Comics. The best and worst kind of addiction, almost as bad as a good video game habit. If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a shameful amount of time inside your local comic shop, browsing the racks of alluring colourful imagery, following the siren song of a thousand different adventures calling you into their vortex of fantasy. You might also have several long-boxes full of your fondest memories stashed away for future revisiting (or for your kid’s college fund, if you used the same deluded justification I did). My addiction was further complicated by a part-time job in a comic shop throughout high school — too much access to too much colourful temptation. It was glorious. The only thing that stood a chance against that beast was video gaming. Together, those activities formed a punch-kick combo that had my parents wondering how I’d ever make a living out in the real world.
Well, like peanut butter and chocolate, those activities proved to be two great tastes that taste great together. In the early days of developing Unbound Saga, we knew we wanted to sprinkle some 2D love back into our 3D brawler, and all of the ideas we came up with reflected back on our 4-colour first-love, comics. By this point in our careers, we had managed to build up a decent network of connections in the comic industry, originally as fans, but in many cases as creators, with a fair number of published titles under our own belts. Video games made a great day job, but for some of us, comics provided a nocturnal shot of creative energy that kept our gray matter strong and healthy. It seemed like a no-brainer to roll those connections and energy into the project we would be spending a large amount of our waking life working on for the next year-plus-whatever. So that’s what we did: game-comic-mashup!
Once the concept, story, and characters had been fleshed out, we called up some old friends at Dark Horse Comics to give our fake comic some real credentials. First on board was artist Cliff Richards, who some of you might know from his extensive run on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or DC‘s recent Huntress miniseries. He turned our cutscene script into 22 pages of illustrated gold, which were then turned into the various voiced-over motion comics unlocked throughout our campaign. Without a doubt, he brought an authentic style to the story and characters, which we supported with all of the comic-like elements you see throughout gameplay: the visible sound effects, the word balloons, the panel-to-panel layout, etc. We wanted to make this feel like a comic book come to life, and we think the team hit those goals on the nose, or at least somewhere on the face fairly close to the nose. Nothing digital can ever replicate the smell of newsprint or the feel of a nice glossy cover in your hands, but hopefully we captured a good amount of the fun and nostalgia.
But what about that tactile element, that physical comic you can roll up and stuff in your back pocket (gasp) or double bag and backboard in a fine Mylar sleeve (whew)? We wanted that too. I mean, we were making a game about a 30 year old comic book, so it made sense to have an actual comic book out there to support our bogus backstory, right? Rosemary, get Dark Horse on the line! Dark Horse? It’s Vogster! Let’s put this baby on the shelves! Whataya say ta them apples?
They said “awesome”. Well, I donno if that was the exact word they used, but I’d like to believe that’s what they were thinking. They went forth and assembled a collection of rockstar artists to help bring the world of Toxopolis to life. Joseph Michael Linsner (Dawn, Dark Ivory), Leinil Yu (New Avengers, Secret Invasion), Steve Pugh (Hotwire, Hellgate: London), Al Rio (Gen13, DV8), and of course, Cliff Richards. Together they cranked out the first issue (of what we hope will become many issues) of the Unbound Saga comic, that went on sale on July 1st. Just in time for San Diego Comic-Con!
In the next entry, we’ll talk about digital distribution, and our decision to bypass the brick-and-mortar market to reach YOU, the consumer, directly.