Interview: ‘Mortal Kombat X’ Comic Scribe Shawn Kittelsen On Gore, Glory, And His Favorite Kombatants

Mortal Kombat X is going to be a lot more than just a game. DC just launched a new ongoing weekly digital series filling in the years between the series’ reboot and the next entry, arriving in April. It’s a tall order, but as Shawn Kittelsen, writer on the series, tells us, it was as easy as ripping out your opponent’s spine.

Mortal Kombat is a franchise with a pretty over-the-top story. How’d you first approach it when you started writing the book?

First, I feasted on the MKX production reference that NetherRealm provided to us. Then I went through a Rocky-esque training sequence that involved playing Mortal Kombat games until my thumbs hurt, obsessing over wiki entries until my brain hurt, and eventually breaking stories for each character. Plotting the first year of weekly chapters was the hardest part, tracking so many characters and stories across hundreds of pages. But we did the work and it paid off, because now the team can focus on each chapter with confidence. We know where it’s all leading, at least for Year One.

Mortal Kombat means gore, especially with the new game in the series. How do you write that? Do you get detailed, or just let the art team cut loose?

The only real difference between scripting crazy action scenes and any other scene is that SUDDENLY WE’RE FIGHTING WITH CAPS LOCK ON. Beyond that, the level of detail in the script varies depending on what we’re trying to do with the story, but I’m always about letting the art team cut loose. In my experience, you get better results as a collaborator than a dictator. The best creative teams challenge each other to dig a little deeper until you reach the heart of the story. And in the case of MKX, we don’t stop until we tear that heart out.

How closely did you work with the game’s team?

NetherRealm is busy making the best MK game ever, but they’ve been really generous sharing their time and resources with us. From the start, I’ve had access to story material and concept art, hands-on time with the game, and especially in that early outline stage we had detailed discussions to make sure the stories fit within MK game canon. That collaboration and support helped us make a book that’s a companion to the game and at the same time, an exciting MK adventure in its own right.

And, obligatory… who’s your favorite Kombatant, and why?

If I say Scorpion and Sub-Zero you’ll think I’m boring, but they’re indispensable. This series is taking Scorpion’s character to places you’ve never seen before. From the new characters, the one that made MKX click for me is Cassie Cage. She fights with this blend of Johnny and Sonya’s styles, but she introduces her own twists that make her an intriguing character in her own right. Cassie represents the best of MK old and new, and that’s what I’m hoping our book becomes for the fans.

Mortal Kombat X is out now on digital platforms, and will be running weekly.