Dan Abnett and Neil Roberts talk Horus Heresy graphic novel

Black Library announce a 100-page Horus Heresy graphic novel – we speak exclusively to the creators

Black Library WeekenderYesterday at the Black Library Weekender, fans received incredible Warhammer 40,000 news – Black Library has plans for a Horus Heresy graphic novel written by New York Times Bestseller Dan Abnett with art by celebrated cover artist Neil Roberts.

The Horus Heresy is the backstory to the Warhammer 40,000 sci-fi universe and this will be its first time in graphic novel form. The 100-page limited edition hardcover, entitled Macragge’s Honour, will be released late next year, with the team hoping to show some of it off at San Diego Comic-Con 2013. The story is set during the battle of Calth (following “a ‘Hunt For Red October’-type duel… that’s been in the rulebooks for 20 years” according to Abnett) and the creative team revealed the first five pages of it in Nottingham on Sunday in front of over 300 people at the packed Black Library Weekender. “It will be like holding a 500 million dollar movie in your hand,” enthused Roberts, to rapturous applause from the crowd. We were able to grab time with the creators to discuss their ambitions.

“We’ve been asked repeatedly about comics. I think the appetite for a graphic novel is huge,” Abnett told us. “We did Warhammer Monthly before, when Black Library first started; it’s the reason I write for these guys in the first place. I’m known for the novels now – they really took off – but comics was where it started. And today we have the Horus Heresy. Within WH40K it’s its own brand, a multi-million selling sub-division. So it’s come together really smartly: I’ve written comics for 25 years and I’m known as a Horus Heresy writer; Neil Roberts is the artist and he’s superb; the Horus Heresy is massive; and that’s really why we went for it!”

Artist Neil Roberts is best known for his covers, not only on 25 bestselling Black Library books but also on 2000 AD for strips like Judge Dredd. “I’d mentioned years ago that it would be a good idea,” he tells us, explaining why the time is right for a Horus Heresy graphic novel. “People often ask about it. After a while it kept coming up. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time so this is my chance to go hell for leather. What we’re doing is going to look radically different from a regular comic, it will be distinct and standalone.”

Dan Abnett

Dan Abnett.

The guys have been working in secret on the project, collaborating “Marvel-style”. Abnett again: “Marvel comics work where you write a plot, an overview of what has to happen on a page, then the artist draws it, then you supply a full script later when you’ve seen that. You don’t deliver a full script right at the start. I describe it in terms of what happens and some loose dialogue ideas, then when he’s drawn it I fill in the precise speech. Stan Lee did it that way, and it’s a great way of giving the artist a lot of storytelling control and also a great way to keep things moving.”

Roberts agrees: “Dan is coming up with the plot, I’m drawing it, then he’s putting the words to it – it frees me up to draw the cool stuff without worrying too much about the nitty-gritty. I can get on with doing the action- packed focus of it.”

This will be a brand new story set in the Horus Heresy continuum, not a retelling of an existing storyline, and in terms of plot, Abnett has known from the start where it will fit into canon. “In Know No Fear, my last Horus Heresy book, I was deliberately seeding stories,” reveals Abnett. “We always have an obligation to think of handovers for future books. I added a clear moment in that one thinking that would make a great story and when Christian Dunn [Black Library editor] suggested it could be a graphic novel I thought, ‘Yeah! It’s so visual!’”

“The idea is to make it look like a film in comic form,” concludes Roberts. “If Peter Jackson and James Cameron got together to make a Warhammer 40,000 or Horus Heresy film, this would be how it would look!”

See art from it and read other news at the Black Library website. Look out for a report from the weekend’s event in SFX 230.