The new line of League of Legends comics, a collaboration between Riot Games and Marvel comics, are a fascinating way to extend the lore of Runeterra. On one hand, comics are a fantastic way to expand the lore and dig deep on what makes each champion tick. Stories like the Nami comic Into the Abyss, for instance, are an intimate look at one character’s fear and motivation that could never work through in-game voice lines or scenarios. Comics serve as a bridge between short fiction and cinematics; a visual medium that can capture the imagination and answer questions about the world.
But with over 130, distinct regions, and the effects of the total lore retcon in 2014 still lingering, Riot Games are still experimenting with ways to tell stories, and more importantly, finish them. The new comic series, including ones starring Zed and Lux, seem to lean into the strengths of the League of Legends lore as it stands. They show snapshots and origin stories, building up the concept of characters. The stronger each individual champion stands, and the more clear their archetype is, the easier it is to have them show up in a cinematic like Awaken or transform them into a K-pop ensemble cast.
The art of a comics line
“We do try to create characters with universal appeal, and overall, we’ve had pretty good success there,” said Greg Street, head of creative development, in an interview over email. He cites Yasuo and Jinx as two champions who are popular around the world. “But we also firmly believe that the size and diversity of our character roster is one of the strengths of the League universe.”
League of Legends has the tools to tell every kind of story from a quirky romp that could be tailored to 10-year-old girls, to an Urgot story that might appeal to even the most hardened of horror fans. There’s enough creative ground to run in essentially any direction.
“Some players are going to want a tale of exploration and adventure, which is the kind of thing you might get in an Ezreal story,” said Street. “While something featuring LeBlanc is probably going to be a tale of intrigue and betrayal that might appeal to a slightly different audience, or maybe even the same audience just looking for something that feels a little different.”
Not only is the subject of the comic important, but the art direction can enhance the difference between characters and regions. Nami’s comic uses panel breaks and clever vertical scrolling to tell a tale of descending into the depths, whereas the Ryze comic, The Burning Lands, is a character piece that focuses on the protagonists, with close shots on their faces and the environments framing their figures enough to inspire claustrophobia.
Getting back to our comics, you can even see this in the art style we used for Ashe versus Lux. The Lux style has less detail and broad expanses of color, which helps with monumental architecture of Demacia with all of its marble and blue banners. The Ashe comic ironically used a similar color palette with the blues and whites of the Freljord environment, so we went with a more detailed art style to make sure all of those fields of snow didn’t feel too monotonous.
So if you can tell any kind of story in any kind of genre, what do you focus on?
Lux is a popular character — which is part of why she’s earned so many skins — and she’s also starring in her own comic series. While Lux is the protagonist, she’s surrounded by a complex situation in Demacia. The contrast between Lux’s inherently good nature and Demacia’s stark restriction and suppression makes for a good starting point. Throw in a bad boy rebel, and there’s plenty of narrative meat to chew on.
“Lux has to choose between Sylas’ vision for Demacia with the traditional contemporary Demacia. In many ways, she has to choose between Sylas and Garen.”
Sylas is a revolutionary who expresses powerful ideals of freedom, fellowship, and equality. Garen, on the other hand, is an object of fear for Lux — he’s someone who could potentially imprison or even kill her, if he finds out her secret. On the other hand, Sylas doesn’t intend to change Demacia for the better. He intends to overthrow it, burn it down, and start anew. And Garen is a hero who fights for good.
John O’Bryan, senior narrative writer, said that “fantasy drama” is a good place to start in describing the comic. “We really wanted to bring in the fantasy element when building out the detailed world within Demacia. There is just so much to explore with its military history and ideals to how it fits into the greater Runeterra landscape.”
The Lux comic will also continue to explore the darker side of Demacia and show why a character like Sylas can not only show up, but thrive and amass an army of his own. “We always felt that Demacia had a lot of depth that hadn’t been fully explored. At a superficial level, and maybe the only one players had access to a few years ago, it was easy to dismiss Demacia as the “good guy state” where a lot of noble, charismatic champions lived with whom players could identify,” said Street.
“This felt a little simplistic and left a lot of storytelling potential on the table. A lot of our efforts have been to add nuance to Demacia, without losing what it is that some players really like about that region. So at the same time we are adding darker characters like Sylas and Mageseekers, we are detailing the soaring architecture of the city.”
As a player who’s been closely following the lore of League of Legends since the game’s launch, it can feel as though the setting is constantly re-litigating and retconning the earliest facts and premises of each story. However, Street says that the goal remains to push the lore forwards and create a team-up like the ones in the pages of Marvel comics.
“We’d like to get to a place where the books are fully caught up to the current time period, and eventually pushing the lore forward. Then we can start thinking about the kind of character matchups and maybe even stories featuring whole groups of champions.”