Dark Horse's upcoming take on The Witcher will explore the gaps in time found between the franchise's novels.
Specifically, the five-issue run, which kicks off on March 19, will see Geralt hired to deal with an undead witch wife that has taken over the mansion in which she used to live.
The run's story, written by Eisner Award-winner Paul Tobin, will be treated more like the tales found in The Last Wish, a collection of short stories written by franchise creator Andrzej Sapkowski, that details the one-off, everyday adventures of Geralt, rather than the main storylines of either the novels or the games.
"In the books there are several times when Geralt's whereabouts are not accounted for anywhere," said Rafal Jaki, business development manager at CD Projekt Red, during an interview at New York Comic Con. "There are actually several years even where we don't know what's happening with him. In our heads he was just doing his job so we thought this is a cool place to pick up and try to tell stories. What happened with him in that specific timeline.
"The short stores (from The Last Wish and The Sword of Destiny books) are the essence of what's really cool about The Witcher world and Geralt himself. We think we really captured the essence of the short stories in the comic book. This is about the witcher, Geralt, just being a witcher. He's trying to make a living killing monsters and in the process he's encountering people and dealing with the human condition as we call it. That's the same for the comic book as well."
Jaki said the team at CD Projekt Red decided to work with Dark Horse on the comic, both because they appreciate their ability to turn other video games into meaningful comics but also because they love their take on fantasy as seen in Conan, Elfquest and, in particular, Hell Boy.
"At the office, we are huge comic book fans," he said. "We obviously know Dark Horse properties very well. Actually we had one property in mind that for us was a really perfect fit with what we are trying to do with the comic books. That's the Mignolaverse, Hell Boy.
"I'm a huge Hell Boy fan and I thought why not talk with Dark Horse and see what they would like to do."
Nick McWhorter, director of custom projects at Dark Horse, said when CD Projekt came to them they were drawn to the tone of The Witcher and in particular the idea of Geralt as monster hunter.
Knowing that the developers were fans of Hell Boy, Dark Horse asked what they thought of the work of artist Joe Querio, who worked on Hell Boy spin-offs Lobster Johnson and B.P.R.D.
"The way we do this process," he said, "They look at an artist's different art and if they say ‘We like their style, we think it can fit our property well,' then go from there having them render Geralt and render the different monsters in the world."
The key, McWhorter said, is finding a happy balance between the vision of the artist and the developer.
"You can't have a comic book artist slavishly render," he said. "A game is going to look like a game. A film is going to look like a film. And a comic is going to look like a comic. You can't make a comic photo realistic or something or scrutinize every aspect of it to make it stringently look like your property, because then it won't be a comic any more. So there is a happy creative medium there. A balance of artist having their style and adhering to the look and feel of the world."
Jaki said they knew going into the process that they had to leave the heavy lifting to the people at Dark Horse.
"We don't have the expertise or the people and they're just really good at it," he said. "Creatively, we had several meetings. We went back and forth and we really feel that this comic book is a cooperation, it's not a slap The Witcher on the table and say ‘OK, this is The Witcher comic book go ahead.' We really, really worked very closely for every aspect. I know for Dark Horse that we can sometimes be a pain in the ass we're so all over the place."
While the developers knew that they would be pretty hands off about the look of the game, they thought they would likely have to do most of the writing. But it turned out, Jaki said, that writer Tobin was a bit of a Witcher expert.
"He did an excellent job with the overall feel of the world," Jaki said. "With The Witcher world it's not so obvious. This isn't a high fantasy world where you have magic and castles. It's more realistic in a way. But, instantly he knew what we were doing. It was really great, it was really surprising to us."
The end result is a story so relevant that the developers were sort of sad that it wasn't in their game, perhaps as a side mission.
"It has all of the good things about the Witcher world," he said. "We could have done that, but that was not our approach. We want to extend the universe and do it in the best possible way. If you have a great story for a comic book it should stay in the comic book arena."