Interview: Blizzard Entertainment’s James Waugh for ‘WARCRAFT: BONDS OF BROTHERHOOD’ Graphic Novel

– by Gig Patta

Before WARCRAFT movie, Lothar, Llane and Medivh were the inseparable best friends.

The trio has a backstory that highlights their friendship that leads to the tragic changes for the characters in the film. The graphic novel WARCRAFT: BONDS OF BROTHERHOOD looks into their story fifteen years prior that made Lothar as a mighty warrior, Llane as a thoughtful king and Medivh as the Guardian we see in the movie.

Latino-Review had an exclusive phone interview with Blizzard Entertainment’s director of story and creative development James Waugh for the graphic novel.

WARCRAFT: BONDS OF BROTHERHOOD and WARCRAFT movie is out today. You can click here to purchase a digital copy of the graphic novel or visit your local comic book store today.

Don't forget to check out some of the artwork at the end of this article.

Here’s the interview:

Latino-Review: Let’s talk about this graphic novel here—why is it necessary to come up with one? The movie is going to look awesome anyways.

James Waugh: Anytime you do these transmedia endeavors, it’s not just a necessary thing. It comes from a place that there’s more story to be told. One of the earlier drafts of the feature, there’s a flashback to the characters’ lives for Lother, Llane and Medivh. It never got the chance to showcase the bond brotherhood they had. I think it is helpful in some levels. It will show the fallout that happens fifteen years later in the film. It didn’t work in development of the script at that point on.

The filmmakers and we loved this notion that there was a time that these three main characters were divided and haven’t seen each other in a long time. They were really brothers. We think it helps set up the tragedy that happens in the Warcraft movie.

So it came from a place of action. There are more stories to be told. Legendary Comics is interested in doing a comic about this movie. Let’s tell that story. Let’s see what made King Llane in the film. Let’s see how Medivh first interacted as the Guardian. Let’s see on what happens when Lother lost his wife. You will see a lot of his son that came from a lot of that tragedy.

That really is a lot of the driving motivation. It’s really about the story about these three characters.

Latino-Review: Why in the graphic novel format? You could’ve gone in many different directions like a Web series, animation or anything else.

James Waugh: Sure. We’re all big comic book geeks here. At the end of the day, we have a passion for the medium. The medium suits the IP really well. There’s a certain stylization that works in WARCRAFT. So it translates to the medium really well with the visuals. It allows certain material to focus on the characters’ stories.

At the end of the day, we love comics. We love on what they do. There is a synergy between comics and making movies at a certain level. Both are visual storytelling experiences.

We’re also doing a novel. There’s a novel prequel book that tells the orc side. It’s written by Christie Golden and it’s called “Durotan.” The comic book gave us the pre-history of the human side. The novel will give us the opportunity to get into the orc side.

Latino-Review: Those are way different types of formats. Didn’t you want to be a little consistent?

James Waugh: The answer is no. We didn’t look at it that way. We love both of those formats. There was a really great opportunity to work with a team of editors at Legendary Comics. There is a really cool writer with Paul Cornell who understood the story we wanted to tell. It was exciting to tell the stories that ended up not being in the film. We saw that it could be valuable elsewhere.

It sort of just happened in that way. We could’ve been uniformed about it. I guess you’re right. I think mixing the different media types is that it gives us the opportunity to reach different people who could be excited about the movie and experience it differently.

So there might be readers who may not be interested in comics, but there is a book for them. There could be comic readers who are not interested in novels and there is a comic for them. Then there are those who want to experience all of it.

Latino-Review: Absolutely. It sounds like you’re creating a WARCRAFT universe. It’s going to be similar to STAR WARS.

James Waugh: Absolutely.

Latino-Review: How are you guys going to keep this consistent at Blizzard? That was the struggle with Star Wars when they branch off into so many different mediums and too fast. All the stories become very inconsistent.

James Waugh: Right. We looked at this as film continuity. It’s not the same continuity as the game continuity. We all have been pretty clear about that from the start. In translating to a feature film, we had to relook at some of these events and the storytelling work.

If you think about it about the early 90s in the WARCRAFT game, there was great DNA there and a great story there. Some of the storytelling was trying to justify the RTS maps. When we sat down with Duncan [Jones] and Charles Levitt—the filmmakers knew we need to translate all of this to the medium. It must be a more broad and elegant story.

In that case, it would mean we have to change the canon a little. Essentially, the spirits of those events are like the ultimate Marvel books. We look at those events in these newer, fresher lenses. So this is full-film continuity. The transmedia surrounding it will be specific to the film continuity.

So how are we going to maintain it? It’ll be the same way we maintain all of our continuity. We have a lore team in creative development at Blizzard. Their jobs are to be professional geeks. They are our historians and catalogers. We go through great pains to make sure our continuity is consistent. It’s really a way to keep the cohesion in our universes. On what we do with all of our games, we’ll apply that methodology to the film continuity.

Latino-Review: Wow. That sounds like a dream job for any Blizzard fan there. [Chuckles]

James Waugh: [Laughter] True.

Latino-Review: Tell me more about the story in the graphic novel and why you chose the trolls as the main adversaries.

James Waugh: Before the orcs made their way into Azeroth, the biggest rival to the human and elf kingdoms were the trolls. The trolls were often disbanded. One of the things that were built in the backstory of the film was a troll uprising several years before when Medivh was a young Guardian. It inevitably stormed Stormwind.

In those events that Llane, Lothar and Medivh became heroes. We always wanted to tell that story in a certain level. Some of the remnants of that story are in the film. We see the statue of Medivh in the film for saving them. It’s kind of like the iceberg metaphor. These events are under the surface of the film that helps bring reality to some of the storytelling you see. There was a backstory that was well thought out.

So we thought that this was a great backstory. It’s the story we wanted to tell to help contextualize it even better.

Latino-Review: So there are plenty of Easter Eggs connecting the graphic novel to the film such as the statue, for example.

James Waugh: Definitely. There is the statue. I don’t want to spoil the film. It sets up on how Medivh becomes the Medivh in the film. It certainly hints at it in the graphic novel. You get to see on how Lothar lost his wife. You’ll see on why he is so protective of his son, Callan. You’ll see on how Llane went from a hot-headed youth to a noble, thoughtful king in the movie.

Latino-Review: Talk about on the process of turning Lothar, Llane and Medivh into comic characters. I’m not quite sure if you did the comics first or the movie first. Or even all at the same time.

James Waugh: The movie was developed first. The movie script was solidified first. Once the movie went into the greenlight phase, Duncan came on to do his draft—then we started discussing on ways to build on the film continuity. It came after the script was solidified. We knew what those characters were.

We had to do with the comic is on who were they before the movie. People change. People change a lot during those fifteen years. We had to think about this. We see Llane as this stoic thoughtful leader, but probably wasn’t always that way. There were several conversations to talk about on how he did get that way. It led to some of the decision making in the comic.

It wasn’t too difficult. We were fortunate enough to have the base renderings of those characters. It’s a matter on who were they fifteen years prior.

Latino-Review: Talk about the new side characters you’ve introduced in the graphic novel.

James Waugh: We had to create Llane’s father. If you are a WARCRAFT fan, you know that Llane is King Varian Wrynn’s father. Varian Wrynn is one of our greatest characters and you’ll meet him in the movie. And in the comics, you’ll get to meet Llane’s father.

You’ll get to meet a troll warlord who was dabbling with spell magic and also his son. In every way, the comic deals with the relationship between their fathers and sons.

A lot of the troll characters are pretty interesting. We really place our camera focus on Lothar, Llane and Medivh. That was the driving reason to do this comic. It’s to know those characters better.

Latino-Review: Those are the primary three characters in the film. Will you have more books to come especially if the audiences are receptive to these three heroes?

James Waugh: That’s a good question. That’s something we’ll have to talk with Legendary. We would like to look at the film continuity as its own experience. It’s a very good place to tell stories in. You don’t think the door is closed on that. There’s certainly a look if people go out to see the movie and love the movie—there’ll be more movies. We certainly would love experience this again. It’s to tell branch off stories that’ll lead into the film continuity and comic lore books.

Latino-Review: I guess we’ll have to cross our fingers for more sequels and books. Anyways, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. I enjoyed the graphic novel tremendously and I can’t wait for the movie.

James Waugh: Oh, great. That’s great to hear. We’re very happy on how it turned out as well.

WARCRAFT: BONDS OF BROTHERHOOD is available on your comic book stores today. WARCRAFT movie is showing in theaters today.

Comics, Interviews Warcraft, World of Warcraft, Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood, James Waugh