Brothers of War: Pat Lee & Ernst Dabel talk return of "Warlands"

When Dreamwave Productions, the little Toronto based studio that could, debuted in the late nineties, one of its most popular titles was "Warlands," a fantasy series paying homage to the classic anime "Record of The Lodoss Wars" in style and theme while presenting an exciting new fantasy story at a time when the genre was not faring well in comic books. In January 2005, Dreamwave is set to reintroduce fans to the Warlands mythos, this time with the Dabel Brothers in charge, known for their work on "Dragonlance." Dreamwave founder Pat Lee and Ernst Dabel spoke to CBR News, explaining all the important points of the new series.

"I would have to say that it is our love for the series [that precipitated the return of the series," Dabel told CBR News. "It's been out of the picture far too long. The new Warlands series entitled 'Malagen's Campaign' is about the events that lead up to the First War of the Races. It is a time when the Eastern kingdoms are not even aware of the dire threat that is stirring in the West. In the East, storytellers speak of Vampires in children's tales in order to scare children, but no one truly believes that these creatures of myth could possibly exist. The new series launches in January of 2005."

Since it has been some time since "Warlands" graced comic book racks, Dabel was happy to reintroduce the characters. "Malagen, the Black, First of all Vampires whose sole purpose is to convert everyone to the worship of Tara, goddess of darkness. Aalok, the Vampire Prince who was sent by Lord Malagen to the Eastern kingdoms to find the Darklyte armor, the only artifact that has the power to destroy the Lord of the Vampires. Vardemis, the Vampire general who was fiercely loyal to Prince Aalok. The giant vampire, Shrogran will be in the new series as well, he is the bodyguard of Lord Malagen. Elessa the warrior elf, she is one of the heroes of the original Warlands series.

"Here are some teases at some of the new faces: Sladmortis, one of the great Vampire Lords. Rebeknah, the High Priestess, and lastly Banshera'Atuun, the Prince of the Lost Elves who is called The Sword of Thorns by his people. I hope that I teased you enough [laughs]."

For Lee, someone who defined the look of "Warlands," there's a vested interest in the series and he feels it'll resonate with readers. "Well, it's pretty exciting for us since this series is one of the most important series of Warlands. Whether you are a hardcore Warlands fan or a new reader to Warlands, it will take you on a seriously wild ride. The story is very important to the Warlands franchise and many of the holes that were in the last few volumes will be explained in this series."

Readers will also see the Dabel Brothers focus on the core themes of the series and Dabel believes that while "Warlands" is set in a fantastic, awe inspiring world, there's a connection to real life in the subtext. "I would have to say that the message of Warlands is very simple, 'life is war.' This is a most important theme to me, which I can easily understand, because in the real world, just like in Warlands, everyone fights their wars each and everyday, and no one can remain neutral. Not only do we fight everyday against the pressures and stresses of life, but if we are parents we fight everyday to try to understand our children and raise them into fine young men and women and if we are children we fight everyday to try to understand our parents and to help them to see the changes of the new generation through our eyes. We fight to try to keep up with the many changes in our world, all of the new information that we are constantly taking in with new technologies. We fight in trying to fix the problems in our broken homes and even trying to keep our physical bodies in good shape is a constant war of treadmills, pushups, and so forth. We even fight to try to win back the love of the precious ones we lost because of our own mistakes. Our loved ones who died, their memories grow dimmer everyday and we fight everyday to try to remember their faces, but even that is a vicious war and in the end we must take out old photo albums so that we can remember them again. But most importantly we fight ourselves everyday, an unending war against our own personal weaknesses so that we can do what is right as individuals."

While it may seem odd to some for creators best known for "Transformers" (Lee & Co) and "Dragonlance" to be working together, Lee explains that it was natural. "The Dabel Brother emailed me some time ago and threw me the idea of working on Warlands," he explains. "They understood what I wanted for the series and I know how dedicated the Dabel Brothers are on a project. They are committed to putting out a solid creative product out there and from what I've seen of the art and direction of this new series, I think we have a really strong team who is dedicated in bringing a high quality product."

"We've been emailing the guys over at Dreamwave ever since 'Warlands #1' came out," explained Dabel. "Pat was kind enough to email us back and give us insight on the industry. His insight has helped to get us where we are today. This partnership will work well, because Pat is someone we look up to and working with him is a blast so this partnership will be great. Dabel Brothers will produce the Warlands comic books and Dreamwave will handle everything else."

The art in this new Warlands series will be radically different but Lee contends, "PL: It's a combo between new style and old Warlands style. As much as it is a fresh new look to the series, you can definitely see a lot of the art direction from the old Warlands series. Creatively, our goal is to make this series feel cinematic and really jump out at the readers. When I initially saw some of the designs I was very impressed and knew that we had to do another Warlands series."

Dabel explains that not only will the art be different, but the series will be handled differently in an overall creative sense. "That is correct the new series will feature a different set of artists, I (Ernst Dabel) will be writing the story, Ron Marz is the Story Consultant, Mike Bullock will be the Editor, Edu Francisco of Lynx Studios (owned by Romulo Soares) will be drawing it, and Etienne St-Laurent will be doing the digital painting. Well, from the first Pat knew what kind of art feel that he wanted to give this new Warlands series. We put together this team and when Pat saw the artwork and read the script, he told us that it matched perfectly with what he had in mind, so from the very beginning both the Dabel Brothers and Dreamwave were exactly on the same page."

While fans have seen some Warlands memorabilia previously and are clamoring for more, Lee isn't going to promise anything yet. But that isn't a "no." "I'm confident that in the near future we will be able to bring out cool products out there of Warlands again. It was alot of fun putting out the Warlands toys back in the day. I do know that if we were to produce merchandise of Warlands again, it would be ten times cooler. Hopefully in the near future we will be able to have some cool merchandise of Warlands out there outside of the publishing arena."

So why should you check out the series? Glad you asked, because Ernst Dabel has an answer, saying, "I could honestly say that they should because this is going to be one of the biggest fantasy projects of 2005, something that they will not want to miss."

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