Interview: ASSASSIN’S CREED’s Anthony Del Col Talks the Journey to Salem

The Assassin’s Creed series isn’t even ten years old, but it’s already proven itself a cultural powerhouse. The games are now on their ninth title, Syndicate (read our full review here), and the series has rapidly expanded to include mobile games, short animated films, novels and an upcoming live-action movie starring Michael Fassbender.

Now, Titan Comics is presenting a full monthly title, the simply-named Assassin’s Creed, written by Toronto’s own Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery (best known for Kill Shakespeare), penciled by Neil Edwards, coloured by Ivan Nunes and lettered by Comicraft. This isn’t the franchise’s first foray into comics – several mini-series have been published over the past five years – though it is the first ongoing.

The story follows modern-day Assassin fan Charlotte de la Cruz, and touches on the memories of her ancestor Tom Stoddard, a 17th century Assassin living during the height of the Salem Witch Trials.

Assassin's Creed comic

Dork Shelf: How did you and Conor McCreery get attached to the project?

Anthony Del Col: Titan Comics editor Lizzie Kaye was a huge fan of our first series, Kill Shakespeare, and thought Conor and I would be a good fit for this project. She appreciates our ability to take historical/literary characters and make them accessible for today’s audiences, as well as writing strong female characters (Juliet, Lady Macbeth) in a male-dominated world.

Or at least that’s the story we were told…

DS: Were you guys fans of the series before becoming attached to the project? If not, have you played the games since?

ADC: When Lizzie first approached us, she wasn’t allowed to tell us what video game franchise we would be pitching for until we signed an NDA. As I put my John Hancock onto the sheet of paper, I was whispering to myself, “Please let it be Assassin’s Creed… Please let it be Assassin’s Creed…” And I must admit I did a little dance when I found out that it was so.

DS: The hook of every Assassin’s Creed game gives players a glimpse into an important moment of history, and your comic is no exception, as it involves the Salem Witch Trials. What made you want to choose this time period?

ADC: Salem in 1692 is such a fascinating examination of the depths of humanity. It was a really scary time where anyone could be accused, convicted and sentenced to death without any evidence proving one’s guilt. Accusations, rumours and lies spread throughout, and we thought this would be an interesting locale to set our first tale.

DS: Besides the time and place in history presented, how is this series going to be different from the other Assassin’s Creed comics – specifically, The Fall, The Chain and Brahman?

ADC: This is going to be an ongoing series that will (hopefully) run for a number of years, so we’re going to have the opportunity to really grow our main character of Charlotte de la Cruz over the span of a couple years as she joins the Assassin Brotherhood and rises through the ranks (or perhaps not…). We also have the opportunity to see her delve into a number of historical eras – and all from the perspective of a modern-day female, which I think is key.

DS: The Assassin’s Creed series has been slowly drifting away from showing the present day, but the new comic stars a contemporary Assassin. Why was that decision made? How will the comic explore the state of the Assassins since the events of Assassin’s Creed 3 and Black Flag?

ADC: We think it’s important to insert modern-day views on historical eras. Instead of just jumping from one time period to another, it’s great to be able to see one person experience them all, and see how they affect her moving forward.

DS: Assassin’s Creed became such a sensation thanks in large part to its lush environments and mostly accurate portrayal of historical events and places. What was the research process like for the comic?

ADC: I finally got to watch the Daniel Day Lewis version of The Crucible! I’m only partly joking… In all seriousness, it finally gave me a chance to delve into the period through reading a number of books about the era and find out what really happened behind the hysteria.

Assassin's Creed comic

DS: How much free rein do you guys have over the story and characters in the comic? Was there anything in particular Ubisoft wanted you to include?

ADC: Ubisoft has been great to work with – they flew us up to Montréal for a two-day story session and have provided us a number of great pointers and story ideas that has allowed our story to flourish even greater.

DS: Tell us more about the main characters – Charolette de la Cruz and her ancestor Tom Stoddard.

ADC: Charlotte is an overeducated, underemployed young woman who wants to do some good for the world, but doesn’t know how she can really do it. She’s impatient – she wants it all now and gets frustrated when she can’t get it. So when the Assassins come calling, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime for her.

Or so she thinks…

Tom Stoddard is the exact opposite of Charlotte; he’s a veteran Assassin and a loner that doesn’t really care about anything other than the mission. He’s blunt and to the point, and Charlotte will bristle with some of the things that he will do in this current quest.

DS: What are you most excited about regarding this comic?

ADC: I love the Assassin’s Creed world because it allows players to immerse themselves in historical eras almost to the point where they feel they’re there. I want to do the same within the pages of the comic.

DS: What do you hope Assassin’s Creed fans get out of the comic? Lay readers?

ADC: We’ve created a fun adventure that will appeal to both the Assassin’s Creed fans as well as those new to the franchise. A lot of history. A lot of character moments. A lot of violence. A lot of fun.

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