An interview With Titan Comics’ Writer Ales Kot

Author of Bloodborne - The Death Of Sleep
Bloodborne Ales Klot

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, and now Bloodborne!

This is our interview with writer Ales Kot who wrote the upcoming Bloodborne comic series Bloodborne: The Death of Sleep of which issue #1 is expected to hit comics stores on February 21, 2018. So, we heard that you’re an avid video gamer especially regarding playing Bloodborne where some have quoted you as being “obsessed” with the game. Seems like writing a Bloodborne series then must feel like a dream come true? 

Ales Kot: I mean, not really a dream come true, more of a decision made and hoped for. I loved the game and first had the idea that writing a comic rooted in the world would be an amazing experience while playing it, but it wasn’t something I was expecting to happen — I filed the idea and excitement away and that was it. Then, one day, I recognized an opportunity, jumped, and got lucky.

GS: Will Bloodborne: The Death of Sleep be a limited series or the start of an ongoing Bloodborne comic? How many issues can we expect in The Death of Sleep storyline? 

Ales: Four issues make for a complete experience, but I’m certainly hoping to do more. I’d love to do an original graphic novel set in the Bloodborne world, ideally a trilogy. I know what the first book would be, and I know the basic shape of the entire trilogy, plus there are a couple other stories I’d love to tell…honestly, I could write in this world for a few years, happily so.

GS: Where does Bloodborne: The Death of Sleep fit, timeline-wise, with the Bloodborne video game?

Ales: At first, it’s before the Old Yharnam burns, but then it gets complex. After all, what would a Bloodborne experience be without confusion, a melting of time and space, a meeting of perceptions that leaves no certainty but that of decay, obsession, and curiosity?

GS: The subtitle, The Death of Sleep, sounds a bit ominous, perhaps synonymous with “nightmares”, “losing your mind”, etc. What can you tell us about the plot? 

Ales: Nothing! Hahahahahahah. Plot! In a Bloodborne comic! Hahahahahahahah. If you have seen what my eyes have seen, you would not be asking about plot. The only plot* I am interested in is the one severing my brain from that which lies in the reality we do not normally see, but now that I have grown too many eyes, I cannot seem to find it. If you see the plot, please do return it. I would love to have it back so.

*”plot” means “fence” in Czech

GS: What can a fan of the game expect in the Bloodborne comic series? 

Ales: A total reverence to the game’s — and the world’s — guiding principles. Here’s an anecdote from an excellent review at Kill Screen that gets to the heart of things: Perhaps the most telling is found in the back pages of Dark Souls: Design Works, amid images of freakish beasts and ancient armour. In it, one of the handful of art designers of the game, Masanori Waragai, tells how he brought a design for the game’s undead dragon to Miyazaki. Looking at the sketch of a disgusting beast, swarming with maggots, Miyazaki chastised Waragai for relying on gross-out imagery: “Can’t you instead try to convey the deep sorrow of a magnificent beast doomed to a slow and possibly endless descent into ruin?” It’s a passing note, like any game director might offer, but you can tell by the way Waragai specifically mentions it that it has stuck with him. This idea seems to stick with Miyazaki too, emerging again and again in different interviews. In them Miyazaki sometimes refers to a desire of his, a quest. Though many see his games as brutal and unforgiving, he explains that his desire is not to punish players. Instead, in carefully chosen words, delivered in precise Japanese, he explains that his desire, his quest, is to create something of beauty.

So yes, that’s what I’m interested in. Also, everything else that’s in the game.

GS: Will readers who never played the game be able to follow the story in the comic series?

Ales: Yes. I mean, as much as one can “follow” Bloodborne. I believe it’s as much about letting myself get lost in the experience as it is about allowing things to come together through observation and interpretation. A big part of what I love about Bloodborne is how it plays with perception, leaves empty spaces to fall into, implications that can be understood in multiple ways. I love experiencing (well, to some extent, I recently met some things on a trip and decided to turn around because they were giggling in a way that sounded pretty off) and writing cosmic horror — most, maybe all of my work can be classified as horror to some extent, and especially Change and Zero carry very strong cosmic horror cores.

But yes. A reader can fall into the story without experiencing Bloodborne. Playing the game, though, will add layers of narrative for both existing and new players, so I heartily recommend buying the game in case someone is still wondering whether that’s a good idea! It’s a work of art.

GS: Did you conceive any Bloodborne writing ideas as you played through the game? 

Ales: I was having ideas, but I don’t remember any specifics. I’m sure I made notes, and some of them probably floated up during the process of writing Death of Sleep, but they may have more to do with me examining the various influences on Bloodborne: paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, writings of Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker, architecture in Prague, the tendencies of civilizations to go insane, and blood.

GS: How did the team come together including artist Piotr Kowalski (Wolfenstein, Dark Souls)? 

Ales: Piotr wanted to work with me for a while, and we were looking for the right project. Our editor Tom Williams brought him up, I believe? And that was it. Simple.

GS: Does it ever get easier when you start writing for a new series after having done several already? Does the different IP make it just as challenging? 

Ales: Every project is its own reward. Every project is different. All require preparation, commitment, and a real connection, otherwise, you’re just pulling money grabs, and I’m not interested in that. So, I don’t mind challenging — I invite it. I think other Bloodborne players might relate to that mindset.

GS: Was there anything you learned from past projects, e.g. Generation Gone, Zero, etc., that you decided to do differently going into Bloodborne: The Death of Sleep? 

Ales: Every project ideally begins with me dropping all my tools, choosing to take a look at them from step one, and asking: which ones are the right ones for the job? And then I go from there. So, everything I learn contributes, and then gets filtered through that approach. In terms of things I’m doing differently with Bloodborne…that’s a great question. I guess I’m really enjoying the synergy in terms of creative attitudes — as you said, this is someone else’s IP, but I feel perfectly suited for it. I love Bloodborne for its brutal, fast elements, for its melancholy and cosmic horror, for believing in storytelling approaches not usually fully utilized in Western storytelling. I love Bloodborne for its complex histories and characters, for its commitment to texture and immersion, for its mysteries.

GS: Ales, 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! 

Ales: Come! Join us and enter the nightmare. Visit the Kot. Or some say Kotm. I mean, Kosm. Oh, did I mention we end up in the Fishing Hamlet?

Bring the Whirligig Saw.

Issue #1 Variant Covers and Sample Pages:

Written by
Scott is a comic book, music and gaming nerd since the late 70s. Gaming all began on the Colecovision and Atari 2600. He buys and reads new comics every Wednesday from his LCBS and helps run an online Heavy Metal radio station.

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