One of the most exciting books that I picked up on Free Comic Book Day this year was Elric: The Balance Lost #0.
If your local comics shop ran out before you could pick up a copy, or you weren’t one of the lucky few to get this issue randomly included with your FCBD TFAW order, you’re in luck! Our friends at BOOM! Studios have granted us permission to display the entire issue as an Elric: The Balance Lost #0 First Look preview.
Go ahead and take a few minutes to read the story, and then come back here to check out our interview with Elric writer Chris Roberson!
TFAW.com: Hi Chris, how did you come to work on this project?
Chris Roberson: The series had its genesis in 2009 at San Diego Comic-Con, when during a very late-night conversation, Matt Gagnon of BOOM! Studios and I discovered our mutual love for the novels of Michael Moorcock. A few months later Matt approached me about writing a prequel comic to Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and he and the rest of the team at BOOM! liked what I came up with.
Early in 2010, Matt called me up to ask whether I thought Moorcock might be interested in the idea of original comics based on his characters and concepts. I’ve been lucky enough to get to know Mike personally over the last few years, thanks in large part to our geographic proximity (I live in Austin, not far from the Bastrop home where Mike spends a large part of every year). I said that it couldn’t hurt to ask! So I emailed Mike, put him in touch with Matt and the folks at BOOM!, and a short while later they asked me to start putting together a proposal.
I have been a huge fan of Mike’s work since I first discovered a copy of Count Brass in my high school library, a quarter of a century ago. Every few years I go on a big Moorcock reading jag, and it’s only been a couple of years since I sat down and reread virtually everything that Mike has ever published.
TFAW.com: Can you tell us a bit about who Elric is, and his home of Melniboné?
CR: The Melnibonéans are a race that existed long before the rise of man, who dominated the world for long ages from the backs of their dragons. But the dragons are all asleep now, and the world has come to be dominated by the humans of the Young Kingdoms, leaving Melniboné dreaming of its former glory.
Elric, the last emperor of Melniboné, is doomed to carry the cursed sword Stormbringer, and even though the black blade gives him life and sustenance, it comes at the cost of blood and souls, including those who Elric cherishes most. Elric is just one incarnation of the Eternal Champion, a hero who is fated to serve the Balance in the many worlds of the Multiverse, sometimes fighting on the side of Law, sometimes on the side of Chaos.
TFAW.com: What’s your favorite part about working in the world that Moorcock has created?
CR: Well, more than anything, Moorcock’s view of the multiverse is just a fantastic engine for telling stories in any conceivable environment, on the one hand, and for exploring ideas and philosophies, on the other.
One of the key aspects of Moorcock’s cosmology is the notion of an eternal struggle between Law and Chaos. In the more fantastical settings, this plays out as a literal war between supernatural powers on either side, with gods, demons, and demiurges directing the movement of human agents like chess pieces moving across the board. But in the more mundane settings, stories set in what is effectively the “real” world, this same tension between Law and Chaos plays out, but more often as philosophical tendencies that push characters one way or the other.
TFAW.com: Speaking of Law and Chaos, can you tell us a little about how that will play out in this series?
CR: Readers should note that “Law and Chaos” are not simply synonyms for “Good and Evil.” There is not a moral component to that struggle, at least not in any objective sense. Law and Chaos are simply two different ways of approaching the universe, and the heroes in Moorcock’s novels can often find themselves fighting on one side or the other, and sometimes both or neither!
TFAW.com: Elric’s sword, the Stormbringer, is a supernatural weapon that feeds on the blood and souls of its victims. It powers Elric, yet it also acts like a curse. Are you planning on exploring the turmoil Elric has faced as a result of using the black blade?
CR: Yes. Yes, we will.
TFAW.com: Are you planning on delving into Elric’s storied past at all?
CR: A bit, here and there, but the main focus of attention will be on what happens next. Elric’s past has been well documented in Moorcock’s various novels and stories, and it would be a little overwhelming for newcomers to the character to be inundated with too much backstory. But there are definite parallels between Elric’s experiences and those of the new Eternal Champion we’re meeting in The Balance Lost, a man named Eric Beck who lives in what is essentially our world.
TFAW.com: You’re right, Moorcock has written many amazing novels that readers have been able to explore. How will new readers be brought up to speed in this series?
CR: The trick is to give just enough information about the characters and the concepts to get new readers up to speed, without boring all of the longtime readers with stuff they already know. Based on my own experiences coming into long-running comic, TV, and novel series when I was younger, I don’t think new readers need to know everything. They just need to know the basics, enough to understand who the characters are in general terms and what the basic conflict is. Reading to find out more is one of the things that keeps it interesting!
TFAW.com: Earlier you had mentioned the Multiverse and how it give you a lot of room to create some great stories. How are you planning on bringing the other Eternal Champions into the fold?
CR: In The Balance Lost, Elric is one of several incarnations of the Eternal Champion who become involved in a war that spans worlds, as powerful forces attempt to upset the balance of Law and Chaos forever.
The series actually takes place across a series of different worlds, some of which will be familiar from the Eternal Champion stories, some of which are drawn from other novels and stories of Moorcock, and some of which are being seen here for the first time.
And the cast is huge, mixing familiar and not-so-familiar faces. In addition to our three main characters–Elric, Hawkmoon, and Corum–we’ll be meeting two new incarnations of the Eternal Champion, one of whom was mentioned once but never seen in Moorcock’s novels, and the aforementioned Eric Beck, who is original to this series.
TFAW.com: How did Francesco Biagini and Benjamin Carre become involved with the series? Can you tell us about some of the artwork that you’ve seen so far?
CR: I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with Francesco’s work before he was attached to Elric: The Balance Lost, but as soon as I saw the character designs he’d submitted I knew he was perfect for the job. And the pages he’s been turning in have been amazing. As for Benjamin Carre, if you’ve seen his covers with the solicitations, I think they speak for themselves! Add them both together, and I think I can say with confidence that this book is going to look great.
TFAW.com: Who’s going to dig this series the most? What other titles would you say they’re reading right now?
CR: Well, I hope that longtime fans of Moorcock will recognize the characters and concepts that they’ve come to love over the years, and that newcomers will hopefully be inspired by the series to go and read Moorcock’s novels for themselves. And that everyone, longtime fans and newcomers alike, enjoys the comics series in its own right!
As for what other titles those readers might be enjoying right now? That’s a very good question, and one I’m not sure I have a good answer for. The various worlds across which the story takes place are all quite different, and so the series will read for the first arc or two almost like a mashup of different genres and styles. So readers of Dark Horse’s Conan titles would potentially find a lot to like here, but so would readers of Hellboy, or Fables, or The Walking Dead, or any of dozens of other great books on the stands.
We want to thank Chris for taking time out of his busy work schedule to talk to us about Elric: The Balance Lost.
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Did you dig the FCBD Elric issue as much as I did? Looking forward to what Roberson and the rest of the BOOM! crew bring in July? Post your comments below!