‘Mortal Kombat X’: Writer Shawn Kittelsen teases DC prequel comic book

Jan. 05, 2015 | 8:00 a.m.

For those who enjoy the spine-breaking, disemboweling fun of the “Mortal Kombat” franchise, the new “MKX” game from NetherRealm Studios can’t come fast enough (March 15 — 69 days, give or take a few hours). To help mitigate the wait, the first chapter of a new weekly digital comic “Mortal Kombat X” arrives Tuesday from DC Comics, introducing new characters and more fatalities.

Shawn Kittelsen will write the series, which will feature Cassie Cage, Kotal Kahn and a cast of other characters; after Tuesday’s premiere installment, subsequent chapters will be released on Sundays and be available for download on the DC Comics App, Readdcentertainment.com, comiXology.com, Google Play, Kindle Store, Nook Store, iBooks and iVerse ComicsPLUS.

The Mortal Kombat X video game release date of March 15 is incorrect. The game is set to debut worldwide April 15.

The first print issue of the comic will be available on Jan. 14, and each print issue will collect three digital chapters.

Hero Complex talked with Kittelsen, a lifetime fan of “Mortal Kombat,” about the franchise and the comic’s relationship to the video game.

Hero Complex: How did you first become acquainted with the Mortal Kombat universe?

Shawn Kittelsen: I’m 31 years old now and I’ve been playing these games since I was young enough to beg my parents for a roll of quarters and a ride to the arcade to play the arcade games. Twenty-two years later and I’m a fairly responsible adult, so in my case, playing the game at a formative age didn’t hurt me. Turns out it was even a savvy career move.

HC: What makes “Mortal Kombat” such an enduring franchise?

"Mortal Kombat X" #1 panel. (DC Comics)

“Mortal Kombat X” #1 panel. (DC Comics)

SK: Two big reasons. First, it’s a culturally important franchise, so commercially successful that every other Western-developed fighting game since has been a clone or a copycat, and the politicization of its content contributed to the creation of the ESRB ratings system that we still use today. Beyond that cultural impact, it’s fundamentally a series of well-made games that are fun and entertaining to play. Sure, some are better than others, but if you go back and track the progression from game to game, the team at NetherRealm Studios has made really intelligent choices about what’s worked and what hasn’t, culminating in the acclaimed 2011 reboot and soon, “MKX.” One of those smart choices has been to incorporate epic, cinematic Story Modes establishing the drama and mythology that inspires our comics.

HC: Can you set the scene for this particular world? Parts of it actually take place 25 years in the future?

SK: “Mortal Kombat” has always been about worlds colliding: East meets West, Earthrealm meets Outworld, science meets sorcery, gods meet men, etc. “MKX” has all that, but because it jumps 25 years into the future, it’s got a generational twist with all these new characters. The collision is old school meets new school. The comic book is a prequel series set several years before the game, at a point when many iconic characters must deal with the next generation for the first time. The stories are self-contained enough to be approachable for newer fans, but connected and expansive enough to reward hardcore players.

HC: Will the comic primarily focus on new characters? And do you have a favorite among those new faces?

SK: The new characters will play a big part in the comic, but it’s definitely an ensemble piece. You’ll see a mix of old and new. You’ll even see characters appear in the comic that won’t appear in the game at all. We’ve got to keep readers guessing about what’s coming next.

Of the characters that have been revealed, Kotal Kahn and Cassie Cage are my favorites. Kotal because he’s insanely cool looking, brand new, and the Tony Soprano of Outworld. Cassie because she’s the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade and she’s trying to figure out what that means. She wants to forge her own identity, but that’s not easy when one of your parents is a hammy C-list actor and the other is a strict military officer. That story of her self-definition is relatable to anyone who’s been a teenager. And then there are the characters we can’t talk about yet…

HC: Comic book adaptations of video games, like “Street Fighter” and “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” expand on the world of the games. What were the creative opportunities with this particular adaptation?

SK: Telling stories with the new characters is an amazing and humbling opportunity. With something like “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” fans already know the Justice League; the fun is seeing how those familiar characters are redefined by extraordinary circumstances. But fans don’t know new characters like Kotal Kahn, Cassie Cage and D’vorah. Since our comics come out before the game, you’ll get to know these characters for the first time in our stories. You’ll see their origins and early adventures, and NetherRealm Studios gave us carte blanche to tell the best stories we could tell, creating new mythology and characters, as long as we stay true to the game.

"Mortal Kombat X" #1 panel. (DC Comics)

“Mortal Kombat X” #1 panel. (DC Comics)

HC: How did Dexter Soy help to shape the world with his unique style of art?

SK: This series should be a breakout moment for Dexter. If “Mortal Kombat” is about worlds colliding, so is Dexter’s style. His work melds influences from manga and Western comics into something all his own. It doesn’t look like the “Mortal Kombat” art we’ve seen before, but it feels 100% authentic to the franchise and its roots. He nails the over-the-top action you expect from the franchise, but he also brings real humanity and emotion to each character’s performance.

HC: Some are buzzing about a mastermind character in the game that we’ve previously been introduced to. Any hints in the comic? The Kool Aid man (saw that interview!), maybe?

SK: Well, Kool Aid Man is more of an enforcer than a boss character, so it won’t be him. There are definitely hints to the game story in the comics. It’s still several years before the game starts and there are a lot of surprises ahead, but the seeds of events to come are being sown here and now.

HC: Will there be shocking fatalities?

SK: It won’t be “Mortal Kombat” unless somebody loses his or her head. And arms, heart, spine… The violence you expect is there, but it has purpose, it serves the story. Blood is an important element in our themes. On one hand, it’s a tie that binds us across generations. On the other, bloodshed has consequences — fear, pain, vengeance, perpetual cycles of violence. We’re not turning “MK” into a pacifist fable, but it would be ridiculous if these characters just kept killing and killing without consequences. The game stories are more mature than that and so are fans. Having said all of that, it’s undeniably satisfying to write a good fatality scene. I grew up with vintage Peter Jackson, George Romero and Rick Baker. Fans eager for gory spectacle have much to look forward to.

— Jevon Phillips| @storiz@LATherocomplex


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4 Responses to ‘Mortal Kombat X’: Writer Shawn Kittelsen teases DC prequel comic book

  1. Rudolph_Consuegra says:

    Anybody familiar with the boots on Ed Boon's twitter will notice that Kenshi doesn't seem to match any of them although he seems to be wearing his 2011 outfit.

    Wonder if that boy will be playable as an adult?

    Also the spear looks like Scorpion's even though I wonder what his agenda with the Red Dragon is. Mavado seems unlikely as part of his fighting style can't exist in this timeline for certain reasons.

  2. Natedoggcata says:

    MKX comes out in April. Not March

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