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Interview: Shawn Kittelsen Discusses Upcoming Events in MORTAL KOMBAT X

Writer Shawn Kittelsen gets in-depth about his digital book from DC

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Happy Mortal Kombat Day! Most fans are probably calling in "sick" to work to play Mortal Kombat X today and on top of all that awesomeness, we talked to writer Shawn Kittelsen, once again, about the on-going DC digital comic (which is also released in print and has the MORTAL KOMBAT X VOL. 1: BLOOD TIES out today) MORTAL KOMBAT X. What's coming down the line? Will we see some of our favorite characters?

COMIC VINE: How has the response been from fans so far?

SHAWN KITTELSEN: Tremendously positive! I thought I knew about passionate fan communities from working at DC, but it’s a whole different ball game when your name is on the cover of the book. I probably wasn’t prepared for the level of scrutiny that came when we launched the book, although in retrospect I should have known better, since even familiar characters like Scorpion appear dramatically different from how they’ve been portrayed in the past. There’s a lot of risk involved when you tinker with an icon like that. What was surprising/relieving/exciting was finding out that fans love seeing fresh takes on old favorite, they embrace the new characters, and people who’ve never been to a comic shop are running out to pick up the book. One dude even tattooed the Scorpion/Sub-Zero double covers on his legs! We didn’t get three printings of issue #1 for nothing — that’s the MK community flexing its muscle and demanding more of this universe.

CV: What's been going on in this series for those who have been missing out?

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SK: (Takes a deep breath and collects all the mythology in his lungs.) After MK9, a fallen god named Shinnok invaded Earthrealm with an army of demons and undead warriors. Fortunately for us mere mortals, Raiden and his champions stopped what could have been an apocalypse by trapping Shinnok in his own Amulet. In the years that followed, a lot of things changed. Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade had a daughter, Cassie, who’s growing up to be every bit as rebellious as her father. Scorpion’s humanity was restored and he rebuilt his clan, taking in Kenshi’s son, Takeda, as an apprentice. And in Outworld, there’s been an ongoing power struggle between a noble barbarian named Kotal Kahn and insane-but-deadly Mileena, who claims her lineage as Shao Kahn’s heir.

In the midst of all this change, something breaks into the realms and starts possessing people, turning them into homicidal maniacs. Scorpion loses his clan, Kotal and Mileena’s war takes a bloody turn, and Cassie Cage is kidnapped. All these seem like unrelated events, but it turns out they’re tied together by ancient daggers called the Kamidogu. Raiden attempted to safeguard Shinnok’s Amulet using Blood Magik and these daggers. The person possessing everyone is seeking these daggers in order to unlock the Amulet and potentially unleash Shinnok once again — and our heroes are determined to prevent that from happening.

CV: Everyone is heading to Shang Tsung's palace. Are we going to get to see an actual MK tournament?

SK: That was on the table, but instead of a tournament, you’re going to see an all-out war. Tournaments are still awesome, though, and if we get a Season 2 forthis comic — and I hope we do! — I’ve got big plans for an epic, season-long tournament story.

CV: This book is the first time we've seen a lot of characters, like D'vorah, what's your process for giving these characters a voice? Do you spend a lot of time with the game makers helping out with that?

SK: The game makers at NetherRealm — I think of them as the MK Brain Trust — provided a ton of information to us upfront, but then they had to buckle down and create the game, so I pored over that reference material. The Story Mode script in particular became my MKX Bible, and whenever I started to write a particular character, I would refer back to that as my baseline. D’vorah, for example, isn’t consciously an individual the way you and I think of ourselves, she’s a collective being with a hive mind. That’s why she’s always saying “This One” or “The Hive” instead of “I” or “me”. Then beyond the cadence and quirks of her speech, there’s this future knowledge of where her story goes in the game, so I’m also cognizant of the need to keep that consistency.

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CV: Who was the guy at the end of issue #13 and what was going on there?

SK: That was our boy Havik, who’s been hanging out on Shang Tsung’s Island, acting as Reiko’s “spiritual mentor”, promising to turn Reiko into a Blood God. He took Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs captive at the end of Chapter 12. On the page you’re referring to at the end of Chapter 13, he’s tearing the guts out of some poor guy, probably an errant Red Dragon mercenary who stuck his nose in the wrong torture chamber, and channeling Blood Magik to possess Sub-Zero, who’s thousands of miles away. Flip back to Forrest Fox in Chapters 2 and 3, the way he talked once he was possessed, and you can see that it wasn’t the Kamidogu that possessed him — it’s been Havik all along. So this is our confirmation that Havik is the one possessing people through the Kamidogu. But why is he doing this? That’s something that readers won’t know for sure until future chapters, but longtime MK fans know that Havik is the Cleric of Chaos, as unpredictable as he is dangerous. Suffice to say that readers shouldn’t trust everything Havik says…

CV: What are we going to see in the next few weeks?

SK: You’re going to find out how Sub-Zero went from a cyborg in MK9 to a restored human in MKX in “Sub-Zero: Sekret Origin”, and more importantly, you’re going to see the Outworld Civil War explode with an all-out siege of Kotal Kahn’s capitol by Goro’s father, King Gorbak, and the Shokan horde. Kotal can’t just mutilate Goro and forget about it. There are long-term consequences for that act. Unfortunately for Sonya and Johnny, who just want to find their daughter, they’re about to be swept up into this larger conflict as well.

CV: Now that you're a few months into the book, who have your favorite characters been to write?

SK: Here’s an indecisive list: I love writing Johnny because he’s a nattering chatterbox and that’s me in a nutshell. I love writing Hanzo in any scene where he sticks it to Raiden for being the world’s worst cosmic manager. I love writing concerned parents like Sonya and King Gorbak because I’m a new dad, so everything parental just hits me in the feels. And I love writing Outworlders like Kotal Kahn because he speaks in this histrionic fantasy patois that in my mind is always accompanied by the Dragonborn theme from Skyrim.

CV: Any cool and violent scenes coming up?

SK: You know it! During the siege of Z’unkahrah, Kotal Kahn uses the term “sanguine baptism” — which is really just a fancy way of saying BLOODBATH. That’s all I can say without spoiling the fun.

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CV: What's it been like working with Dexter Soy?

SK: There is nothing better than waking up in the morning to find new pages from Dexter. In my totally biased humble opinion, he’s one of the most stylistically unique artists working in comics today and after MKX, I’d do another book with him in a heartbeat. The kinetic layouts that he creates for sequences like the Scorpion vs. Sub-Zero fight in Chapter 14 make my jaw drop. I can’t pretend to write that kind of complex visualization into the scripts, it’s all Dexter’s interpretation. If I’m lucky enough to travel to the Philippines for a convention or he comes here, I’m not going to shake his hand, I’m going to hug him, because it’s like we’ve gone through a war together creating a weekly series, day by day, panel by panel, for months on end.

And that goes for the whole international team — Dex’s fellow artists Igor Vitorino, Daniel Sampere, and Geraldo Borges, inkers Oclair Albert, Daniel Henriques, and Ruy José, cover artists Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Stephen Segovia, colorists Veronica Gandini, Kyle Ritter, and Rod Reis, letterer Saida Temofonte, and of course our editor and creative fulcrum, Alex Antone. I hope I’m not leaving anyone out in this little Oscar speech, but it’s such a team effort to put these books together, and I’m so grateful to have the support of all these talented folks. In so many cases, I’ve been their fan for years, so getting to work with them is a dream come true.

CV: Can you tease anything big coming up?

SK: For all the fans on Twitter who petition us to bring their favorite characters into the book, we’re listening. We might not have the pages to fit all those characters into Season 1, but we make an effort to be inclusive when and where it supports the story. With that in mind, here’s your teaser: Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrumble!!

Thanks to Shawn for answering our questions and make sure to check out MORTAL KOMBAT X which is released weekly digitally and has a physical copy or you can pick up MORTAL KOMBAT X VOL. 1: BLOOD TIES which is out now!