Whiteman's Legend of Huma
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Interview with Trampas Whiteman regarding the Legend of Huma comic book adaptation. Originally posted on COMICCON.COM ON 3/12/2004.
Originally posted on COMICCON.COM ON 3/12/2004.
Dabel Bros. are releasing a lot of fantasy based properties this year and on board for many of the adaptations is writer Trampas Whiteman. He's working on a subject near and dear to his heart, Dragonlance. Although the series was initially supposed to be co-written by Brian Augustyn, due to schedule conflicts, Whiteman will be flying solo after the first few issues. Featuring art by Mike S. Miller and Rael, the story is one of knights, wizards, dragons, and plenty of action and adventure.
THE PULSE: How did you get into the world of Dragonlance?
WHITEMAN: A friend of mine was big into Dragonlance, and he told me a lot about it. I was just starting to play Dungeons and Dragons at the time, when I came upon my first copy of Dragonlance Adventures. This was the first major sourcebook for Dragonlance, and it captured my imagination. I soon read Chronicles and Legends (the "Holy Six") after that, and I was hooked.
THE PULSE: How did you notice Dragonlance was different from your typical reading material?
WHITEMAN: I think the key element is the depth of the characters, and the flavor of the setting. There's a lot of heart and emotion. There's also some great humor elements, such as tinker gnomes and kender.
Dragonlance is romantic fantasy. It has some great "fairy tale" elements to it - knights, wizards, and dragons.
It's a world where good doesn't always win. One of the big themes to Dragonlance is the Balance. The pendulum cannot swing too far towards evil, nor can it swing too far towards good. Stories don't necessarily end with good vanquishing evil. The good guys may win, but evil will always be there.
THE PULSE: What was it about that series and Chronicles and Legends that hooked you? What elements really were outstanding in your mind?
WHITEMAN: There's something...magical about those books. Chronicles basically shows a world that has lost its gods and the divine magic of clerics. Throughout Chronicles, things change. There is evidence that the true gods do exist, and we see a return of not only gods, but dragons - creatures of fairy tales.
Imagine, if you would, that your mother read you stories each night about dragons. You thought they were neat stories, but you knew they weren't real. Then imagine finding out one day that they most certainly are real! How would things change?
THE PULSE: When you first got into Dragonlance, did you go back and try to get the other comics version of the series?
WHITEMAN: I do have a number of the old Dragonlance comics by DC, although I'm missing a few. I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't read them yet.
Interestingly enough, some of those comics take place on Taladas, the other major continent of Krynn.
THE PULSE: Dragonlance is a vast universe and seems a little intimidating to some people to just get into. How open do you think it is for new readers who just pick up any volume in the Dragonlance series?
WHITEMAN: Dragonlance is huge, and much has changed in its history. For example, there are a total of four types of magic in the current timeline, whereas there were only two in the time of Chronicles.
My advice for any new reader is to read Chronicles, then Legends. Chronicles is the foundation of Dragonlance, and will get any new reader going.
THE PULSE: What is the Whitestone Council?
WHITEMAN: The Whitestone Council is a group of fans who came together to keep Dragonlance gaming alive. In January 2001, Wizards of the Coast announced that they would not be supporting a Dragonlance line of RPG products any more.
Shortly after that, we created a website, designed by Dragonlance.com's webmaster, Matt Haag. The website is actually the brainchild of Tracy Hickman. And so the Dragonlance Nexus (www.dlnexus.com) was born. The Nexus has served as a storehouse of Dragonlance gaming rules, including variant rules.
Since that time, we've done a lot of work online, both with the Nexus and with Dragonlance.com. One of our members even runs an all-kender website, Kencyclopedia.com. We've been assisting Sovereign Press with their gaming products, and have been helping to promote the comic adaptation of The Legend of Huma for Dabel Brothers.
Basically, the Whitestone Council is a group of fans that helps to promote Dragonlance in all its forms.
THE PULSE: How did you become involved with that organization?
WHITEMAN: I founded it, actually. I based the idea on the council that runs Beyond the Moons, the official Spelljammer site. I put a call out to the Dragonlance online community, and gathered our original members.
Since then, we've grown, and learned quite a bit. I think the secrets of our success is a combination of dedication, heart, and professionalism.
THE PULSE: How did your site become the official site for Wizards of the Coast's Dragonlance series? What did it mean to be the official site?
WHITEMAN: When Wizards of the Coast announced that it would no longer be putting out Dragonlance gaming products, they opted instead to have an official fan website. They asked for candidates, and the Nexus was selected.
THE PULSE: When Dragonlance license changed hands to the Sovereign Press imprint, what did that mean for your website and work with Dragonlance?
WHITEMAN: It meant that our mission, the continued life of Dragonlance gaming, was a success! Sovereign Press has been extremely nice to us, and has recognized our work. A lot of our work was incorporated into the new Dragonlance Campaign Setting.
The Nexus continues to support Sovereign Press and Dragonlance gaming in general, having a storehouse of fan rules.
The big change was the role of Dragonlance.com. Sovereign Press wanted an official website, and between Dragonlance.com's resources and the name recognition, it became their official d20 Dragonlance gaming website.
Yes, there are two official Dragonlance websites! Each one serves a purpose, though, and the two work very closely together.
THE PULSE: How did you go from being involved in the fan sites to working on Legend of Huma with the Dabel Brothers?
WHITEMAN: Ernst and Les Dabel contacted me when they got the license to do The Legend of Huma. I worked with them on promoting the comic through the websites, and we had a chance to meet at GenCon Indy 2003. We've had a great relationship.
When the original writer was unable to continue past the first issue, Ernst approached me about writing the comic. My first issue is #3, and I was a consultant on the first two issues. I think they wanted someone who firmly knew the setting, and had a great love for The Legend of Huma.
I really cannot say enough good things about Dabel Brothers. They're all good people, and they love their craft.
THE PULSE: What does it feel like to have the chance to add to the mythos of a property you love like Dragonlance?
WHITEMAN: It's amazing! Dragonlance is my favorite fantasy setting. The novels are wonderful. I've had a chance to add to Dragonlance some with game design, but comics are a step beyond. I'm helping to create a visual representation of the world of Krynn, which is neat.
THE PULSE: What is Dragonlance: The Legend of Huma?
WHITEMAN: Dragonlance: The Legend of Huma is the "Arthurian legend of Dragonlance". It is the story of one man, whose selfless acts would become legend, and change the face of Krynn for over a thousand years.
It is the story of Huma, who grew past his self-imposed boundaries, whose faith and determination see him through fantastic events.
The Legend of Huma is also a tale of friendship, of love, and of sacrifice. If one is given the choice of love or of saving the world (but not both), what choice does one make?
THE PULSE: Who are the main characters?
WHITEMAN: The main character is Huma, a Knight of Solamnia (specifically a Knight of the Crown). Huma is an ordinary man who is thrown into extraordinary circumstances. He has a deep inner understanding of true honor. Like many of us, he doubts himself. He looks up to other knights, specifically one named Bennett, as an example of what a knight should be.
Yet his actions would go down in history as an example to Knights of Solamnia for centuries to come.
Kaz is a minotaur, a race of warriors and mariners on the eastern shores of Ansalon. He has turned upon his masters, the ogres. In issue #1, Huma rescues him from a band of goblins. Kaz has dedicated himself to Huma. Huma and Kaz are bound by honor and friendship.
Magius is a wizard, and is Huma's childhood friend. Magius is a powerful spellcaster who has a vision of what the future holds for him, and it isn't pretty! Despite his great power and intellect, he's scared. Magius carries with him the powerful Staff of Magius, which would one day find itself in the hands of none other than Raistlin Majere (in Chronicles).
Our other hero is the Silver Dragon. She serves as Huma's mount and companion. Yet not all is as it appears with the Silver Dragon.
You'll also meet some other Knights of Solamnia along the way, such as Lord Oswal (Huma's father figure), Bennett (who Huma looks up to), and Rennard (who isn't your typical knight).
Huma fights a number of villains in this series, including dreadwolves, wizards, the warlord Crynus (who Huma meets in issue #2!), an ancient dragon of immeasurable power, and the renegade wizard Galan Dracos.
The gods also play an important role in this story, especially Takhisis. Takhisis is the Dark Queen, and heads up the gods of evil. Her counterpart, Paladine, stands between her and world conquest. The other gods play an important role in this story as well, especially Morgion, god of pestilence and decay.
THE PULSE: What's coming up in your first story arc?
WHITEMAN: In issue #3, Huma and his fellow knights face the forces of the Queen of Darkness head-on. Knights of Solamnia will be battling ogres, and there's tons of dragons. I especially like the dragon battle in this issue.
Huma will also meet a very lovely woman named Gwyneth, who is not exactly what she appears to be.
Huma is also reunited with his childhood friend - a wizard named Magius. Yet Magius isn't quite the same person that Huma remembers.
Plus, you get a closer look at some of the villains in the story, from the deadly dreadwolves to renegade wizards. The renegades aren't exactly human anymore, either!
THE PULSE: How are you approaching this? Quick, fast arcs or just one long continuous story that has some jumping on points? What are the advantages to your style?
WHITEMAN: The story is already written by Richard Knaak, so in that sense, I'm at the mercy of the story. My job is to adapt that to comic book format.
We're approaching the story as one continuous storyline. If you read the series from first issue to last, you'll practically read the book. It's fairly seamless.
This brings a real sense of a novel in comic book format. I've seen some adaptations that lose a bit of the story from the book. We're doing our best to stay true to the book and to Dragonlance in general.
The eventual outcome will be a novel that is now visually represented, and a story that is richer and more fulfilled.
THE PULSE: How do you deal with the intimidation factor of having a blank page staring at you and needing to get it filled?
WHITEMAN: I grab a soda, sit down, and just start writing. Since this is an adaptation, one thing I sometimes do is to get all the dialogue down. Then I go through it again, and give it a visual side.
By getting the dialogue down first, I feel like I've made some progress, and the rest becomes easy. It also gives me time to consider how best to visually represent each scene.
THE PULSE: Are you writing full script or plots?
WHITEMAN: I'm writing a full script with Sean J. Jordan. Sean is both co-writer and editor, and has been great to work with. I'm learning a lot from him, and I feel that my writing style is better for it.
THE PULSE: What do you view as the advantage to your particular writing style?
WHITEMAN: I think I bring a good sense of pacing to my writing. I remember having this knack when I edited videotape working at the TV station in college. This same knack applies here as well.
In regards to Huma, I come into it not only with a good working knowledge of the story and setting, but also of D&D. Dragonlance is a D&D setting originally, and many of the elements in the setting are based on the game.
For example, there's a dragon battle in issue #3. I've been a real stickler for following D&D in regards to the dragons. The average person might think that all dragons breathe fire. Not true in Dragonlance and D&D. The color of a dragon dictates what type of breath weapon it has. For example, blue dragons shoot out lightning bolts and black dragons have an acid breath weapon.
For those familiar with Dragonlance or D&D in general, they'll see familiar elements brought to life. For those unfamiliar with the setting or D&D, they're going to see a world that is fleshed out and has depth.
I think these little details just make the story richer.
THE PULSE: Why should anyone check this series out?
WHITEMAN: The Legend of Huma is a modern day fairy tale. It is a story with action, romance, tragedy, and a destiny that will transform a man into legend.
The Legend of Huma is a story of an everyman who goes beyond his self-imposed limits and does great deeds. Huma doesn't consider himself a great hero. He's filled with self-doubt, yet he becomes the greatest hero in all of Dragonlance.
THE PULSE: Do you remember your intro to comics? Most of us recall reading a few books here or there, but what was the IT book for you? The first one you remember reading? The one that made you want to see more?
WHITEMAN: Wow, that's a tough question. For me, I think it was Secret Wars. That's the first big series I can remember collecting. That opened up a lot of doors for me into other series. I was also picking up a few Spider-man comics at the time. Loved the black costume!
THE PULSE: You told me you got into comics big when you were 15. Why? What happened?
WHITEMAN: I remember that being around the time that I really started collecting big, although I think I collected some here and there prior to that.
I grew up in rural Missouri, so there weren't many comic stores around. It was around that time that I found some places that had comics, including a place called A to Z Comics in Blue Springs, Missouri. I've been a regular patron ever since (16 years now!).
THE PULSE: When you were in it big that was around the late '80s. What do you remember the comics scene being like then?
WHITEMAN: It was very different. The physical quality of the books wasn't as good. Marvel and DC were the two big names in town at the time, so there weren't many 3rd party publishers. A lot of big name artists came on the scene, many of whom would later become the founders of Image Comics.
When Image hit the scene, everything changed. The art was better, and Image upped the standard of the quality of books. They also opened the door for more third party publishers.
When I started collecting, books went for 75 cents or a dollar a pop. Now they're around $3 average.
I would say that I collected the most in the late 80's/early - mid 90's. I've never stopped collecting, but I do get fewer books these days.
THE PULSE: Did you ever have the collector's/speculator's mentality and buy like two or three copies of individual issues thinking each would be worth a mint someday?
WHITEMAN: The only time I really got into multiple copies was when there were multiple covers. X-Men #1 was a favorite of mine, with all 5 covers.
I never really collected multiple copies for the sake of reselling some at a later date for profit. More so for the completeness of the collection.
I don't do that as much these days.
THE PULSE: Do you still have all your comics? If so, which ones is the most valuable in your collection - either for sentimental reasons or in terms of monetary value?
WHITEMAN: I have about 2,000 comic books at last count. There's a lot that are valuable to me. My pride and joy is Avengers #1. I also have every issue of X-Factor. Of course there's Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, which are fantastic reads.
I've really enjoyed the Avengers throughout the years, as well as Claremont's original stint on X-men.
Really, I have a lot that have sentimental value for me. Spider-Man's wedding, the death of Superman, Secret Wars, Infinity Gauntlet...all good stuff.
THE PULSE: When did you really start noticing the writing of comics? I mean, of course we all realize this is a story - even in the worst cases with some comics - but when did you really start following/noticing there was more to the book than just four-color adventures?
WHITEMAN: I'm not sure there was any one specific moment, to be honest. As I got older, I started questioning why characters did certain things that seemed out of character, or why certain events happened. At certain points, some stories just didn't make sense.
For example, take a comic where the villain becomes a good guy. Oh, sure, sometimes a villain can reform and change their ways. Yet some villains should just remain villains. X-men got bad about this at one point, when Sabretooth was part of X-Factor, or when Magneto joined the X-Men.
When Image Comics started, they had great art, but the writing wasn't as good of quality. That was a big wake-up call to me. Since then, Image has improved dramatically.
I also started noticing what types of characters I like. Characters who are human, who have flaws, appeal to me. Villains who are more than warlords appeal to me. Magneto is one of my favorites, as well as Thanos.
Really, a comic book is a team effort. You can have great art, but with no story, you have little more than a gallery. At the same time, you can have great writing, but you need the art to keep the reader interested.
THE PULSE: Who were some writers whose comic work you followed regularly? Who did you think really had what it takes to tell good stories?
WHITEMAN: One of my favorites is Chris Claremont. The man totally redefined the X-Men, making it into a modern day mythos. He has a knack for weaving storylines, so that the reader is left begging for more.
Peter David is another of my favorites, especially with the Hulk. My favorite era of the Hulk was the Grey Hulk years. Suddenly, this character whose vocabulary consisted of "Hulk smash!" had a whole new layer of complexity. When they got into the multiple personality disorder aspect that really grabbed me. Peter has a way of writing a gripping story, yet he also adds in just the right amount of humor.
Kurt Busiek's work on Avengers is outstanding. He has a way of getting back to basics, yet expanding in new directions. What impressed me with him was that first 12-issue stint on Thunderbolts. Taking the Masters of Evil, and making them heroes in order to secretly take over the world is genius. What's even more genius is seeing who stays a villain and who decides they like the life of a hero.
Jim Starlin is another of my favorites. He's really shown how one can have a comic book set in space, with all sorts of intergalactic characters. I'm a huge fan of Infinity Gauntlet.
Stan Lee is great, both as a creator and a writer. He gives a human element to his characters. Plus, I love the names he comes up with. If you ever hear him speak, he's gripping.
THE PULSE: Have you always been a creative soul? You told me you've worked nine years in TV and three years in advertising. When you were younger, were you drawn more to the creative arts?
WHITEMAN: I think I was, although I've only acknowledged this in recent years. I remember writing puppet plays when I was in 7th grade and in my senior year in high school for church. I was involved with band a lot in high school, and have a love for music.
In high school, I was involved in journalism, working on both the school newspaper and the yearbook. When I got into college, I got into broadcasting, and worked at the TV station there. Copywriting for broadcasting is very much like writing a comic, truth be told. In each case, you have to describe your video and audio.
I got into Dungeons and Dragons in college, and ran several games throughout the years.
THE PULSE: How are you at Math and Science? I notice that a lot of writers seemed to do well in English and History, but when it comes to math and science problems and road blocks a plenty?
WHITEMAN: I was extremely good at basic math, and did fairly well in algebra. I wasn't good with things past basic algebra. I did fairly well in science as well, especially chemistry class. I would say that English is more of my strong point, but I was fairly well-rounded when I was in school.
THE PULSE: Was writing comics something you thought about when you were reading them as a teenager or did you have other goals in mind?
WHITEMAN: Every teenage fan of comics wants to either write or draw them! Yet realistically, we know that this probably won't happen.
A lot has changed since those times. There's a lot more 3rd party publishers, and I've actually been in print in other avenues. I've grown as a person, and come to realize that I have creative talents as well.
THE PULSE: What other projects are you working on?
WHITEMAN: Currently, I'm doing some freelance work as a game designer for Sovereign Press. I'm currently helping them out with their upcoming War of the Lance sourcebook, which should be released at GenCon this year.
I've also helped in reviewing several other products for Sovereign Press, and I continue my work on Dragonlance.com and the Dragonlance Nexus.
I've also been talking with DBPro about doing a comic book adaptation of a new fantasy series that is coming out shortly. They have been in contact with the author, and things look positive as of now. Nothing is finalized yet, but I have high hopes.