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Exclusive: Writer Sylvain Runberg on Titan's The Girl Who Danced With Death series

Contributed by
Jun 20, 2018

The late Swedish author Stieg Larsson created a sensation in his Millennium series of mystery crime novels featuring the introverted punk character Lisbeth Salander. His best-selling works have sold millions and have been adapted across a wide spectrum of platforms, including feature films and comic books.

The Girl Who Danced With Death - Millennium #1 is the latest of these inspired adventures from French writer Sylvain Runberg (Konungar: War of Crowns) paired with art from talented Spanish illustrator Belen Ortega.

The engaging 64-page graphic novel (1 of 3) breaks on August 15 and comes from Titan Comics' Euro imprint Hard Case Crime. It's composed as a fresh sequel based on the original Millennium Trilogy by Larsson and continues Titan’s acclaimed graphic novel saga.

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Runberg is intimately familiar with Larsson's source material, as he adapted the first three Millennium novels into comics and was eager to continue this literary legacy.

Here in The Girl Who Danced With Death, Lisbeth is back in the first English-translated edition of Runberg's French comics initially printed in 2016. We discover her preparing to hack a massive data center and expose the Swedish Secret Service's clandestine files. When Lisbeth's friend Trinity is kidnapped, she's again in desperate need of Mikael Blomkvist's assistance, and they descend into a dangerous swirl of conspiracy as their investigation lures them toward the murky group known only as Sparta.

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SYFY WIRE spoke with writer Runberg and learned where this crime sequel originated, what readers can anticipate as Lisbeth and Mikael are once again thrust into the mix of murder and mayhem, and what sort of political climate the characters navigate in.

After the discussion, check out our page and cover preview in the gallery below.

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How did this whole project come about, and what was the genesis of the story?

Sylvain Runberg: When I was adapting the first three “Millennium” novels in comics, I started to imagine what could be the continuation of this third novel, knowing that Stieg Larsson had apparently considered writing nine of them in total. And during the summer of 2015, when the sixth volume of the comic book "Millennium" was published (the adaptation of the third novel), the rights holders of Stieg Larsson, who obviously appreciated our work on the adaptation, asked me if I wanted to adapt the fourth novel, written by David Lagercrantz, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” who was not yet released at that time.

In the meantime, my publisher at Dupuis, my French publisher, had told them about the discussions we had together on what I had in mind for a sequel. So during the meeting, the rights holders asked me to tell them what I had imagined, to pitch them the story. I did it, they liked it, and a few days after, they told me that if I wanted to, I could actually write my own story. I was obviously very surprised and honored to have this possibility, and of course I accepted. That’s how “The Girl Who Danced With Death” started. And then the Spanish illustrator Belen Ortega, a super talented person and a real fan of Lisbeth Salander, joined the project.

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Can you take us on a quick tour of the plot?

"The Girl Who Danced With Death” takes place in Sweden today, a year after the trial of Lisbeth Salander in the third novel, during the rise of a far-right Swedish political party led by a young charismatic leader, during the refugee crisis, Sweden being the European country which in proportion of its population has welcomed the most of them, over 200,000 persons running away from wars for most of them, and it was in my point of view the only and right thing to do. The story is also about different groups of hackers, some Net activists, who are fighting against each other, there is a huge ideological conflict between these different groups based on anonymity, and one of them is of course the one Lisbeth was close to in the original novels, Hacker Republic.

Lisbeth Salander and Mikaël Blomkvist are obviously the main characters of this thriller, with all this political background of what is happening now around the world. It is a group inspired by this movement, called "Sparta," that Lisbeth Salander confronts in this story.

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Were there any other topical issues you hoped to include in this suspenseful sequel?

"The Girl Who Danced With Death” is also focused on some “masculinist” groups that Lisbeth has to face. And right now, the #MeToo movement or the harassment online of Kelly Marie Tran and so many other talented women, it feels like, sadly, that this story is an echo of some of the most revolting aspects of some societies. But I’m optimistic things will get better, and the fact that those topics are now hitting headlines means that things will never be the same, hopefully, for the best.