should note that “Law and Chaos” are not simply synonyms for “Good and Evil.” There is not a moral component to that struggle, at least not in any objective sense. Law and Chaos are simply two different ways of approaching the universe, and the heroes in Moorcock's novels can often find themselves fighting on one side or the other, and sometimes both or neither! Nrama: Michael Moorcock is a pioneer of a writer, and one of his many contributions has been the multiverse. Does the multiverse come into play in this story of Elric? If so, what does our hero have to do in these parallel worlds? Roberson: In Elric: The Balance Lost, Elric is one of several incarnations of the Eternal Champion who become involved in a war that spans worlds, as powerful forces attempt to upset the balance of Law and Chaos forever. Elric: The Balance Lost actually takes place across a series of different worlds, some of which will be familiar from the Eternal Champion stories, some of which are drawn from other novels and stories of Moorcock, and some of which are being seen here for the first time. In essence, we're treating the series as a comic book “crossover,” in the classic sense. A quick word of explanation about what I mean by crossover, for those who aren't familiar with superhero comics. For the last few decades, superhero comics have borrowed concepts pretty freely from Mike's novels, most notably the whole idea of a “multiverse.” Parallel universes have often been used as a storytelling device to bring together characters from different series, different milieus, even different publishers. What I've tried to do with Elric: The Balance Lost is to engineer a story that bridges the different worlds of each of our heroes in just that way, so that each of them starts out in their own milieu, in a world that very much adheres to the atmosphere of their respective novels. And then, as the story progresses, they are gradually brought together, either as allies or as antagonists. Nrama: Now, I understand that this series will also bring in other characters from Michael Moorcock. Can you give us the skinny on who might be seen alongside Elric, and what their relationship might be with him? Roberson: The cast is HUGE, mixing familiar and not-so-familiar faces. Two of the other main characters are other incarnations of the Eternal Champion, like Hawkmoon and Corum, who have been dragged into the struggle between Law and Chaos in their respective worlds. And we'll also be meeting two NEW incarnations of the Eternal Champion, one of whom was mentioned once but never seen in Moorcock's novels, and another who is wholly original. Nrama: Can you describe for readers Francesco Biagini's art style for a bit? What's the back-and-forth been between you two, and what do you think he ultimately brings to the table on Elric? Roberson: I have to admit that I wasn't familiar with Francesco's work before he was attached to Elric: The Balance Lost, but as soon as I saw the character designs he'd submitted I knew he was perfect for the job. And the pages he's been turning in have been AMAZING. This book is going to look GREAT. Nrama: Finally, for those who are still on the fence about Elric, what would you say to get them on board? Are there any last-minute teases you can give? Roberson: I think the central characteristic of Elric that appeals most to me is not the fact that he's conflicted, or that he's dark, but that he's defiant. Here is a guy who is literally doomed, cursed to carry this demon blade and, ultimately, bring about the end of all life on his world (spoiler alert, I guess, for those who haven't read the novels!), but even though he is a pawn of Chaos in its never-ending war against Law, Elric is his own man. He stands before gods and devils, angels and demons and says “I'm going to do what *I* choose to do.” (It rarely works out as he plans, but that's beside the point.) In a world of cosmic powers and of games played at a level beyond human comprehension, Elric stands proud and defiant, ready and willing to take ALL of them on.
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