I normally would have a “Comics to Video Games” article ready for you folks right about now (and don’t worry I’m working on the next one), but I was reading an interview the other day with Ian Flynn, a writer best known for his current run on the Sonic the Hedgehog series published by Archie Comics, and found out he’s going to be the main writer behind a new monthly Mega Man comic book series.
This latest video game series from Archie Comics comes out in the beginning of May and it will chronicle the Blue Bomber’s run through his nearly dozen games, starting with Mega Man 1 playing out across the first four issues, and will answer the big questions, like how no one was able to figure out when Dr. Wily was up to no good. It’s not like he had ten giant skull shaped fortresses built. Oh, wait. Hmmm. Also, I wonder if there will be any mention of Mega Man Soccer in an annual or something.
Anyway, this got me thinking about the flood of both monthly and limited series comic books we’ve seen in recent years based on video games. City of Heroes, Halo, inFamous, Gears of War, Prototype, and even DCU Online, which of course is a comic based off a video game based off of comics. So what’s with this sudden influx of video game based comics at our local retailers? == TEASER ==
Now, comics based off of video games are nothing new. After all, Sonic, has had his own ongoing series for nearly twenty years now. But to see so many new comics based on games is a little off putting. An idealist might say comics are simply being used as tools to help flesh out stories that can’t be fully told in a 15-hour game. But what if they are really being used just as promotional items to bolster game sales instead? Or are comic companies trying to jump on the bandwagon of a popular game franchise in the hopes of making a profit, knowing that the key comic book and video game demographics are one in the same? Or maybe it is a little of all of the above?
Can ongoing video game comics also hurt the base franchise as there could be unintentional limits placed on the game developers? There would have to be constant communication between both the game developers and the comic book writing and editorial teams in order to ensure that what is being done in the comics isn’t radically different from what is happening or going to happen in sequel video games upon their release.
If Josh Ortega kills off someone in the Gears of War comic, he had better let Cliff Bleszinski and Karen Traviss know so that person doesn’t show up in Gears of War 3, otherwise there are going to be some mighty ticked off Gearheads out there. And what if Cliff had planned on making that character a major player in the Gears universe? How much say does the original game creators have when it comes to forwarding the plot of a comic that is being looked at as canon? It just seems that adding more moving parts to such a complex and detailed story might come off as limiting from a creative standpoint, especially while the main series is still really ongoing and even while just trying to flesh out previously mentioned references from the original property (like the Pendulum Wars for Gears).
And this brings us back to my inspiration. Mega Man. Does doing a comic that follows, for the most part, a story we already know lessen the mass appeal of a comic? Why should I read something I’ve already played through several hundred times? Can you really flesh out a character that much with a few thought bubbles while it’s blasting another foe into oblivion? If anything, it might take away from those original gaming experiences, especially from the old NES days, where the player was left to their own devices to fill in gaps in a protagonist’s personality and whatnot. So are original stories that add to and build on top of already existing canon the only real option in that case to ensure a profit will be made and to protect a property?
Despite this, does every new video game need a comic book? I read the six-issue limited series for Prototype and I felt what I got from that comic was not worth the price I paid as a lead in to the actual game. In fact, the comic ruined the game experience some as it spoiled a lot of the game’s surprises. The same goes for the Gears of War comic. Some issues have been great, but I didn’t need a one-issue back-story on Tai. I don’t need a character that is dead to be fleshed out. It just reeks of trying to turn a quick buck if you ask me. It dilutes the potential of building the franchise naturally and feels very forced in some cases.
But I really don’t mind franchises diversifying, and actually enjoy seeing new adventures with my favorite characters that continue the story beyond the original product (you should see my Star Wars expanded universe novel collection). I do feel that there should be some sort of criteria before a franchise is expanded though like with a game based comic. Wait until the main story, in most cases nowadays the story being a trilogy, is complete before you start filling in the gaps. Imagine if a comic or novel like Shadows of the Empire in Star Wars, which takes places between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, had been released in 1981, right between Empire and Jedi. I think that it coming after the fact made it much more powerful and interesting. Similar to the games Halo: Reach and Halo 3: ODST. They were better stories because the universe had already been fully established and then writers went back to fill in the blanks.
So what do you guys think? Are you fans of video game based comics? Are there too many out there flooding the market? What should be the criteria for a game based comic to be published? And how much creative freedom should the writing and editorial teams have with long established characters like Mega Man? Will you buy the Mega Man monthly upon its release? Let us know with comments below!