In conjunction with Funcom's new open-world action game "Conan Exiles," which is currently available in Early Access on PC and will release on Xbox One this spring, Dark Horse Comics has released a one-shot digital comic of the same name (available as part of the game's "Barbarian Edition" bundle), from the team of writer Michael Moreci, penciler José Luis, inker Andy Owens, joined by Funcom's Gavin Whelan (Art Director) and Anders Finér (Senior Concept Artist).
In an unexpected move, the 16-page comic isn't directly connected to the game -- it's not a prequel or a sequel -- but is instead part of the current "Conan" comic continuity, and just happens to be set in the same place as the game.
To find out how this works -- and why it was done this way -- we spoke to comic writer Moreci ("Roche Limit," "Hoax Hunters") about this one-shot.
CBR: Let's start with the basics: What is the "Conan Exiles" comic about?
Michael Moreci: The game itself takes place in a pocket of the Conan universe called "the Exiled Lands." I don't want to give too much away and risk spoiling the game but, basically, the Exiled Lands is a prison where people are held, via magical bands, for nefarious reasons. It's a really cool concept that, in the game, provides players with a lot of cool ground to cover and things to experience. For the comic, it was a nice way for Conan to, as usual, get himself in and out of an impossible situation.
Where did the idea for the comic's story come from?
Funcom was really cool about all this. They gave me a few ideas, but also gave me the freedom to riff on my own take. I'm a huge Conan fan, so I used that liberty while also staying true to their suggestions. Because the game is so broad, there's so many opportunities like this, where you can tell these contained stories within the Exiled Lands.
How was it decided that the comic would not be directly connected to the game? And why, if you know, was that decision made? It seems odd to do a "Conan Exiles" comic that isn't a prequel, sequel, or side story to the game.
Well, the thing is, in the game, you're not Conan. You play as a character in the Exiled Lands, and the gameplay is free-form in an open world. And while Conan is in it, and this is very much the Conan/Howard universe, it's not like you, as a player, are controlling Conan. Instead, you form your own character, which means the gaming experience will be different for everyone. Which is why it would be impossible to make a comic that centered around the game's main character.
So the decision was an easy one: make it a Conan story, and have it capture the world and experience that players will find in the game. Though there are details that connect to the game, that's important to note.
Is the story at all connected or inspired by one of Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories, or maybe one of the comic books?
Both. One thing I discovered in this process is that the Funcom people really know their Conan. I mean, that goes without saying; they're making a Conan game, after all. But they all have a genuine passion for Conan.
In terms of continuity, this takes place during the comic continuity, Fred Van Lente's run specifically. Natala is in it, so it's before his final volume. Conan and Natala went their separate ways in volume 19, making this story before that, but not by much.
How much back and forth was there between you and the people at Funcom, who are making the game? And what was the biggest impact they had on the story?
There wasn't too much, in a good way. They gave me guidance, good guidance, where needed, but they let me tell the Conan story I was looking to tell. Their only concern was ensuring it stayed true, in the details, to the game. But having them around, and their Conan expertise, proved totally valuable.
Were there any times where they were like, "Oh, that's a good idea for the game, too"?
Not that I know of, but I hope so. I'd love to see some of what I did find itself into the game.
Prior to writing the comic, you got to see concept art for it, and got a primer on the game from the Funcom people -- but you didn't get to play it. How did that impact your writing?
I think it might be better I didn't get to play it. I think there's, like, a saturation point where you, as a writer, can have too much information and it becomes hard to see the forest for the trees. I had enough information from Funcom, through all the behind-the-scenes stuff they showed me, and that, combined with my Conan knowledge, gave me a pretty clear idea of what story to tell.
How often, when dealing with the Funcom folks, did you ask if you could write something for the game itself, or maybe for their "Age of Conan: Unchained" game?
I never did, because I didn't want to cross any lines. I was hired through Dark Horse, so I felt weird about going over them to ask Funcom for work.
But now that the dust is settled, it's definitely a talk I'd be thrilled to have. I'd love to write video games -- lord knows I play enough -- and a Conan game? Yes, please.
Finally, if the opportunity presented itself, what other games would you want to write a comic book for?
I'm pretty much a console guy, and the games I love and would do just about anything to write for are: "Mass Effect," "Dragon Age, " "Red Dead Redemption, " "Gears of War," and "Assassin's Creed." There's others, but those top the charts for me.
The "Conan Exiles" comic is available digitally now. The "Conan Exiles" game is our for PC now, and Xbox One later this year.