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And Doom is His Name: Arvid Nelson on 'Thulsa Doom'

By Matt Brady
posted: 26 May 2009 12:54 pm ET

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Thulsa Doom #1, cover by Alex Ross

Thulsa Doom #1, cover by Alex Ross

Having cut his teeth on the critically acclaimed Rex Mundi (which he created), writer Arvid Nelson has gone on to become one of comics rising stars. Always providing a solid story, be it on DC’s The Joker’s Asylum: The Joker, Dark Horse’s Zero Killer, Kull, or the aforementioned Rex Mundi, Nelson’s become known as a weaver of complex stories that don’t let go of the reader.

In August, Nelson will bring his talents to Dynamite Entertainment to write Thulsa Doom, a new ongoing series starring perhaps the most evil man to have ever walked in the Hyperborian world.

We spoke with Nelson about the upcoming series.

Newsarama: First off Arvid, what attracted you to this project? With Kull going on at Dark Horse, it seems like you have your Hyperborian-era quotient filled. What made this something that you couldn't say no to?

Arvid Nelson: It could never be filled! Sword and sorcery has always been one of my favorite genres. There’s a word in Islam for people who’ve memorized the Koran--that’s me with the original Conan movie. It helps that Schwarzenegger only has five lines, but still. I’m absolutely nuts about this stuff.

NRAMA: What's the scope of this series? With your opening arc, what story are you looking to tell, the ground-up origin story, or are we meeting Thulsa later in life?

AN: Sometimes starting “from the beginning” is a good tactic, but more often than not, I find it’s better to start in the thick of things. You have to earn a reader’s interest before delving into “origins”. When the story starts, Thulsa already has a dark and violent past--uncovering that past is part of the story itself.

NRAMA: Okay then, broad view, who is Thulsa Doom? Most are probably familiar with him via the Conan movie as you mentioned earlier, but is that transferrable here in Dynamite's version?

AN: Our story takes place thousands of years before Conan’s time. Thulsa isn’t necessarily evil... yet. But he has irresistible charisma, that “cult of personality” the very best and the very worst people seem to have. He hasn’t decided how he’s going to use that power yet. He doesn’t know whether he wants to be Mussolini or Gandhi.

NRAMA: Writing villains seems to be a tightrope in many ways, that is, there seems like there would be a reluctance to make the villain too sympathetic, yet at the same time, readers won't return month after month for the story of an unsympathetic tyrant. How do you approach Thulsa in this regard?

Thulsa Doom #2, cover by Ross

Thulsa Doom #2, cover by Ross

AN: “Tightrope” is the perfect word. Thulsa, at this point, is trying to do the right thing, but his dark side often gets in the way. Plus, his world is disintegrating around him. He’s fighting a losing battle, both within and without.

NRAMA: Somewhat in that vein, when looking at "epic" villains such as Thulsa Doom, the concept of destiny is interwoven, sometimes to the point that the villain has very little choice in his destiny. How much is that the case with Thulsa?

AN: There’s no definitive answer to that question, is there? That tension between fate and free will is one of the things we’ll deal with in the series. Thulsa is always a mystery, not just to other people, but to himself.

NRAMA: Good point. You mentioned Mussolini, but what would you compare his story to, either in pop culture or literature?

AN: The story begins as a series of cataclysms are ripping the world apart, dragging it down into thousands of years of darkness. So it’s as much post-apocalyptic as it is sword and sorcery. It will appeal to people who like stories like Fist of the North Star or Mad Max just as much as it will to people who like Conan and Lord of the Rings!

NRAMA: Obviously, there's a film in the works for Thulsa as well - is your series related to what Djimon will be doing with the film version?

AN: It’s been great working with the guys at Dynamite. They’re keeping a pretty tight lid on the film for right now, but I’m definitely getting some good guidance from them. I can only hope some of the stuff we’re developing for the comic will make its way into the film.

NRAMA: Finally then. how does the series kick off, and what do we first see Thulsa doing?

AN: It starts off a lot like a Western, actually, or like a samurai flick. Thulsa finds himself thrown in with a band of warriors trying to save the shattered remains of their city-state. But Thulsa is a wanted man--he ends up causing much more mayhem and destruction than anyone, including him, thinks is possible!

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