Honor Harrington arrived at Top Cow in March of 2014 in Tales of Honor, basing its first arc on David Weber's best-selling series of novels, and has run through its first arc in Tales of Honor: On Basilisk Station. Now, Tales of Honor is poised to break into its second arc this Spring, and as Matt Hawkins explains below, this arc will be all-new material harmonized with the continuity of the "Honorverse". But to usher in that new development, Top Cow will be bringing Tales of Honor to Free Comic Book Day in a zero issue that will set the stage for the series and also provide plenty of access for new readers, written by Matt Hawkins with art and cover art by Linda Sejic.
Matt Hawkins talks with us here at Bleeding Cool about what he calls the "most intelligently set up" of sci-fi universes he's encountered and why he initially turned down the offer to work on the series but did an about-face after reading the first novel.
Hannah Means-Shannon: How did you become aware of the original novel series initially? What made you think they showed potential for adaptation into the comics medium?
Matt Hawkins: I was approached by Evergreen to see if I'd be open to doing an adaptation of some of the novels. They're also considering development for film and/or television, so wanted to introduce it potentially as a graphic novel first. I don't normally do this kind of work but figured it couldn't hurt to hear them out so I took the meeting. This type of military sci-fi is in the sweet spot of stuff I like, but the first novel came out while I was in college and I didn't have a lot of time for non-curricular reading, so I missed it. At the meeting, Evergreen Exec Rich Browne explained to me what they were doing and asked if I had any interest. I really didn't and told him as much, but he asked me to take the first book home and give it a read over the weekend (was a Friday meeting). I did so, fell in love with the book and called him Monday morning and told him I was in. It took a while to work out the logistics of it all, but we're starting now on the second graphic novel.
HMS: Adapting a massive, preexisting world into comics must be daunting. What kind of choices do you have to make when you have a goal like this in mind? How do you decide how to pace things and what details to include and focus on, or leave out?
MH: The first volume was a loose adaptation of the first Honorverse novel On Basilisk Station. One thing I realized very quickly is that pacing in a novel is very different than in comics, so I needed to try and adjust for that. Weber's writing is also layered plots that all unravel together which made it difficult to ignore certain subplots. Initially, I thought that to do an exact adaptation would require about 18 issues of comics, but the problem with that is that many of those individual issues would not work well on their own. So we actually took a scene from the 7th novel where she is being ferried off to her planned execution and she's in a cell reflecting on her life. These reflections serve as the point of view of the first graphic novel and it worked well for what it was. Ultimately, adapting a novel is, I think, not the best way to use the comic book medium, so we discussed this second arc being an original tale set in the world of Honor Harrington and in canon, but something I could come up with and flesh out on my own.
HMS: Could you tell us a little bit about the visual development of the comic series and what kind of "feel" you were hoping for?
MH: Most of the visual elements were designed as part of the pre-viz for the development they were doing for their film. They had hundreds of shots of concept art that we were able to source from. Since the primary settings are military, uniforms, badges and ships were of paramount importance. The other thing that attracted me to this universe was Weber's use of real physics for space travel. So many Sci-Fi universes fudge it. Star Trek has "inertial dampeners" as an example. I've always hated it when space battles take place at point blank range. Think of our modern military, even WWII naval battles with Japan. They fired on each other as they came into range. Rarely would anyone wait until they were point blank range to fire…and yet constantly in every science fiction dogfight we have ships blasting each other at distances of less than a kilometer. In space, you can fire projectiles at targets tens of thousands of kilometers apart. That and inertia is a real factor, especially in space travel. JPL and NASA use it for their trajectories for all their launches and missions.
HMS: Top Cow has a lot of experience with multimedia properties. Based on that, how closely will the app and the film tie into the comics, or are they more closely related to material that's only found in the novels?
MH: I think all of these will be their own thing, but part of the canon of the Honorverse. I look at the Honorverse just like I would Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, or any of those. They all have films, TV, video games, comics, etc. All of these things have basic rules they need to follow, but they're all their own things. The first graphic novel already in print is very faithful to the On Basilisk Station novel. This new one we're working on is an original one I came up with and takes place between the first two novels. This limits you only in who you can or can't kill off, or change their lives dramatically in a way that would not show up in the books written prior but taking place in the timeline after. It's tricky, but doable.
HMS: Do you find that thinking about and observing real-world issues helps you connect with the series? Things like the struggle of women to be respected in the military, the sparking of large-scale conflicts in the world, and the like?
MH: My sister was a Naval officer who quit because they would not let her fly at that time in the mid 80's. My dad was an Air Force officer and I lived on military bases from age zero to about 15. So yes, I've witnessed a lot of the military first hand, both good and bad. One thing I really like about the Honorverse is that it is relevant to the present social issues and the way it's set up makes sense. That once we were able to spread to the stars, people self-segregated which caused peace for decades until these various star nations grew big enough to where their borders started bumping against each other again and age old feuds resurfaced. Of all the various Sci-Fi universes, I find this one to be the most intelligently set up. I say that knowing I'm actively working in it, but I don't own a stitch of it and I don't do work-for-hire work unless I love the source material.
HMS: What can readers expect from FCBD offerings to add to their experience of the series?
MH: The Free Comic Book Day Zero issue starts off the second arc, which is subtitled Bred To Kill. It takes place after the events in the first graphic novel, but is actually a freestanding story, so anyone can start with this and not feel lost. This story deals with genetic slavery, cloning and trans-humanism, all things I love to write about. This second arc will be a more personal story of Honor Harrington and how one's family is not always conducive to their career objectives. I'm excited about this arc and I think that anyone reading this free introductory zero issue will see that Linda [?] and I are passionate and that always translates to every page. And I will, of course, be doing a Science Class in the back for people that have come to expect that from me!