We got the chance to “sit down” with comics newcomer Andi Ewington about his upcoming writing on the Dark Souls 2 Into the Light comic book for BandaiNamco. Darks Souls 2 is the spiritual sequel to the incredibly successful Dark Souls (and Demon’s Souls) video game from FromSoftware.
The Fwoosh – I’ve done some research and you’re new to the comic industry. Googling only led me to an earlier interview on CBR for 45 from Com.X. What’s your background and how did you land the writing gig on Dark Souls 2?
Since an early age I’ve always had a creative imagination and a keen interest in getting my ideas published. Growing up I was heavily involved in a number of roleplaying games, where I would endlessly build worlds and enrich it with adventure. I guess that’s probably where my interest was first nurtured. I had a huge love for the Fighting Fantasy brand and would consume the gamebooks at a terrifying rate, ironically twenty-five years later and I found myself at Ian Livingstone’s house enjoying an early draft of ‘Blood of the Zombies’. I tried in my thirties to get a novel published with my best friend Dennis Johnson, we had some very encouraging rejection letters, but alas a publishing deal eluded me. Then in 2009, inspired by the imminent birth of my first child, I was decided to write a story about a father-to-be in a superhero world. That graphic novel was called ‘Forty-Five’ and was picked up by a cutting-edge indie comic publisher called “Com.x’. 2012 and Com.x released the first spin-off from the ‘Forty-Five’ universe called ‘BlueSpear’ which I co-wrote with Eddie Deighton. Since then I’ve written numerous shorts for the likes of Something Wicked and FutureQuake, and I also have in progress a new graphic called ‘Overrun’ ( www.weareoverrun.com ) which I’ve co-written with Matt Woodley, and features art by Paul Green. As for the Dark Souls 2 gig, I’m fortunate enough to work as a graphic designer for Lick Creative, working with clients such as Bethesda, Sony and Namco Bandai. I heard about Dark Souls II being released in 2014 and pitched the idea of a comic to Namco Bandai. Since then I’ve been working closely with Namco Bandai to deliver a kick-ass comic for the Dark Souls II fans.
The Fwoosh – Dark Souls was a huge game and Dark Souls 2 looks to be just as successful. Is it intimidating taking on the writing for a comic based on a successful game?
Of course, it’s always intimidating, but at the same time it’s thoroughly exciting. I probably liken it to the world’s biggest roller-coaster, you’re not sure if you should get on but when you do – you absolutely LOVE IT! The only problem now is that I want to jump back on for another go.
The Fwoosh – The game has a dedicated following, are you worried about their reaction?
Definitely, but as a writer you have to accept there will be those that are down on it as much as those that embrace it. I write for the enjoyment of myself and of others, pure and simple. Every writer realises that once your work is out there it will be under much scrutiny, but I wouldn’t be writing if I wasn’t confident in my own abilities, or if my heart wasn’t in it. I know whatever the reaction that Rob, Simon and myself have worked tirelessly to produce something we believe the fans of the series will enjoy.
The Fwoosh – My family plays Dark Souls, my 8 year and 12 year old completed the game, my youngest was the only one to figure out the boss during the Dark Souls 2 Beta Test (little bastard), beating him easy. Have you played Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls or the Dark Souls 2 Beta?
Sadly I missed out on Demon Souls, although I’ve played about 30 or so hours of the original Dark Souls, I was utter crap! I don’t like being beaten, and I’m a sore loser, so let’s just say I have no idea how the dents in my Dark Souls box got there. As for Dark Souls II, I managed to get some hours in at Gamescom and completely loved it, so I’m preparing myself to go through hell and back again.
The Fwoosh – If you have–favorite way to die?
What a question! I have to say having died so many times in the original Dark Souls that I’ve come to loathe death altogether.
The Fwoosh – Favorite Covenant?
Probably the ‘Warrior of Sunlight’ because they have the coolest gesture in my opinion.
The Fwoosh – Preferred character type?
Knight, because as I’m getting on a bit now I’m finding I need a character that can take a punch or two to make up for my lack of ability.
The Fwoosh – Male or Female?
Female, I prefer the visual animations to that of her male counterpart.
The Fwoosh – The Dark Souls world has a very loose story line, much of it developed to the extent of giving characters and events enough background for the player to engage but use their imagination to fill in the rest. Early reports are that Dark Souls 2 will follow that design. How have you tackled that?
When we pitched the idea of a comic to both Namco Bandai and From Software, they were clear that they didn’t want to give anything away that fans themselves would want to discover. We all agreed that the story needed to build on the atmosphere of adventuring in the Dark Souls universe, rather than specifics. We decided to build on the themes of fear, desolation and death to give a deeper emotional experience, and I think judging by the community conversations I’ve seen that we’ve pitched this right for most people. It’s about taking those first fateful steps into the dark unknown where death lurks behind every corner.
The Fwoosh – The comic shows a male warrior class on the cover, the “main starting class” in Dark Souls, is there a tie in with this comic?
Not really, we all agreed between us that the brand message should remain consistent, if you look at all the current communication, from the key art, advertising and any video footage it’s all the same warrior. The comic is a natural extension of this, which is why any deviation from the core image would dilute the overall brand message.
The Fwoosh – Did you have access to Dark Souls 2 directors Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura for guidance and input? How about Dark Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki?
Not directly, I know all of the directors were extremely busy working hard to produce a game the Dark Souls II fans deserve. Most of our communication went through Namco Bandai’s Olivier Reocreux, Mathieu Piau and Lee Kirton, while in Japan I worked closely with Takeshi Miyazoe who was on-hand to give us From Software’s input. I have to say everything has gone really well and I’ve heard on the grapevine that From Software have been extremely impressed with what we have created.
The Fwoosh – Rob Williams is also credited with writing. He’s been writing comics for 2000AD, Dark Horse, and Marvel for a number of years. How were the writing duties split between you?
Rob and I decided that we’d split the writing straight down the middle, I would take ten pages, he would take ten pages, then we’d edit each other’s work. This happened quite organically and we ended up pretty much tweaking rather than rewriting huge amounts. Rob wanted to write the beginning and end five pages, so I had a nice ten page run in the middle. If you didn’t know that, I’d say it would be nearly impossible to see the seams where Rob and I start or finish.
The Fwoosh – Simon Coleby is the artist on the comic who has an extensive history in comics, working with 2000AD, Marvel and DC. What was it like working with him on the comic?
I had worked with Simon once before on ‘Forty-Five’ so I knew a little of what to expect, while Rob has had a longer working relationship with him. Simon is the epitome of a professional comic artist, he’s considerate to what we, as writers, are trying to achieve while adding his own touches that make him stand out as one of the best artists in the industry. There’s one thing I can say for certain, Dark Souls II is in safe hands with Simon Coleby on watch.
The Fwoosh – Any plans for an ongoing series?
If it were just up to me, then most definitely. I think there’s an opportunity to grow this as a comic brand the same way that Mass Effect has. There’s plenty of stories to uncover and adventures to be had, but that’s not up to me sadly. All I can do is hope the fans enjoy it and ask for more.
The Fwoosh – Anything else that you want to add?
Just that a lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into this comic and I hope that the evidence of that pours through the pages.
The Fwoosh – Thank you and Praise the Sun.
(Hands stretched out) ‘Praise the sun’ indeed!