Towards the end of 2016, much to the delight of Games Workshop/Black Library fans and comic readers alike, Titan Comics began to publish a brand new series of comics based on Games Workshop properties. Beginning with the Warhammer 40,000 comic Will of Iron by George Mann, in the last few months they’ve extended the range to include Dawn of War III: The Hunt for Gabriel Angelos and also a Blood Bowl comic – More Guts, More Glory.
Written by Nick Kyme, author of countless Black Library books (not to mention Sherlock Holmes: The Legacy of Deeds, published by Titan Books) and editor of many more, More Guts, More Glory is a four-part series illustrated by Jack Jadson and set in the bonkers sort-of-Warhammer world of Blood Bowl.
I spoke to Nick about More Guts, More Glory, how he came to be writing a comic series and how he got that trademark sense of Blood Bowl’s black humour across in the story. We also talked about how to get the best out of reading comics, which will be of particular interest to anyone who, like me, has yet to really take the plunge and commit to comics as a storytelling medium.
Without further ado, let’s get straight on with the interview…
ToW: You’re probably best known as Black Library editor and author; could you give a quick overview of how long you’ve been working in publishing, what prompted you to start, what your early inspirations were?
Nick Kyme: I’ve been part of Black Library for just over ten years; my Games Workshop career started a little prior to that, still in publishing as I worked on White Dwarf magazine, but I started working at Black Library as an assistant editor learning my craft, as it were. I worked my way through Black Library until today when I’m the Managing Editor, and look after a whole bunch of the authors. Well, they’re all my responsibility actually!
The writing part of it came prior to working with Black Library, really. I wrote quite a few novels before I worked for Black Library – they weren’t published but they showed me that I do have the mental endurance, and the stamina to write. A lot of writers will have a similar story, but since quite a young age I’ve always wanted to write, and even if I wasn’t working for Black Library, or any publisher for that matter, I’d be writing in some way.
ToW: What inspired you to start writing in the first place?
NK: My early inspirations were probably writers like Neil Stephenson. Snow Crash, one of his better-known novels, had a big impact on me in my late teens, just the style of the writing really. There’s some pretty dense stuff in there, some scientific, analytic material which can be tricky to get your head around, but the core of the novel is fascinating, just the characters and the style. Neuromancer by William Gibson is another example, I suspect lots of people will quote that. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, which when I read it wasn’t a TV show on Amazon but a really fascinating alternate history!
All the [sci-fi] classics were a big inspiration for me wanting to be a writer, but in truth it was probably after reading a crime writer called Robert Crais when I really started being able to find my voice. I bought one of his books called Demolition Angel as a holiday read without knowing much about him as a writer. I did what I usually do when I’m buying books sight unseen, and just opened the first couple of chapters for a bit of a browse – the first line test. I found myself reading more than I normally would and I thought ‘ok, clearly this is resonating’. His style, the immediacy of his writing, it really blended with the stuff that was running around in my head from the Neil Stephenson books, and really inspired me to have a go.
ToW: How did you find the process of writing to begin with? Is it something that came naturally to you?
NK: For my first forays into writing – and I’ve heard other writers say this too – I found myself emulating other authors to begin with and thinking ‘can I do something similar to that?’, in terms of style at least. I used to read quite a lot of film scripts as a kid, including a great film called The Hudsucker Proxy which I studied after A-Levels. That was one of the films that I deconstructed as part of my diploma and I found the whole thing utterly fascinating, so I started reading the script and writing some scripts of my own. So that’s another way in which I started to think ‘yeah actually I really want to have a go at this, and I think I’ve got stories to tell’.
That’s really where my desire to write came from. You have to want to write to be able to do it, to keep coming back, because writing any novel – and then going back and wanting to put yourself through that again – is quite an arduous process. I think there’s a romanticism associated with writing, and writing novels in particular, that sometimes obscures the reality of it. Which is that it’s actually a really difficult thing to maintain the concentration and endurance required to get to the end and have a completed piece of work. And it’s the same every time!
There’s definitely parts of the novel-writing process which are really, really hard…and kind of awful in terms of the emotional drain that it puts on you. Every writer’s different, but I find I’ll have days when things just don’t go right, or other days when I’ll think ‘that’s a really good session’ but then I’ll review my work and think ‘oh, maybe that wasn’t such a good day after all!’ It’s hard, it’s a journey of trying to overcome self doubt, and confidence versus insecurity, to get to that place where you think ‘yep, I’ve done it’. Also having enough of an ego – all writers have at least a bit of an ego, or else you wouldn’t want to show your work to other people, let alone publish it and show it to the world, and risk all the slings and arrows that come alongside some of the praise that comes with it.
To want to do that, and do it again, and in the case of some writers again and again and again, I think there has to be a driver within you that makes you want to do it. Sometimes it’s easier than others, some subject matters resonate more than others, and I think the way that usually manifests is that an author’s better work will be in something that they’ve really connected with.
I used the word stamina earlier, and I use that a lot when talking about writing because it’s definitely a long game, there’s no instant gratification! I do a bit of running, just to keep fit – I’ve got a sedentary job and so I like to get out and run, it’s good to clear my head even if it’s a bit wearying on the bones as I get a bit older! I equate writing a novel to running a marathon or a half-marathon, or any long distance race really. Not that writing a novel should be a rush, but there’s a beginning, middle and end to it much like a race. The way that I would approach running a race is to pace myself, but also to compartmentalise.
If, at the start of a long distance race you think about the fact that you’ve got 13 miles to run, or 26 miles to run, you’ll really struggle to run that race simply because the knowledge that you’ve got so far to go will be overwhelming. For some people at least – for me it would be. I think it’s the same for writing a novel. Novels come in all sizes, but the ones I’ve written tend to be around 70-100,000 words and upwards. Even thinking about a relatively short novel of 70,000 words, when you’ve just switched on your computer or you’ve just got your notes out and you think ‘crikey, I’ve got 70,000 words to write!’ it’s going to be really demoralising. You haven’t got any words at that point! You might have a really good session that night and write 3,000 words but you’ve still got 67,000 left to write!
I learned fairly early on to compartmentalise. I would think ‘well, I’ll just get the first 5,000 words done’. That might be a chapter and a half, or even a chapter if you’ve got particularly long chapters. Then I’d think ‘ok, now I’m going to try and get to 15,000 words’, and then 20,000 words, and so on. In my experience when a book reaches a certain point, and this changes from project to project but often around the 30,000 mark, it starts to obtain its own gravity in that it will pull you along the rest of the way. Once you get to 30,000, you’re only 20,000 words away from 50,000, which might be your halfway point. You’ve already done 30, and 20’s less than 30, so from a sort of a mental conjuring perspective it doesn’t actually feel that much of a leap from 50 to 70, then to 80 and 90 and so on.
It’s very similar to how I would run a race – 5 miles, then 7 miles, then 10, then if it was a half marathon I’d count off the last three miles. It’s an endurance game, I think, with novels as much as running. The fact that I keep coming back and writing more suggests that I’ve got the stamina and the willpower to get over the finish line, to come full circle on that slightly ropey analogy!
ToW: What were the first stories you got published?
NK: My first start, in terms of published work, was with Inferno! magazine. That was a short story called Perfect Assassin, which is super old now – it’s set in Tilea, so that tells you how old it is, still in the Old World at that point. It was partly inspired by a film called Grosse Point Blank, which is about assassins fighting assassins, and that’s where the idea came from – ‘wouldn’t it be interesting to do a Warhammer story where assassins fight assassins?’ Although there’s more to it than that, there’s twists and turns and so on.
I wrote a few more stories for Inferno! and then my first novel for Black Library was Back From the Dead, which was a Necromunda book. Which is back into the public focus now that Necromunda is being revivified, it’s all very exciting! I think Back From the Dead is actually coming back out, too, although I’d hesitate to look at that now. I think I’d be horrified, as most writers are of their early work. All you see are your flaws.
Other books followed from that. I did some Warhammer stuff, and as I played Dwarfs for Warhammer it was natural that I’d want to write about them as I knew the most about them and felt confident and comfortable doing that. Eventually I moved over to writing some 40k stuff, where I suppose I’m best known for writing about the Salamanders chapter, and legion for the Horus Heresy.
ToW: Can you give us a quick overview of the story for your Blood Bowl comic, More Guts, More Glory?
NK: Sure. We follow The Hochland Harbingers throughout the four issues, and a down on his luck ex-star player called Dreng Sturnblud, who’s the leader of the team really. He’s that classic hero who’s fallen from grace, fallen on hard times but given a second chance to get this underdog team who are individually quite talented, but collectively a bit dysfunctional, some glory. He’s pushed along by a head coach, Hogan Hellhammer – you only have to look at the names to get a sense of what kind of arena we’re heading into here – to the summit of the Blood Bowl league, and winning the Blood Bowl itself.
There’s a conspiracy against the Harbingers though; they’re an underdog team that shouldn’t be where they are, but the right mixture has come together and they’re doing great. They’re the Leicester City of 2015/16 of the Blood Bowl league! Because this is Blood Bowl, a sort of Warhammer bottle-universe, people are trying to kill them and prevent their rise to power! That’s presented in a comedic fashion, of course. In a real world fashion that would be horrific, people trying to kill them and dismantle their run to glory would be massively controversial and problematic, but with Blood Bowl it’s just part of the territory. People do it all the time!
So there’s a meta-narrative which runs across the four issues, but each comic is really about the team they’re up against. In one issue they’re playing against orcs, and so what’s fun about orcs? In another they’re playing against elves, and what’s cool about elves? Let’s get a treeman in there!
ToW: How did this project come about? How did you end up writing a comic, and why Blood Bowl?
NK: Comparatively recently, Titan Comics got the licence to create comics for various Games Workshop properties – Warhammer 40,000, Dawn of War, and now Blood Bowl. When I heard the news I got in touch with George Mann [who’s the writer of the ongoing Warhammer 40,000 series] and said ‘I’d really like to have a go at writing a comic, do you think there’s anything that I could do that Titan would be interested in?’ He said ‘ok, I’ll see’ then came back to me and said ‘actually there’s a Blood Bowl miniseries, would you be up for writing that?’ Of course I said yes! I love Blood Bowl and I love comics so it seemed like a good way to mesh those two things together.
That was it really. I submitted an official synopsis and outline which Titan really liked, submitted my first issue which again Titan were pleased with, and that was it. I guess everyone has to get their start somewhere, and you’ve got to prove you can do it. I would attribute that success, for me, to many years of reading and thinking about comics! It’s true that there’s no better training than reading – exhaustively – the medium, as a writer, that you’re interested in.
To flip it back to prose writing, people often ask me ‘I want to be a writer, what should I do?’ and my answer is invariably the same – read! Read as much as possible, read everything, read really widely and get a sense of different voices. Don’t just read prose, read some text books, read biographies and histories, read everything that you can.
The same goes for comics, I think. Read as much as possible; don’t just read Marvel and DC, read some independent comics. Get a sense of how it works, try to figure out the relationship between the words and the pictures, and how that’s conveyed through panels. That was how I started!
ToW: How do you find writing comics, compared to writing prose?
NK: The comics are a departure, really. It’s a slightly different process, similar in many ways actually to writing audio drama scripts. I’ve done a few audio dramas so the script format wasn’t totally alien to me, and I’ve written comic books before just for my own edification really, although that was many years ago. So I was bringing some stuff to the table in terms of experience, and I’m a big comic reader – I read loads of comics, and lots of different kinds of comics too.
So I felt like I was in pretty good shape, I think I understand the form. I try to bring a sense of analysis to what I’m reading, not to treat it in a scientific way as that might suck a lot of the fun out of it, but thinking ‘ok that’s really clever, how’s the author’s done that?’ and trying to think how they achieve certain things. What did they do, how did they set that up, what kind of language did they use, how did they juxtapose the different elements together? It’s a similar sort of analytical reading that I would bring to comics – ‘how has it made me emote towards that character in a certain way, in terms of the pacing?’ and so on.
Comics are interesting because there’s a rhythm to them, almost like poetry, in the sense of how the panels are arranged on the page, how many there are, what the different beats are, where the page turns are going to be and how things are set up for page turns. There are various tools in the comic writer’s arsenal, and I don’t claim to be an expert, but from an analytical perspective you can think about whether it’s the point where I can use a full page splash? Would I want to do a double page spread here, is that the right place and time to do that?
Things like making sure that all the time the action is what happens in between the panels, so you get to see initialisation and outcome, and not the bit that happens in between. Are there interesting things to guide the reader’s eye in an unusual way? Should something break out of one panel and lead to another? At what point to use dialogue, and how much? What about establishing, in terms of changing scene – should I do that with a page turn? What does the texture of each spread look like?
These days a lot of comics are read digitally, so you also need to think about how they’ll flow in the digital medium. What would it look like on the full page, as opposed to individual panels?
ToW: How did you find working on something as collaborative as a comic, as opposed to novels which I imagine tend to be quite solitary?
NK: Well I really like to see the collaboration between writer and artist, and not just in the sense that the writer with their script will describe what they imagine the action will look like, for the artist to draw. Some comics publishers – and this is certainly my experience with Titan – will ask the writer to describe how many panels are on the page, and what happens in each panel. The artist then brings loads to the table – they might well have a better idea to what you’ve suggested, and say ‘I can see what you’re trying to convey here, but we can probably do that in one panel to give that a bit more room’ or ‘let’s break this out and do this in a slightly different way so we’ll still convey the story you want, but it’ll be done in such a way as it’ll feel more engaging or more immediate’.
So there’s a real collaborative process between writer and artist, certainly in some writer/artist partnerships – for example Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, who write a lot for DC comics, have got a really collaborative process after having worked together for a long time. In terms of working on More Guts, More Glory for Titan, it’s genuinely a team effort with the artist Jack Jadson, and I really don’t know what the pages are going to look like until the comic is made! There’s definitely an element of having to be willing to surrender some of that – it’s going to be a combined vision, some from me and some from the artist.
I was always thinking ‘what are the panels going to look like, what kind of idea have I got for this in my head?’ I have a notebook just full of squares and shapes – I’m not an artist, but in order to visualise the rhythm and the flow of the story I had to draw it. I don’t mean draw the actual comic of course, but just draw it out with notes saying things like ‘this is where Gorgeous Gerrick throws a long bomb’. I’d draw a line and say ‘this is where the ball breaks out of the panel and lands over here’ and I would write out roughly how I felt it would look. Jack would then apply his vast experience and knowledge and tweak things to make it look great.
Conveying something visual through words in that way is really tricky. What you want to be able to do is say ‘it’s kind of like this’ and draw a really crude diagram, but you can’t necessarily do that. Sometimes I would add little images and comments like ‘I’m thinking the beastman looks a bit like this’ or ‘the wood elves look a bit like this, and they’ve got this colour scheme’. There are certain limitations, though – you might provide a lot of detail about a certain character or team and then when you see that art you think ‘oh, ok. There’s not as much detail in there’.
But when you think about it, you can’t always apply that much detail because you’re not always going to have a super close-up where you get to see all that detail. There might be scenes where you’ve got loads of characters involved, and there’s no way the artist would be able to fit all that in. It would interrupt the flow of the story, and take maybe six months to a year to draw, which is nuts for a monthly title!
All those things are part of the learning curve, and need to be considered. That was the process that I went through; I hope you get a wonderful comic out of that, which resonates with people, and I hope people can enjoy an engaging, visual experience.
ToW: Blood Bowl has a distinct sense of humour that’s very different to most other Games Workshop properties. How did you go about including that in the text, and getting it across in the visuals?
NK: Yeah, when I took on the project that was at the forefront of my mind. In Blood Bowl, serious things happen – people die and get brutally injured – but there’s always an injection of dark humour that comes with it. It’s a world that’s very tongue in cheek but it’s not slapstick; it does have jokes in it, and it relies – in the best possible way – on sporting tropes too. That can inform the humour. I mean, the concept is wizards and goblins and barbarians playing American Football! You have to accept that – that’s Blood Bowl. It’s really violent, and it should be really funny, and horrifying, but funny when it’s horrifying. It’s got to be fantastical in terms of larger than life characters. It’s those archetypes but turned up to 11, so the elves are more effete and haughty than ever, and the dwarfs are grumpier and more curmudgeonly than ever. You really turn those up to 1,000.
The human part of it is, ‘well what if we were in that world?’ The human characters are larger than life too, but they’re a great way of articulating and relating to the experience of the reader – ‘I’m human, I can relate to how another human might react to a gigantic walking tree stomping around the football pitch!’ Or ‘I’m playing this American Football game with a ball that’s come to life because there’s a goblin inside it’, or ‘a portal to another dimension has just torn a hole in the fabric of reality and we’re still expected to play American Football!’ Those are the notions of Blood Bowl, and it only works if you’ve got the humour to carry all of that wonderful texture that Blood Bowl has.
The characters help, of course. In More Guts, More Glory Dreng is surrounded by characters who provide so many opportunities for comedy. There’s ‘Gorgeous’ Gerrick who would much rather sign autographs and have photo opportunities with his thousands of fans than actually play Blood Bowl, but he’s actually really good at it too. He’s the sort of character who, when he’s getting blocked, would say something like ‘not the face, not the face!’ because it’s really important to him. There’s another character called Marius who’s got a really bad impulse control problem, and unfortunately he’s got a tactical role within the team but he just wants to fight!
There’s an ogre, Gar, who’s usually benched because he’s really stupid, to the point he’s a liability on the pitch. It’s that sort of footballing trope when a manager’s been duped, bought a player from another team thinking they’re going to be amazing, and paid loads of money for them, only for them to turn out to be an absolute dud. There’s an undercurrent of that with Gar, who ostensibly should be great – ‘wow, we’ve got an ogre on our team!’ One of the things Dreng remarks on early on is ‘why is he on the bench?’ and the response is ‘you don’t want to know’, then he finds out later that the ogre’s terrible.
Dreng has to find a way and use his ingenuity to get the best out of Gar, and that’s kind of what he does for the whole team, as hijinks ensue. There’s a Norscan – well he’s not actually a Norscan, he’s from the Empire, but he thinks he is so he’s constantly saying things like ‘beware the kraken’ and ‘by the Valkyrie’s teeth’ and everyone else is saying ‘have you even been to Norsca?’ Of course he hasn’t! There’s a bit of Steve the Pirate from Dodgeball in that character.
I’m drawing from those sort of comedic tropes to hopefully get the best out of the characters, but at the same time telling a story. It’s not just a stream of running gags, there are other things that are happening and a deeper story there. It was getting my head around how to convey that, and also explain to the artists that ‘this is the bit where the wizard, who’s been drinking something he shouldn’t, lets loose with a horrific amount of flatulence and a fireball comes out as a result…’ So there are some fart jokes in there, we do stoop to that level!
There’s a scene where an elf star player loses all of his hair, freaks out and runs off the pitch. It’s kinda dumb and it’s amusing because otherwise he’d have totally run rings around the Harbingers, but if you can affect his hair you’re onto a winner! If you’ve got a treeman who’s a problem then set fire to him and that’s the end of that problem! Again, it’s amusing because he’s wandering around crushing people, and looking at it through a more serious lens you’d think ‘oh my god, that’s horrible!’ but because there’s a veneer of humour over everything you’re hopefully laughing at the madness of it all.
That’s a key part of getting a comic that really feels like Blood Bowl. Anyone who’s played it will know that crazy things happen in the game all the time, all these ridiculous outcomes and fantastic little twists of fate. As a writer I wanted to get the essence of that onto the page for the reader to pick up on. Jack Jadson has done some incredible work and we’re very lucky to have him. He’s interpreted everything wonderfully and has clearly got fantastic comic sensibilities – I mean that in a comedic way rather than the medium. He’s conveyed everything very successfully, I think.
ToW: For Black Library fans who might not be familiar with comics, what should they look for in something like this comic? How should they read this, in comparison with a novel or a short story?
NK: Take your time, for starters, and try to get a sense of each comic’s rhythm. I talked a little bit earlier about how each comic has a rhythm, very similar to how certain poetry has a rhythm. It’s like iambic pentameter but in comic book form! It’s all to do with the shape, size and frequency of the panels and how they’re arranged. Try to get a sense of how the words relate to the images. Read the dialogue or the establishing text, but then look at the image! The image fills in a lot of gaps that normally, if you were reading a novel, would be on the page. A lot of the unspoken is there in front of you on the comic book page.
Appreciate it for the spectacle it is! Some comic books are true works of art in the way panels are split up and how the pages are laid out. There’s even some magazine-style elements, as there are certain ways that magazines are constructed that guide your eye through the narrative of the article, if you like. The same is true of comics, the panels are arranged in such a way and the dialogue is produced in such a way as to help guide you through the reading process. Most of the time it’s left to right and top to bottom, but sometimes you might get a full-page splash with inset panels down the side and the reading experience then is to read the inset panels and then think about the main image. If you can tap into that rhythm, you’ll get more out of the comic book experience.
There’s definitely a spatial element to comic writing in terms of positioning and juxtaposition. Prose writing achieves the same effect by putting things together and generating forward momentum, or building to a conclusion, without you really realising how it’s happening. Truman Capote was a phenomenal exponent of juxtaposition – he wrote a book called In Cold Blood, which was a true story and a book about murder, and is a particularly good example of juxtaposition. As the murderers’ path is bringing them closer to the victim, the chapters reduce in size and the way the information is juxtaposed together provokes a sense of expediency and urgency, the characters becoming closer on the page as well as in the narrative.
A similar effect can be achieved in comics by juxtaposing things together, increasing or decreasing the number of panels. Fewer panels to read will increase your pace, for example, in terms of how quickly you’ll end up turning the page. The size of those panels will also dictate the visual impact something will have – the bigger it is, the bigger the visual impact. You might save those for the moments when you want to make an impact in the narrative, and you’d ally that to the visual impact of what you see on the page.
So I would suggest you allow yourself to be led by the flow, take some time to appreciate the art. If you’re reading it digitally that’s cool, but don’t just read in Guided View – take some time to see what the full page looks like. It’s well worth doing that, as you start to see other things in comics which will help you get an appreciation for the medium. The other part of it is just read the story and enjoy it, enjoy the marrying of narrative and dialogue to images!
In fact, I find myself going back and re-reading comics and graphic novels all the time. I find myself not just going back in terms of having not read a story for a while – like I might with a novel that I found really enjoyable – but also if I’ve got to a certain point I’ll often just go back to have another quick look at specific pages to really appreciate the art or to try and understand how the story was constructed. From an analytical perspective that’s quite a cool thing to be able to do whereas in a novel, unless it’s really cleverly constructed or uses a lot of different literary techniques to create a shape, you don’t really get that. All the shape comes internally to the experience, whereas you [as a reader] do bring that to the comic experience.
There’s a lot of information that’s very easy to pass over, so it’s well worth going back and having another look at, and absorbing and enjoying it. Comics are a visual medium, and I think they should be enjoyed in that way. I would advise that anyone who’s new to comics would get the best out of them by doing that.
ToW: You mentioned Guided View there. As someone who’s new to comics, could you quickly expand on that a little?
NK: Yeah, sure. There’s something called Guided View [in comiXology] which will allow you to swipe from one panel to the next [rather than seeing the full page], orienting each panel to make sure it looks at its most effective. It’s something really interesting about digital comics and allows you to create almost a pseudo movie effect.
There’s one particular comic called Velvet which is about a female ex-MI5 agent, and there’s a scene where she gets knocked unconscious, as the hero often is, which works really effectively in Guided View. The next few panels show her slowly waking up. You start off with a black panel, then you swipe the next panel and get just a slight image but then it moves immediately to the panel that follows it, and so on, so it looks almost like what she would see between flickering eyelids.
Reading a comic digitally compared to reading a comic physically is quite a different experience, although it does depend on the comic in terms of how it’s put together and how you’re led through the panels on the page and the story. There are some wonderful effects that you can experience through reading something digitally, though.
I’ll often read the digital version of a comic and then the physical version of it, because it’s a different experience each time. I think that’s something that’s quite unique. If you read a novel on Kindle, for instance, it’s going to be a similar experience – creatively and intellectually – to reading it as a physical novel. Of course there’s a tactile element to reading a book, and that’s definitely my preference as I like to be able to turn the page and feel it, but in terms of the overall experience it’s probably quite similar. You’re engaging with it in the same way, it’s just the medium that’s different.
ToW: So would you say there are things you can do in comics that you can’t do in a Black Library prose story?
NK: Definitely! It’s a different kind of experience to reading a novel, I think – the reader is bringing the visual medium to the novel, whereas a comic does a lot of that for you. As a reader of a comic, as you move from one panel to the next, subconsciously you’re filling in those gaps whereas in a novel you don’t have those kind of gaps. Everything’s described – that’s the only way you can build up a visual picture. There are obviously opportunities to leave things unsaid and implied, but you can do that in comics too.
The key thing for comics is obviously the visual element, which is given to you as part of the experience, whereas in prose you’re bringing all of that yourself. As a Black Library example, in The Carrion Throne by Chris Wraight there’s an interrogator called Spinoza – if I was to ask you to describe Spinoza to me, what would she look like? What would her weapons look like? If I asked three different artists to draw Spinoza I’d probably get three very, very different versions. There would be elements in kind as everyone would bring their shared knowledge of the universe, but the detail would be different. If The Carrion Throne was a graphic novel, we would know what Spinoza would look like – she would look like how she looks on the page!
There are so many different benefits to reading comic books, and what I would advocate is read everything! Read novels, enjoy that experience, but read comics and enjoy that experience too. They bring so many different things to the table. Sure, comics are better at some things while novels are better at other things, but I’ve read some pretty in-depth, intellectually challenging comics and graphic novels dealing with some really deep and interesting stuff, and I’ve also read some really light-hearted, easy to get into novels that are a lot of fun. There are ways to experience all different kinds of stories through those two different mediums.
ToW: If one of your Black Library fans picks up this comic and then wants to dig deeper into the comics or graphic novel world, where would you suggest they go next?
NK: Well of course I’d advocate reading the 40k comics. I’m not just saying that because it’s associated with Black Library, but if someone’s already a Black Library fan and they like the Games Workshop universes, there are 40k comics, and comics associated with other Games Workshop worlds, that they should totally read! Once they’re done with those, and have read Dawn of War and everything else…
Well in terms of other comics that I read, there’s one called Lazarus which is written by Greg Rucka who’s an excellent, very experienced comic writer, and illustrated by Michael Lark who’s a superb artist. The reason I suggest that is because it’s a dystopian future and there’s a military aspect to it, so if you’re a Black Library fan you’re probably going to quite like military-style stories. It’s very intelligent writing, very immediate, with tons of great action. I think it’s got something interesting to say about society as well, and I’d thoroughly recommend that.
If you like the superhero genre, and you like inquisitors for example, then read some Batman – he’s a detective, he’s got cool gadgets! But I would absolutely go for a Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo run. They’re doing some other stuff at the moment, but I would go back and read Court of Owls which is just great. It’s an absolute joy to read, the storytelling is fantastic, the use of narration and dialogue, the way the characters work, the phenomenal art and how it expresses those ideas…it’s just a joy to behold.
I’ll always try to recommend comics that resonated strongly with me. If you want a real challenge, and to get your teeth into something, there’s a graphic novel called The Fade Out [by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips] which is superb. It’s set during the Hollywood silver screen era – I don’t know how easily someone who’s into 40k and Age of Sigmar and so on would gel with that, but from a comic book reader’s perspective if you wanted to graduate to something that’s a bit more challenging then I would absolutely advocate that.
I’m reading a great series of graphic novels at the moment called Birthright, published by Image, which is kind of a heroic fantasy but part of it’s set in the real world while part of it’s set in a fantasy world. There are things for fans of fantasy – dragons, orcs, ogres and things like that – but at the same time there’s stuff that happens in the American suburbia, which is a really interesting juxtaposition. That’s pretty accessible too.
There’s a whole host of stuff that Titan publishes – Assassin’s Creed is a really good book, for example. But if someone’s looking for their next fix after Blood Bowl, just read the Warhammer 40,000 comic – it’s well worth looking into! More Guts, More Glory is four issues long, and we’ll hopefully be doing some more after that, but the 40k comic has got a bit of a longer run so you’ve got the chance to get your teeth into it a bit more and get a bit more of an in-depth story.
ToW: What about vice versa? If someone now wants to check out your Black Library work, where should they start?
NK: Well they would probably be best off reading some of my Warhammer Fantasy stuff, because that’s the world that is the closest to the style of world that the Blood Bowl series is part of. Any of the Dwarf stuff would be good, like Oathbreaker or Honourkeeper, or The Great Betrayal is probably a good one to start with. That’s probably what I would suggest someone had a look at. Also Grimblades is interesting, which is an Empire novel, as it features a close-knit group of similar characters, although not as comedic!
If they like the writing style and the kind of characters then of course there’s my whole back catalogue! [Check out the end of the interview for a link to where to find that.]
ToW: Can we expect more Blood Bowl from Black Library, in comics and/or prose?
NK: I don’t know, to be honest. We’ve only just had issue three of More Guts, More Glory out [at the time of writing – issue four is out now!] so we’ll have to wait until the full run has come out and if the numbers justify it then hopefully I’ll be doing some more Blood Bowl.
Will Black Library be doing more Blood Bowl? Well, we did some short stories recently, that I think were met with a lot of interest and excitement, so I guess never say never. It’s definitely a fringe of a fringe in some ways, but there are a lot of Blood Bowl fans out there and Blood Bowl is back in a big way. Forge World are doing some amazing stuff with all the miniatures they’re releasing, so I would definitely not count it out.
ToW: How about a Blood Bowl audio drama, complete with commentary from Jim and Bob?!
NK: Oh that’s a good idea! That does sound like a lot of fun, the soundscape would be fantastic, it’s ready-made for audio. Wouldn’t it be good to do the whole thing without any narration? It’s just the game with Jim and Bob explaining what’s going on. You might get a whole bunch of pitchside stuff but essentially it’s just a 70-minute Blood Bowl game! I think that could be a challenge, it could be really interesting. Maybe a Christmas special…
ToW: As a final question, keeping on topic – if you were a Blood Bowl coach, what famous team would you want take on the challenge of coaching?
NK: I should probably say the Hochland Harbingers, right? I know those characters and feel quite close to them, so that would probably be my number one…but that feels like a bit of a cheat answer.
Actually, probably the Bright Crusaders because they just won’t cheat! I think you should absolutely cheat in Blood Bowl, but I just think it would be a fascinating experience to coach a team who are superbly skilled but phenomenally terrible because they weren’t willing to engage in nefarious activities! It would be great to see that in action, and try and get the best out of those guys.
Or the Dwarf Giants! They’d be a great team to coach – just getting the ball and not giving up, just tank it up the line. They’re like the Arsenal of the 90s in Blood Bowl – one touchdown to nil and that’s it, just defend, defend, defend.
So yeah, Dwarf Giants, Bright Crusaders or Hochland Harbingers! And I’d totally advocate the user of a deathroller…
Oh man, or a halfling team! That would be fun to coach too, right? Maybe the Greenfield Grasshuggers, and get to meet Puggy Baconbreath, that could be fun.
Too many to name, too many to name.
Massive thanks to Nick for taking the time out of his day to do this interview, and to Titan Comics for kindly providing the brilliant pages of internal artwork you’ve seen here! I hope you enjoyed that, and it maybe inspired you to go out and pick up More Guts, More Glory or one of the other great comics from Titan.
If you want to check out more of Nick’s work for Black Library you could either take a look at his author page on the Black Library website or do an Amazon search, and if you’d like to see my reviews of some of Nick’s writing you can check out this page on Track of Words.
Lastly, to check out all the cool comics and graphic novels published by Titan Comics just click here to see their website.
If you’ve got any thoughts, feedback or questions off the back of this interview, please do feel free to let me know – you can get in touch via the comments on here, by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via either Facebook or Twitter.