The warrior Valeros can rely on his sword arm and his friends—mysterious sorceress Seoni, quick-witted elven rogue Merisiel, powerful wizard Ezren, well-traveled dwarven ranger Harsk, and courageous cleric Kyra — but nothing can prepare him for the dangers that lurk ahead. The scattered goblin tribes of Varisia are unifying in ways no one has ever seen before. At the heart of this strange evolution is an ancient force of evil looking to establish itself anew in the world of Golarion!
I’m here with Jim Zub and Andrew Huerta, the writer/artist team for Dynamite Publishing’s Pathfinder: Volume One — Dark Water Rising, with a fantastic opportunity to ask them a few questions about their work on this fun and exciting series.
Gentlemen, congratulations on the upcoming release of the Pathfinder graphic novel, Dark Water Rising. How does it feel to have come this far?
• Andrew: It feels great! I think it's the first time I've ever worked on a huge title like Pathfinder and the first time I've drawn an entire arc. I feel like I've evolved while rendering these few issues and I hope it shows in the later issues.
• Jim: I think everyone on the team is really proud. No matter how many projects I work on it’s a great feeling getting my hands on a collected book like this and seeing it all in one place. It reminds me how much effort went into it and it energizes me for future stories.
Jim, now that you’ve had a chance to work with these characters for awhile, have the characters grown on you? How have they developed throughout the series?
• Jim: It’s been a lot of fun working with characters who are so visually well established, enriching them with personality and back story. Even though Pathfinder is a licensed property, I wanted to make sure that the comic doesn’t feel like a 22-page sales pitch. There’s a core storyline that drives the characters and I’m having an absolute blast playing them off each other and showing who they are, flaws and all.
Andrew, the characters you’re working with in the Pathfinder comic are somewhat iconic to those who play the RPG. What was it like to take these characters and make them your own?
• Andrew: It was both fun and challenging. Since these characters are already established in the Pathfinder canon, I did my best trying to put my own stamp on the characters while still keeping them faithful to the source material.
How has the working exchange and camaraderie developed between the both of you throughout this project?
• Andrew: I think our creative process has been consistent since the beginning. Jim writes it, I render it — that’s the best way to go!
• Jim: Yeah, absolutely what Andrew said. It‘s really quite straight forward. I tightly outline the story so it can be approved by Paizo and Dynamite, so Andrew already knows where we’re headed in terms of pivotal plot moments. I write in full script and then leave it to him to build the eye-popping visuals. If he needs clarification or added reference he drops me a line and we get it figured out. It’s been a smooth process and the dynamic work he’s been turning in just eggs me on to do even more.
Tell us about the relationship you two have had with Paizo and Dynamite as you have worked on the book?
• Andrew: Both Paizo and Dynamite have been amazing and really supportive. If I ever need anything or suggest anything, they listen and they’re there to help. A big thanks to Erik at Paizo and Rich at Dynamite. Those two have been awesome… well, everyone on this project has been awesome, but you know what I mean.
• Jim: Everyone working with us at Paizo and Dynamite have been great. Erik Mona, Paizo’s Head Publisher, and I chat once a month about overall story stuff and the latest script I’m working on and his editorial team sends really great notes on completed scripts once I hand them in. They recommend minor tweaks and double check that the game lore is properly represented. Rich, our editor at Dynamite, takes care of the art pipeline and I work with him on solicitation text and cover concepts for upcoming issues while making sure the whole thing is coming in on time. It's a nice work pipeline.
As I write this, issue #4 of the comic has just arrived in stores. What can your readers expect from this issue, and the next two that make up this first volume?
• Andrew: In issue #4, our heroes get in a fight at Mosswoods and meet up with another Iconic. The last two issues get really crazy and… well, I'll let the comics speak for themselves.
• Jim: Issue #4 definitely takes a dark turn as our heroes get in over their head with the goblin threat. The scope of Etainia’s dark plans are starting to become clearer to our readers and the group is in deep trouble. Issue #5-6 are darker and more vicious than the previous issues as the stakes get raised and our heroes have to dig deep to try and overcome the threat they’re now wrapped up in. By the time this first adventure is complete the group will have questions that need to be answered and a looming sense of future danger to come.
Reviews for the Pathfinder comics continue to be very positive. What’s your response to the overwhelming support by gamers and comic readers alike?
• Andrew: I’m elated! Jim is an amazing writer and he inspires me to draw each page better than the last. I put a lot of hours and love into making sure Pathfinder looks unique and great, and I hope all the fans appreciate that and Jim's writing.
• Jim: I’m thrilled, obviously. I was really worried that the comic would have a hard time striking a balance between comic/fantasy fans and tabletop gaming fans, but so far we’ve been able to keep both sides happy. When people tell me that it feels like a really great gaming session I take that as a compliment. I want readers to grow attached to the cast and look forward to the ride we have planned. I like that the group is quirky, flawed, and funny at times. It’s a nice contrast with the more classic fantasy and adventure elements in the story.
Jim, what’s your insights about the land of Varisia now that you’ve had a chance to explore, and expound upon it?
• Jim: Varisia has a lot of the traditional European sword & sorcery setting traits, so it’s easy for me to set the mood. Once we get more rooted in the environment, I’m looking forward to taking the group to other locales and surprising our readers with some of the wild locations in Golarion.
Andrew, what was it like for you to be visualize such fantastic, iconic places, such as Mosswood?
• Andrew: Intimidating. I wanted the settings to be just as iconic as the characters, but it's tough to achieve that in the comic setting.
I understand that this book will include a 10-page bonus story? What can you two tell us about it?
• Jim: It’s a bookend story, sort of a brief epilogue to the events of the main story. I don’t want to reveal too much, but it’s about a particular goblin who missed out on the big action of issue #5-6 and his little quest to prove his worth.
There are also a lot of encounters, character descriptions, and world detail for the Pathfinder RPG in this book. How do you think your work translated?
• Andrew: It's really cool. I've seen some of my concepts/drawings used in the game section and it's flattering. Anything I can do to help out Paizo and Pathfinder grow in any way is a good day.
• Jim: I’m a lifelong tabletop RPG fan, so being involved with Pathfinder is gleefully fanboy-ish for me. The game world informs the storytelling and the new game content reflects the comic, so it’s a nice, closed loop of inspiration.
As the readers glimpse at the world map detailing the character’s travels, where would you like to see them traverse next?
• Andrew: I like demons and nasty looking monsters, so maybe the Iconics battling in some sort of underworld would be fun and pretty cool.
• Jim: Good question! If we stay in Varisia, then I’d be thrilled to take the group to the strange walled city of Kaer Maga. It has a ‘den of thieves’ feeling and is rife with mystery and danger. Ustalav has a gothic-horror fantasy vibe and is ripe for story possibilities and drama, so it would be a fun place to explore with the Iconics at some point. Pathfinder’s setting is so broad and textured. It lends itself to pretty much any kind of sword & sorcery story you could imagine.
Will readers be seeing both of you working on the next volume of Pathfinder comics?
• Andrew: I believe Jim is staying on board and issue #6 is my last on Pathfinder, for now, at least. I would love to draw Pathfinder again in the future — maybe create some covers or one-shots, but you never know!
• Jim: I’m already midway through the scripts for the second story arc and am talking about where things can go from there, while Andrew is focused on taking care of a newborn baby and a couple smaller projects he has on tap. Our penciler for the second adventure is Jake Bilbao, who came on board in issue #5 to assist.