In Part 1 of our interview with Chris Sims and Chad Bowers we talked about how they work together as a team and how they ended up co-writing the upcoming SwordQuest series for Dynamite. Now we dive deeper in the the story of series’ protagonist Peter Case in the final p.art of our conversation.
AC: The ideas behind the original three Swordquest games were amazingly high concept drawing on inspirations as diverse as Kabbalah, Yoga and the I Ching. Will you be tapping into or referencing some of those ideas in your series?
CHRIS: Oh yeah. Believe us, if you think you know how strange things are going to get for Peter, Alvin, Amy, and Terry, you haven’t seen anything yet.
AC: As a writing team do you have a writing method. Does one person do plots and the other do dialogue or is it just a free for all?
CHAD: It used to be that our method kind of varied from project to project, but really, ever since X-Men ’92, we’ve been locked into each of us doing a little bit of everything until an issue’s done. From a scheduling standpoint, we try and have at least one night a week that we get on the phone, and talk through an issue or a couple scenes, and on the technical side, we’re working in a shared document we can both write in and edit as we talk things out. But even beyond that, we talk daily, and it’s mostly about the comics we’re working on… but sometimes it’s about G.I. Joe. And occasionally, one of us will lay claim to a particular scene or character — on ’92, Chris did a lot of the Rogue and Gambit stuff, and I took on Wolverine and Cyclops — but beyond that, we’re not really splitting duties these days.
AC: Is Swordquest planned as an open-ended ongoing story or a limited series?
CHAD: We’ve got a solid six issues planned, and a road map for about ten more issues beyond that. I think we’d all — Dynamite included — very much like to see SwordQuest keep going!
AC There was a companion Comic Book Series to the original games in the 80s with a DC series created by none other than Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and George Perez. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill right?
CHAD: C’mon, man, we’re the X-Men ’92 guys. Shoes don’t get much bigger than Chris Claremont and Jim Lee. That said, we’re definitely aware of the pedigree behind the original SwordQuest comics, and are honored to get a chance to add a little something to it.
AC: Did those original three issues influence your take on the series?
CHAD: Yeah, literally, the main story of SwordQuest is very much influenced by those comics. Our main character, Peter Case, was absolutely obsessed with the comics as a kid, and we literally see him and a few of his childhood friends using them as guides through the game in the zero issue. There’s even something of a mystery related to the unpublished fourth issue that bleeds over into SwordQuest later on, but to say anymore would be giving too much away.
CHRIS: One of the things we were really excited about with SwordQuest was that it was one of the few original Atari games that actually had comics already. Even though ours are going in a very different direction from those, it’s definitely something we wanted to take into account — it’s just not going to show up the way people might think.
AC: That original 80s series is an adaptation or expansion of the world of the games but you’ve decided to bring your story in the real world what was behind that decision to bring the story into the real world?
CHRIS: It was that real-life story of the contest behind it. That thing is fascinating, and the deeper we went, the weirder it got!
AC: The actual story of the Swordquest games is something that is bizarrely revolutionary and ahead of its time. There were real life contests and prizes worth tens of thousands of 1982 dollars for the first people to solve a certain puzzle or complete one of the games. Today we would call that an ARG or a Viral Marketing Strategy but it’s crazy to think that Atari was doing this 35 years ago.
CHRIS: Exactly. Like Chad said earlier, the idea that you could actually get a real-world version of the same magic item you were hunting for in a video game would’ve blown my mind as a kid. I mean, you could play Super Mario Bros. all day long and never actually go to a real castle to fight a fire breathing dragon, but with SwordQuest, you were along for the journey, hunting for clues and trying to get your hands on the Sword of Ultimate Sorcery in real life! That’s so compelling. We couldn’t resist jumping on that.
AC: The hero of your story, Peter Case, seems to live in a gamified version of the real world which is something we’ve seen in things like Scott Pilgrim and Ready Player One. Are you influenced by either of those works?
CHRIS: I think Scott Pilgrim was really influential in how comics could treat the visual language of video games. In all honesty, though, a lot of what you’ll see in that vein comes straight from Ghostwriter X. He’s incredible at building visuals, and he’ll drop stuff in there that just connects everything that we’re trying to do.
AC: Going back to your family home as an adult and rediscovering relics and souvenirs of your childhood is a pretty common experience for a 20 something or 30 something. What gems have you found going back to the places you grew up?
CHAD: Well, my problem is I never stopped collecting anything long enough for it to become a relic. But I have a lot of stuff, and not all of it’s with me all the time, obviously, so I love going back to my folks’ house with my kids and pulling out my old X-Men toys, which probably doesn’t surprise anyone. Last time I was there, I found some really great Star Trek toys I hadn’t thought about in years, which Chris can tell you, has inspired me to basically start collecting those again. I’ll give away all the secrets of SwordQuest to anyone who brings me a Dixon Hill Picard at a con!
AC: You’ve teased Konrad Juros as the “Level Boss” at least in this first arc, Konjuro the Wizard was the vizier to the game’s villain King Tyrannus. This can’t just be a coincidence right?
CHRIS: Oh, is that the wizard’s name? News to me!
AC: How hands on were Atari as a license holder? Did they have final cut or editorial control on the story the two of you and Scott are telling?
CHAD: Atari’s been real cool about everything. They’ve basically given us free reign to do just about whatever we want to do, which is pretty rare with a licensed book.
AC: Is this all going to culminate in some sort of Atari shared universe? Is this all leading up to the launch of a Atari Force 2017?
CHAD: Not that we’ve heard of, but if it is, they better call us first. Well, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez first… then us.
Lastly as comics’ premier writing Tag Team I have to ask; when it all goes south which one of you is the Shawn and which one is the Marty?
CHRIS: I like to think of us more as the Hardy Boyz. Seriously: Chad’s contact photo in my phone is Matt Hardy, and not a week goes by that he doesn’t call me “Brother Nero” these days.
SwordQuest Zero launches next week on May 3rd with a special 25c Introductory Issue. You can order it online from Dynamite, read it online through Comixology or use Comic Shop Locator to find your friendly neighbourhood comic book shop.