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Interview: Shawn Kittelsen on Writing MORTAL KOMBAT X for DC Comics

“Get over here!” – Scorpion, but also what I said as soon as I learned that a Mortal Kombat X comic was on the way.

While we’re all busy poring over every Mortal Kombat X announcement — even the ones that revolve around Kung Lao and his mighty hat returning — the wait until April 15, 2015 is about to get significantly less interminable. Today, DC Comics has released the first chapter of its Mortal Kombat X digital comic. Written by Shawn Kittelsen and illustrated by Dexter Soy, the comic bridges the gap between Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat X with an original, totally canon storyline.

The series will introduce us to brand new characters like Cassie Cage and Kotal Kahn, so you’ll have plenty of backstory to imbue into every spine-shattering fatality you inflict when the game finally comes out. And with new chapters every Tuesday, you’ll have plenty of reasons to be excited over the next three months.

In order to take you deeper into the world of Mortal Kombat X, I caught up with writer Shawn Kittelsen to pick his brain about bridging the gap between games, his lifelong love affair with the brutal brawler, and much more.


Nerdist: I’m very excited for the game. I’m very excited for the comic. Tell me a little bit about it. What can we look forward to?

Shawn Kittelsen: Yeah. So you can look forward to a story that takes place in between Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat X, that helps introduce the new generation of fighters, who I think you’ve seen some of them, we’ve already seen debuts, like Cassie Cage and Kotal Khan and D’Vorah. You’re going to get to know them a lot better, and you’re also going to get to see how the classic characters that you know and love become the people that they are in the future that Mortal Kombat X creates.

So it’s a really, really big story with a ton of characters, and we’re really excited to bring fans who have been there from day one and the fans who are just coming back on board the series into a world that hasn’t been explored like this in a long time.

N: Nice. So is this a good jumping-on point for maybe some lapsed fans who have not necessarily kept up with the lore?

SK: Yeah, it’s totally open and accessible for everyone, because when something is as big as Mortal Kombat, you can’t just assume that everyone has been with you every step of the way for the last – since 1992.

We definitely want to make it a good jumping-on point who maybe left, or casual fans, but really rich with Easter eggs and lore that the hardcore fans will pick up on. It sounds like we’re promising something for everybody, but we’ve really put a lot of effort into making sure that this does have something, with the acknowledgement that a lot of people love this book, and they deserve – they love this series and these characters – and they deserve to enjoy this book as well.

N: Yeah, I think that’s important. You want to make long-time fans feel like there’s something for them, like they’re not just getting Mortal Kombat for Dummies type of experience.

SK: Exactly. I was going to say. It’s like InjusticeInjustice did it well. It didn’t try to be a sales pitch for the game. It didn’t need to be – the game was awesome on its own. What it did was open up the lore, and that’s what we’re doing here – we’re opening up the lore, we’re giving you the background that you won’t get anywhere else. But we’re also giving you some really fun and cool stories that throw these characters into new situations that you won’t find in the game., which, to me, that’s more interesting. As a fan myself, that’s more interesting than just getting – “Here – every character gets one issue!” And that’s all you get. I’d rather see a big epic story where they all come together and fight and try to save the world and all of that.

N: Yeah, exactly. You want to see all your favorite characters in one place. So what has your experience with the game been previously? Who do you play as?

SK: Oh, man. It varies from game to game. I would say in my early years, I was a Sub-Zero kid, hardcore. Like MK1 through mid-MK3, all of that was Sub-Zero for me. And then I diversified big time. I would say I was a Kenshi player for a lot of the 3D games – a lot of the early Deadly Alliance and stuff like that. I actually like Bo’ Rai Cho a lot. I thought it was so different from the other characters.

But then leading up to the reboot MK9, I really fell back into my Sub-Zero vibe. But I’ve gone against my own grain. You’re not going to just get Sub-Zero the Book. I promise you, there are other characters in it, although I really love Sub-Zero and Scorpion quite a bit.

N: Yeah. I mean, it’s hard not to love them. They’re so iconic to the franchise. I’m glad that you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. There’s also going to be a bunch of new characters, some that we’ve already seen that you’ve already mentioned, like D’Vorah and Kotal Khan. What are we going to learn about them in the comic? Who has been your favorite to write so far of the new characters?

SK: I would say Kotal Khan and Cassie Cage. For Kotal Khan, we’ve got a really sick origin story that I’m excited for everyone to see. It’s something that’s kind of hinted at in the materials that I got from NetherRealm that I asked them was OK if I extrapolated it way further, and they gave me carte blanche. He is a much more nuanced character than I think he comes off as. He’s got this big barbarian look to him, but at the same time, man, is he a boss! He’s like the Stringer Bell of Outworld. So I’m really excited for people to see that.

Cassie Cage is a completely different character, and that’s why it’s hard for me to pick, because she comes from a different world. Like, Kotal Khan is the ruler of Outworld, and Cassie Cage is this teenager who grew up in LA between two really strange parents in Johnny and Sonya. And her voice is the voice you would expect from a teenage girl who was raised to kick ass and be a fighter. But she was also raised in a really celebrity-obsessed culture, and who’s kind of aware that her dad is sort of an icon of direct-to-video movies in their world.

So it was like totally different stories, but I loved being able to go between both worlds, and then to have all those worlds collide. That collision between East meets West, between fantasy and reality, that’s what makes Mortal Kombat so unique and interesting to me.

N: It’s this heightened reality. You see these echoes of the real world in there, but then, obviously, these larger-than-life bursts of ultra-violence. Shifting gears, I’ve really enjoyed the art I’ve seen so far from Dexter Soy. How closely did you work with Dexter to figure out the visual tone you wanted?

SK: Dexter brought it himself, man. It was Alex Antone, who’s our editor on the book, went through a whole bunch of potential artists, in terms of what we were looking at. And Dexter came through with some pieces that right out of the gate, the first thing that I saw him draw was a portrait of Scorpion, and from the very start it was clear that he had his own take on the characters, but it still felt totally authentic to everything that Nether Realm is doing, which is cool.

It pushes him in a different direction than maybe you’ve seen, if you’ve seen his work in Justice League: Beyond or if you’ve seen his work in Captain Marvel. It’s a different feeling for Dex, but it’s something that’s totally Mortal Kombat at the same time. I’m really excited for you to see more of his work, because he’s trying out a new style for himself, and I think it really works.


N: I bet it has to be pretty fun to sort of script these epic fight scenes for him to bring to life?

SK: Yeah, sometimes because it’s digital, so your pages are like half-pages, when you think of the screen, but then you’re also trying to write for the print to make sure it fits. Every now and then I look at the script, and I’m like, “Man, there’s a lot of panels there! I don’t know.” I keep expecting him to come back and be like “No way we’re drawing all these panels, dude! It’s too much!” But he fits everything in. He knows how to make a big moment land, and he knows how to make the smaller moments punch in.

He’s really – we were talking about characters and performance and stuff – the performance that he brings to Cassie Cage, the performance that he brings to Scorpion – those things are really tough to nail, and you never know when you’re starting a new book what the artist is going to bring to it, and I’ve just been so happy with everything that he’s brought out of the scripts. He’s been a true collaborator, for sure.

N: I just have one last question for you. What would your fatality be?

SK: My fatality? That’s an awesome question! I think, among people who know me, I have a tendency to be known as a rambler a bit. So I think I would just talk to someone and they would slowly shrivel up and die, like at the end of Last Crusade, [laughing] when the wrong grail is chosen, and you age a thousand years in ten seconds. That’s me talking would do that!

N: I’ll have to get NetherRealm on the line and get them to incorporate that into the first DLC pack. That’s awesome!

SK: [laughing] Well, they’re super fun. And real quick, NetherRealm has been – I don’t know if I mentioned it – but the stories are canon. NetherRealm’s been involved every step of the way. Just because you see characters in the book, doesn’t mean they’re in the game. They’ve been really flexible with the cast, and I feel like we’re really lucky to have their blessing on all of this, because they have high standards. So for me, meeting their standards is everything I need to know to tell me that I’m hopefully doing my job.

Mortal Kombat X is available now on the DC Comics App,,, Google Play, Kindle Store, Nook Store, iBooks and iVerse ComicsPLUS.

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