What better way to celebrate a plethora of new comic books hitting store shelves than by talking about a brand new comic book collection? While there are plenty of excellent single issues out this week (e.g. Scott Snyder and Jock’s Wytches #2), one title you shouldn’t let escape your notice is Image Comics’ Tales of Honor: On Basilisk Station, Vol. 1, written by Matt Hawkins and illustrated by Jung-Geun Yoon. Based on the long-running Honor Harrington sci-fi novels by author David Weber, Tales of Honor collects and adapts fan-favorite stories into a brand new graphic novel version of the Honorverse (as fans call it).
In celebration of the latest release, I caught up with Top Cow president/Tales of Honor writer Matt Hawkins to talk about the challenges in adapting the long-running series, the transmedia aspect of the Honorverse project, and much more. Plus, as a special exclusive, we have the first issue available for your reading pleasure following the interview.
Nerdist: Tell us about how this project first came about. What about partnering with Evergreen Studios on a multi-tiered transmedia approached appealed to you?
Matt Hawkins: It’s fairly common we receive requests from companies interested in our doing comics for them…for marketing, whatever. We don’t do licensing, but have entertained the idea of doing what we call “custom comics.” Most publishers do them, it’s basically where someone or some company pays us to put something out as part of a marketing initiative. I’ve done a couple of these in the past but they’re normally a pain in the ass, so when Evergreen asked if I wanted to write it and Top Cow publish it I said no thanks. Evergreen’s Richard Browne asked me to read the first novel and I agreed to do that. I read it over the weekend and was in. Great book, loved the world, the characters. I think he was a little surprised in my enthusiastic Monday morning call. We started working right away and have been working together for over a year now.
One of the things that really appeals to me about the Honorverse is that he figured out a smart way to extrapolate current political problems onto a future sci-fi setting. In many sci-fi projects this sometimes feels forced, but with the Honorverse it makes sense. Forgive me for cutting this from the opening scene but it explains this perfectly:
“Humanity finally expanded to the stars in the early 22nd century. In 2130 CE a new calendar system was born with year 1 PD for “post-diaspora” commemorating the beginning of a much-needed era of sublight colonization.
This expansion allowed like-minded individuals to populate and govern planets however they deemed appropriate. Theocracies, monarchies, communist, democracies and fringe groups all flourished.
Initially a source of great peace as conflicting ideologies and peoples were separated across vast distances, but with technological advances in transit speed and regular expansion these distances became smaller over the subsequent centuries.
The People’s Republic of Haven is a star nation on surface a democracy, but in practicality a central party controlled dictatorship. Bedraggled economically with a welfare state, they embraced an expansionist policy of military conquest to sustain their bloated system. Conquering system after system they finally set their eyes on the Star Kingdom of Manticore.”
N: What has been the most challenging aspect of adapting the Honor Harrington series so far? You obviously have a wealth of experience with strong female leads through titles like Witchblade, Aphrodite IX, and Lady Pendragon. Did this present any unique difficulties?
MH: Adapting a novel to comic format is a challenge in itself. Weber does a lot of exposition and spends a lot of time unraveling complex plots. Compressing a full novel into a single graphic novel posed a challenge. The other difficulty was trying to make sure it was accessible to first timers while being something the hardcore 20+ year fans wouldn’t reject. Everyone who has read these books over the past twenty years visualized these characters in a specific way as they read them, so trying to honor their perceptions (pun intended) was daunting.
N: Did you discuss the adaptation at all with David Weber?
MH: Yeah, we spent some time on Skype, shared some e-mails back and forth, and met in person at Evergreen last year. He was a big supporter but of course concerned about his baby. I think it helps that we respect each other’s works as creators and he knew I wasn’t looking to do anything crazy with it. I wanted to honor his vision and I told him that.
N: The series begins with In Enemy Hands as a jumping off point for the comic. It’s the seventh book of the Honor Harrington series; what drew you to that as a point of origin?
MH: I didn’t want to do a straight adaptation of On Basilisk Station because to do that right it would have needed to be a twelve-plus issue series. The idea of starting it during In Enemy Hands where she is being held prisoner and on her way to be executed allowed us to tell stories from her point of view, remembrances of these events from her perspective while she reflects on her life.
N: Part of bringing a novel to life through the medium of comics is realizing the prose visually. What has been one of the most enjoyable or unexpectedly satisfying sequences to write?
MH: I really enjoyed writing the sequence where Dominica Santos ejects the core, sacrificing herself to save the ship towards the end. It was one of the few scenes we fleshed out a bit more in the comic than they did in the book. Where she tells her man that “she’s sorry” right before they both die was a powerful, emotional scene for me.
N: What sort of bonus materials can fans expect from the Tales of Honor, Vol. 1 collection?
MH: We have a foreword from David Weber, some behind the scenes art and sketches in the back, a complete cover gallery and a Science Class that delves into the science of the Honorverse. It was the science in this story that really appealed to me. I love that Weber deals with inertia and that spaceships fight at great distances. I’ve always thought it was dumb when space ships fight each other at point blank range. Our naval vessels don’t do this now…so extrapolating that to space it makes sense that the ships fight at range.
N: Can you give us any updates on the Honorverse film? Likewise, can we get any updates about seeing The Darkness or Witchblade up on the big screen?
MH: You’d have to ask Evergreen about the status of their film. I do know that the comic and the video game app were the tip of the spear for a multi-year plan to unleash the Honorverse in the mainstream. On Witchblade and Darkness we’ve been developing these with Mandeville Films on the Fox lot with New Regency Films who has “optioned” them. We’re developing a script, hopefully something new to report in the new year.
You can read the complete first issue of Tales of Honor for free.
Tales of Honor: On Basilisk Station, Vol. 1 is available now wherever comics are sold.