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ERIK MONA talks PATHFINDER WORLDSCAPE #5, on sale in February

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  • ERIK MONA talks PATHFINDER WORLDSCAPE #5, on sale in February

    ERIK MONA talks PATHFINDER WORLDSCAPE #5, on sale in February from Dynamite!

    BYRON BREWER: Erik, how cool is it using the wizard Kulan Gath in this special series? His two issues of X-Men are among my favorites!

    ERIK MONA: The two issues of Uncanny X-Men featuring Kulan Gath (#190 and #191, February and March, 1981) were among the very first X-Men comics I ever bought with my own allowance money as a kid, and they hit me like a punch from Colossus. Here I was, all of 9 years old, and my new favorite comic gets the fantasy treatment. I was in Heaven. At the time, the only thing I liked more than comics was Dungeons & Dragons (itself at a bit of a creative and sales peak at that time), and here was the island of Manhattan thrust into a fantastic world that looked a lot like my D&D books. It was perfect! I hadn’t read the Spider-Man/Red Sonja crossover back then, so Kulan Gath was a brand new character for me at the time. I kept waiting for him to come back, but he never did (at least while I was paying attention). So when I got the OK to include Red Sonja and her supporting cast in Pathfinder Worldscape, I immediately knew I had my villain.

    BB: Following up on Gath, did you kind of keep in Chris Claremont’s characterization of the egotistical sorcerer for Pathfinder Worldscape?

    EM: I’ve certainly tried to keep Kulan Gath’s characterization in line with his previous appearances, not just in the X-Men issues, but in the various appearances he’s had throughout Dynamite’s formidable Red Sonja output over the last decade as well. Different writers have played him slightly differently, but I like to think his egotism always comes through. If anything, my Kulan Gath is perhaps a bit more subdued than normal. When we meet him, he’s serving as court wizard to the immortal Jungle Comics hero/villain Camilla, and for the first couple issues of the story it looks like she’s the main villain. Kulan Gath is playing a long game with Camilla and his other allies, and all of that really comes to a head in #5 and sets up an epic confrontation between Kulan Gath and the heroes in the final issue.

    BB: Although I have not been a big fan of the modern comics world’s “Heroes vs Heroes” mentality – I miss the supervillains – this mag has some fun potential match-ups in its wheelhouse. For example, for #5 in February, how fun was it to pit Red Sonja against John Carter?

    EM: I agree that it’s a bit of a tired trope but…. COME ON! You’ve gotta see these two titans of fantasy throw down, at least for a couple of pages. I don’t think readers would have forgiven me if I didn’t have them cross swords at least once, so I tried to come up with a fun way to make it happen. It’s really interesting to think of who would win in a fight like this. When it comes to pure strength, Carter has the obvious advantage, but Sonja’s previous team-ups with big strong barbarians have revealed that Strength isn’t everything. Red Sonja is MUCH craftier than John Carter, and a lot quicker, too. It really comes down to brawn vs. smarts. The cool thing about this fight is that, with the Pathfinder RPG statistics for Red Sonja in issue #1 and the statistics for John Carter in issue #3, you don’t need me to see who would win. You can throw some dice with your friends and figure it out for yourself!

    BB: Good writing is good writing, and with your name on the credits I never worry about such a thing. But sometimes good writing is met by questionable art. How came Jonathan Lau to this adventure and what is your assessment thus far? (Looks like he is knocking them out of the park from this reader’s chair!)

    EM: That’s very nice of you to say, thank you. As you say, Jonathan Lau is absolutely kicking some serious ass with this series. When Dynamite first presented some of his sample pages to me I was absolutely certain he could handle the character designs and that his stuff would look “cool.” I was a little less certain about his panel compositions and action, but what I saw had enough potential that I wanted to give him a shot. It turns out my early quasi-reservations are almost laughable in retrospect. Jonathan not only has done a phenomenal job with the action, he’s often even re-arranged some of my panel breakdowns in ways that absolutely improve the storytelling and presentation. I’ve found Jonathan to be a phenomenal collaborator, and I would work with him again in a heartbeat.

    BB: For #5, non-spoilery, what can you tell us about the Pathfinder heroes’ mission?

    EM: After appearing in the Worldscape far removed from one another and enduring a series of misadventures alongside some of fantasy’s greatest heroes, issue #5 sees the Pathfinders reunite with one another as they attend Empress Camilla’s Tournament of Death in an attempt to steal a magical artifact called the Scepter. When reunited with another artifact called the Crown—currently in the possession of the long-absent Tarzan—these items open magical portals that will allow the heroes—and everyone else—to return to their home worlds. Without getting into too many spoilers… they are not entirely successful, and not everything goes according to plan.

    BB: For the uninitiated, who makes up Empress Camilla’s inter-dimensional alliance of villains?

    EM: Just as the Pathfinders team up with legendary heroes from the three worlds trapped in the web of the Worldscape (Earth, Pathfinder’s Golarion, and Barsoom), so too has Empress Camilla gathered a crew of villains and reprobates to help her control the Worldscape. They include:

    Camilla (Empress): The immortal Camilla, queen of an ancient “lost empire” somewhere in the jungles of Africa, begins the series as the current bearer of the Scepter, one of two magic artifacts that offer escape from the Worldscape when touched to the other. The struggle for the Scepter and the Crown has defined the battles of the Worldscape for millennia. Camilla is determined to add her name to the short list of victors who have previously reunited the Scepter and the Crown, and she’s certain that with her coterie of impressive allies nothing can stand in her way. She has not accounted for the complications like the Pathfinders, Red Sonja, and John Carter, but nor has she accounted for how treacherous a band of snakes she has assembled. Camilla first appeared in 1940’s Jungle Comics #1, and eventually became a fairly boring “jungle girl” protagonist. But like so many other characters in that weird, weird comic (most notably Fantomah, who also appears in this series), Camilla as originally conceived was a much stranger and more interesting character than the carbon-copy clone she eventually became. The Worldscape “version” of Camilla best reflects her original appearance, in which she was clearly a villain.

    Kulan Gath (Court Wizard): Hailing from the Hyborean Age of Earth, the wizard Kulan Gath is Red Sonja’s arch-villain. World-spanning adventures are nothing new to Kulan Gath, resulting in back-stabbing and secret machinations even Camilla does not expect. Kulan Gath’s vast magical powers have granted him some measure of control over the summoning pillars that bring legendary warriors from the three worlds into the Worldscape, so Camilla needs his support in her bid for rulership over the strange dimension.

    Ruthazek (Gorilla King): Ruthazek, Pathfinder’s Gorilla King, has been a major antagonist in the roleplaying game line since literally before there ever was a Pathfinder. Over a decade ago, Paizo produced a line of metal gaming figures with maps entitled “Compleat Encounters.” One of the first was “Throne of the Gorilla King,” a jungle adventure in which the heroes defeat an intelligent gorilla atop an overgrown ziggurat. When we started Pathfinder, we took several characters established in the Compleat Encounters line and wove them into our new world, with Ruthazek being one of the most important of the bunch. Once I knew a lot of the Worldscape story was going to be set in a jungle, I knew it need an ape army composed on the simian trash of three worlds, and I knew I had just the bastard to lead them.

    Xanesha (Master of the Arena): The snake-bodied Xanesha runs Camilla’s arena, a key propaganda tool needed to keep the squabbling villains and multi-world reprobates inhabiting Camilla’s capital city of Shareen from going crazy and getting ideas that a bit of spilled blood might instead put THEM on the throne. She comes from Pathfinder’s Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path campaign, where she has been responsible for the deaths of more Pathfinder characters than perhaps any other antagonist we have ever published, giving her an infamous reputation among Pathfinder players that I thought would be fun to explore in the comics. Xanesha is responsible for recruiting the arena’s gladiators and keeping them in line, a difficult task when your chief star is Red Sonja. This issue features a battle between Xanesha and Red Sonja that’s been a long time coming. She’s also the one ultimately responsible for Camilla’s Tournament of Death, which we’ve been foreshadowing since issue #1 and which comes to a crazy conclusion in this very issue.

    Phondari (Sky Admiral): The black Martian moon pirate Phondari brought a huge Barsoomian airship called the Jeddessa’s Revenge with her when she entered the Worldscape. Camilla and her crew use the ship to ferry themselves from one end of the Worldscape to another as they recruit members of their team, steal items necessary to their cause, and get into all kinds of mayhem. Phondari comes from Dynamite’s Dejah Thoris comics, and was one of the first Dynamite characters I decided to add to the series. I couldn’t resist adding an airship to the story—I mean come on—and I wanted to experiment with Phondari’s relationship with the final member of the villainous band….

    Merisiel (Master Thief): Last issue revealed what our Pathfinder rogue Merisiel has been up to since arriving in the Worldscape, and it turns out that she’s largely been up to no good. One consequence of the Worldscape’s magic is that if you somehow manage to escape and return to your world, you don’t remember the time spent in the Worldscape. Not until you find yourself BACK in the Worldscape, at which point all of those memories return. Unlike the other three Pathfinder heroes, when Merisiel appeared in the Worldscape four days back, she remembered a different visit 20 years ago, before she had met Kyra or the other heroes during a very dark period in her life that saw her team up with Camilla and her crew. The Worldscape exists, in a way, outside of time, so while time has certainly passed in the Worldscape since her first visit, from the perspective of Camilla and her team, Merisiel has only been away for a relatively short period. Of course, today Merisiel is much different—and much more the hero—than she was 20 years ago, so while her villainous former companions expect her to fall in line upon her reappearance, she’s simply changed too much for her to do so comfortably. Plus there’s that scene in issue #4 in which Merisiel struck a deal with the mysterious jungle goddess Fantomah to return to Golarion, and that deal must have had some strings attached….

    All the action, treacheries and revelations in this issue set us up for the big finale next month!

  • Ajax
    Don't see why Carter is stronger than Sonja. He's not billed as being particularly stronger than any other average swordsman that she'd go up against. He looks super strong on Mars because it has a third of the gravity that Earth has. Sonja could do all the same feats he does. Ridiculous how Tars can tackle her since he'd be having a tough time in Earth gravity or she could avoid him as easily as Carter could on Mars if it's Mars like gravity here.

    Of Course, Simone's Horny Sandra had trouble with pretty much everyone she went up against.

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    Guest replied
    Still waiting for Red Sonja to show up in this series, all I'm seeing is Horny Sandra.

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