"Battle Chasers" is back! Let that sink in for a minute.
The fantasy comic created by fan-favorite artist Joe Madureira back in the late '90s will officially return thanks to a funded Kickstarter campaign for a video game called "Battle Chasers: Nightwar" inspired by Japanese role-playing games. But that's not all, Joe Mad also plans to release three all-new issues of the classic comic to bring the total run up to an even dozen.
"Battle Chasers" launched back in 1998 as part of the Cliffhanger imprint at Image Comics alongside J. Scott Campbell's "Danger Girl" and Humberto Ramos' "Crimson." The sword and sorcery epic garnered solid sales even with a sporadic shipping schedule for the first six issues, but the two-year gap between #6 and #7 didn't help matters. Issue #9, the last published "Battle Chasers" comic, was released in 2001. Ever since, Madureira, who subsequently focused on designing video games, has fielded questions about the return of Garrison, Gully, Red Monika, Calibretto and Knolan. Now there's a solid answer for both when and how.
After leaving comics as a day job -- he has since returned for shorter projects including "The Ultimates" and "Savage Wolverine" -- Madureira co-founded Vigil Games and became the writer-producer of the wildly popular "Darksiders" RPG. Madureira and fellow Vigil co-founder Ryan Stefanelli went on to start Airship Syndicate, the company currently working on "Battle Chasers: Nightwar."
CBR News: How did the idea of continuing "Battle Chasers" as a video game first come about?
Joe Madureira: As soon as we settled on the idea of our first project being a JRPG inspired RPG, "Battle Chasers" came up almost immediately. It had a lot of support within the team, and it would allow me to expand the existing BC Universe and finally do a few more books to continue the story. Seemed like a big win all around.
What can you tell us about the story of "Battle Chasers: Nightwar?"
"Nightwar" is a self-contained adventure that takes place some time after the events of the comic series. Following the trail of her missing father Aramus, Gully leads the heroes to a mysterious island where dark forces are gathering, and attempt to stop the rebirth of an ancient evil. We introduce an awesome new villain and a bunch of brand new characters to the series.
Do "Nightwar" and the remaining issues of the comic book relate to one another in terms of story?
Yes, and no. Issues #10-12 will deal more with furthering the story that's been told in the books up to this point. "Nightwar" will have plenty of cool fan service and cameos for readers of the comic series, but it's a self-contained story. So gamers won't feel like they missed out by not reading the comics, and readers won't feel like they are missing anything important if they don't play the game.
"Battle Chasers" #10, 11 and 12 are also part of the Kickstarter. How far along are you on those issues?
Right now the books are in the planning stages. I have an outline for the first three-issue story arc, and close to having a final script for #10. I've already started doing some layouts, and hope to be drawing again soon, but right now most of my time is going into the game. My goal is to have the new books out around the same time the game hits next year.
What are the non-Kickstarter related plans to roll those issues out, and are there plans to collect the entire 12-issue run together when it's completed?
We are still working out the details with Image, but we definitely plan on making the first nine issues of the series available in physical form. The digital versions are available on comiXology for people who can't wait! It will most likely be softcover and much more affordable than the hardcover anthology from a few years ago. This will happen prior to issue #10 hitting the stands next year. If the first three-issue arc is well received, I'd like to do more in the future to continue the story past #12.
What does it feel like picking back up with these characters you haven't worked on in 15 years?
It's really interesting. Creatively, I've always been more excited to move forward, do new things, rather than to revisit my past work. But in this case, I can honestly say it's already been one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my career so far. The most challenging thing for me is that I've evolved creatively over the years, and there's stuff about the old books, stories, and designs that I'd like to do differently. So it's a challenge, finding that balance where I make creative changes that I'm happy with without messing up what people already loved about the series.
How does creating a video game story differ from doing the same in comics?
The biggest difference is that the story needs to serve specific gameplay needs. And take into account budget, team size, etc. In a comic, you can describe a scene and make it as crazy as you want -- the only worry being, "How on earth am I going to draw this?!" -- but that's a small problem to tackle. Writing that same scene into a game could take dozens of artists and months to create. And lots and lots of money. So it's a lot of finding creative ways to tell the story you want, while working within the constraints and limitations of what you can actually make.
Along similar lines, the game looks like it matches your comic art style well. Is it difficult making that happen?
Sometimes it is, yes. I never really used to think about my designs in 3D. In comics you can cheat a lot and just draw the angles you like, and crop out what you don't. It took a little getting used to, learning what works and what doesn't in 3D, and thinking ahead to things like animation. We have an awesome art team and are getting better and better at it, so I expect that our next round of characters and environments will look even better!
You've already well surpassed your goal of $500,000. Were you surprised at how much the Kickstarter earned that quickly?
Surprised, and very relieved. I hoped people would be excited at the news, but let's face it... it's been a little while since "Battle Chasers" was on the shelves. Sure, I've had passionate fans ask for it over the years, but enough to fund an entire game project? It was a tense couple weeks leading up to the campaign. But finally launching the campaign and having that level of excitement and support from our fans is inspiring. We are going to deliver an awesome game that does the series justice, and I want the new books to set a new bar for my comic work!
You're just at the beginning with this one, but how has the Kickstarter process been for you so far?
It's been great. Exhausting, and a little emotional, but it's so rewarding to finally show what we've been slaving away on for months and months. And interacting with fans again on social media, that's been a blast.
How does it feel for you to have a concrete answer to people asking about when "Battle Chasers" will continue?
It feels amazing! I really think this next chapter of the series will be the best it's ever been. I know it's been a long, long wait, so I really want people to feel like it was worth it.
You've drawn Marvel books over the past few years, but has working on "Battle Chasers" again inspired you to get back in the creator-owned comics space?
Absolutely. There are a bunch of ideas I've had kicking around in my head over the years; smaller stories. And I'd love for some of those to see the light of day when time allows. Which, right now, seems really far off! But yes, it's always way more rewarding to work on your own characters and stories.
The "Battle Chasers: Nightwar" Kickstarter ends October 10.