Indie comic book creator PJ Montgomery is no stranger to novel and exciting work. His latest project involves crowdfunding a graphic novel adaptation of The Trolltooth Wars. The original book, written by Fighting Fantasy co-creator Steve Jackson, featured fan favourite characters and locations from the series and introduced the warrior from Salamonis, Chadda Darkmane. We caught up with PJ to find out more.
STARBURST: What is Trolltooth Wars?
PJ Montgomery: The original Trolltooth Wars is a novel which was spun off from the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks. It took the world of Titan, the setting for many of the gamebooks, and a number of popular characters from the series, and told a straight fantasy story where the reader was not the hero. Our version is a graphic novel adaptation of the novel.
Why did you pick this particular Steve Jackson book?
I had looked at trying to adapt the Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy styles to a comic book format, but I was having trouble making it work. I still liked the idea of doing a fantasy graphic novel, though, and one which would appeal to fans of those kinds of books. Adapting a novel set in that world seemed like an obvious choice, and while there were a number of Fighting Fantasy novels to choose from, Trolltooth Wars was the first. It begins a trilogy of stories about the warrior Chadda Darkmane, and it just felt right to start at the beginning. It doesn't hurt that it also features more characters and elements taken directly from the Fighting Fantasy books than the subsequent novels, so will be more enticing to Fantasy Fans, perhaps, than starting with one of the other books.
What experience do you have on a project like this?
While I have some experience writing comics (among other things, I'm the co-writer on South Wales-set horror comedy Stiffs and have contributed a story to Joe Glass's anthology book, The Pride Adventures), this is my first time writing a straight adaptation of another property. That said, I have written a comic based on the album Dynamite by the musician Kevin Pearce, due out later this year. This involved taking a basic plot Kevin had put together for the album and fleshing it out with him into a full story, then scripting that for the artist (Shaun Speight) to draw. Obviously, with Trolltooth Wars I had more to go on at the start, but I'm glad I had the experience with Dynamite before I came to this.
Why this particular art style?
That's really down to Gavin Mitchell, the artist. He and I had worked together before on Stiffs, so I knew we'd make for a good combination on Trolltooth Wars. Before he began drawing anything, we had a meeting to discuss the look of the book and mutually decided we wanted something that would evoke the look of the Fighting Fantasy series (those books had some stunning illustrations by some amazing artists), while also having a very "comic book" feel. Gavin shot for somewhere in between the two, trying a few different styles before we settled on the one he's using.
Why the World of Titan?
I suppose the primary reason is that I'm a fan. I've been reading the Fighting Fantasy books since I was a child, and they really captured my imagination. I find Titan interesting as a fantasy world as it wasn't designed by one person, like Middle Earth or Westeros, but almost came into being by accident as the Fighting Fantasy series progressed. It makes for a really unique and interesting, if geographically problematic, world to explore. The opportunity to play around in that world and bring a new vision of it to the fans is really exciting to me. Especially the scenes set in Firetop Mountain. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was the first book in the series I owned, and it means a lot to me. To actually write scenes set in there, as well as dialogue for Zagor, the warlock himself, was both surreal and thrilling.
Do you have any similar projects planned?
At the moment, no. While there are other novels we could go on and adapt, we really have to see how this one does first. Personally, I would love it if we could keep going and adapt the lot, but it's really up to the fans.
How have Jackson, Livingstone and Green responded to the project?
They've all been very supportive. I've had a little contact with Ian Livingstone, but since Trolltooth Wars was very much Steve Jackson's baby, he's been the one I've spoken to the most. While we're keeping Steve in the loop with character designs and showing him the pages as they come in, he's mostly leaving it to us to create the best version of The Trolltooth Wars that we can. And even though it predates his first Fighting Fantasy book, Spellbreaker, book by a few years, Jonathan Green has been great too. He's been pushing the Kickstarter on his Twitter feed and his blog, and has offered up signed copies of You Are The Hero, his coffee table book looking at the history of Fighting Fantasy, as rewards for backers.
What should expect to see?
We're aiming to release the book in the autumn of this year, and personally I'm very excited by it. We're telling an epic fantasy story, with some stunning, full colour art, which will please both Fighting Fantasy fans (and yes, there are Easter eggs in there for people who know the books) and people who've never even looked at an FF book before. The book will also feature back-up material, including pin-ups by other artists. So far, we've announced Anastasia Catris (Cirque Du Mort) and Simon Williams (Transformers, Spectacular Spider-Man, Mars Attacks, Judge Dredd), and we hope to be able to announce others later on, including one name that will be familiar to Fighting Fantasy fans. Overall, we think it's a great book, telling an old story in a new way.
What’s next after this?
The previously mentioned Dynamite is due for release later this year, and we've still got two issues of Stiffs to release as well. I've also written a short horror film for Burnt Papyrus Productions which is due out soon, and I'll be appearing at a couple of conventions this year. After that, there's another fantasy comic (though a very different kind of story) with Anastasia Catris at some point, and then, who knows? I've got a number of things I'd like to do, but we'll see what comes.
The Trolltooth Wars Kickstarter ends on Thursday, April 2nd. You can find out more on their Kickstarter page here.
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