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Prepared for Future Warfare

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If the terms ‘Imperium’ and Black Templars Space Marines’ don’t ring a bell in your head, then you’re not a fan of Warhammer 40,000, the incredibly popular Games Workshop RPG. This month, the game crosses over into the medium of sequential storytelling when BOOM! Studios releases Warhammer 40,000: Damnation Crusade by Dan Abnett and Ian Edginton (words) and Lui Antonio & JM Ringuet (art).

Broken Frontier spoke to co-writer Dan Abnett to find out if he’s really prepared for warfare in the distant future…

BROKEN FRONTIER: You were very familiar with the world of Warhammer 40,000 when you accepted this writing job, as you’ve already penned quite a few novels set in this universe. What makes this property so much fun to play around with?

DAN ABNETT: I particularly like the dark, gothic, quasi-medieval qualities of the Warhammer 40k universe setting. As a one-time RPGer, I’d been aware of Games Workshop’s stuff since they started, and have always felt they had a style of their own, which these days has been imitated much.

As you say, I’ve been writing novels for them for a while now (nearly ten years), and that’s the most successful thing I do, so I’m pretty immersed in and committed to Warhammer 40k . I’ve had a chance, through the novels, to influence and contribute to the universe’s development a little, and I feel very much at home there.

BF: For people intrigued by the comic adaptation but not familiar with the tabletop strategy produced by Games Workshop, can you introduce them to Warhammer?

DA: Warhammer 40,000 is a game—and a continuity—set in the far future (the year 40,000  funnily enough). Human society as we know it has been and gone and come back again, passing through a long dark age that has pretty much obliterated all cultural memories of ‘our’ time and world. In its place is an ancient, feudal society, a star-spanning Imperium of mind-boggling scale, ancient and elaborate, dominating the galaxy, ruled over by an undying Emperor. It’s a harsh, brutal regime, and its entire rationale is warfare.

The Imperium is dedicated to producing and supporting vastly powerful armies—Imperial Guard, Space Marines, etc.—simply to protect itself and maintain the equilibrium of the Imperium. And with good reason…

This is not a friendly universe. Out there are alien and mutant and daemonic adversaries that would tear humanity apart without hesitation. There is only war: mankind is fighting for survival.

BF: Obviously, this is a project that finds itself knee-deep in the sci-fi pool. What makes Warhammer ‘epic’ in its own right, other than the fact that it’s been around for over two decades?

DA: Everything what I’ve just said [about it], really. Its sheer scale and cosmic grandeur make the setting epic. And don’t underestimate those two decades and the hundreds of thousands of active, engaged, game-playing, fact-knowing fans out there. Warhammer 40k lives in a hell of a lot of minds.

BF: As a writer who is so familiar with this world, and with a vast amount of ‘resources’—landscapes, events, battles, and characters—to choose from, how did you go about selecting the comic book take on Warhammer?

DA: We (co-author Ian Edginton and myself) set out, with reference to the fine and helpful fellows at Games Workshop itself, to capture the essential flavour of Warhammer 40k. The iconic Warhammer 40k image are the Space Marines, the genetically manufactured, post-human super soldiers who are the bleeding edge of Imperial war technology, the mightiest of the human warriors. Though Warhammer is much more than just Space Marines, we focused on those, and more specifically on a chapter of them called the Black Templars, who are crusaders, so as to get a cross-section of the meat of 40k continuity.

By picking several of them and showing their lives and careers over several issues, we thought we’d also establish the epic nature of the universe too.

BF: The solicitation text for the first two issues didn’t give too much away about the main character of the series, other than that he’s a Space Marine. So, who is he and what drives him on his mission?

DA: There are actually three main characters, and we follow all of them in overlapping story lines. They’re all Black Templar Space Marines, but they are Space Marines at different stages of their careers: the newly inducted neophyte, fresh to the chapter, the established sword-brother warrior at the height of his powers, and the ancient, battle-hardened veteran, now more machine than man. Through them, we get to see what life is like in a Space Marine chapter, from start to finish.

BF: To most comic readers, when they hear your name, they think of your memorable run on Legion with Andy Lanning. Coincidentally, Legion was also set in the distant future. Do you love writing these kinds of stories the most?

DA: I guess I’ve always liked science fiction as a playground, but the sub-genre edges blur. Legion led Andy and I to both Majestic and Nova , both of which are superhero books with strong sci-fi content, so maybe it’s our thing.

Then again, I also write Wallace and Gromit and I love doing that too. Is that sci-fi?  I suppose it is.

BF: Perhaps this is a question better asked to Ross Richie, but do you know why Boom! Studios was particularly interested in this license?

DA: Because they made the best pitch and are the right guys for the job? That about sums it up.

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