Interview with Matt Forbeck

I played a small trick on you last week.

I asked if you were interested in reading interviews with non-WotC folks deeply involved in Magic, but I already had a couple lined up. (And there will be an interview with the artists of Grand Prix Anaheim posted later this week as well!) What I really meant was, “Are you interested in reading more interviews . . . ” Lucky for me, it seems I’ll be avoiding a good old tar feathering today.

An overwhelmingly two-thirds of you voted yes to that misstated question, so I’m going to take a wild shot in the dark and say I’m safe—at least until my next nefarious plan of misdirection backfires. For those of you who said no, I promise there will be a lot of other content for you to enjoy and contribute to in the following weeks.

This week’s interviewee is one I’ve been wanting to talk to for a while now, but between his busy schedule and my annoying habit of picking up house and moving internationally every six to twelve months, we were unable to do so until now. A writer and game designer for many years, but a recent addition to the Magic scene, this man writes the new and increasingly popular Magic: The Gathering comics. Without further ado, I bring you . . . Matt Forbeck!

If you don’t mind, let’s start off with a short introduction. Please introduce yourself and explain how you came to write the new Magic comics.

Steady Progress
I’m Matt Forbeck, and I’ve been a professional game designer and writer the past twenty-two years. I’ve worked on countless award-winning tabletop games over the years, but these days, I mostly write novels, comics, and work on computer games. My latest project is my 12 for ’12 challenge, in which I plan to write a dozen novels this year.

So far, that’s going well. I’m keeping to the schedule and funding the novels by taking pre-orders on this crowdfunding platform called Kickstarter. I just launched the latest drive—for the third trilogy. It’s called Dangerous Games, and it’s a trio of thrillers set at Gen Con, the largest gaming convention in this hemisphere.

As for the Magic comic, I’ve known the founders at IDW since they were part of the special projects department at Wildstorm, working under Jim Lee. I helped them design the WildStorms CCG back then, and we’ve been friends since. When they landed the license for the Magic: The Gathering comic, they asked me to pitch them some ideas for the book. They and Wizards liked what they saw, and they hired me.

How much oversight does Wizards have over the comic’s story line? Do they tell you the major plot points or are you given free reign?

I come up with an outline that covers the major points, and then IDW and Wizards points out where I get things wrong—or at least where they could be better. Carlos Guzman at IDW keeps the story flowing right, and Brady Dommermuth—who’s in charge of the Magic storyline at Wizards—makes sure I’m as faithful to the games as I can be.

Wizards approves all my stories, and they’ve give me a lot of freedom with regard to that. The biggest influence has been trying to match the story up roughly with the releases for the game. The first story arc, for instance, brings our hero Dack Fayden to Innistrad, and that was largely due to the Innistrad block being released around that time.

Moon Heron
If you are left with control, what steers you?

The story of Dack Fayden points me in the right direction at all times. He’s a fun and fascinating character with a dark history that informs his actions. He’s also—due to the natures of planeswalkers—a loner, and that affects the kinds of stories I can tell with him.

Along the same line, who came up with the character of Dack Fayden? Did you pitch him to Wizards or did they ask you to humanize a shell they already had planned?

I came up with Dack for my initial pitch. Denton Tipton—who was the book’s original editor—and I flew out to Seattle for a story meeting with the Wizards team, and we worked together to refine him and figure out who he really is. He’s evolved a lot over the past year, but that’s one of the best parts about writing his story. I learn more about him every time I tackle a new script.

The story has mainly taken place on Innistrad so far. Will the storyline continue to sync with the current Magic block, or will it follow its own path in the future?

We’re not wedded to any current block or world. Having said that, I like to sync up with the current block if we can. That’s where some of the most exciting things happening with Magic are at any given moment, and I like to tap into that thrill.

Jace Beleren
Fans have complained loudly in the past when Magic novel authors have made gaffs related to Magic canon. It’s certainly a massive task, but you’ve done a great job so far. How have you gone about tackling this problem?

Two words: Brady Dommermuth. Seriously, he’s been a fantastic help. He knows more about the Magic backstory than anyone else on the planet, and he’s great at pointing out all the things I’m bound to trip over.

Do you collaborate at all with the artist Martin Coccolo when writing, or does he see the text only after you’re done?

Martin gets the scripts once Wizards approves them, so he doesn’t have direct input on story elements. That said, he does an amazing job of breathing life into my scripts, and I feel fortunate to be teamed with his talents.

Also, many times, his artwork has informed my writing. Once I see it, I go, “Ah, so that’s what that person’s really like. Got it.” Then I use that in future issues.

Is there a particular scene or character you’ve written that is your favorite? If so, mind sharing?

Dack’s my favorite, which helps because I wind up writing so much about him. Of the material that’s seen print, I really enjoyed his race through different planes in the opening part of Magic: The Gathering #1. The part where he kisses the woman and then swings off across the rooftops is perfect.

For the next miniseries, Magic: The Gathering: Spell Thief, there’s a great adversary in issue #1. He’s a blue-skinned titan who was great fun to pit against Dack.

Stromkirk Captain
Are there any details you are able to share about the second “season” of comics coming out later this year?

I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, but it features Dack following the trail of Sifa Grent, the villain from the first miniseries. As he does so, he flashes back to core bits in his history that made him who he is today. It’s a great adventure, but at the same time, it reveals a lot more about who Dack is and what he’s all about.

Finally, what other projects do you have in the pipeline that Magic fans might be interested in?

Those who enjoy Dack’s tale might also like those of Max Gibson, the hero in my fantasy noir trilogy called Shotguns & Sorcery, which I’m writing right now. That’s the second trilogy in my 12 for ’12 challenge, and it should be available to the public in a few months.

Meanwhile, anyone who’s interested in games should check out that Dangerous Games Kickstarter I mentioned earlier. I mean, it’s about murders happening at Gen Con. What’s not to love? It’s just started, so there’s still some time to get in on the ground floor there.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I—and I’m sure many others—look forward to reading the comics for years to come!

Thanks for asking. I always appreciate it, and I’m hoping to keep writing the comics for many years, too.

 


There you have it, a small look into what it’s like writing Dack Fayden and the new Magic comics and even a few teasers about what’s to come!

Mr. Forbeck is always energetic, open, and just plain fun to talk to, and it showed through our short bursts of e-mail and Twitter correspondence. If you’re interested in finding out more about him or his work, check out www.forbeck.com or his Twitter account,@mforbeck. Feel free to send him a thanks or just say “hi.”

Wow! Is that the end of this article already? This writing thing is a lot easier when you get others to do it for you. [Author’s note: Actually, coming up with quality and in-depth questions without seeming too long-winded can be a tough challenge. Don’t take this as a suggestion that all writers who do interviews are slackers. Just me.]

Don’t worry, as I won’t be using this as an excuse to relax. Next week, I’ll be bringing you more Vorthos content with one-thousand-plus words solely from me. See you then!

P.S. Don’t forget to check out my other interview(s) with the talent-laden GP: Anaheim artist lineup!