Here's something for all of the fans of ruthless bounty hunters, killers of witches and Grey Seers - an interview with a man, who writes and understand such character better than anyone, Clint Lee Werner himself.
|Is this a face of a saint? I don't think so!|
Xathrodox86: How did you came up with the ideas for Brunner and Mathias Thulmann?
Clint Lee Werner: The concept of Mathias Thulmann evolved from the historical figure of Matthew Hopkins. A film loosely based on Hopkins was made in 1968 titled 'Witchfinder General' with Vincent Price in the title role and it remains my favorite performance from my favorite actor. So I began to wonder what would happen if you had a similar character in a world where the witchcraft was very real, very dangerous, and actually was being practiced everywhere. Clearly from a cynical exploiter the character would have to be changed into an idealistic fighter, courage and faith rather than opportunism and greed as the key aspects of his motivation. In the end, Mathias Thulmann didn't have very much left from the source that inspired him beyond a few surface similarities. I'd say he is a bit more akin to Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane, but without the rather impulsive heroics that would motivate Kane and obviously without the same degree of Puritanical zeal. Thulmann is a more cautious and calculating kind of hero, one who weighs the risks before he acts.
Brunner likewise has his basis in some of the films I grew up watching. My father is a huge enthusiast for the Old West and in particular has a penchant for Spaghetti Westerns, the western films produced in Italy and filmed in Spain during the 1960's and 1970's. A key protagonist of a good number of the Spaghetti Westerns were bounty hunters and this kind of character was instantly appealing to me – a pragmatic figure who could be either friend or foe depending on who is paying him. Probably the key influences on Brunner's character were Lee Van Cleef's Colonel Mortimer in 'For a Few Dollars More' and Klaus Kinski's utterly ruthless Loco from 'The Great Silence'. These are men who are after the reward money and will use any tool at their disposal to get the job done – albeit I can't see Brunner ever stooping as low as Loco or perhaps ever rising to the same sense of honor as Col. Mortimer.
Xathrodox86: Brunner is the epitome of an antihero. How hard was it for you to write this kind of character? Did you had any sympathy for his motives and actions?
Clint Lee Werner: Brunner is a character who actually wrote himself, so I guess in a way he was among the easiest characters who I have written! I am minded of something Robert E. Howard once said of Conan the Cimmerian, how when he was working on those stories it almost felt as though Conan was at his shoulder reciting the tale to him. There were several points when writing Brunner's adventures that it really did feel as though he was correcting me as I worked – invariably to change something I had him doing into an even more pragmatic and vicious deed. The character himself seemed to strip away what honor I, as the author, wanted to allow him. It was almost like he was telling me 'no, I'm done with all that.' To be fair, there are very rare instances in the stories where Brunner does exhibit a sense of fair play or shows respect to an enemy, but these are diversions from the norm for him.
I would say I do have quite a degree of sympathy for Brunner's motives, at least his ultimate motives. He is a man who has had everything taken from him and now lives solely to take revenge. Not a simple revenge either, but one that will exact the same toll from his enemy. He is determined to do more than simply kill, he will first take everything away. So far as Brunner's actions go, I think he goes far too down and dirty to be entirely sympathetic. Pragmatism rather than valor.
Xathrodox86: Did you had in mind a definitive ending for the famous bounty hunter? I'm not talking about his fate in the End Times. Was there any chance for a happy ending for Brunner, or at least for him getting justice for all the wrongs that he endured?
Clint Lee Werner: Given the chance I would have liked to return to Brunner's story. Certainly I did have intentions to pursue his vendetta further. I also wanted to return to the character of his grandson, who would have been groomed to become the next Baron von Drakenberg and instructed in the art of war by men of Brunner's choosing. Ultimately, the Viscount de Chegney would have been deposed, losing everything to the new Baron von Drakenberg and forced to flee for his life. A happy end for Brunner himself, I do not think would be possible. Indeed, I considered that a fitting finale for him would be pursuing de Chegney right into the Chaos Wastes itself for their final confrontation.
Xathrodox86: Given how many things he kills/defeats, one might consider Brunner to be one of the best fighters in the whole Warhammer Fantasy. Where on the "badassery scale" would you put that character? What is it that makes him such a dangerous opponent?
Clint Lee Werner: Brunner would be the first to concede that he is not the best fighter in the Old World. There are better marksmen and better swordsmen. While he is quite capable in both respects, his real strength is his lack of scruples. While another warrior might be so absolutely confident in his ability to win a fight, Brunner takes pains to rig a fight in his favor. He also studies a potential enemy and is always adding to his bag of tricks. For instance, he learns that salt is useful against vampires so when he encounters Sir Corbus and recognizes him for what he is, he makes use of salt as a way to disrupt the vampire's attack and provide himself with an advantage. That is the key to what makes Brunner so dangerous – his ability to find a weakness in an enemy and then exploit it.
Xathrodox86: I always wondered about Brunner's resources. It's been very clear that the man earns a lot of coin, during his adventures. Where does he keep all that money? Sure, it's obvious that he has a lot of wealth with him, but what about the majority of it? Is Brunner a fan of the Old World's banking system?
Clint Lee Werner: Brunner is collecting all of that money for one purpose: revenge. As such a lot of it is being spent raising his grandson, or more properly training his grandson to become a weapon to use against the Viscount de Chegney. He still has connections with some of the friends and allies of the Baron von Drakenberg and he taps into those old connections to help further this cause, as it were. He also employs his mentor, the retired bounty hunter and gunsmith Kristoph Leopold as a kind of strongbox for some of his blood money. Naturally Brunner is too wary to put all of his eggs in one basket and he likely has other hidey-holes for his gold as well.
Xathrodox86: If you could do a crossover with any of Warhammer Fantasy's characters, which one would you choose to ally himself with the legendary Bounty Hunter, and why?
Clint Lee Werner: Quite some time ago I did a proposal for a crossover titled 'Witchslayer' which would have seen Gotrek and Felix meeting up with Mathias Thulmann at the infamous Reiksfang prison. How the slayer and his recorder ended up in Reiksfang would have been Brunner's doing. So while not a full crossover, there would have been an extended cameo for Brunner.
Xathrodox86: Before reading your Witch Hunter trilogy, I always thought about the Templars of Sigmar as rather one-dimensional. You know, "burn the witch and all who saw here, just for good measure!". Mathias Thulmann brought a lot of humanity into that image, made these grim warriors feel human. How did you came up with an idea for this character? How did you managed to show us his human side, and not just the grim face of Sigmar's justice?
Clint Lee Werner: With Warhammer, the threat of Chaos is so pernicious and pervasive that it demands the most extreme measures to contain it. As I think is often pointed out, Chaos corrupts not only the flesh and mind, but the very soul as well. That being the case, it becomes an unpleasant duty to destroy anything that has been tainted by Chaos as a preventative against its future spread. I think of what Joseph Cotton tells his assassin in 'Soylent Green' when asked if the killing is a good thing: 'Not good... necessary.' The witch hunters, at least most of them, are principled men who do not relish their duties but rather see it as a horrible necessity. Certainly that is the view Thulmann takes. While completely devoted to Sigmar, he has not lost touch with his own humanity. He still has sympathy with the innocents he is trying to protect.
Xathrodox86: Streng, Thulmman's henchman, is a very interesting character, in that he's an amoral, disgusting creep... but only at a first glance. Personally I always thought that there was a kind of honor and dignity about this man, and that he deeply cared for his employer. Did you wrote Streng as a sort of contrast to Mathias? How hard was it for you, to create such a polarizing duo?
Clint Lee Werner: Streng did start off initially as a deliberate contrast to Thulmann, and in that portrayal he was a bit one-note. With the first novel, however, his character took on a greater depth. He is a man who has been poorly used by the world, the first man he ever killed was his own father when he decided he'd taken his last beating from the brute. Instead of breaking Streng, the hardships he has gone through have made him cruel and callous. He has no pretensions of either honor or dignity and lives very much in the moment and sating whatever desires hold sway over him at the time. For his part, I think Thulmann keeps Streng around simply because of this worldly mindset, using him as a counterbalance to his own piety and faith. Streng, though he would never admit it, has a certain kind of awe when it comes to Thulmann. He admires the faith and conviction that drives Thulmann explicitly because these are qualities Streng lacks.
Xathrodox86: The Witch Hunter's trilogy ends on a kind of a cliffhanger. Did you had plans for a continuation? Did Mathias Thulmann and his allies, took any significant part in the End Times?
Clint Lee Werner: I am not sure how Thulmann and his companions would have fared in the End Times. I did have plans for a continuation of their story, which would have seen them in direct conflict with the necromancer Carandini as he captures Das Buch die Unholden. With the cursed grimoire and the spectral influence of Nehb-ka-Menthu's hand, Carandini would seek to penetrate the defenses of Nagashizzar and try to steal the secrets of the (supposedly) dead Great Necromancer. It is difficult to say how it all would have played out. I had solid ideas for the initial book and the finale, but was all at sea for the middle novel. Part of the problem with Thulmann's stories is they were set during the Storm of Chaos and those events were increasingly pushed into the background as the End Times approached.
Xathrodox86: Grey Seer Thanquol is one of the most famous villains in the whole Warhammer Fantasy. What was it that made you want to expand on that character and continue writing about him? Did you consult your ideas with William King, the creator of Thanquol?
Clint Lee Werner: It would have been fantastic to consult William King while writing the Thanquol novels, but sadly the opportunity never arose. Fortunately the character he depicted in the Gotrek and Felix novels was so vivid and 'real' as it were that he seemed to write himself. Next to Brunner, Thanquol is the only character I've had who did that. Sometimes with problematic results as his paranoid megalomania would start devouring page upon page and I'd have to rein him in to get back to the narrative. When I was fortunate enough to meet with Mr. King at the first Black Library Weekender he said he had the same problem with Thanquol hijacking the stories.
The opportunity to write Grey Seer Thanquol was suggested to me by the editors at Black Library. Always a fan of the character – indeed he is my favorite in the whole Warhammer setting – it took very little time to leap at the chance. Giving Thanquol his own series of adventures was simply too delicious not to take.
Xathrodox86: Thanquol is a mutated, chaos ratman, but he does have a huge fanbase. Why do you think that is so? More importantly, how are you able to write a villainous character in a way, that garners sympathy for him and his actions?
Clint Lee Werner: To be honest, Thanquol is such a vicious, irredeemable character that by all rights he shouldn't have a fan base. But he does, and I am certainly among them. One trick that makes him more sympathetic is to highlight his flaws – in many ways he really is his own worst enemy. Thanquol's arrogance when he is on top almost ensures his defeat. His petty scheming to ensure that he is the only Skaven who will reap the rewards of his success always acts to sabotage his plans. Then, of course, you have his fawning subservience when he isn't on top, shameless grovelling to either weasel his way out of punishment or to wheedle some kind of concession from his superiors. Add in an unhealthy dollop of perpetual paranoia and you have the toxic mix that makes up Thanquol's squirmy brain. Of course his sublime cowardice and lack of any manner of self-awareness when it comes to hypocrisy only adds to his manifold flaws.
No, by all rights we should despise Thanquol. But somehow we don't and instead find ourselves rooting for the old rat.
Xathrodox86: How strong, magic-wise, is Thanquol, actually? Could he take on the strongest casters of the setting, like Teclis or Lord Mazdamundi, and have a chance of winning? He seems to be the most powerful magic user in all of the Under-Empire.
Clint Lee Werner: The Slann are on a power-scale all to themselves, so I doubt anybody, daemon or mortal, would come out better against Lord Mazdamundi or any of the older mage-priests. When it comes to mortals like Teclis, Thanquol's power is more difficult to gauge. Has he eaten some warpstone, and if so, how much? More vitally, has he lost himself in the 'rush' from the warpstone or is he maintaining his focus? Less about the actual power of Thanquol, you have to remember the limitations of his perspective. He cares only about himself, ultimately, so he is apt to be far more reckless and injudicious in the use of that power. Just about anybody who isn't a greenskin is at least going to try to keep from destroying their own guys along with the enemy. Thanquol is apt to deliberately inflict collateral damage over the most petty of causes – whether real or simply a product of his own paranoid imagination.
Xathrodox86: Given how cowardly and back-stabbing prone, the Skaven actually are, just how did Thanquol managed to evade death all these times? Was it all due to the Horned Rat's mercy, plain luck, or his considerable survival skills?
Clint Lee Werner: In regards to Thanquol's survival, I believe he is truly marked by the Horned Rat. As the End Times showed, he was chosen by the Horned One.
Xathrodox86: Many fans are associating your work mainly with Warhammer Fantasy. However you also did some work for the Warhammer 40,000 universe. How different was it for you to write about the grim darkness of the far future, when compared to the Old World?
Clint Lee Werner: Warhammer 40K is a very different setting from the Old World. The mixture of technology and superstition is quite unique in itself and then there has been such a copious amount of background material written over the years, between the various codexes, novels and articles in White Dwarf and Citadel Journal that the sheer scope of the setting is almost cyclopean. Where it came to Warhammer Fantasy, I was able to keep up with just about everything, but the simple vastness of Warhammer 40K meant there was always some new detail I would discover while I was writing.
Xathrodox86: What are working on right now? Any chance of seeing some of your old characters in the Age of Sigmar? Do you plan to write about the Iron Warriors some more?
Clint Lee Werner: There is always a chance I might do some more with the Iron Warriors. It really depends on whether the readers want to see more.
As far as Age of Sigmar, one of my old characters has made an appearance. It is a fairly obscure reference, but I've already employed the character twice. Keep a vigilant eye on "Overlords of the Iron Dragon".
Xathrodox86: Thank you for answering these questions. I'm a huge fan of Warhammer Fantasy, and your stories about Brunner, Thulmann and Thanquol are some of my favorites. They really did help me immerse myself more into this fascinating, fictional world Thank you for that.
Clint Lee Werner: Thank you for your interest and your enthusiasm. It is the readers who ultimately make writing these books a worthwhile endeavor, knowing that you have brought some enjoyment to somebody through your work.
So there you have it folks. I really enjoyed interviewing Mr. Werner. He is an incredibly kind and down-to-earth person and I'm really grateful to him, for finding time to answer a couple of my questions. You can find his website here and it is certainly worth checking. I'm sure that Mr. Werner will continue to supply us with many more, fascinating stories, for years to come.
Grimvember 2017 returns next week, with another scenario review. This time we'll take a trip to Altdorf itself. Stay tuned.
Until next time!