This interview covers a subject that is very close to my heart. As a kid, there were a few specific things I was into:- Games Workshop figures, comic books and Ian Livingstone’s choose-your-own-adventure books. I still remember them fondly, with my favourites of the Livingstone books being Caverns of the Snow Witch and the futuristic Freeway Fighter.
Now, as this amazing series of books reaches its 35th birthday, Titan Comics is releasing a comic based on the Freeway Fighter book, featuring the talents of Andi Ewington, Simon Coleby and Len O’Grady. I am excited to say that I managed to grab a word with Andi Ewington and asked him a bit about himself and the project.
1) So, to start with the basics, can you tell us how this wonderful idea for a collaboration came about?
Pure luck. I had pitched the idea of a story around Freeway Fighter or Deathtrap Dungeon to Ian in 2012. Ian loved the idea but the stumbling block was budget; we needed a lot of backing to make it happen. At the time, I had done an interview for Jonathan Green’s You Are The Hero Fighting Fantasy compendium, and talked about the lack of funds hampering our efforts to make a comic. By chance, a Canadian chap (Matt Mastracci) read about the comic and contacted me through Twitter, and said that he wanted to invest everything we needed to make the project a reality. I was initially sceptical, thinking it was an elaborate scam, but Matt proved to be the genuine article. I gave him the script – he loved the story so I introduced him to Ian and contracts were signed. I then set about courting several comic publishers until I found a home for Freeway Fighter with Titan Comics. I should ask Matt to pick my lottery numbers from now on – he’s become my +1 luck charm!
2) How much did you know about this particular project and the original book before you decided to take it forward?
Plenty! I owned the original when it was first released in the mid-80s. As a huge fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, it quickly became one of the stand-out titles for me, along with Deathtrap Dungeon and City of Thieves. I knew the original story pretty well, but needed to dip back into it when I started toying with the idea of a Freeway Fighter comic. When I approached Ian back in 2012, I pitched a concept based around the origin of the I-400 Interceptor and why/how it wound up in New Hope. This is a totally new story that fits neatly into the existing canon with some subtle references that die-hard fans of the original gamebook will spot and hopefully appreciate.
3) Will there be a certain number of issues produced, or is it an ongoing story line that could carry on for the foreseeable future?
Initially, the plan is for four issues, but who knows?! If the fans really embrace the idea of Freeway Fighter I’d love to see this carry on further, or perhaps a new Fighting Fantasy title being given the comic treatment.
4) For those readers who are unfamiliar with the original book, could you give them a brief synopsis?
Freeway Fighter was set in 2022, six months after an unknown virus had wiped out most of the world’s population. Those who were left banded together in isolated settlements, surviving any way they could. In the gamebook, you take the role of a road warrior who must traverse the lawless wastes of America to get to precious fuel from San Anglo. It was a challenging adventure, which saw you constantly searching for petrol. The interior art was illustrated by Kevin Bulmer and the cover art was by Jim Burns.
5) Can you give us an interesting but little-known fact about yourself?
My nan was a huge inspiration to me growing up. When she was a child, she survived the invasion of Berlin even though she was shot several times and had her foot nearly blown clean off by a Russian grenade. She died a while back, and I miss her a lot.
6) When and where will our readers be able to get their hands on a copy of this new project?
Pre-orders are available now (MAR172048, MAR172049, or MAR172050). All good comic retailers should be able to pre-order for you, as I ssue #1 is due for release on 17th May 2017. There’s even going to be a big signing with Ian Livingstone, Jim Burns and the comic team in attendance at Forbidden Planet London on 20th May 2017.
7) Can you tell us a little about the creative team behind this new project?
Simon Coleby has been a regular art partner for a while now; we work really well together, and I absolutely love his work and dedication. He totally understands how to interpret my script and bring the best out of it. Len O’Grady is the colourist and a great guy, he’s been working with Simon for as long as I can remember and injects life into Simon’s inks. Jim Campbell has the task, as letterer, to add the drama into the written words on the page. When it comes to SFX he’s invaluable! Jonathan Green is a great writer in his own right, so is an excellent fresh set of eyes on the script; he’s also a canon-smith so can spot a lore problem from a thousand yards. Matt Mastracci has financed the project himself, and without his passion and belief in Freeway Fighter none of this would have been possible. Finally, there’s Ian, but what can I say that hasn’t already been said? Ian is a living legend and a big reason why I got into creative writing in the first place.
8) What other projects have you been involved in, prior to this one?
I’ve been working extensively with Michael Bay’s new comic imprint, 451 Media Group. I’ve worked on some awesome titles, such as S6X, which I wrote with George Pelecanos, Sunflower with Mark Mallouk, Red Dog with Rob Cohen, and Exmortis. I also co-wrote the Dark Souls II one-shot with Rob Williams, and a Just Cause 3 one-shot for Square Enix.
9) What led you into the field of writing for comics?
After an intense computer game session where I had put over 120 hours into a game, I was left with a hollow victory as the credits rolled on-screen. I felt I could have been more productive with my time, perhaps even written a book. It was my lightbulb moment. I set about writing a novel, it was a mammoth 250,000 word magnum opus that probably was a book ahead of where I needed to be. After some positive rejection letters I thought my chance had passed. Then by a quirk of fate, I joined a design company that had a comic-publishing arm. I was introduced to the comic medium and realised I had a second bite at the cherry. I pitched a new concept centred around the birth of a child in a superhero world. That story was called ‘Forty-Five’ and went on to be my debut graphic novel. The rest, as they say, is history.