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FLESHING OUT LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER
Copyright 2000 www.anotheruniverse.com

[ August 25th 2000 ]

Who is Lara Croft? Is she a relic hunter, a thrill seeker, a marksman, a hero, or just an adrenaline junkie looking for a fix? What secrets from her past compel her to travel the world and track down the rarest ancient artifacts? As the regular writer of Top Cow's Tomb Raider comic book series, Dan Jurgens chronicles Lara's adventures on a monthly basis. However, he never really got a chance to delve into the past of this video-born mystery woman until he wrote the Fandom Exclusive one-shot: Tomb Raider Prelude. Recently, Jurgens took some time out to talk about what went into the creation of this Fandom Exclusive comic book and what it's like writing the regular Tomb Raider series.

Dan Jurgens: To me, she is a very sophisticated, intelligent person, who has all the financial resources she has to live out the rest of her life in whatever style she chooses. If she wanted to lounge on the French Riviera, she could do that. But to me she is someone who is easily bored and restless and needs the personal challenge and gratification of going out and finding that which no one else can. We're so accustomed to the world of superheroes, where someone's parents were killed or something like that. There are people in the world who just need challenges and I think she is such an accomplished person that she is one of those.

Fandom: It's less a mater of super-altruism and more of a personal quest.

Jurgens: Exactly. I see Lara as generally working on behalf of museums or sort of like appropriate final destinations for these artifacts, rather than Machiavellian private collectors or that sort of thing. So there is some sense of that to her. I think she's generally well intentioned. Also, I write the book in such a way that when the stuff winds up someplace, it usually winds up in the right hands or the proper finish. For example, in the first story arc, someone sends her off to find the Medusa Mask, which is essentially an evil artifact. The person meets his just desserts. He dies at the end of the story and presumably the mask dies along with him. It's one of those things where the final resting place of these articles is generally just, one way or another.

Fandom: How much of a free hand did you have to develop character?

Jurgens: I have actually been really gratified and totally amazed at the freehand I've had. I say that as a person who once before worked on a licensed property--years before I did Flash Gordon for DC, which is, of course, owned by King Features. It was just an awful experience in terms of working with King Features. After that, I said I'm never doing a licensed property again. When the Top Cow guys first contacted me, I said that I'd never do a licensed property again. They said, 'Well look, this one is going to be different.' And it has been. It's been a real good relationship.

Fandom: How much of the origin did you come up with?

Jurgens: The only thing that I had been given was that her parents had been killed in a plane crash with her fiancÚ on board. Everything else, I constructed around that premise and the premise that Lord Croft was a very wealthy individual. It seemed to be reasonable to me that he was a part of British society. Like I say, after the plane crash, I've done most of it.

Fandom: What type of challenges did you have fleshing out Lara's character?

Jurgens: I think you start to ask at that point the questions of what is the medium as well, if only because going into this, everybody assumed that it was going to be a T & A book. When I first accepted the book, a lot of my friends in the business called me up and said 'Dan, since when did you do T & A stuff?' You know, that sort of thing. I said, 'No, wait. Give it a shot. I want to make this a legitimate character and a legitimate book with legitimate stories.' So, I think the toughest thing has been fighting the perception that previously existed of who Lara was and what the book was going to be. After that, to me, she represents a world traveler. One of the criticisms that I've gotten from a couple of fans is that she's not British enough. To me, because of her education, because of the world travel I think she did as a child and has always done, I see her as much more than a British citizen. To me, she doesn't speak with a thick accent. That's been sort of watered out of here because of her world travels. The toughest thing was fighting the preconceived notions.

Fandom: What about the supporting cast?

Jurgens: We've seen a lot of Chase Carver who is an individual who is also sort of a treasure hunter, cut much more out of that rogue element. To me, he's also someone who is, if we look at the Indiana Jones model, he was a guy who could find it and would be tremendously successful. Chase Carver, to me, is sort of a rouge in that same way, but at the same time, if he was sent out to find a $10 million object, he's the guy who stumbles around and instead comes back with something in the neighborhood of $100,000 and gets a five per cent cut. He makes just enough to get by. He's semi-good at what he does. He is not in Lara's class. The most important thing about him is that there is one treasure that he covets above all else in the world and that's Lara. It's the one treasure he'll never have. I think that becomes the fun element because he's always going to be around. I like him a lot. In, I think, issue seven, I also introduce a new butler/assistant/cook/advisor-type character for Lara. There will be a couple of people who are recurring characters that way, but for the most part it's Lara's book and because it hops the world, she's not going to have the standard Peter Parker/Clark Kent supporting cast around the newspaper.

Fandom: Was it easier or more difficult to adapt something that was a game. Did the game's elements of traveling to different locations and encountering different supernatural elements help or hurt you?

Jurgens: I wouldn't say they helped or hurt either way. There were things that I was aware of. If you look at the games, a video game is constructed so much more differently than a comic book. The story of a game is essentially the player's ability to ascend to each new level. In a comic book, the story is what happens to the character. So really, when you look at the video games, there are some aspects of Lara's character that comes through it, not a lot. But there's not necessarily a real tight story around the games. They also tend to center on the supernatural. The problem with supernatural in a comic book and magic in general in comic books which is whether it's Dr. Strange or Dr. Fate, the problem with magic and supernatural in comic books is you essentially go in telling the reader 'Because magic exists, because the supernatural exists, we've broken all the rules for you.' At that point, it's too easy to pull a rabbit out of a hat. It's sort of how each story works. I think that isn't real gratifying in the long run. You can do a story like that here and there, but you can't do it every issue. So I made a deliberate decision to push it more into the treasure quest realm and dabble with the supernatural here and there, but not get into it real strong.

Fandom: Have you seen Mark Pajarillo work on Tomb Raider Prelude?

Jurgens: I think it's a good-looking book. The cover is exceptionally nice. The book has been dialogued and scripted so we're all done with it. It's a nice looking book. The story essentially starts off in the mountains. We don't even say exactly which ones when it starts off and she's obviously in search of something and right away, someone else who is trying to get to it is trying to kill her. It takes us into a flashback sequence of Lara's youth when she was educated in a private, very upper crust British school. It moves through her training as a gymnast. I also made it clear that she got some target training just to be able to handle firearms the way she does. The story ends again with Lara taking the item she has found and putting it in a proper place or giving it to a proper person in terms of there being a sense of justice to it. The artwork, as it moves through some of the sequences on the mountaintop where she's actually attacked by a World War I biplane, it's great stuff, so it's a good looking package.

Fandom: So, what plans do you have for the regular Tomb Raider book?

Jurgens: To me, the most important aspect of Tomb Raider is to continue to make Lara interesting as a character. What I want to do is spend a little more time examining her feelings about Chase Carver. One of the things that we've stated is that she had a relationship with him back in their younger days in which this guy was just an irascible jerk and at the same time, she obviously had feelings for him. We play with that a little bit. I think that we can assume, whereas, back then, Chase was the dominant person in the relationship, now the dominant person by far is Lara and she calls the shoots. I also want to play around with what her parents meant to her, particularly her mother. In the first four-part story, we touched on the idea that she went and found the Medusa Mask for a man who once coveted her mother when she was younger and had a sculptor make an incredible one-of-its-kind music box featuring Lara's mother as a ballerina in the center. That's what Lara found. She found this incredibly priceless object and traded it to that person just for this music box. That I think certainly communicates something of her thoughts for her mother and I want to play with that a little more because the death of her parents is what has made her independent as well. Also realizing, 'My parents lived as safe as they could and still died young, so I might as well do what I can to have a good time.' The other thing that I should mention though and something that I think people are really going to get jazzed about is a 38-page special I've written that Joe Jusko is painting. Anyone who just saw the latest issue of Tomb Raider, I think it was number seven, that had the Jusko painted cover on it, it was just a gorgeous cover on it. It won't be long and people will be able to get 38 pages of that kind of quality. I think it's really a nice story and I have every anticipation that Joe is going to do his usual job and blow everyone's doors off.

Fandom: When will that be coming out?

Jurgens: I think we're trying to have that out in November of this year which would be on the anniversary of the launch of the regular series itself. Whether or not we make it, (laughs) I don't know. Joe's working on it, but we'll see if we get it there.

Fandom: What has been the fan response to the regular Tomb Raider comic?

Jurgens: I did a show in late April at a convention and it was, I think the first one I had done since more than just an issue was out or something like that. And I was stunned at the amount of people who came up and made it quite clear that they read Tomb Raider and not a lot else. Clearly, we have a bit of a different audience and a lot of them are female. I was also surprised at that and happy to see that there are a lot of female readers that we have. Typically, if I make a convention appearance, considering my workload now which is Thor, Cap, and Aquaman on one side, I'm going to get a lot of the Marvel/DC junkie-types and a lot of the hard-core superhero readers. I'd look up and see a lot of young woman or girls in line who are there because of Tomb Raider. I was telling people at the Cow this and I think they agreed that clearly we've found a different audience than I am reaching or dealing with on the normal books.

Fandom: That must be very gratifying.

Jurgens: Oh yeah, I'm always one of those who says any level of success anybody has in this industry is a good thing for us all. I always applaud it. If we can manage to find a couple more people out there who generally don't pick up a comic, that's nothing but a good thing. The one other thing that I would mention in terms of the origin story itself is that it's going to be something that every Lara fan is going to want to get there hands on one way or other. In addition to that, it opens up in the mountains and the here and now and tells the story through flashbacks. It also flashes back to that incident that was the plane clash that she survived that was in the mountains, so it's kind of one those full-circle kind of things that becomes more important to understanding her character.

Copyright (c) 2000 - 2019 Tomb Raider Chronicles
Copyright (c) 1996 - 2019 Square Enix Ltd.
Lara Croft and Tomb Raider are trademarks of Square Enix Ltd.
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