While Dan Abnett should be no stranger to comic book readers - Abnett has written or co-written "2000AD" in his native England, "Superman and "X-Men" and relaunched "The Legion of Super-Heroes" back in 2000. At the same time, Abnett has been writing science fiction novels set in the "Warhammer 40K" universe.
This October, Boom! is bringing Warhammer 40K back to comic books, with Abnett leading the charge (along with co-writer Ian Edginton). Boom!'s already given readers a look at what to expect, visually and tonally, in a San Diego Con preview issue, but with the release of this just months away, we thought it best to sit down with Abnett to find out exactly what readers should expect from this new series.
You've been writing the "Warhammer 40K" novels for quite some time. These novels focus on specific aspects of the Warhammer universe – specific regiments in specific periods of time – battles, engagements and so on. The comic book sounds like an all encompassing Warhammer experience. Was it freeing to get to go big?
Visually, yes. The scope of my novels can be pretty vast, but with the Boom! comic, I'm able to write a 40K comic strip on a large scale and really do justice to the epic images and battles.
The Warhammer novels have a built-in audience, as does the comic book, but I imagine the novels also appeal to non-gaming, sci-fi readers. Are you hoping to attract similarly-minded comic book readers to "Warhammer 40K?" Are you doing anything special to make it accessible?
I (and when I say 'I,' I'm including my co-writer Ian Edginton, who's come on board to help me deal with the workload and the epic proportions of the project - Ian and I have worked together on many series over the years, including "Planet of the Apes" for Dark Horse and "Star Trek" for Marvel)... anyway, I have deliberately structured the story around the Black Templars, one of the most popular Space Marine chapters. Space Marines are the most iconic and popular part of 40K, so I'm focusing on the real, crowd-pleasing basics. If you know 40k, you'll love this because it's Space Marines. If you don't, it's a great way to jump aboard and start your addiction.
As I did my research on "Warhammer 40K" the sheer amount of information out there stunned me. Obviously, the comic book isn't going to be full of all that history, but as a writer do you find it difficult to work within all that history or are you more excited to be free to write with it?
Both. You have to know the parameters, but it's also exciting to extend them. A lot of what I've written in the novels has influenced the universe, and has sometimes (to my delight) filtered back into the rule books and become "lore." It's fair to say, though, that I live and breathe 40K when I'm on a 40k job, which is pretty much all year round. (Note to self: get a life).
The comic book sounds like it's going to focus on three different characters – how will these characters best expose new readers to the Warhammer universe?
By representing three different stages of a Space Marine's career, so that through them, the reader gets to see the full range of a warrior's life: the newbie, the blooded warrior, the veteran. Through the three characters, we get a cross section of an entire career path, and can compare and contrast those different levels.
You write a lot of comic books. Has writing the "Warhammer" comic felt more like writing comics or writing the "Warhammer" novels? Do you have different writer hats for the two mediums?
Yes, I do, and I suppose for this one I'm wearing both, which looks kinda stupid, so it's a good thing no one can see me. I'm bringing the novelist's 40K lore to the party, along with the scope and the scale, but the rest is all about comic dynamics and the epic freedom and range of 22 pages of strip per issue.
While there were "Warhammer 40K" comic books before and there were computer games (I'm pretty sure I had "Space Hulk") – and the game itself has the significant visual component of the miniatures – has it been exciting to see these situations you've been verbally experiencing and creating visually realized in the comic book?
Absolutely. Kudos to the artists. I get the same kick when the game makers decide to make figures of my novel characters (They're sitting on my shelf here, staring at me. Note to self #2: Really, man, get a life).
Space comics are back. Serious, goofy, the genre has returned. Where do you see "Warhammer 40K's" place in the genre?
Right there in the bleeding heart of it all, waving a chain sword and screaming full-throated battle cries as the enemy pours down.