Comic Book Day: Dragon Things Out with David Gaider [Full Interview]
From gigantic space hamsters to Felicia Day
By: Peter Y. Levin
Between the upcoming anime series, the Felicia Day-starring web series and Dark Horse’s brand new digital comic, it’s a great time for Dragon Age fans. We sat down with BioWare lead writer and Dragon Age comic scribe David Gaider to talk flying solo, working with Felicia Day and how to deal with an ever-expanding mythology.
Nerdist News: What are your influences – writers, illustrators, or even sources outside the comics universe – when it comes to comics?
David Gaider: If I’m looking at the types of comics I find most influential on how I think about comics, it would have to be those that elevated the medium… in particular, those that took tried-and-true genres and turned them into something special: Bill Willingham’s Fables, Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead are particular stand-outs in that regard.
NN: You have a long history of writing for video games – fantasy standards like Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age and more. How do you find writing for comics differs from writing for video games?
DG: That’s a big question. I’d say the short answer is access to narrative (though not to the degree that a novel has) and the necessity of visual composition. The latter is almost like cinematics in video games, but you have to be a lot more aware of your pacing. On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about interactivity, branching dialogue and resource budgets.
NN: What sort of challenges did you run into writing the Dragon Age comics? Do you find that writing for comics allows you more freedom?
DG: Freedom in some ways, less freedom in others. Working with a much smaller team is a kind of freedom – you aren’t forced to restrict story elements to only those things that can be modeled, after all. Want a cloak? Draw a cloak. That sort of thing. So I can write whatever kind of story Chad is willing to draw… though, on some levels, it’s a bit hard to stop thinking in video game mode and remember there are other possibilities. On the other side, working on a comic story is like writing inside of a box: you’re forced to create an arc in a very set span of pages. No running over budget there! It’s an interesting challenge.
NN: Does one need to be familiar with the Dragon Age mythos to read the comic or will it be accessible to fans and new readers alike?
DG: Ideally it’s accessible for anyone, though I suspect fans will get the most out of it.
NN: Between the games, the anime series, the recent web series with Felicia Day and the comic, it’s a pretty good time for the Dragon Age franchise. Is it difficult to keep track of all the moving parts of the ever-growing Dragon Age mythos?
DG: We have our day jobs, so yeah – it’s pretty hard to keep track of everything when you have all those balls in the air. That’s why BioWare seems to like it when writers like myself and Mac Walters get involved in these projects. There’s no need to worry about us pitching a story that won’t fit into the lore, or that we’ll have issues keeping characters consistent. Well… beyond whatever our normal issues with that are, anyhow.
NN: What did you think of the Dragon Age web series with Felicia Day? How was it working with her?
DG: It was great, though I only worked with her briefly. It was mostly Mike Laidlaw, our Lead Designer, who handled her work on the webseries. The writers came up with some character pitches, and she ran with it from that point – and contacted me when she had questions. And boy did she have questions. I don’t usually see questions that detailed outside of our online forums. Felicia knows her stuff.
NN: Will we see any characters or elements from the Dragon Age novels you’ve penned in the comics or is this an entirely new storyline?
DG: It’s an entirely new storyline, but yes – you may see some elements brought in from the novels. It’s all part and parcel of the same story, to me.
NN: What do you find most appealing about the world of Dragon Age and its denizens?
DG: That nothing ever comes easy.
NN: How did you become a writer for BioWare?
DG: A friend hooked me up back when the team was looking for writers at the beginning of development for Baldur’s Gate 2. I’d never even considered it prior to that point – I’d heard of the first Baldur’s Gate, but hadn’t realized they operated out of Edmonton. But I gave it a shot, and it worked out pretty well. That’s why whenever someone asks me how to break into the industry, I always caution them that I can explain how other people do it. Nobody really gets into the industry like I did, I think.
NN: Apart from the comic, do you have any other upcoming projects you can tell us about? C’mon, you can totally trust us. We’re like the Boo to your Minsc.
DG: Nothing I can talk about, or Boo will be feasting on my eyeballs before the ink is dry.
NN: You must be buried in all manner of games and comics. What titles are you currently playing or reading and enjoying?
DG: I just finished a big chunk of Mike Carey’s Unwritten, after it was recommended to me. As for playing, it’s all strategy games at the moment. Crusader Kings 2 just came out from Paradox Interactive, and I adore it. First time a strategy game made me feel like it had a story (emergent as it may be).
NN: In the spirit of classic What If? comics, if there were a character or book you could have created, who and what would it be?
DG: Not sure I’d want to imagine myself having created something which someone else already did – it probably wouldn’t have been the same. But if I had to pick something, I’d say Sandman. I’d be pretty pleased with myself if I’d created something like that, sure.
Dragon Age #1 is available today on Dark Horse’s digital comic service. Follow David Gaider’s continued exploits on Twitter.