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How WARCRAFT Movie Changes Led to a Graphic Novel Prequel

How WARCRAFT Movie Changes Led to a Graphic Novel Prequel

On June 10, the new Warcraft film will give the world a big screen take on the battle between orcs and humans. To prep you for the story and the characters you’ll meet in the Duncan Jones-directed film (in case you’re not a player), a prequel graphic novel Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood will be released on June 7. The 112-page hardcover graphic novel is written by Paul Cornell, with story by Blizzard‘s Chris Metzen and art by Mat Broome, Michael O’Hare, Eddie Nunez, Roy Allan Martinez, Ale Garza and Mike Bowden. We got a chance to chat with the James Waugh, Director of Story and Creative Development at Blizzard about the graphic novel, the team behind it, the characters we’ll meet and a bit about the upcoming film. We also have a look at some of the art for you.

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First up, here’s the official description of the graphic novel story: “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.”

Waugh began by illustrating the origins of the new story. “It was interesting. The way this comic developed was from a unique place. The original script for the Warcraft film was mostly focused on the human side, and had this really great opening—very Raiders of the Lost Ark opening,” he said, explaining that the film had initially focused on Lothar and Medivh (played by Travis Fimmel and Ben Foster respectively in the film) when they were young. “They were best friends, out on adventures and there was something about it that we always really loved, you know? It really felt honest and it really got a chance to build these characters that we’ll see and the fallout of their lives in the film.”

However, Warcraft took a different form as new voices approached the project. “Ultimately, when Duncan came on, Duncan had a very unique take on the script,” Waugh said. “Duncan’s add to the script was a very wise decision and really made it the film it is—was to bring the orcs more on board and give them just as much time and space as the humans and make them just as legitimate as characters. It feels more like Warcraft, the game that we played.”

Waugh continued, “So we liked that choice, but in making that choice, we had to kill some babies and there was that scene that was omitted. But it was something we always looked at as we were building the dramatic continuity…there was the fallout in the later scripts that was still there. So Chris Metzen ended up writing up an outline at some point [illustrating] the events that should have happened in order to lead our character to where they are in the film.” Waugh explained that Legendary then contacted them about writing a comic prequel, for which they already had their story.

Having been to many a Blizzcon, I can tell you that the shouts of “For the Horde!” tend to drown out some of the Alliance players. From a visit to the set of the film and a recent trip to ILM to speak with the crew behind the film, making sure this was a balanced film was really important, especially to Jones. Waugh spoke about the popularity of the Horde. “You know, I play Horde. I probably shouldn’t admit that. I play both Alliance and Horde—probably the best political answer there,” he laughed. “I bounce back and forth, but I primarily play Horde. I can tell you why I play Horde…they’re a collection of misfits and perceived monsters that somehow find family with each other on a certain level. They find a certain home with the other monsters and misfits. And I think that’s a very appealing story for people like me and a lot of our players…that’s the highbrow version of why. The other version is that they’re just awesome monster characters that are a lot of fun to play with.”

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The film may concentrate on the orcs, but the prequel is all about the battle between the humans and the trolls. Waugh explained, “The real enemy to humanity prior to the orcs coming was the trolls, staying in our prime game continuity. So, you know, it almost makes the decision to look at orcs as potentially ‘good’ harder, because all the Alliance experiences have been, up to this point, trolls, who don’t have that same sort of nuance that you see with a character like Durotan,” who is played by Toby Kebbell in the film. “They’ve fought these monsters for years, so of course their initial reaction to confronting the orcs is that they are equally monstrous.”

Waugh talked about getting in some nods to the game for longtime fans. “I think that we made a conscious decision to get as much of that in wherever we could,” he said, “whether it be the comic or Christie’s [Golden] novel that’s out right now, which is the prequel novel to the movie. And the movie. We really wanted to honor our players and their time in our world, you know. We wanted the world to feel real. We wanted the comic to feel like Warcraft. We wanted the movie to feel like Warcraft. To do that we needed some of that ambient setting that our players have lived in for 11 years.”

Waugh, who said his favorite characters in the game are Bolvar and Saurfang, talked about which characters might stand out in the comic. “I think Anduin [Lothar] is going to be a very cool character,” he said. “I think people should be ready for that. I think Varian is a much more complex character than I think he’s been portrayed as. I think we’re going to see a lot more of that coming up. But in the movie I think it’s Durotan and I think Lothar will stand out in the film.” In terms of his favorite character in the comic, he named Medivh. “Medivh in the comics, he’s got to make a really tough choice. I think he makes a choice that will inevitably impact the character you see in the film. It’s not about any evil, self-serving intent. It’s because he’s trying to save his friends. It’s very human and relatable. I think we can all picture ourselves making that choice, and it’s a tough choice.”

We also talked about how magic can sometimes corrupt in the world of Warcraft. “I think that, in general, magic—we can get super-nerdy here—I would say arcane magic does not corrupt, but can be abused. I would say Fel magic always corrupts.” Here, Waugh is referring to the destructive powers used over the orcs by the Burning Legion. “That’s the trade off, right? For wielding its great power. You know, I think magic is a great metaphor in general for powerful weapons and how they could be abused or used well in the world. It really just depends on the person.”

Warcraft will hit theaters on June 10 and Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood will be released on June 7. Check them out, as well as some more graphic novel art below. Tweet me/us @JennaBusch/@Nerdist and let us know what you think! You can also tell us if you, like me (and James Waugh) have worn a stuffed murloc on your head. Not kidding. Go forth to victory!

​(Editor’s note: Nerdist Industries is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.)

Image credit: Legendary, Universal Pictures and Blizzard Entertainment

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