EXCLUSIVE LOOK: First “World of Warcraft” Comic Pages — Writer Says It’s True to Game

The lore of “World of Warcraft” is freakin’ huge.

So if you’re writing a comic book about it, where do you start?

When comics publishing imprint Wildstorm asked veteran comic book scribe and artist Walter Simonson (“Thor,” “Orion”) to write the new “World of Warcraft” comic, he thought it “sounded fun.” But it also turned out to be a lot of work. To prepare for writing the comic (in addition to going directly to game developer Blizzard Entertainment), Simonson pored over the novels and the manga comics, and he and his wife Louise conducted extensive research on the web (on comprehensive sites such as WoWWiki).

Though he hadn’t logged on to the “World of Warcraft” until he started writing the book, several of his friends and his grandson are big enthusiasts of the game; he’s even asked his grandson for some help. “I’ve actually used him as a resource,” Simonson told me in a phone interview last week. “There are occasional visual moments, often surrounding the use of magic or magical stuff, where I needed to know how the visuals in the game worked when certain things happened. And I have a friend who lives nearby who is a ’Warcraft’ player. He has played the game almost from the conception, and he seems pretty cool with what we’re doing so far.”

And what have they been doing so far? MTV Multiplayer has an exclusive look at the first five pages of the new “World of Warcraft” comic book, with art by Ludo Lullabi and inker Sandra Hope, hitting stores next month.

Image: “World of Warcraft” Issue #1 Cover by Jim Lee

The first storyline follows a human who washes up unconscious on the shores of Kalimdor, a continent in the game. He’s suffered amnesia and becomes enslaved by an orc shaman. The mystery man struggles to survive by fighting against and working with both in-game factions the Alliance and the Horde, all while trying to learn about his forgotten past. “One of the central stories is his story arc: who is he, how can he find out who he is … and what are the implications for the ’Warcraft’ world?” Simsonson said.The writer also revealed a few other supporting characters, such as the orc shaman Rehgar Earthfury (first seen on the fourth page), blood elf Valeera Sanguinar, dwarf warrior Thargas Anvilmar and night elf druid Broll Bearmantle. All of these characters are upcoming action figures from DC Direct. “When the comic began to develop, these characters were made available to us,” Simonson explained. “Rehgar’s in there for several issues. He doesn’t have as big a story arc as Broll and Valeera, at least at the moment. Thargas Anvilmar is not in the first few issues, but he comes up later in the story. The story’s still developing as we’re going along, but we have an overall outline for everything.”

“There are mysteries from the past that have never been totally addressed within the game.”

Simonson said the comic will be “very much tied to the lore and to the ’Warcraft’ history.” “If you’re a longtime player, I think the comic is a revelation about some of the mysteries,” he explained. “There are mysteries from the past that have never been totally addressed within the game, or at least we’re able to address them in the comic in a way that the game hasn’t been able to.” He also said that he tried to write the comic so that it appeases “Warcraft” fans as well as newcomers. “There will be stuff in the comic that has not been in the game, and yet it’s derived, quite directly, from the game itself. If you know ’Warcraft,’ I’m hoping it will be really cool to find this stuff out,” Simonson reiterated. “At the same time, as complex as the world is, if you haven’t really played the game, you’ll learn as much as you need to know to enjoy the story on its own level. So in that sense the story has kind of a two-fold approach I’m hoping will work out.”

Simonson also works closely with the “World of Warcraft” creators at Blizzard Entertainment. He comes up with the initial stories and then Blizzard offers feedback about how the work could be melded into the “Warcraft” lore more effectively. In fact, Simonson is crafting the comic “Marvel-style,” the process of writing comics where the writer provides a basic plot, the artist renders that into twenty-something pages and then dialogue is added.

“Mana Tapping, all that kind of stuff, there’s a lot of that in the story.”

Even though most comics these days are written as a full script, where the writer describes all the panels, action and dialogue first, Simonson believes Marvel-style works best for “World of Warcraft.” “In this case we decided to work Marvel-style partly because it gives us several levels of approvals. I tend to prefer that way myself,” he said. “I think the work in the comic itself is very much a combination of my thinking and Blizzard’s thinking.” With Blizzard’s help, Simonson’s been able to add some of game’s nuances into the comic as well. “Mana Tapping, all that kind of stuff, there’s a lot of that in the story. But it depends on who the character is, so that whether it’s Fel energy or arcane energy or whatever, we’re trying to get that so it’s both used appropriately and used in a way that makes sense within the story.”

Though Simonson clearly has done his research, and his work has been vetted by Blizzard, with over nine million subscribers to “World of Warcraft,” is he nervous about the critical reception? “As with everything, you can’t please everybody … I’m sure we won’t please some of them,” Simonson says of hardcore “Warcraft” fanatics. “In ordinary, mainstream comics you’ve got a character who’s been around for a long time, and sometimes it’s tough to find a new direction or to try and tell stories that haven’t been told before. In ’Warcraft,’ because there aren’t a lot of comics, I don’t have that problem. So all I’ve really done is come up with a series of ideas, modified them for a variety of reasons and then tried to write the best comic I could write with the material I’ve got and the abilities I’ve got. I know there are like millions of players out there. It’s very strange.”

“As far as I can tell, Wildstorm and Blizzard are pretty pleased with the stuff as it’s coming out so far,” Simonson added. “And it’s been a lot of fun. We were able to actually layer some stuff in a way that I’m delighted about. In a way it means that, again for gamers who read the comic, there will be elements of the familiar, because if you play that much of the game, you’ll know these locations. But there’ll be things happening there that didn’t happen when you were in the game. So there’ll be some surprises.”