A few weeks ago, our own Anthony Rosen took a look at the new digital-exclusive Dragon Age tie-in comic, from Dark Horse, written by Dragon Age writer, David Gaider. Today, we have Anthony’s interview with Gaider on Dragon Age, comics and, of course, video games.
Dragon Age #1-3 (of 6) are currently available for download from Dark Horse Digital with a HC collection already in the works for July. Pick them up for only 99 cents an issue and get caught up today.
Spandexless: So how is it that BioWare and Dark Horse decided to collaborate on this project?
David Gaider: That’s a good question. My understanding is that Dark Horse expressed interest after our contract with IDW ended, and after some discussion BioWare decided that was indeed something we wanted to do. Dark Horse was already working on the Mass Effect comics, after all, and that’s a great experience for everyone involved, so it’s a natural fit. I wasn’t personally brought into things until the decision had already been made, when they asked if I was interested in working on the comic, so this is mostly hearsay on my part.
S: I understand you can’t talk about any projects that may or may not be in the works, but are you guys looking to keep expanding into comics? If things go well with The Silent Grove, would you personally be interested in writing an ongoing Dragon Age series?
DG: If there’s interest from the fans in the series, then absolutely.
S: I noticed that you’re credited for the story and Alexander Freed for the script. What’s the creative process between the two of you like?
DG: I write a detailed outline for each issue, with as much dialogue as I can, and then that goes to Alex—who turns each outline into a panel-by-panel script which the artists can use. Alex contacts me with questions or suggestions for changes, and the script goes back and forth between us a few times until I sign off on it. His suggestions are always good—Alex has experience working on comics that I don’t, aside from also being a BioWare writer like myself, so I think it works well.
S: I definitely think you guys are off to a great start from what I read in the first issue. Can you tell us what we can expect from the rest of the series?
DG: Things start to get really interesting around the third issue. I know there’s a few fans who will be going “wha-whaaat?” I won’t spoil the plot, though.
S: BioWare is known for their dedication to an expansive mythology and strong characters in video games that typically take upwards of forty hours to complete. Was it a challenge to bring that BioWare mindset and dedication to this series?
DG: The biggest challenge is trying to fit an entire story arc inside an issue that has a set length. I’m more accustomed to stories that ramble on for forty hours or four hundred pages… so that was an adjustment, yes. Thankfully I’m a big comic geek, so it’s not like I went into this without any knowledge of how comics are paced. Still, it’s harder than you’d suspect.
S: I believe it! Speaking of comics, what are you reading nowadays?
DG: I just picked up Mike Carey’s The Unwritten, after it was recommended to me. I really enjoyed Lucifer, and this looks like more in the same vein, which pleases me. I’m also trying to make my way through the Ex Machina series.
S: I love the covers for The Unwritten, Yuko Shimizu has such a great eye for color and composition. Are they any people out there in the industry you’d love to work with on some hypothetical project, if given the chance?
DG: It’s rare for me to remember the names of specific artists—I know a few, mainly ones I was a fan of growing up, but these days I’d probably have to Google their names to find out who worked on something I loved. I’m much more keyed to noticing writers (go figure). George Perez is a name I remember, as my impression has always been that he has a very positive impact on the story of whatever title he works on (either that or he happens to work with very talented writers). A few other names that pop out for me are Alex Ross, Art Adams, Tim Sale and Dave Gibbons.
S: From what I understand, you’ve written for video games for years now and penned three novels. How does writing for comics compare to that? Did you approach this project differently then your previous endeavors in those other mediums?
DG: You have to, yes. The tools are completely different with each medium. In games, you have dialogue but no narrative, and you have to account for interaction and player agency. In novels, you have narrative but no visuals, but no interaction and a story that’s one long arc. Comics have both visual composition and limited narrative, and each issue needs to have its own self-contained story arc. So each medium requires a story that’s set up in a different manner, even if the writing of the actual dialogue is the same.
S: So did the restrictions and benefits of this medium influence what story you wanted to tell and what characters you wanted to include? With Dragon Age having such an extensive mythology, how is it that you decided that you wanted to tell a story about Alistair, Varric, and Isabela?
DG: It influenced how the story was told, but not what that story would be or who would be in it. With six 12-page issues, you need to pace each issue so that it has its own arc, as opposed to the much longer arcs you’d find in a novel or a game. But I knew right off the bat which story I wanted to tell, here. It was a loose plot thread I’d always wanted to tie up. As for the companions chosen, it was one part whimsy, one part popularity and one part “there’s still room left to explore those characters.” Sometimes the funny characters are the deepest.
S: I imagine that quite a lot of interesting, fun stuff ends up on the cutting room floor with huge projects like Dragon Age. Are there any other characters from the games you’ve worked on over the years that you wish you could’ve written more for? I know people who swear they’d give up their favorite limb for The Adventures of HK-47.
DG: It happens, yes. During the course of development, character arcs can get cut down or even entire characters simply eliminated—and despite the fact that you love those characters dearly, you just have to accept this is the normal course of things (or it would probably drive you crazy). So getting the chance to delve a bit into that stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor is certainly fun, even if there were generally very good reasons for it being cut in the first place.
As for characters I would happily revisit, given the chance? Funny you mention HK-47, because that would probably be one… though I suspect I’d probably ruin him by making him develop beyond the one-note-character that everyone seems to love so much. So maybe it’s better that I don’t. For more recent characters I’d probably call out Morrigan, Nathaniel Howe, Justice and Teyrn Loghain as having plenty of room left to explore—even if circumstances dictate that we may never be able to use them in a game again.
Anthony Rosen prides himself on two things: his beard and his comic book collection. He once ate a tablespoon of nutmeg on some bad advice from a friend. He hasn’t been the same since.