toonzone at MCM London Comic Con October 2013 - Interview With "Dark Souls II: Into The Light" Writer Andi Ewington
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work.
Sure. I’ve been a graphic designer for the last 20 years and I’d always had an artistic imagination and had a burning desire to get work published in some form or another. Having written and played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons in my time I then lent my hand to writing a fantasy novel about 10 years ago, which gave me good grounding experience in how to write large amounts of prose. Fast forward to 2009 and I pitched my debut graphic novel to Com.x, it was called Forty-Five which was basically a bunch of transcript interviews from superheroes in a chronological order from birth to death. They absolutely loved it, and helped me produce it and really from there my love for the comic industry grew. I’m now looking to produce my next comic called Overrun with Matt Woodley and Paul Green, which will be out in late 2014.
How did you become involved with the project?
Namco are a client of ours at Lick Creative (the design company I work for), that, combined with my love of comics gave me the idea that we could do something really cool with Dark Souls II. Again, being an avid Dungeons & Dragons experienced roleplayer, it was the kind of subject matter I loved with a passion. Luckily for me, Namco saw the potential of a Dark Souls II inspired comic. From there I started to build the team that I wanted. I pitched several writers (including myself!) as well as different artists. They came back and I was humbled that I had been chosen to write this story alongside Rob Williams and Simon Coleby, whose artwork is absolutely phenomenal -from the small amount that has been revealed online, it is just awe inspiring. There’s not enough superlatives I can use to describe his work.
What can you tell us about the plot of the graphic novel?
[Laughs] I can’t say too much, there are rules and regulations that I have to adhere to. What I can say is we have steered away from the lore, which I know is a big thing in the game and something that resonates with the fans. The reason I guess is that From Software want players to uncover the lore of the game for themselves as they progress through the world. And I can understand that perfectly, it’s a huge part of the appeal of the Dark Souls universe! That is pretty much how we’ve approached the comic book, we’ve set out to write something that is more based on the emotional experience, the desolation and the desperation a player character will experience as they go deeper into the dungeons.
Continuing from that, as you say the original game took advantage of the unique interactive nature to imply backstory to curious players. Will any of said implications be elaborated on in the graphic novel?
Again, I’m forbidden to say too much [laughs]. Really, the way I see the comic is that it’s something we want to appeal both to new and experienced hands, to sort of say “You know what, we’re going remind you of all those nail-biting emotions you feel as journey deeper and deeper into the game” and this comic is a first step towards that. I’m hoping that there will be other things that we can pick up on and that the fans appreciate and enjoy the comic for what it is. In the long run, I’d love to start thinking beyond this, there’s an opportunity for people to enjoy more stories, and that gives you more answers to those burning questions.
Is it a stand alone story or a direct game lead in?
The game is shrouded in such secrecy that even we were limited to what knowledge we were allowed. We have tried to produce a story that sits at where we believe the beginning of the adventure would be, how you would perhaps go into it the first time you play the game. That’s not to say that’s exactly what’s going on but we have tried to imagine the first time you put that game in, you fire it up and come across the first campfire that begins to lead you through the quest. We’ve taken a few artistic liberties because we’ve had to. We weren’t allowed to mention certain things, so you’ll have to forgive us that it won’t be strictly following the game plot but it will give the reader enough experience to go “Yeah, that feels cool and feels as if it belongs to Dark Souls”
How much creative freedom were you given with the project?
Well, beyond the fact we weren’t allowed to go for anything that was lore orientated or mention anything with regards to the plot, we were pretty much given free reign! We wrote a story that was based around our game experiences and what emotions we were feeling when we were playing the game. So, again, we were given a fair amount of freedom to create the visual spectacle that we wanted to for the comic but with reference points. We had milestones along the way that helped us. We’d seen that the dragon had already been revealed in the trailer, that was referenced and given to us for artwork purposes and location purposes so we knew that there was a tangible thread of truth flowing through it.
In the current market there’s lots of competition from TV, movies and even video games themselves but comics still appeal to people. Why do you think this is?
I think with regards to films and TV they tend to be almost popcorn-moments. It’s hard…it’s hard to describe what I’m trying to describe [laughs] With TV it comes across as instant gratification, that you seldom go back and rewind and watch something again, you almost want to see it in one go, uninterrupted. But with a comic it sort of appeals, to me on a higher level because you’re re-reading it, you’re experiencing each panel, you can stop and explore the art in detail for what it is and I feel that it’s bridging something that’s cerebral to something that’s a visual treat. It’s that middle ground that people go “Actually, I kinda wanna enjoy this and take my time over it” and I think a comic allows you to do that whereas a film…you know it’s going to end, you know it’s going to take you two hours and you know you can’t stop it because you’re watching it at the cinema (unless you’re at home watching it on video). But with a comic that’s almost part of the enjoyment. You can go “I’m gonna read a few pages tonight”, experience that, savour it the next day and maybe go back and read some more. The attraction for me is that you’re allowed to take it at your own pace and that freedom of choice is something that still appeals to comic fans.
What advice would you give to new talent hoping to enter the industry?
Don’t expect to make lots of money straight away -and that your idea is going to be published straight off the bat. I think you’ve got to be prepared for knockbacks and you’ve got to be prepared to persevere if you truly want it. It took me 10 years’ worth of writing to actually find a way to do it. I think you need to go to cons, need to talk to writers, talk to artists, even try to become friends with these guys where possible. Go to some of their shows or talks they’re doing. Try to absorb as much as possible that they start to recognize you and perhaps, when you pitch an idea to them, it won’t be just somebody coming up to them at a con, cold, going “I’ve got an idea”. You’ve actually invested the time to research where your market is, who the artist you want is. Do your homework and don’t give up. That’d be my advice. I still have projects I’ve written that haven’t found a home but I haven’t given up on them. They’re maybe 2 or 3 years old, I’m confident they’ll be picked up at some point. You’ve just gotta have faith in your own abilities and I think that’s probably the key to it all.
Lastly, what future projects are you working on?
There are several that I’m doing. I’m doing a lot of movie IPs at the moment, where I’m writing and sending it to my manager who’s over in Hollywood and he takes them out to try and be picked up. One of them is called The Twelve, which is basically ghosts like The Ring, Grudge, very Japanese orientated, all trapped in yakuza tattoos. These tattoos are being hunted for their undead power they release. At the moment that’s doing the rounds across Hollywood. I’ve got Overrun which comes out in 2014, which Bleeding Cool called ‘Tron of the Dead’ [laughs] which basically sums it up; undead in a computer game environment.
I’ve also got a couple of Fighting Fantasy titles which I’ve written with Ian Livingstone. One being ‘Deathtrap Dungeon’, the other being ‘Freeway Fighter’. So you can see I still have a huge passion for all things dungeon orientated RPG, so Dark Souls II for me was an easy fit.
toonzone would like to thank Andi Ewington for taking the time to talk with us and Joseph Walsh of Namco Bandai for helping to arrange this interview.
Additional personal thanks to Kira Douglas for her help with fact checking and question corellation.
Dark Souls II: Into The Light will be available in the UK exclusively with all copies of Dark Souls II Regular, Black Armour and Collector editions pre-ordered from Zavvi.