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WoW Insider interviews WoW manga series editor Troy Lewter

Lesley Smith

One of the most suprising successes of a franchise which includes the Trading Card Game, figures, books and even Mountain Dew is actually the World of Warcraft manga published by TOKYOPOP. Given that the game has actually been shaped by the characters and lore introduced in the manga (and vice versa), I decided it was high time we sat down with series editor Troy Lewter and writer Dan Jolley.

We're posting Troy's interview today while the interview with Dan Jolley (who has penned the upcoming
Thassarian-centric Warcraft: Death Knight manga) will follow tomorrow.

WoW Insider: So Troy, how did you get involved with the Warcraft line of manga?

Troy Lewter: My Editor-in-Chief at the time asked me if I would be interested in co-editing the anthology. He actually gave me a choice between Warcraft and StarCraft; I choose Warcraft because I was a big fan of fantasy-type sword and sorcery stories. At the time I knew little about the property, other than millions of people played it (and that South Park made a very funny episode about it). Due to structural changes within the company, by June '08 I suddenly found myself the sole editor for not just the anthologies, but all the Warcraft manga. It's been a huge undertaking, but the greater the challenge, the greater the glory, right? *Wipes away salty tears*

Are you surprised how well the manga have been received by players and non-players alike?

Not at all. TOKYOPOP and Blizzard's approach to the manga has always been "let's give the fans of the game an authentic experience", but at the same time we want the stories to be accessible to the non-player. We didn't want the stories to be so game specific that you had to have played through an in-game event to even know what the heck was going on. To achieve this we made sure that the core theme to each story was very universal (as it should be with all good stories). Love, hate, betrayal, redemption, etc...these are themes that resonant with all of us, as we have all at one time felt these unifying emotions. Once you build a solid story around such a universal core, it doesn't matter if it's an elf or Forsaken or a fill in the blank, it's all window dressing for that relatable theme.

Do you think it is necessary to be a WoW player to enjoy the stories in Warcraft: Legends and The Sunwell Trilogy?

I don't think so. Certainly if you play the game some things will instantly resonate with you more than it will a non-player (and we've included a few nods that only fans will truly appreciate and get), but overall we constructed the stories to give non-players an enjoyable experience, all while giving players an authentic one. In short, everyone gets a golden ticket!

Why do you think Azeroth translates into manga (and comic books) so well?

Comics historically have been a great outlet for high fantasy and adventure stories. So depicting Azeroth--which is already a world born of a visual medium -- in the manga has been pretty natural. If you take something like Conan for instance, which started as short stories but later evolved into comics, film and games, then you can see that fantasy worlds like Azeroth are the perfect realms to explore on the comic and manga page.

Can you talk us through the process of creating the manga? How involved are Blizzard?

First the writers pitch TOKYOPOP and Blizzard stories, and Blizzard selects the ones they'd like to tell in the manga. From there the writer writes the script, TOKYOPOP and Blizzard give notes, and that process continues until the final draft of the script is delivered. At that point the artist draws characters designs, Blizzard gives notes, and we move on to pencils, inks and tones.

Blizzard is there every step of the way. It truly is a collaborative effort, as they give detailed notes on the pitch, the script and the art. As a company they are very particular about how this world is depicted, as they should be. With over 11.5 million subscribers (and growing), they have a lot of fans out there expecting an authentic and entertaining Warcraft experience from the manga. I can tell you, 11.5 million rotten tomatoes tossed your way can blot out the sun, so you better get it right!

Can you tell us about the new manga focusing on Thassarian? Are we looking at multiple volumes or a stand alone story?

Warcraft: Death Knight is a self-contained, single volume story featuring one of the first death knights, Thassarian. It will relay the details of his life before becoming a death knight, as well as his life after becoming one. I don't want to give too much away, but just know the themes of revenge and redemption play heavy roles in the book. We have two other volumes in this series (one being written by Richard Knaak)--and while not connected by story, each volume will focus on a specific character class (death knights being the first).

What about Dragons of Outland? That's been some time coming, will it be worth the wait do you think?

It definitely will! Richard Knaak is currently hard at work writing volume 1, but I have read early drafts of chapters 1 and 2, and I can tell you fans will not be disappointed. On the art side, Jae-Hwan Kim is returning as the artist, so the books will look amazing as well!

What other Warcraft-related manga do TOKYOPOP currently have planned?

As I said above, on the horizon we have the three class-based manga and the Dragons of Outland trilogy, not to mention Legends vol 5, which is currently in production. So there's more than enough content to keep eager fans coming back to the bookshelves...!

Will we see any more stories penned by you in future anthologies

Heh heh, I guess that depends on if we proceed with more anthologies after 5 (vol. 5 is the last for right now) and, well, if I can think of any cool ideas that Blizzard may like! I would absolutely love to write more as I had blast writing 'The Journey,' 'An Honest Trade' and 'The Thrill of the Hunt'. Azeroth is a place ripe with possibilities and tales, and I think I could fill an entire book with stories if given the chance!

You play WoW, do you think your appreciation of the universe has been enhanced by writing for and working on the manga?

Definitely so! The world is so vast and the history so rich, how can you not appreciate it?

When I started editing the book, I knew nothing about the game or lore, so as weird as it may sound, I gained knowledge of the world bit by bit as I researched the game's history/characters/locations as it pertained to each particular story in the manga. I liken it to moving to a new town (or country). At first you can't go two blocks without getting lost, but gradually, as you travel here and there, your knowledge of your surrounding expands. So for me, I'm continually learning about the vast world and history, but at the same time I'm able to bring a fresh outsider's point of view that represents casual or non-players. That outsider's point of view is what I brought to the stories I wrote, as well as to the others I have edited.

Admittedly, I don't play the game very often, as I simply don't have time to do so as the manga keeps me very, very busy, believe me. I am able to hop in-game while in the office, but that's only to research/grab a screenshot I need as reference for an artist . As I tell everyone I manage to corner in a darkened bar, I'll finally get to actually play the game for fun once I'm done with the manga (which will be a long time from now). It was a pleasure speaking with you and your readers, and we hope they will enjoy the manga!

Don't forget to check back tomorrow for an interview with writer Dan Jolley.

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