This weekend, Universal Pictures and Legendary will release their epic video game adaptation Warcraft in theaters. Even if you’re just vaguely familiar with the game, you’ll certainly know that it’s set in an expansive universe that has captivated gamers for over two decades. Before this massive adventure comes to the big screen, fans can get even more insight into the story with a new graphic novel, Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood, debuting June 7, which serves as the official prequel to this upcoming movie.
Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood shows how three of Azeroth’s greatest champions forged their first alliance. In a fantasy action epic set decades before the film, the young and headstrong Llane, Lothar, and Medivh embark on a mission of vengeance that will forge them into heroes… the kind of heroes Azeroth will need in its darkest hour. I recently had the chance to speak with James Waugh, Director of Story & Creative Development for Blizzard Entertainment, the company that developed this monstrous video game franchise.
All three of these main characters from the graphic novel, Llane (Dominic Cooper), Lothar (Travis Fimmell) and Medivh (Ben Foster), will be featured in this movie from Universal and Legendary, with this unique story showing how they formed a bond that would last until the realm of Azeroth would be tested once again in this big screen adaptation. The comic was written by Paul Cornell, based on a story by Chris Metzen, who also received a story credit on the Warcraft movie. As I learned in my interview with James Waugh, parts of this graphic novel were actually in an earlier script of the Warcraft movie.
The Warcraft movie is set in the peaceful realm of Azeroth, which stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: Orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people and their home. So begins a spectacular saga of power and sacrifice in which war has many faces, and everyone fights for something.
During my chat with James Waugh, we discuss how this one particular part of the earlier Warcraft script helped spawn this graphic novel, how the story was crafted from that point, and much more. This 112-page graphic novel will be available for purchase June 7 for $24.99. Take a look at my conversation with James Waugh below.
I’m actually seeing the movie a few days before it comes out. I’m glad I got a chance to read this and get some more insight. I’m really looking forward to the movie now.
James Waugh: Fantastic. Did it prime you for the film? Are you excited?
Absolutely. So I know the movie has been in the works for quite some time, and they spent nearly two years in post-production alone. Can you talk a bit about where in this process of development, pre-production and production that the idea for this graphic novel came up?
James Waugh: Hmm. I think this… there’s two points to that question. One of the earlier drafts of the script had a scene that was very much like a Raiders of the Lost Ark opening. The bit that’s in the comic, where young Llane, Lothar and Medivh go into the troll warlord’s lair and the troll warlord is messing around with fel magic. What we always like about that scene was it always showed who those characters were when they were friends. The movie definitely deals with events that happens 15 years after. I mean, you see the toll of what was taken on them over the years, and they’re not as close as they used to be, but there’s clearly a history there. What we liked about that scene is it really helped show their history. Through the process of development, the scene just didn’t fit in the movie anymore. Duncan (Jones) came on and wanted to bring the Orcs more forward, which is completely the right choice and took the film to the next level, but that scene just didn’t necessarily fit in the film anymore. But it was something we were really passionate about, so, conceptually, that scene was something we took out early on, and the backstory of the fallout of that idea, that it would have lead to a sack on Stormwind, was all talked about early on as a descriptive element, but more as backstory to what had happened to these characters, and why there was a big Medivh statue in the middle of Stormwind. That all happened, and the script was developed further, and once the script was greenlit and ready to go into production, that’s when we started talking to Legendary Comics about opportunities to flesh out this cinematic continuity. One of the ideas that came up was, ‘Hey, we really love is that troll scenario,” because it helps set up these characters in such a really nice way, and showed the bonds of brotherhood between them. We realized there’s a great opportunity to tell that story in a perfect medium, as a comic. The specific execution of it as a comic came much later, but the idea was part of the initial development of the film.
Yeah, I noticed when I looked at the title page of the comic that Chris Metzen was credited on both the comic and the movie, so I was wondering if this was from an earlier draft of the script. Aside from that scene, were there any other elements taken from his draft that you took and used for the graphic novel?
James Waugh: It ended up not being Chris‘ draft, but Chris had pitched that whole troll backstory. It was all Chris‘ initial idea that was worked through. Chris had that back story always in place, then Chris basically said, ‘Let’s take that story.’ He worked on an initial outline and solidified what the story was, and then Paul Cornell came on to write the story.
Was it always envisioned as just one graphic novel, or were there talks of doing a miniseries run or fleshing it out ever further?
James Waugh: No, we always thought that this was a self-contained story, and that a graphic novel was really the right direction to go. For us, the important part of the story was how does Medivh, this young Guardian, face the burden of his position? What set him on the path that you’ll see uncovered in the movie? That was really important to us. In the movie, there’s a point where they say they hadn’t seen Medivh in five years. Well, what lead to him becoming a recluse? If he’s a recluse, what was he like when he wasn’t? What was their relationship like? We kind of felt it was self-contained, and there was a story to tell, and that’s why we moved forward with it. Not to say that there aren’t other great stories to be told around this area of the chronology, but those will have to be explored in the future.
What was really interesting is, it’s mentioned a few times in the graphic novel about how the humans don’t feel the need to understand the trolls and communicate with them. Is that something that was important in those early drafts, that will be also touched upon in the movie? The breakdown of these two cultures?
James Waugh: That’s actually a really good question, because what it does is it helps train up the psychology of the humans. Their experiences with “the other,” are with these savage trolls that are pretty brutal and literally eat them. So, when Orcs come into their world, it’s not impossible to think that these are evil invaders. Given their context, it’s very hard for them to accept that there may be good Orcs out there. And that kind of misunderstanding between races is a theme that runs through Warcraft in general, through the games, and bridging those gaps is where most of our stories go.
When this story ends, this graphic novel ends, I assume there’s still a decent gap, like this won’t lead directly up to the movie. Have you been talking about maybe doing something else, to keep filling in those gaps further after the movie comes out?
James Waugh: I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there’s a book coming out as well called Durotan, and it’s the Orc events that lead into the movie. Christine Golden wrote it, and it’s actually one of my favorite Warcraft books I’ve read in years. Christine really knocked it out of the park. It helps distinguish the film continuity from the game continuity, in many ways, but there’s still a gap between this story and that story. We really thought there was a nice symmetry in that. This will touch on the Human Alliance back story, and the events that lead to what we see in the movie, and the book will focus on the Orc events that built up to what happens in the movie.
I’m really looking forward to the movie, and I’m curious if you’re aware of any early sequel talks on your end?
James Waugh: Not as of yet. I think all of us would love to see a sequel, I’m assuming Legendary feels the same way. We have a ton of ideas where the story could go. We’ve talked to the filmmakers about those directions, but it depends on how well the movie does, whether people go out and see it and are passionate about the world. Talks have not started yet, except for early ruminations of, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool, and here are a couple of cool directions” that the story could take. If the movie does really well, and the community goes out and sees it, I could see that happening. We’d love to do these trans-media extensions around another movie as well.
I actually did a few interviews earlier year for the Pacific Rim and Trick ‘r Treat graphic novels that Legendary did. It was great to see how those tied into the movies, and it was just fascinating.
James Waugh: Yeah, we at Blizzard are really passionate about that. We always say that we don’t build games, we build worlds. This is just another opportunity for us to build a world. Sure, it’s a world that’s riffing off our game continuity, but we want to build an authentic continuity and an authentic Warcraft experience. I think this other media gives us an opportunity to build the world out even further.
Is there anything you’d like to say to fans who might be on the fence about seeing the movie, and why this graphic novel will get them in the right frame of mind for the movie?
James Waugh: I think one of the wonderful things about this book is it really shows how these characters became the characters that we see in the movie. I think this book is really a crucible of events that forge Medivh into the Guardian we see in the film, and setting him on the path that unfortunately has all these consequences for Azeroth. You really see in this book how Llane became the wise and noble and thoughtful king that he is in the film. If you notice in the book, he doesn’t start out that way, but you see why. He carries this great burden. His off-the-cuff actions lead to something pretty horrible, which comes out in this story. Lothar, in the film, he has a son named Callan, who is his world, and this comic really sets up that story, and what happens to his wife, and why he has such love and devotion to his son. This is really kind of a great primer for these characters, and more important than any of these certain plot elements involved in those ideas, it’s really just to see these characters as friends. I think that will really help what you see happens to them in the film.
That’s all I have. Thanks so much. It was a real pleasure talking to you.
James Waugh: Thanks, Brian.
Fans can pick up Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood starting today, June 7, to learn about the events that lead up to the epic Warcraft movie, hitting theaters June 10. Be sure to stay tuned for our review of the movie tomorrow, before heading to theaters this weekend. We’ll be sure to keep you posted with updates regarding a sequel or any forthcoming Warcraft graphic novels from Legendary and Blizzard Entertainment, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can take a look at the cover art and various pages from the graphic novel below.