When does the story of Pearl of Pandaria take place in relation to the storyline of World of Warcraft?
Micky Neilson: The majority of Pearl of Pandaria takes place pre-Cataclysm. It's right around the time that Horde and Alliance folks are heading off to battle the Lich King in Northrend, although the Northrend events don't play a part in the story. Back when Pearl was first conceived, it was meant to have a kind of "guided tour of Azeroth" element to it. With the changes Cataclysm brought to the world, those elements now serve as a really neat kind of time capsule representation of what Azeroth was like before Deathwing laid the smack down.
Who are the main characters in the comic and what role do they play in the story?
Li Li Stormstout is our main character. She grew up reading letters from her uncle, Chen Stormstout, who folks may remember from Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Chen's been traveling around the world having amazing adventures but no one's heard from him in quite a while. Li Li gets bored with her home life and decides that she'll go and find Chen. Her father is worried and sends Bo, a stoic warrior who trains the young pandaren how to fight, to go find her and bring her home safe. Li Li basically forces Bo to help her in her quest to find Chen. Needless to say the two don't always get along.
We also have some really cool villains in this story, including a naga sea witch, a goblin alchemist (who rides on the back of an ogre, like in Warcraft III), and a fel orc blademaster.
Who else contributed to the artwork and writing for Pearl of Pandaria?
The artist's name is Cheeks, and he's already well known in the industry for his fun, unique aesthetic. The artwork is absolutely incredible; just the perfect fit stylistically for the tone of the story. The original inspiration for the story and the art comes from our own Samwise Didier. He came up with the pandaren race back in the Warcraft RTS days, and he and I sat down early on with Chris Metzen to lay down the creative foundation for the book. As for writing the actual plot rough, I may have bribed Metzen and Sammy with enough Jack and Cokes, steak, and sushi to help me get the job done. Of all the stories I've written, Pearl of Pandaria is by far my favorite, and the one I'm most proud of.
What is the theme of the story?
Pearl of Pandaria touches on several important themes, perhaps the most important being tolerance -- embracing the beauty and diversity of other cultures and expanding our worldview. The other dominant theme of the story is that life is an adventure. We never know when that adventure may come to an end, so we should live it to the fullest each and every day, whether that means spending extra time with our loved ones, completing some project we've been meaning to get around to, facing our greatest fears, or trying out something entirely new and exciting and challenging.