Titan Publishing has been a publisher of comics, graphic novels, fiction, and licensed based publishing for over thirty years. Since 1981, they have delivered content for many big licensed film and television properties, including The Walking Dead, Star Wars, Transformers, and Star Trek. They have also become the de facto leader in the industry for comics related to video game properties including Assassin’s Creed, Warhammer, Wolfenstein, etc.
This is our interview with writer Andi Ewington who authored the Freeway Fighter TPB (Trade Paperback, aka “Graphic Novel”) back in December of 2017.
Gamespace.com: Since many of our readers might not be familiar with Titan Comics how about introducing yourself a bit Andi? How did you get into writing? What was your prior experience, if any, with the Freeway Fighter IP?
Andi Ewington: I’d been dabbling on and off with writing since 1999 when I had clocked up around 200 hours playing Baldur’s Gate. I reasoned that I could have written a book within that time; I guess you could say it was my ‘thunderbolt’ moment. I spent the next four years on my magnum opus, a comedic adventure that satisfied my love affair of Blackadder and Fighting Fantasy. Limpit Muskin & Company never managed to find itself on the retail shelves, but it did receive some cool rejection letters. Unperturbed, I continued to push myself to find a way to get published. I was working at a design agency in 2008 when I discovered it had a small comic publishing arm; this was around the same time my wife was expecting our first child. I hadn’t considered comics as an alternative way to market, so pitched another story to them, one built around a father-to-be in a superhero universe, called Forty-Five drawn from my own paternal situation. They loved the idea and I set to work finding artists and honing the story. I actually finished the last chapter of Forty-Five several hours after the birth of my son, Zack. Since then, I’ve worked on many comic titles, mostly for Michael Bay’s 451 Media Group, including: Exmortis, Sunflower, S6X, and Red Dog. I’ve also written one shots for Dark Souls II and Just Cause 3.
GS: You sought out Freeway Fighter author Ian Livingstone about the possibility of you writing a comic book based on the Freeway Fighter book series some 30 years after the first book was published. What inspired you to make such a move?
Andi: Ian was already a boyhood legend in my eyes, so when a mutual friend put us in touch I was totally blown away. He had read, and enjoyed, Forty-Five and we got chatting about creating a comic for one of his Fighting Fantasy titles. Positive reviews of Forty-Five gave me the confidence to start putting together comics off my own back. I was a huge fan of Fighting Fantasy as a child and wanted to do something new and exciting with the brand. I pitched the comic concept to Ian and he loved the potential of the idea. You have to imagine my excitement at this stage; Fighting Fantasy was a huge brand with which I’d grown up; a brand that had ignited my imagination and which I had read hundreds of times. Now, over thirty years later, I was going to be part of the Fighting Fantasy lore. It was an unbelievable moment in my life, one that’s up there with the birth of my children and my wedding day!
GS: The story is set in a very post-apocalyptic dystopian world with a lot of undertones to the Mad Max movies. Are you a big fan of these movies and this a setting?
Andi: Completely, I LOVE Mad Max, both the original and the Tom Hardy reboot. I’ve written several dystopian stories. There’s something about the bleakness at the end of humanity; I find it so intriguing that it draws me in. Mad Max has so much going for it, the savage and lawless; the battered and battle worn cars; and salvation in the shape of an anti-hero while everything else has gone to the wall. There is always some narrative gold to be mined from these sparse and desolate landscapes!
GS: Where does the comic book story fall, chronologically, in regard to the game book series? Is it a precursor, etc.?
Andi: It was always my intention to write a prequel to the original story from the game book; something that delved deeper into the origins of the Interceptor, and how it ended up in New Hope in the first place.
GS: When writing this story / script what were the key things that you felt you needed to include?
Andi: I think a sense of respect for the source material. I wanted the story to feel validated, grounded in the universe of Freeway Fighter; this meant that I had to build it with familiar characters and settings in mind. These characters weren’t there to simply serve the hardcore fan but to add critical weight to the overarching plot. However, there are also a couple of Easter eggs that DO serve the hardcore fan, plus a nod to my début graphic novel Forty-Five.
GS: Fighting Fantasy author Ian Livingstone, who also wrote the Freeway Fighter game book series, he’s listed as an “executive producer”. How involved was he really with your story, ideas, etc.?
Andi: Ian was there from start to finish, he had a say on everything from the look of the car (and even the number on the side of it) to the dialogue and action pieces. I may have written the story, but it was under the scrutinizing eye of ‘The Warlock’.
GS: Given that the original Freeway Fighter gamebook was published a long time ago were you afraid that fans of the gamebook wouldn’t take interest in a comic book of the same series? Finding a lot of new fans?
Andi: I was confident that with the successful reboot of Mad Max: Fury Road, that comic fans would embrace it in a similar fashion. Even though the source material is over thirty years old, I approached it with a contemporary mindset; there’s even a reference to the 45th President of the United States of America. I’m a firm believer that this story isn’t going to isolate those who have never stepped foot inside an Interceptor before, in fact, I hope it encourages comic readers to go out and experience the original gamebook for themselves.
GS: Simon Coleby is an artist you worked with on some of your other video game comic book related titles. Was it a no brainer to bring him in to work on this project?
Andi: Simon has become a regular creative partner of late, we’ve even been working on the narrative cut-scenes for the console version of World of Tanks: War Stories. I’m a huge fan of his work; his pencil and ink detail are incredible to behold so it was inevitable that he would come in on Freeway Fighter. Simon’s art is stunning and I’m really proud of the work he’s done on it. I’m incredibly proud of the work put in by everyone on the Freeway Fighter team.
GS: This series seemed to be lighter on dialogue than most modern-day comics and heavier on action panels. Did that produce any writing challenges? Does that require more coordination between you and the artist?
Andi: I think the intention was to keep the dialogue as candid as possible between two strangers who have just met under extreme circumstances. Stripping this back meant the panels had to do a lot more work. Fortunately, I don’t scrimp on my panel descriptions, they’re filled with helpful suggestions, camera angles and key information to help any artist I’m working with; they’re not hard and fast rules, simply detailed guides to help with the visual direction of the page. I’ve been an Art Director in the computer game industry for many years and visual experience is reflected in my writing style.
GS: Now that you finished this four issue comic book series on Freeway Fighter, looking back is there anything you would have liked to have done differently given the chance?
Andi: Had money not been an overriding factor, I would have liked to have explored a ‘Choose your own adventure’ mechanic similar to the old Diceman comics, published in 1986. I’m always looking to push the medium in different directions and I would have loved to see if there could have been a way to bring that to the Freeway Fighter comic.
GS: How do you even begin the writing process when you start with story laden IPs like Freeway Fighters, Dark Souls, Just Cause, etc.?
Andi: It’s about familiarizing myself with the IP’s universe; understanding the main players, motivations, antagonists and set pieces. Then it’s about finding the gaps between the lore that already exists, finding ways to create room for the narrative to live in. At this point, I would take stock of what fans would want to read and what would attract new fans, pitching the story right so it fits perfectly. Finally, I have to make sure all the threads and strands from this new story connect with the lore in the right places filling up the gaps; this is the bit, which understandably, takes a lot of time!
GS: Andi, thanks for your time! In parting we’d like you to have a chance to end saying whatever you’d like to your fans and potential readers!
Andi: Thanks to everyone who has helped make this happen, Len, Jim, Simon, Jon, Ian, all the cover artists, and especially Matt Mastracci who funded the entire project; and of course, The Titan team, Chris Thompson, Will O’Mullane and Andrew James. I hope everyone who reads Freeway Fighter can see the blood, sweat and tears that’s been poured into each page from so many people.