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  1. #1
    Member Corey's Avatar
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    A Look At The Role Of Comic Books In Video Games

    Comic books and videogames share more than you probably realise. Both mediums are relatively young (compared to others) and as such have gone through similar processes that many forms of entertainment are forced to endure in the quest for acceptance, validation -desired or not- and diversity.

    Yet for all this, the symbiosis between the two has rarely been a smooth ride. In fact, many comics-to-games and vice versa have suffered quite badly, with some godawful examples (Superman 64, stagger forward) outranking the good ones by a fair degree. Thankfully, there's been a large upswing of quality in the past decade which curiously coincides with the generally large upswing in quality of the comic book related movies out there now.

    The reasons for this are far too numerous to go into here, but part of them can be traced to the factor that comic books and videogames are both being taken far more seriously than they were before. It's sad to say, but this is marginally through a realisation that these mediums can earn people stupidly large amounts of money and has thus have companies who previously disparaged them, now wringing their collective hands among dreams of cash falling from the sky; forcing a little more attention and consideration to their output. But mercifully, another reason would be that people who have grown up playing games and reading comics are in better positions of power now to make a difference and treat them both with the respect they deserve. And hell, it's worked with Japan's healthy manga scene for years.

    And so, as videogames and comic books merge for the kill on an annual basis, as Spider-Man 3 has us enthralled on paper and the big and small screens, as we look forward to Batman's next outing across all mediums, there's a relatively quiet yet simultaneous revolution going on. Comic books are slowly entering the realm of digital distribution and viewing, where you can buy and read them online, while gaming consoles have gained the ability to go on the internet and better yet, offer motion controls to take advantage of this and the games themselves.

    Funnily enough, despite Nintendo not being interested in creating a multimedia console per se, Wii is there to capture this all.

    Nintendo's machine has taken some fantastic, if unintentional steps to bringing comics and videogames closer to each other's bosom. If you so require, you can go online with Wii, buy a few comics via it, and then read a couple more, all fairly intuitively with the remote. Yes, PC users have had this option for a while, but the little white console from Kyoto brings this ability to more people than ever before and in a very welcoming fashion.

    "Like comic books, the limits are the imagination, but Wii is revolutionary in that it adds a completely new and unique way to interact, and BE a part of the game." - John Layman, writer for Project H.A.M.M.E.R.




    That said, some comic book professionals aren’t quite yet convinced by some of these aspects the digital era brings. Jimmy Palmiotti, writer and artist of titles such as Painkiller Jane, The Monolith and Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, explained his reasons: "People want to hold [comic books], read them at leisure, not on a computer screen and so on. I do believe animating them is fun, even in flash… but it's limited. Most people do not read for extended periods of time on a computer unless its headlines or articles pertaining to their interests. The move from paper to tech is going to be a slow one… hell… look how long it's already taken. Slow, slow, slow. I have a PlayStation Portable, but would never read from that tiny screen for more than a few minutes… I do believe my brain would just explode."

    John Layman, another comic book writer who has penned a number of titles like Gambit and Armageddon & Son, agrees. "I am an old fuddy-duddy, and can't imagine anything other than comics and trade paperbacks printed from dead trees and sitting on my bookshelf. That being said, this year I made the jump and purchased those 40 years of Spider-Man and X-Men and Fantastic Four and Avengers CDs, the ones that have a huge backlist of PDFs of every issue. I was able to save a huge amount of shelf space my respective Essential volumes were taking up.

    "They are a great way, as a writer, to have the reference that I need, and these are books I don't pick up with any regularity. But am I ready to switch to regularly reading comics on a computer screen? Probably not. But, as I said, I am a cranky old man."

    However, this scepticism doesn’t sour their appreciation for gaming or the potential that comics and games have together. Palmiotti has worked on well received action romp, The Punisher and most recently, Ghost Rider, while also professing to further work within the medium. "I have… on the horizon a videogame that is going to be the next state of the art project to hit in a few years," he divulged. "I will be a consultant on that project as well as a few others in the mix, but… all this stuff is top secret 'till it's announced."

    Layman's also immersed in numerous videogame projects, most notably the ominous Project H.A.M.M.E.R., due for Wii later this year. Sadly, the large looming cloud of a Nintendo-printed Non-Disclosure Agreement means he's unable to talk about that title for a while yet.

    All the same, both writers see the potential Wii has in making more of comic book games, especially superhero ones. "Like comic books, the limits are the imagination, but Wii is revolutionary in that it adds a completely new and unique way to interact, and BE a part of the game," said Layman. "It makes you less sedentary, and makes you participate more. That's what it's all about, right? Putting yourself in the shoes of a comic character for the duration of the game. The Wii is freaking brilliant that way. But as far as specifics, the sky is really the limit."

    Palmiotti concurs, suggesting the motion control would be ideal for the action driven cut and thrusts of superheroes. "Well, the obvious [thing would be] fighting for any superheroes, the sword fighting for a Red Sonja or Conan [game] and so on. The application is only limited to the creativity of the programmer. Believe me, they are working on things right now with this technology that will blow you away. Eventually the boots and body sensors will catch up and then the eye movement sensors… it's only a matter of time."
    The constant desire for better and more innovative tech only helps to serve gaming in terms of control and physics, but increases the directions a typical comic book game can go in terms of gameplay.

    "Just look at the side-scrollers of ten years ago and compare them to the vast 3D worlds gamers can immerse themselves in now," explains Layman. "It's not just comic based games which have improved... it's all games. In this case, comic properties are just along for the ride. Of course, the improvements makes it easier to replicate the powers of a hero, when there is an entire 3D cityscape for Spider-Man to swing through or the Hulk to smash his way across. And more memory, better technology, means better graphics, and the potentially for characters to not just look better, but to have more to do.

    "I think each generation of game has gotten successively more sophisticated and satisfying. You can see the even in the jump from, say, the Spider-Man to Spider-Man 2 to Ultimate Spider-Man games. The second Hulk game [Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, written by comic scribe Paul Jenkins] was much better than the first (the movie tie-in with the cel-shading). Usually, whatever I think is better is whatever game is the most current, that successfully learned from the mistakes of the previous game."


    "Having written two comic properties to videogames, you can take what is presented in the book and create your own little interactive mini movie." – Jimmy Palmiotti, writer for The Punisher [game]




    The ever-increasing involvement of comic creators in related games, who lend their much needed authority and knowledge to projects, is a huge plus for any project, forming a mutual melding of mediums and bringing us closer to more even-handed and well-represented combinations.

    "With The Punisher game we went in and took his world of gritty city and crime scenarios and interwove them to create an amalgam of the movie and the comic… and took the best of both worlds and created a game that took a further step technologically speaking into making the character interactive," said Palmiotti, who had a large part in the game's creation as well as its story. "Comic book fans went nuts over the comic book references we included and the non comic people just loved the gameplay and the idea that you could interrogate the bad guys to change the gameplay."

    On the general symbiosis of comics and games, Palmiotti explained further the future possibilities. "Having written two comic properties to videogames, you can take what is presented in the book and create your own little interactive mini movie. Granted, unlike a comic which takes a month to create, these games take years… but it's an exciting process that we will be seeing more and more in the future."

    Yet, even with all this optimism and –please excuse the marketing speak- synergy, there's still something comics and gaming share that veers us towards a darker side; something that Wii is very much going to be caught up in, more so than other consoles.

  2. #2
    keep it compo compodude's Avatar
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    there needs to be a wolverine dedicated wii game, flicking out and slashing claws

    if you dont like it, live with it!

  3. #3
    WiiChat Member Adamquest64's Avatar
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    Palmiotti is right about how people want to be able to phisically hold comics. A few discs with "comics" written on them is lame. A few longboxes of actual comics is an exciting thing to behold (at least for me). Comics is one thing that most people can agree is better in a traditional paper format, as opposed to digital. Thank God, I hope it's always that way.
    As far as comic-based games being better then they used to be, well... they're still not that great. I have Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and people say it's not that bad, but I disagree.
    I won't buy the Spidey 3 game. Decades of bad movie and comic based games have taught me to stay away. When I finally try to give them another chance (Ultimate Alliance), I am reminded why I have spent sop long avoiding them.

  4. #4
    Gran Turismo Wii_BrEnDo2007's Avatar
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    wolverine game would be petty good
    PS3 now, sorry Wii. You gather dust.

  5. #5
    Moody Loner Rolex's Avatar
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    Corey,

    What an interesting article and strangely enough I feel I can join in whole heartedly as I too have enjoyed comic books / games over the years.

    Let me start of with saying that on the whole I am only a 'mainstream' type of gal - in that I only ever collected Spiderman, a few Supes and my main deviation to reality are The Dark Knight graphic novels.

    Reading your article raises a few comments which I feel are quite relevant to the piece and these namely center around the digital aspect - i.e. computer based books and the games.

    Take the aspect of reading a graphic novel / comic book and physically going through the routine of getting to the store and rooting around for the one you want, getting home and sitting in a quite corner and immersing yourself in this weeks / months dillema; was all good - you are making a bit of an event to get what you want... then take the downloading of the same - not quite an event but hey this is the internet age right!!

    Now this for me is where the similarity ends when taking into account the pleasure derived from reading - sitting in front of a screen for maybe and hour or so is all fine but it doesn't have the same feel as the physical act of reading - all the comic book artists I have ever read about cited this as part of the experience of their work, actually having to turn the page and being able to feel what your reading per se...with the PC this is taken away, ableit to some extent. Fair enough this is just another option if you can't get to the store of course!!

    It is this immersive aspect that separates print from most other mediums and that includes movies and games - with the panels in comic books we are only given a moment in time of that situation BUT the words and images give clues as to what has happened outside our periphery and what our hero may do next, within these clues we have an imagination which; and this for me is the best part of reading anything; will fill in the backstory or the preclusive supposition that this must have happened or we got to here by how - these details are not mapped out for us by the writer / artist we are elaborating in our own interpretation of events.
    I highlight this with my all time favourite novel "THE KILLING JOKE" - Barbara Gordon is shown to Batman in a photo where she is scantily dressed and has obviously been roughed up by "the goons" - now that raises questions which we fill in the answers ourselves.....[you know the ones ] and in turn we can imagine the emotional content within the character, based on what we know about the relationships and the history intertwined of all involved.

    With the games and movies this just doesn't, or can't, be implemented with the same validity as in comic books - for my money anyhow, and therein lies the problem, especially with the factor of gaming.
    We are led by the hand to these light and airy pseudo-storylines to just beat up this thug or that goon and the we get to the boss and kick 7 shades of...out of him - Super!!!

    3 games which I thought were pretty good and captured some "essence" of the hero portrayed, and in ascending order:

    Hulk - Ultimate Destruction
    The Hulk parts were as mindless as you wanted but the Bruce parts were poor

    Spiderman 2
    Great roaming world but missed the mark with the actual storyline

    Batman Begins
    Now this was unusual because, like the film, it really attempted to capture the darkside of the Dark Knight and put him in some really good situations, I really enjoyed this a lot.

    All well and good thus far but most games miss the darker side of the characters and stories they are based on - Batman is not the camp 60's stereotype and Peter Parker is not a geeky loner by nature just by choice and most games i have played have missed this aspect on the whole making them 2d to play.

    I certainly think that to see something along the lines of a Wii Zelda type adventure for the comic book characters would make a refreshing change to what has become a 'sok em' genre and give some emotional immersion, like Zelda - could breath new life into what should be the most cared about type of games.....Have the characters evolve into the tortured souls they are!!!

    Oh and one last point - If anyone remembers the "Dial H for HERO" series from the 80's - don't you think that this a perfectly tailored storyline for a video game on the Wii???

    Scheese - did I actually make a point here???

    I think I have ventured into the realms of.."Moody Rambling Loner"
    ---Smithy...
    "This IS the difference over the other systems....graphics can make you believe you're there to some extent but motion gesture can make you believe you're doing it!"

  6. #6
    Me Wif My Boxing Glove!!! Wii-Bhoy's Avatar
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    a wolverine game for the wii would be kinda cool

    Thanks To Dan.Skater For The Awesome Sig!

  7. #7
    WiiChat Member Adamquest64's Avatar
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    Man, this thread died fast. I guess me and that one girl that wrote that huge reply up thete are the only comics fans on the forums. Someone should make "Comics Lounge" so we could find out.

  8. #8
    Special Olympics Medalist BrandonMcAuslan's Avatar
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    Good article - but I feel I have to point one or two things out.

    The comics industry at present is in a "stable" condition. But it in no-way is doing anywhere near as good as the computer gaming industry. Comics are a lot less widely read today as they were 30+ years to 60+ years ago (the silver/golden age).
    Regarding the decline of comic books, it is widely believed that a major factor in the decline of the medium is the rise of other forms of entertainment - such as movies, TV and computer games. The creators of Judge Dredd/2000AD have recently stated they personally believe the decline in their circulation over recent years is entirely down to computer games popularity. You can't argue that computer games aren't vastly more popular than comics... But think about what things might have been like before computer games existed.

    So the two mediums don't quite go as hand in hand as you would think.
    The recent rise in comic book sales again over the past few years is largely due to the comic inspired major hollywood movies. X-men, Spiderman, Superman etc. As well as the increased quality of artowrk-print due to advances in computer technology - Photoshop!
    Comics have grown up in recent years because the kids who were reading comics 15+ years ago are now themselves comic writers/artists/creators. We are part of a generation that is somehow still able to engage in the past-times that we used to have as kids - because we've been able to make those past times and hobbies grow up "with" us. (I don't see myself ever stopping playing computer games or reading comics - then again there are computer games and comics that appeal to me now because they deal with adult themes - unlike in my parents time, comics were for kids back then).

    Comics don't make a shedload of cash. Licencing popular characters from comic books is where the money is... In movies, T-shirts, mugs, toys etc. But its the Movies that create the interest. The industry was almost bankrupt in the 90s - marvel almost went under. (Its been said taht the comic book industry is the "character development industry" - or something to that effect).

    Another point I'd like to make is that there aren't that many "true" comic book games... Think about all the comic book video games that have emerged in recent years. Are they comic book games - or mostly games of comic book movies?

    I'm gonna go petition Ion to make a comics lounge now.
    What did everyone think of Cap America getting "capped". (lol @ own cheesy pun)
    Last edited by BrandonMcAuslan; 05-15-2007 at 05:38 AM.

  9. #9
    WiiChat Member Adamquest64's Avatar
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    I didn't read the issue (or any Civil War), but I read a little bit of information about it in an e-mail newsletter I get from Marve, and saw a pic of a Cap/Punisher version of what I guess is supposed to be Frank Castle.
    I don't read much Marvel, but it will be interesting to see how they bring Cap back.

  10. #10
    WiiChat Feature Writer cbrotherson's Avatar
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    Hey Rolex,

    Glad you enjoyed it… sorry about the delay, between work and toilet/bed-binding illness it's been a busy month to say the least.

    Now this for me is where the similarity ends when taking into account the pleasure derived from reading - sitting in front of a screen for maybe and hour or so is all fine but it doesn't have the same feel as the physical act of reading - all the comic book artists I have ever read about cited this as part of the experience of their work, actually having to turn the page and being able to feel what your reading per se...with the PC this is taken away, ableit to some extent. Fair enough this is just another option if you can't get to the store of course!!
    Totally - the 'page turn' is actually quite a big thing in comics because its so user defined. The time between panels and pages are the spaces of time where the reader personalises the experience (it's been said the panel 'jumps' that create imaginary movement are pretty much unique to comics as a medium) and the portability of a paper comic has that alone and can't be replicated by a screen. It's very subtle and we take it for granted, but it's very powerful and certainly not reproducible. As you say, the reader provides the elaboration and interpretation, which makes it a fantastic medium. Because I write comics myself, I'm trying to find way to explore this even more with some of my work.

    The Killing Joke is also one of my favourite stories, such an excellent book (even if Alan Moore isn’t a fan of it) – good choice


    With the games and movies this just doesn't, or can't, be implemented with the same validity as in comic books - for my money anyhow, and therein lies the problem, especially with the factor of gaming.
    We are led by the hand to these light and airy pseudo-storylines to just beat up this thug or that goon and the we get to the boss and kick 7 shades of...out of him - Super!!!
    They're both mediums that play to their own strengths, but have strong correlations in their ethos and beginnings. I'll get more into that in my next reply, below.

    But John Layman did make a strong point that he felt gaming was actually less passive than comics (sadly, there wasn’t space to explore this in the feature, so I had to leave it on the cutting room floor). While I'd disagree, I'm not saying comics are a passive medium (as I think John may have thought I was inferring) – but they work on an interactive level that I think is far more subconscious than gaming itself. The work you do in getting something out of a comic works far more on a instinctive level than in games, but the game input is specifically geared towards interaction and physical activity, something a comic cant do in respects.

    I totally agree that there's still a way to go before there's less hand guiding as such in gaming, but graphical adventures seem to capture this spirit more than most genres. Have you tried Hotel Dusk for the DS?


    Oh and one last point - If anyone remembers the "Dial H for HERO" series from the 80's - don't you think that this a perfectly tailored storyline for a video game on the Wii???
    Ha, yes, that would be something… maybe we should start lobbying for it…

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