With Dynamite getting ready to do Pathfinder: Origins, a new six-part miniseries,Byron Brewer caught up with Erik Mona the publisher of the Pathfinder game to talk about the Dynamite comics and the future of the property.
Byron Brewer: As Pathfinder’s publisher, Erik, you have a unique insight into the property. What is your opinion of Pathfinder’s comic book adventures and what does that add to the franchise as a whole?
Erik Mona: We began to introduce our iconic heroes as stand-ins for the player characters of Pathfinder players and readers way back in 2007, when we debuted our first Pathfinder game adventure. The original purpose was to give the tabletop RPG a cohesive look and to make the job of the artists a bit easier. Instead of asking an artist to draw a ranger, for example, requiring a full description of what exactly a “ranger” is or isn’t, we said “draw this specific dwarf ranger, named Harsk.” We knew that our players would want to know more about the 11 “core” iconic heroes, so we wrote brief backgrounds and game statistics for all of them. Even then I knew that I wanted to tell the stories of these characters in comic format. Wayne Reynolds, the superstar fantasy artist who paints our most popular covers, created such fantastic visuals for these characters that I wanted to reveal their backstories, relationships, triumphs, and motivations in a visual format, and I always knew comics was the best medium for this project. But it wasn’t until I met the guys from Dynamite that I knew we had a partner with the experience to make it happen. Dynamite’s track record with licensed properties is not only better than any other company in the industry right now, but better than any other company in the industry in the last century.
BB: Tell us how you became involved in this particular Pathfinder miniseries.
EM: I’ve been the point person for Paizo on the comics relationship since the very beginning. I’ve had a hand in everything, from reviewing scripts, helping to select artists, and working with former series author Jim Zub to root our fantasy adventures in the Pathfinder world in a way that feels authentic. Along the way I also contributed some prose articles in the appendices of earlier issues, which were great fun. Last year, when Dynamite released the Pathfinder: Goblins! mini-series (now available in a handsome hardcover collection), I asked if they might be interested in some short stories from the folks who created the game and the world, and Dynamite was thrilled to have a few of us along for the ride. I wrote the story “Prize Pupil” in the first Pathfinder: Goblins! issue, and I was pleased that it received such a warm reception from both Pathfinder fans and the general public who were just interested in a fun fantasy story. When scheduling conflicts meant that Zub wouldn’t be able to work on the next Pathfinder series, the guys from Dynamite asked me if I could recommend any other writers for thePathfinder: Origins project. Since the series was based on a pitch and idea that I wrote, I not so humbly suggested that the three Paizo authors who had contributed stories toPathfinder: Goblins! would love to participate in this series as well, Dynamite graciously gave us our shot. That means that I, Paizo’s Editor-in-Chief F. Wesley Schneider, and our Managing Editor James L. Sutter will each write two issues apiece. I’ve got #1 and #6, so most of the “framing device” that binds the six stand-alone stories together falls onto my plate.
BB: Can you tell us a bit about the mini’s storyline? With “Origins” as the subhead, it sounds like almost a labor of love for you with these popular characters. Will fans discover some things we never knew before?
EM: Previous Pathfinder comics series have seen the core group of adventurers (Valeros the fighter, Merisiel the rogue, Kyra the cleric, Ezren the wizard, Harsk the ranger, and Ezren the wizard) come together as friends and companions. At the conclusion of the previous City of Secrets arc, Ezren becomes an official member of the Pathfinder Society adventuring guild, but the other five heroes are more “Ezren’s buddies” than they are bonafide Pathfinders in their own right. Pathfinder: Origins sees all six adventurers attempt to prove themselves in the eyes of the guild’s leadership by recounting a tale of adventure from their past that proves they have what it takes to be fully trusted by the Pathfinder Society. Each issue features an early adventure from one of the six core heroes. Even better, each of those adventures features a guest appearance from a Pathfinder RPG iconic hero who has not yet appeared in the comic series. So by the end of the series, we’ll have covered in some fashion all twelve of the “core” Pathfinder RPG iconic heroes. That brings in character classes like the barbarian, paladin, monk, bard, druid, and magus. Each of these characters gets a chance to shine as we make our way through the series.
BB: In #1, Valeros and Amiri cross swords, which probably means some sword & sorcery action. Is there any particular tale or medium that inspires you for such stories?
EM: My primary sword & sorcery inspiration comes from the pulp era of Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner filtered through more modern writers like Michael Moorcock and Jack Vance. My favorite active fantasy author is China Mieville, for the sheer inventiveness of his Bas-Lag work. Most of my favorite sword & sorcery comics work comes from the pile of old Eerie and Creepy magazines that I accumulated as a kid. The dark, atmospheric visuals of those stories definitely informed my sensibilities, adding a sense of foreboding and doom that isn’t always possible in prose. Of course, the primary inspiration is the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game itself. Our comic adventures, after all, are meant to emulate the “real world” of the Pathfinder RPG, so I like to include a little humor in with all of the lopped-off heads and bleeding-out midsections. A world ruled by blades and spells isn’t exactly a yuk-yuk fest, but I find the best moments at the game table come when everyone is smiling and laughing. I’ve tried to inject an element of fun into my scripts, even if what’s going on immediately before the reader’s eyes is a bit horrifying.
BB: What was it like working with artist Tom Garcia? How did you find his renderings of your characters?
EM: We’re pretty early in the process at this point, so Tom’s pages are just starting to come in. I know from his previous work on titles like Hellraiser and Mercy Thompsonthat he can pull off the moody atmospherics. His Pathfinder: Origins cover, which features Valeros the fighter and Amiri the barbarian raising a glass in a tavern, suggests he’s got the chops for the lighter material as well. I’m thrilled with the process, and it’s been fun watching it unfold for scripts that I’ve written, rather than simply edited or approved. It’s been a very exciting shift, and Tom is doing a fantastic job with it so far.
BB: Overall and even outside the mini, do you have a Pathfinder character that is your favorite? Will we see this character featured in Origins?
EM: Of the six main characters in Pathfinder: Origins, I think I’m partial to Valeros the fighter. I love them all, of course, but to me Valeros is the most “Pathfinder RPG” of the bunch in that his mannerisms seem very familiar to RPG gamers. He’s a mercenary, first and foremost. He’s not in the adventuring game to right some cosmic wrong or to prove the value of altruism. He’s an adventurer to fill his purse with coins, to accumulate a legend, and to kick some serious ass. Along the way, he’s the first guy to order a round of drinks at the wayside tavern, and the last guy to finally pass out. He’s brash, a bit of a drunkard, and generally favors a swordfight to a conversation. Valeros reminds me of a lot of player characters I’ve met around the game table, and as such he’s always struck me as the most essential of the Pathfinder iconics. As a fighter, he’s only got his wits, weapons and skills to help him survive, which makes him more relatable on a human level to characters who can shoot fire from their fingertips (or, for that matter, who aren’t even human). That’s why Valeros was the first iconic character ever to appear on a Pathfinder game product, and why I wanted him right up front and center in the first issue of Pathfinder: Origins. As the party member most likely to puke his guts out after a night of over-spending the party treasure in a local tavern, I also think Valeros is the character with the most to prove to the Pathfinder Society, so it makes sense that he would be the first to step up and attempt to clear up any … misconceptions the order might have about his character — or lack thereof.
BB: How does Origins differ from other Pathfinder comic book stories?
EM: The biggest difference is in the scope of the stories. In Pathfinder: Origins, the focus is on two or three characters, rather than the entire group of six adventurers, plus enemies and allies. That’s allowed for more character development and “quiet moments” for each of the six main characters. By the time we reach the final issue, readers will have had a chance to hear from each of the heroes in their own words, and will get a chance to see how they face adversity when they don’t have the luxury of five boon companions at their backs. We’re also seeing these characters at an earlier phase of their careers, so it’s not exactly safe to assume that they will always act in a way readers have come to expect over the previous issues.link
The presence of each issue’s guest star is also a significant difference, since it doubles the cast of Pathfinder iconic heroes present in the comics. From this point forward, any of those characters could presumably make return appearances, or even star in their own comics projects. Pathfinder: Origins is a fantastic place to jump in, as each issue serves as an introduction to our key characters, but there are new secrets and complications revealed in each issue as well, so folks who have been with us since the beginning will find plenty of new excitement this time around. And with stories from three co-creators of the Pathfinder world, you can also be sure that Pathfinder: Origins features more of the Pathfinder world than any of our previous offerings. There’s a great big world out there for our heroes to experience, and Pathfinder: Origins shows more of it than ever before.