DagoBot is back with more PAX coverage!
My love of video games is almost matched by my love for funny books. One company stands heads and shoulders above it's competition for consistently putting out high quality stories and masterful visuals based on video game properties. But, that's not all Dark Horse does. I met up with Dark Horse Editor, Dave Marshall at PAX Prime 2011 and got to pick his brain about Mass Effect, Dragon Age & Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Big Shiny Robot!: What does Dark Horse have coming out this Fall that the BSR readership needs to get their hands on?
Dave Marshall: We have a bunch of exciting titles that we are talking about at this show. Star Wars: The Old Republic, we are working on the third series right now. We are doing Mass Effect comics. We are launching our third series in October. We are just starting to talk about Dragon Age comics. Not much else to say there other than it's coming. And...The Art Of The Mass Effect Universe. It's a really beautiful coffee table art book that will cover concept art for all three games. We are also doing Rage comics..with a collection of that series coming out in November and we are doing Valve comics that also comes out in November that collects all of the Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2 and Portal 2 comics that Valve produced.
BSR!: Is your primary focus on Video Game I.P.'s or Franchises?
DM: Yes, that is my focus. Although I also work pretty heavily on our Star Wars line. This year is our twentieth anniversary of doing Star Wars comics and in addition to that I do things like our Avatar: The Last Airbender comics, and Conan comics.
BSR!: As far as working with the Mass Effect universe, Are you working on stand alone stories or do these work as a bridge between the games?
DM: Each series is a stand alone story. But, they are also all canonical. That's a really important part of all the video game related stuff that Dark Horse does. We work directly with the developers. It's not some tangental thing that we are off doing on our own that they just approve. Our Star Wars: The Old Republic comics are written by Alexander Freed. Who is the lead writer on the game. Our Mass Effect comics are written by Mac Walters. Lead writer of Mass Effect 2 & 3. These guys develop these stories. They build them into the larger canon of the games. We do create them in such a way that you can pick up any volume and know whats going on. You could be a science fiction comics fan and never have played Mass Effect and enjoy it. But we work very hard to have it fit into the larger universe in a meaningful way.
BSR!: Are the stories developed for the comics ideas that were left out of the games or things that maybe didn't fit with the direction that the game was going in? Or were these ideas that were built on the foundation that they had already set?
DM: The kernels of these ideas come from all kinds of places. For Mass Effect: Invasion for example, Mac Walters really loves the character Aria T'Loak so it’s going to follow Aria defending her space station Omega against these monsters that have this sort of Reaper influence. So, it’s not necessarily something that is left out of Mass Effect 3 but gives a real lead in to what the galaxy is going to be like when people jump into Mass Effect.
BSR!: After Mass Effect 3 comes out and we get the conclusion of Shepherds epic story, do you plan on continuing with the universe?
DM: We do plan on continuing all of our programs. We don’t have anything announced at this time. Certainly we love working with Bioware, We love these games. We want to continue working on them for as long as fans are buying the books.
BSR!: Are people picking up the comics and then getting the game? Or vice versa?
DM: You know, anecdotally yes. We always like to think that we are telling stories that will be enjoyable even if you have no history with the game. Of course, the majority of our audiences are people that know and love these franchises. And that’s cool. It’s what brought us to it as editors and as creators. So, you know we are happy to make books for them and if we bring along some new people along the way all the better.
BSR!: Are these stories are available in trade paperbacks as well?
DM: Yep, all of our comics are coming out in trades. The Rage series comes out in November and the second Mass Effect series that we did, Mass Effect: Evolution, which tells the origin of the Elusive man that’s coming out in October. The same month as Mass Effect: Invasion. Star Wars: The Old Republic, the first two series, Blood Of The Empire and Threat Of Peace are both in trade now. And…The Lost Suns, which we are doing right now, will be out in the winter.
BSR!: Looking ahead to 2012, what’s on the horizon?
DM: Like I said, more details are coming in terms of Dragon Age. Like with Mass Effect, we are working directly with the core development team to tell a story that Dragon Age fans are going to get really excited about and will help introduce those unfamiliar to the universe. As a general rule, I like to start working on a comic series a year before the first issue goes on sale. So, that can give you some sense of how far out we are thinking.
BSR!: Do you play video games yourself?
DM: Oh, of course yeah. I mean, that’s really a big part of how Dark Horse got into this. Is that I and other editors are big gamers. We were just astonished at how few video game comics had come out and how few had been successful. We really tried to reverse engineer that. Sort of figured out, why is it this way? Why aren’t these comics being made? Why aren’t they succeeding and just getting in there and try to figure out how to make it work.
BSR!: What franchises or properties haven’t you worked with that you would love to get a crack at? And do it the right way.
DM: Well, we come to shows like PAX specifically to go to demos and see what’s exciting. In a lot of ways it’s no brainers. Things like Fallout. Which we did the Fallout: New Vegas graphic novel. Things like the The Elder Scrolls. Things like Red Dead Redemption. These great critically acclaimed popular franchises that have powerful stories. They have compelling characters. They have worlds that extend beyond the experience of getting together and shooting a bunch of your friends. We get inspired by that it really sparks our imaginations. We don’t go after any comic series that we can’t work directly with the developer. Where we can’t contribute in an important and significant way to the larger arc of what they’re creating.
Bioware & Dark Horse Comics present 'The Art Of The Mass Effect Universe' dropping in February 2012.
Star Wars: The Old Republic 'The Lost Suns' the series consist of five issues. 1-4 are available now.
I still haven't played Dragon Age: Origins 2.