Tag Archives: capcom

A Darker Shade of Blue

There is a common problem that pops up in long-running series across all forms of media.  After so many issues/episodes/games of good battling evil to maintain the status quo, the antagonist of a series can seem less like a threat and more like a lovable ne’er-do-well who gets into goofy shenanigans.  This trope is especially apparent in prolonged battle shows and comics, where the stakes can only be raised so high by a single villain (see: Dragon Ball Z, Transformers, Power Rangers, countless others).

Like most recurring problems in media, there is a regular solution to which many writers will resort to keep a story fresh and the action intense.  If your series bad guy simply isn’t bad enough, just introduce an even more heinous villain into the mix.  With dark enough intentions and a scheme that threatens the world on a massive scale, the previous antagonist may even step up to help the hero save the day.  This just happens to be the case in the Mega Man: Gigamix comics. Continue reading A Darker Shade of Blue

Advertisements

Don’t Call It A Comeback

At my local comic book store, there is a section dedicated to adaptations from other media aptly titled, “TV/Movie/Video Game Comics.”  Alongside fresh titles for recent tie-ins, I have noticed a surge of comics that are providing dormant properties with a rebirth.   It is here that I have found newer comics based on cult classics like Army of Darkness, Firefly, and Galaxy Quest.  I am pleasantly surprised to see these comics, if for nothing else to know that there are other fans who adamantly wanted more adventures for these beloved characters.  The same warm fuzzy feeling takes over when I hear news of an old favorite game getting ported to a newer console (or better yet, any HD re-release by M2).  Naturally, when these two media intersect, the feeling is only magnified.

svchaosSNK vs Capcom: SVC Chaos was first released by SNK-Playmore for the arcade and Neo-Geo home console in July 2003.  For most of us in the States, we wouldn’t experience the game until it made its debut as an Xbox console exclusive in October of the following year.  As the only SNK-developed game in this particular Vs. series, SVC Chaos stands out from its predecessors.  The game looks and plays more like King of Fighters rather than so many other Capcom-developed titles.  Perhaps it is because of this difference that the game never had lasting (or immediate) appeal.  More likely, it is the extremely unbalanced character tiers and limited release that doomed SVC Chaos to the land of underwhelming games.

SVC1In spite of all of these flaws, I loved SVC Chaos, particularly for its interesting character selections from the more obscure titles.  Amongst the usual Street Fighter and Fatal Fury rosters were oddball gems like Firebrand from Ghost and Goblins and Mars People from Metal Slug.  The game had a much darker look compared to the Capcom-developed Vs. titles, which made it stand out and seem just a little bit cooler to a college-aged kid.  To top it all off, there was a comic series released to further chronicle the in-game story; something that Capcom never seemed to get off the ground for their other Vs. games. Continue reading Don’t Call It A Comeback

Fate of Two Worlds

It’s surprising to think that in spite of how many times Capcom has made video games featuring Marvel characters, there has been little reciprocation from the comic book powerhouse.  Granted, this is probably due to so many of the licensing rights for Capcom properties belonging to other publishers.  But one would think that there could have at least been some sort of Marvel vs. Capcom mini-series of comics.  As it stands, the only time that an official comic of the fighting game graced store shelves was a preorder bonus with Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

Released in February 2011, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was the first of the fighting game series that was exclusive to home consoles.  The previous seven installments of the Versus series had a strong arcade presence, but MvC3 had to prove itself a success in the home market before it could transition to the arcade world (spoiler: it didn’t).  A special edition of the game was made with bonus material, which included a steel-book case, redemption codes for two bonus characters, a 1-month subscription to Marvel Digital Comics, and a 12-page prologue comic book.

MVC3-1

The prologue comic was named Fate of Two Worlds, after the subtitle of its parent video game.  The story was written by Frank Tieri, who has worked on several Marvel series such as Iron Man, Wolverine, and Deadpool.  The artwork was handled by other Marvel collaborators, including Kevin Sharpe (Xtreme X-Men) and Rob Stull (Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man).  Most of the comic is spent introducing various characters from the video game and briefly touching on the villains’ motivation in this cross-over (they want to conquer both worlds).

MVC3-2It seems that Albert Wesker (who is listed as, “Former Umbrella Corp Mad Scientist”) has figured out a way to bridge the gap between the Marvel and Capcom universes.  Wesker offers this technology to Dr. Doom, who has assembled a team of classic villains who want nothing more than to open a portal and start an invasion.  But without an absurd amount of energy, this legion of doom cannot sustain a doorway large enough for their forces.  Ever the strategist, Super Skrull offers a solution: siphon the energy from the interstellar cruiser owned by Galactus.  The group decides that provoking the Devourer of Worlds seems safe enough, and move forward with their plan.  Meanwhile, all sorts of dimensional rifts have been popping up between the worlds; dropping random fighters into unknown territory.  The Incredible Hulk jumps into the world of Resident Evil, narrowly saving Jill and Chris from an Executioner Majini by doing what he does best (smashing bad guys).  Other Capcom characters pop up in New York City, where they are engaged by Wolverine, Iron Man, and Deadpool.  As the group begins to fight, assuming each group is hostile, Galactus shows up, feeling rather insulted that someone has tried to mess with his ship.  The comic ends with a classic “To Be Continued,” which presumably leads right into Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s arcade mode.

MVC3-3In addition to the prologue comic, this pre-order printing also serves as a mini-artbook for Marvel vs. Capcom 3.  There is a section showing off in-game renditions of every character, which feature heavy shading and fierce poses.  Following the character poses is a collection of artwork from the advertising campaign.  These pieces are gorgeous mash-ups of characters from both worlds drawn by Capcom illustrator Toshiaki Mori.  Better known as Shinkiro, this artist has provided character designs and cover art for a pile of video games, including Samurai Shodown, Metal Slug, and Dead Rising.  The final portions of the art book contain promotional and fan art by a bevy of famous artists, such as Alvin Lee (Udon Comics), Kinu Nishimura(Street Fighter 2), and Miho Mori (Ghost Trick).  While most of the artwork featured in this mini book is little more than character class photos, seeing the different art styles and portrayals of each fighter makes for a fun comparison.

Back when Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was hitting the home consoles, there were rumors of a tie-in comic that would be soon to follow.  Capcom had teased the idea of Udon Comics creating a four-to-twelve issue series that would chronicle the more epic matches of the video game world.  Alas, the series never came to be.  Udon did collaborate with Capcom to produce Marvel vs. Capcom: Official Complete Works, a 192-page book that contains all sorts of artwork from every Capcom-produced Marvel title, spanning from The Punisher arcade game to Ultimate MVC3.  But for those of us who wanted to see all sorts of nerdy cross-over silliness in comic book form, at least there’s Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness.

The Night Warriors

It’s that time of year once more; when the barrier between the natural and supernatural is at its weakest and little ghouls haunt the streets in search of sugary treats.  For this week’s video game comic column, it only makes sense to venture into the darker side of the printed page.  There is a rather massive subgenre of horror comics, and its tentacles stretch far into the video game world.  So let’s dive into a realm where monsters do battle in rounds of two, until only the strongest survives.

Darkstalkers1

Darkstalkers2It was back in November of 2004 that Udon Entertainment debuted their Darkstalkers comic series.  At this time, Udon was releasing their work through Devil’s Due Publishing, which included a Street Fighter comic series that launched in 2003 (which we will definitely discuss in a later post).  The Darkstalkers comic ran for six issues, until it abruptly stopped in April of 2005.  In October of the same year, the chief of operations Eric Ko, announced that Udon had become a full-fledged publisher and its lengthy hiatus was due to producing material for the video game Capcom Fighting Evolution.  Since that time, Udon has grown into a massive comic book and video game powerhouse, producing several comic series, art books, and work for video games such as Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and New International Track and Field.

For the Darkstalkers comic, Udon had plenty of interesting characters and settings from which to source fresh story material.  This is especially true, since most fighting games have very few details outside of “some people got together to fight in an arbitrary battle tournament held by a mysterious benefactor.”  For example, this story comes straight from the Darkstalkers instruction manual:

“When the sun sets and humanity retreats to the imagined safety of their beds, a mysterious entity appears in the sky to assemble the wicked and the evil. The unimaginable secret power of the dark is unleashed! Ten supernatural beings of destruction have materialized to wage their eternal war for the domination of the night. The Vampire, the Mummy, Frankenstein, Bigfoot. . . their very names conjure fear. But who or what has summoned them? These creatures of myth and legend, the Darkstalkers, have gathered for what is destined to be the greatest battle ever. And the fate of all humanity rests on who wins the epic struggle. The Darkstalkers are coming. . .tonight!”

Darkstalkers3From this rather bare bones plot, Udon crafted a solid story about the various machinations of the Darkstalkers who hide in the dark corners of the Earth.  In this six issue series, the conflicts between certain characters take center stage, while the sideline characters are left as mere window dressing.  So while Dimitri and Morrigan prepare for an eventual battle of the ages, Rikuo and Lord Raptor only show up briefly in side stories and single panel shots.  Every issue features plenty of great fighting scenes, complete with signature moves and plenty of nods to the fans of the video games.  There is also loads of background on many of the major characters, including several side stories that flesh out their motivations even further.

Darkstalkers4As with most of the comics from Udon Entertainment, the artwork really shines.  The horror themes of the video games allowed the artists to include plenty of heavy contrast and shadows, which really lend to the atmosphere of the comics.  The characters remain in the anime-inspired style of the fighting games, but with more vibrant colors and further detail for better expressions.  In spite of the show-stealing appeal of the characters, the backgrounds have not been overlooked.  There is plenty of detail in the settings of each scene, with some panels exclusively dedicated to moody environmental shots.

Darkstalkers5Besides the solid story work and gorgeous art, my favorite part of Darkstalkers comes at the end of each issue.  A single page is always dedicated to a gag comic called Darkstalkers Mini.  The fun work of Corey Lewis (pseudonym, Rey), these quick strips feature super-deformed versions of the fighters in silly situations, most of which end with goofy punch-lines.  Unfortunately, when Udon collected the comics into a trade paperback, all of these side stories got the boot.  On the plus side, that has made the individual issues of the comic unique to the trade version, so be sure to track these gems down!

At the end of the first issue of Darkstalkers (right before the Mini comic), there is a writers’ commentary aptly titled, “From the Darkside.”  On this page, some of the staff from Udon spill their guts about the joy they felt in creating the Darkstalkers comic books.  There is talk of the great chance to write a darker story than the usual Street Fighter comics, along with their mutual love of horror films and fighting games.  At the very end, the colorist, Gary Yeung, says that the goal at Udon was to “make a faithful interpretation of Darkstalkers from a game/animation into a book.”  Through action-packed stories and striking artwork, all wrapped up in a spooky atmosphere, it seems like Udon met their goal quite nicely.

Killer (7) is Dead

One of the difficulties when adapting a video game for comic books is deciding how to handle the art direction.  As technology expanded beyond the 8-and16-bit eras, designers found themselves with a wide array of tools to create very complex and detailed visuals.  Hand-drawn illustrations no longer had to be translated into a limited pixel space; the characters and settings could be fleshed out into smooth three-dimensional worlds.  This presented an inverse problem for comic writers, who now had the task of moving these environments from screen to page.  I can imagine it was particularly troubling when dealing with very distinct art styles.  For example, how would you transform a game like Killer 7 into comic book form?

Killer7-1

Killer7-2In 2005, Capcom approached two companies with a license to produce a 12-issue comic series based on Killer 7.  Founded in 1999 as a commercial art studio and a small press comic publisher, Devil’s Due Publishing(DDP) had a breakout success with a 2001 revamp of G.I. Joe.  Since that time, DDP has published an array of titles, such as Hack/Slash, Dragonlance, and Forgotten Realms.  The publisher collaborated with Kinetic Underground, a design and marketing company founded by David Forrest in 1997.  Over the years, Kinetic Underground has worked with companies like Hasbro, Disney, and Sesame Workshop to create high quality toys and merchandise.  A zero issue of the comic was included as a pre-release bonus with the video game in certain retailers, and the rest of the series hit comic book stores in February 2006.

Killer7-4With a plot revolving around an assassin’s group made up of alter egos, Killer 7 was ripe for adaptation into other media.  The game centers around Harman Smith, a seemingly retired assassin who serves as the “master” personality over seven deadly alter egos.  Players must switch between his seven different personas and utilize each character’s special abilities to complete the missions.  The Killer 7 are hired to deal with various unsavory characters who would threaten the delicate balance between recently peaceful nations.  During their assignments, they encounter violent creatures called “Heaven’s Smiles.”  Once human beings, these monsters have been transformed into grotesque walking bombs that maniacally laugh right up to their demise.  The entire game is rendered in very dark cell-shaded visuals, which creates a sort of pseudo-noir look to the environments.  Violence is frequent in Killer 7, with plenty of gun-battles and explosions, but the clean and sparsely detailed look of the game changes the overall tone into something quite different from the cerebral action movies that inspired the game.

Killer7-3Since Killer 7 already has an ideal story for comics, Devil’s Due and Kinetic Underground decided to leave much of the game’s plot intact.  Extra dialogue and transition scenes were included to keep things cohesive, which is a nice addition since the game expects the player to connect the story-dots at several points during gameplay.  The big difference between the comic and the video game can be seen in the art style.  The heavy shading and sharp contrast remains on some of the pages, but the sleek cell-shaded visuals have been abandoned for the more traditional look of comic book art.  Facial expressions have plenty of lines and wrinkles to show emotion, and scenes of violence have extra detail added to the gore and mayhem.  The “Heaven’s Smiles” are particularly gruesome, and would look more at home in a low-budget zombie movie.  All of these changes alter the mood of Killer 7 quite drastically, and the almost haunting tone is lost in transition.  The engaging and complex story of the game takes a backseat to the big explosions and visceral gunfights in the comic books.

As with many other video game adaptations, Killer 7 never reached a point of completion.  Four issues were released to the public before the project was abandoned, leaving two-thirds of the story behind.  Since the game’s plot becomes even more complex as the player progresses, I am curious just how the comic would have handled later developments.  Would the hyper-violence have been abandoned to address the higher details of the story, or would the battles just get bigger and bigger until the pages are dripping with blood and guts?  Judging by the first four issues, I imagine the latter would win out, which is a shame since Killer 7 is generally praised for its story and visuals over the combat and gameplay.  But that is the trouble faced when adapting a video game to the printed page.  Even with an ideal tale for comic book adaptation, distinct visuals put the writers in a tight spot, and anything less than the original art style will be met with harsh criticism.  In the name of Harman…

Mega Man, the Junior High School Student

MegaMan-1

With all of the hullaballoo around Mighty No. 9 and its Kickstarter project flooding the Internet, I have been itching to play Mega Man 3 again.  So I cracked out the Anniversary Collection and fought my way to Wily’s Castle for the umpteenth time.  As I was playing, my mind was filled with all of the different incarnations of the Blue Bomber that have popped up over the years.  Just within my own collection there are three different comic book lines, two rock operas, two television series, and a tribute art book packed full of fan interpretations.  I have seen Mega Man has been a gruff-voiced green dwarf, a goofball hero who spits out corny one-liners, and a solemn savior for all of mankind.  This week, I want to take a look at an obscure comic book series, where the plucky robot faces his greatest challenge yet: junior high.

MegaMan-2It was back in 2003 when Dreamwave Productions took a crack at the Mega Man mythos.  Founded in 1996 as an imprint under Image Comics, the Canadian studio made their name publishing multiple Transformers comics series.  After splitting off from Image in 2002, Dreamwave earned several licensing agreements from Capcom, which included hot properties like Darkstalkers, Devil May Cry, and Rival Schools.  Unfortunately, most of these comic lines burned out after a single issue, if they were ever printed at all.  Losing several writers to pay disputes in 2004, Dreamwave Productions closed their doors in January of 2005, which left Mega Man with only four issues on store shelves.

MegaMan-4Instead of focusing on the usual story of a robot hero designed by Dr. Light to fight against Wily’s robot hordes, Dreamwave put more emphasis on the blurry lines between cold automatons and free-willed machines.  Dr. Light has perfected his independent determination chip and implanted it into his robotic son, Rocky.  The good doctor hopes that with this chip, robots will evolve beyond mere appliances and move on to be dignified members of society.  While all of this philosophizing seems quite grand, the core plot of this comic boils down to the bland trope of a young  hero trying to protect a city while managing a social life within a secret identity.  One issue even features the tired old tale of, “how will our hero save the junior high students and attend the student council dance at the same time?!”

MegaMan-3Even more odd is the severe lack of classic Wily robots within the series.  Outside of a brief appearance from Heat Man, all of Mega Man’s battles are against original designs from Dreamwave like Express Man and Barrage Man.  These robots are nothing more than battle fodder for the Blue Bomber, and take up just enough time to cause brief mayhem before being rapidly blown to bits.  This sort of this would be fine in a creative vacuum, but since so much of the other Mega Man media has created detailed and interesting back stories for the Wily robots, readers actually know what they are missing in this comic.

On a plus side, the artwork really shines in this series.  The character designs are clean and quite emotive, taking a cue from Inafune’s original work without being too derivative.  Action scenes are well-drawn, with plenty of interesting panel layouts and motion blurs to flesh out every scene.  The entire look of the comics is reminiscent of anime that would be suited for younger children, which matches the story perfectly.

When creating a comic based on an established IP, there is great difficulty in determining how to proceed.  A writer can stick to the script provided by the parent company, and make a series that is nothing more than dialogue placed over in-game actions.  Some writers prefer to deviate from the source material, and try to make something that can be appreciated as its own work.  It seems to me that Dreamwave Productions was attempting to produce something in the latter category: a Mega Man comic that does not rely on rabid fans’ knowledge of the established series.  Unfortunately for them, the core reading audience would prefer a video game comic that takes an existing story and gracefully builds upon it.  Dreamwave discovered then just as Capcom is learning now, sometimes it pays to give the fans what they want.