Lara Croft is set to start a brand-new adventure over at Dark Horse in the upcoming miniseries Tomb Raider: Survivor’s Crusade. Announced shortly before San Diego Comic-Con, the series picks up where the Rise of the Tomb Raider video game left off. Fans of the series – especially those who enjoyed Dark Horse’s other books based on the rebooted series – should start getting excited! The first issue should be hitting shelves this November.
As much as I love the new Tomb Raider games, the creative team behind Survivor’s Crusade is the biggest draw for us.
I’ve been reading Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly’s work for a while now. They’ve worked on some really great books in the past – including one of their more recent series, Joyride, which I loved. And they’re currently working on Zojaqan and Gotham City Garage which kicks off in October. Having them on Survivor’s Crusade is going to be great and I can’t wait to see their take on Lara Croft! Plus they’ve teamed up with artist Ashley A. Woods who you may know from books like NIOBE: She is Life and Ladycastle.
We’re looking at a pretty great Tomb Raider series later this year!
We had the chance to sit down with Jackson, Collin, and Ashley at SDCC 2017. We had a great time talking with them about the book, their love for the Tomb Raider games, and what it’s like to be such busy, creative people. You can read the full interview below!
Your latest project is Tomb Raider: Survivor’s Crusade and it’s tentatively coming out sometime this winter. Tell us, when does this book take place in relation to the games?
Jackson Lanzing: So Tomb Raider: Survivor’s Crusade picks up right after the events of Rise of the Tomb Raider. Lara has come out of the events in Siberia [and] she has learned the truth about her father, which is that her father – who everyone has said throughout her whole life killed himself – was killed by the people he was working with. Killed by Trinity. And she’s discovered that Trinity is in fact still active, they’re out there, and they are specifically going after the very things that her father hoped that she would go after.
She’s starting to uncover that destiny that will make her the “Tomb Raider.”
But she’s not there yet.
Right now, she’s a person with a lot of anger and a lot of guilt who is looking at the people who killed her father and thinking, “Well why can’t I just take my revenge? Why can’t I just make their lives a living hell?” She doesn’t have a whole lot of reason to go searching for artifacts. She has a lot of reasons to go searching for revenge.
And so the initial story that we’re looking to tell is kind of – it’s Lara’s self-realization. It’s Lara starting from a very violent place and trying to find herself again. Find the positivity. Find the love. Find that memory of her father so that maybe she can head a bit towards better ends.
Did they make you guys play the game before you came in on the project or had you already played it?
JL: Oh, they did not need to make us.
Colin Kelly: They did not need to make us! We were both about halfway through Rise when we got the call. And then it was just a matter of diving in. We were fans of the video games and being able to step in and have a take on the character was amazing. Ashley, what about you?
Ashley A. Woods: I played the entire original series in the 90s and early 2000s. And then I played the beginning of the remake back in 2013. It’s just a huge honor and experience.
All right, so, what’s your favorite Tomb Raider game?
AW: For me personally? Part 2. That was back in like 1998, I think?
JL: That was one of my favorite, too! That was the one where you, uh, you could roll around in Croft Manor. It was just essentially a training level.
AW: And at the end of the game, I think there’s a room upstairs you can’t open and it had all the weapons. And they tried to attack you!
JL: I remember that! I loved that. And I remember you could do – there was an acrobatics room and there was a room with like a jungle gym and a room with a swimming pool. I played in that stuff more than I ever played the game.
JL: We made a joke when we first came on to this [book] if this wasn’t the new version – if this was the old version, old school Tomb Raider – we’d definitely just do an issue that was like “Lara’s Day at Home!” and it’s like “2 PM – Jungle Gym. 3 PM – Walking Around My Weapons.”
But I think for me, honestly, it would be Tomb Raider – the reboot from 2013. I thought taking Lara Croft (and this has really informed our take I think) and making her ‘superpowers’ …not that she’s physically attractive or the fact that she’s rich or the fact that she’s wealthy but that she is resilient.
That she’s a person that you can like throw down a cliff, break both of her arms and both of her legs, and she’ll still climb that goddamn mountain. She will find a way. You know what I mean? The idea of getting to work with a character who was that resilient – that’s where we started to find where we could start to tell stories.
How did you all get to be involved with this project?
CK: We had a relationship with the editor, Cardner Clark, basically we’ve been looking for a project to work with her on. This crossed her desk and she thought of us knowing we were big fans of the game… And I think the rest was kind of history.
AW: Cardner reached out to me back in December right before Christmas. She heard about my work through Stranger Comics and… yeah, that’s sort of the beginning!
JL: We – with Cardner – put together a short list and we said, “Here are some artists we’d really lke to work with!” And Ashley was at the top of that list. So when we got Ashley we were like, “Oh, man! Killer! That’s awesome!” Because I really like NIOBE: She is Life a lot.
CK: And it was important to us that we – as two guys coming into the story [since] Lara’s such a strong female presence, such a strong female symbol – that we needed to balance it out with that energy.
[To Ashley] So we’re so glad that you were able to come in and bring it to life.
AW: Thank you guys!
You guys have been working on quite a few different projects lately. How do you balance everything?
JL: We have an organizational structure basically. We have a way that we’ve been doing our business for eight years. At least.
CK: It’s a robust spreadsheet where everything is tracked and categorized. And we’ve been writing together Thursday nights and all day Sunday for eight years like clockwork. Whatever is next on the list – it just gets done.
JL: We both hold down day jobs… we are both full time writers and full time other things. We don’t get a whole lot of sleep. That’s kind of the key to it.
CK: Well that’s also the trick. So many people are like, “Oh, I have to write when the muse hits me!” or “Writing is so challenging!” and I’m like, you know what? If that’s your perspective then get out! When it’s time to write you’ve got to write. That’s the job. You’ve just gotta be able to step up and get it done.
JL: Find a way to get it done and have it not be… something you look back at two days later and you’re like, “I would never have written this. What did I do?”
That’s actually the thing I love about comic books. When we work in comics we’ll write a script, we’ll make sure that the visuals are there, we’ll get those out to the artist – it won’t have all that much dialogue yet. And we’ll get the art back and then we’ll go, “What does this mean? Does it need more than we brought to it originally?” And we tend to do a full– We learned this from Scott Snyder when we worked with him on Batman and Robin. You go back to the work once the art is done and rethink everything. Make sure every line is kick-ass on it’s own.
So we kind of write every book twice.
We’ve written an issue of Tomb Raider, it’s gone to Ash, and it’ll come back to us and ideally, we will be able to look at that and think, “Well what does this really mean?”
CK: And honestly in that first issue when we did start to get the art back we looked at our script and were like man we overwrote this! The art does all the work for us.
JL: That was the hope!
Actually, for what it’s worth, the first issue of Tomb Raider is probably the most silent thing we’ve written in a really long time. It’s very quiet… We wanted the action to speak for itself and what Lara’s going through is pretty overt. We wanted to show it rather than tell it. That’s why it was really important to work with an artist who could bring that out.
When it did get darker, when it did get more violent, when those cracks in Lara’s psyche start to show – that you felt it. Because the last thing we wanted to do was cover a thing in bubbles that are like, “My heart – it hurts so much,” “I am so sad,” “Everything is tough.” Like, that’s just going to cheapen the work, you know?
Ashley, same question. Give us an idea of what else you’re working on and how you balance all of that.
AW: Even though I wrapped up NIOBE: She is Life back in October of last year I still come along and do pin-ups and extra art for Stranger Comics. Right now we’re promoting the graphic novel and on top of that I’ve been working on the resurgence of my own personal series, an action-fantasy series called Millenia War. That’s actually how I got started in comics… Besides that I have another book I’m working on – a 400 page script that’s more of a motorcycle type comic. But right now I just want to wrap up Millenia War!
How I stay on top of my work and stay organized?
For real, I plan months in advanced. Even working on Tomb Raider right now with Cardner pushing a schedule. She told me what she needed by when and the deadline for each issue and I just plotted it out for the rest of the year (or however long it takes). You just compare that to the other obligations you have.
That’s the thing about working as a creator or in a creative industry whether it’s writing or drawing or music what have you. You have to be fluid and flexible.
Last question – is there any question you wish I had asked or were hoping I would ask you guys? Or even just something you want to let people know!
CK: Questions that I want [you] to ask… I think one question we don’t get enough is how the collaborative process works between us. I know we talked about scheduling but like creating and writing and such… it’s such an emotional journey.
Whether you’re writing or doing art or even lettering and inking, it’s all this passion that needs to come from you personally. And the fact that we’re able to split that is, I think, a magic trick. We fight a lot about stuff. But the fact that we can still push through that and find an emotional place where we can really create with one voice… I think it’s really unique and, in a sense, special.
JL: I agree! For once I’m not going to fight you.
CK: Thank you!
JL: You know, I’m going to ask myself a question and I’m going to figure out the answer – not here. This is going to be my challenge to myself as we finish up Tomb Raider. We build playlists for every book that we work on. We have specific music that we listen to as we go. Tomb Raider issue three for instance I actually tweeted out an album that is like perfect reading music. And I think perfect. [It’s] maybe what Lara’s listening to.
So my thing is going to be: Who are Lara Croft’s favorite bands? I’ll get back to you on that one! I’m going to work that one out. And we’ll have a good Tomb Raider playlist by the time the book comes out
Anything you can think of [Ashley]? It can be anything! One of the authors I’ve talked with before even was just like, “You know what? I want people to ask me who I would cosplay as!”
AW: Yeah, yeah! I do cosplay so ask me that!
If you could cosplay as anyone regardless of the costume’s complexity or anything like that, who would you choose?
AW: I just started playing Persona 5 so Panther and then…. Raven from Tekken 7. She’s cool. I have more I just can’t think of them off the top of my head.
CK: I really want to do a Link from Breath of the Wild and then every day do upgrading. So you start out with the little booty shorts and then the hoodie and little vest and then every day it’s like… Now I’ve got pants! Now I got armor! And now I got weapons… But I refuse to shave the beard so.
JL: I want to walk around the con floor as a Mondoshawan from The Fifth Element. Like the big golden dudes. I just want to wander around and any time anyone asks me anything about anything – like “Where are the bathrooms?” or “Have you seen the ATM?” – I’ll just be like “Bathrooms not important – only life important.” Then just walk away. I’d do that with everything. “ATM not important.” Everywhere I go.
AW: I did tell a friend a while ago I want to dress up as Alphonse from Fullmetal Alchemist. With the armor! I just want to like… chase kids in that. You see something that big moving that fast – that’s not natural!