Jim Zub's next issue of PATHFINDER goes on sale tomorrow and we have a real treat for you. Not only do we have an extensive preview of the book from Dynamite, but the writer was also kind enough to provide extensive commentary for every page in the preview! Read on to see his thought process while working on the issue.
When the Pathfinder adventurers are hired to scare away bandits who've taken over the abandoned outpost prison called Raven's Watch, they get a lot more than they bargained for. It's a trap!
The hit comic series based on Paizo's incredible award-winning fantasy world, fiction line and tabletop RPG continues! Sword & sorcery fans and gamers alike will enjoy this latest chapter from Paizo Publishing and Dynamite Entertainment.
Working on Pathfinder, the comic based on the award-winning tabletop role-playing game, has been a real joy for me. I’m a lifelong gamer and getting the chance to contribute to such a well-loved property and enrich the back stories and personalities of the iconic characters that have been part of the game since the beginning is wonderful.
This chapter sees the group in a tough spot as they’re lead into traps and dangers below a prison outpost called Raven’s Watch.
The whole “cutting ahead to a moment of tension, then rolling the story back to see how we got there” thing has become really popular in media as of late, but there’s a good reason for that. It’s an effective way of grabbing the audience, giving them a puzzle with pieces that need to be filled in. I try not to overuse it in my comic writing, but this opening shot with the group trapped and bleeding was too good an opportunity to pass up.
And here we go, rolling the story back by three hours to a quieter moment as the group discusses the fallout from their meeting with the Sandpoint town council last issue. With six characters in the group, it’s important that each one is represented and that their personalities come through. I don’t just want it to feel like a generic info dump or lifeless recap.
Councilman Ranst is an evil guy setting our heroes up for a trap and the reader knows that, but I didn’t want him to come across as too obviously evil. He’s a bit slimy and clearly a self-serving politician, but from the group’s point of view he’s trying to help them out. That being said, I didn’t want the group to come across as witless. They question his information source and his motives.
Ross A. Campbell (not to be confused with the other comic artist Ross Campbell) does a fantastic job at setting the mood with his coloring, especially on these night pages. Sean’s art is really enhanced by the color palette and well plotted lighting.
I established the blossoming relationship between Kyra(our cleric) and Merisiel (the elf rogue) last issue, but the rest of the group isn’t aware of it until now. Homosexuality in Golarion (the fictional world of Pathfinder) doesn’t come with the controversy or baggage that it does here on Earth. This is fantasy, not an archaic dark ages historical story. The rules in fiction are what we decide and I’m thrilled that Paizo (the creators of Pathfinder) have built such a well represented and inclusive game world to explore.
Silence is a really effective tool in comics if the artist is up to the challenge. I wanted to show the group effectively sneaking up on the outpost. Sean’s staging here really sells it.
The group doesn’t know that the guards they’ve ‘attacked’ are just decoys. Trouble’s brewing. When I wrote this scene into the script I knew it would be tough to portray, but Sean really delivered on it.
The trap is set as the group comes across a fake campfire set up running with a Ghost Sound spell. I wanted to set up a trap that was more than just an ambush. The bandits are ready for the group, well organized, and effective. The more capable an opponent is, the more tension I can create in the story.
I didn’t give Sean specific directions on what the bandit group should look like. He did a great job at coming up with a fearsome band for our heroes to fight.
I try not to overload combat with too much talking. Combat scenes don’t make sense if characters are spouting soliloquies. Quick punctuated commands and rapid-fire moments help sell the ‘speed’ of what’s happening.
You can read more about the way I write action scenes on my blog here.
And the trap is sprung, bringing us back to the start of the issue. As the last of the pieces fall into place it’s a satisfying little story ‘loop’.
Adding injury to insult. The group is trapped, hurt, and low on supplies. In order for our group to be heroic, they need to rail against difficult odds. In this case I’ve put them in a literal ‘hole’ they have to find their way out of.
Coming up with prayers for Kyra is always a fun challenge. I try not to repeat them, which can be tough, but I like customizing them to the situation at hand.
The adventuring group in Pathfinder is relatively inexperienced. They make a lot of mistakes. I’m really enjoying showing how they learn from those mistakes as the story continues along. Valeros is courageous, but headstrong. He’s becoming a better tactician, but it’s a slow transition.
Rats! A classic fantasy foe, but one we can really visually deliver on in the comics with waves of rodents overwhelming the group.
Like a role-playing game, the Pathfinder comic moves through a series of ‘encounters’. Some are character interactions, others are physical combat or traps to overcome. If the reader cares about the cast and wants to see what happens next, then we’ve done our job well.
The Pathfinder comic series is put together in a way that fans of the game can enjoy seeing characters and places they’ve previously only read about while new readers can also jump on board and follow along without knowing the detailed lore from the game. When I meet comic fans who have told me they started reading Pathfinder and thoroughly enjoy it even though they’ve never played the game, that’s a big feather in my cap. A licensed comic should be a great way for readers to discover a property, not just something for diehard fans to enjoy.
PATHFINDER #10 goes on sale tomorrow!