Tag Archives: udon comics

To Be Continued…

In our modern world of streaming media and digital comic books, it’s pretty common to binge on a series and find yourself in a quandary.  Once a series runs out, it’s difficult to stay occupied and entertained during the interim.  But every so often, a major publisher will test the waters and try to add a new vessel to their fleet of comics.  Such was the case in May 2009.

During the run of Street Fighter II: Turbo, Udon Comics pitched a potential new series through bonus stories at the back of certain issues.  Since Cody and Guy tied so heavily into the current plot of Street Fighter, it makes sense that Udon would try to get readers interested in a standalone comic based on Final Fight. Continue reading To Be Continued…

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

The Birth of Mega Man

Looking across my bookshelves and boxes of video game comics, you can find a near-equal amount of art books dedicated to my electronic obsession.  These books serve two functions in my apartment (other than looking pretty): provide a source of reference for my wife’s art and to serve as a sort of history book for my favorite games.  And the best of these tomes of video game knowledge come from Udon Comics.

On top of their numerous video game comics, the Ontario-based studio has published several art books dedicated to many different series.  Not content to simply provide the usual concept and promotional art from video games, Udon will fill these books with creator interviews, unreleased images, and even some new material for rabid fans.  During a recent re-reading of Mega Man: Official Complete Works, I discovered a rare comic that I somehow missed on my previous scouring: an official origin story for the Blue Bomber drawn by Keiji Inafune! Continue reading The Birth of Mega Man

The Spoils of Free Comic Book Day!

Another year, another successful day of free comics.  Since 2002, the first Saturday in May has been a special time when anyone who walks into participating stores walks out with special comics at no charge.  My local shop was a packed house from the start of the event.  A line filled with men, women, and tons of kids in superhero costumes wrapped around the store, each of them eager to scoop up some free comics.

Most of the bigger companies had special issues of their series available for pickup.  Most notably, Marvel had several tie-ins to their upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  However, plenty of non-superhero comics were also ready with free issues.  Adventure Time and The Simpsons, Smurfs and Grimm Fairy Tales; even the Power Rangers had a comic at no charge!  But as most of our regular readers would assume, I was there for the video game comics. Continue reading The Spoils of Free Comic Book Day!

The Blue Bomber at his Best

One of the earliest articles I threw up here on Geek Force Network concerned a very odd (and lackluster) comic book that reimagined Mega Man as a junior high school student.  While this comic tried to break out of the usual story presented in the Mega Man series, the plot fell into yet another trope-filled rut and lost the support of fans by removing most of the iconic elements from the games.  It was a far cry from what I hope for in a comic book adaptation.

Ideally, a comic book adaptation should expand on the plot and characters featured in a video game.  There should be fresh perspectives on the stories we have grown up playing, or brand new adventures in which we can become immersed.  There could be humorous side tales with lesser-explored characters, or bonus content like creator interviews or fan art from professional illustrators.  The comic would serve as a standalone product that could entice readers to try out the games, as well as a loving tribute to its source material for fans to pour over.

In other words, every comic book creator should look to Mega Man Megamix for inspiration. Continue reading The Blue Bomber at his Best

Digital versus Physical Media: A Rival Schools Story

Recently, I was introduced to the digital comics platform Comixology by a co-worker of mine.  As a man who is used to good ole’ paper and print media, the idea of buying a comic book and reading it on my iPad was a bit jarring at first.  All of the warm fuzzies of getting a new issue or an old gem from the comic book store were gone, replaced with the cold indifference of an online transaction.  Where was the smell of the ink, the satisfying noise when a page is turned, the familiar heft of a single issue as I removed it from a generic brown paper bag?

Then again, the frustrating ads and underwhelming preview filler were gone, along with the inconvenience of a limited print run being sold out at stores.  Come to think of it, I didn’t even have to leave my house and search the darkest nerd dungeons for the rare comics I hoped to find (in this case, the lackluster Castlevania series).  Maybe this shift to digital media won’t be so bad.  All of the comics I missed during their first publication will hit a cloud server, just waiting to be purchased and adored.  What could possibly go wrong?

RivalSchools1

RivalSchools2Way back in 2002, the folks at Dreamwave Publishing earned the rights to produce comics based on several different Capcom franchises (Mega Man, for instance).  Unfortunately, when Dreamwave lost several of its writers because of pay disputes in 2004, many of the licensing rights were sold off to other companies, most notably to Udon Comics.  After successfully overseeing the Street Fighter series (don’t worry, it’s coming soon), Udon seemed like the perfect match for the cult classic fighting game, Rival Schools.  The story and art were handled by Corey “Rey” Lewis, who had previously worked with Udon on the bonus “mini” comics in the Darkstalkers series.

RivalSchools3The general plot of the comic is mostly unchanged from the video games: in the Japanese city of Aoharu, there have been several attacks on and disappearances of students and staff from local high schools.  Some of the more gifted attendants of these schools have decided to investigate these conflicts, and each of these characters has their own motivation for doing so.  While the perspective of the comic does shift between different characters, much of the focus is on the students from Taiyo High School, particularly Batsu Ichimonji.  This bare-knuckle brawler has transferred to Taiyo High to investigate the kidnapping of his mother, who was the lunch lady at said school.  Once arriving at Taiyo, Batsu joins up with the other members of his team from the video game, and the trio decides to investigate the ominous Justice High School which seems to be involved with all of the attacks.  Rey does a great job of expanding the story from the original material, with plenty of additional exposition and detail to flesh out the characters and their interactions.

RivalSchools4The artwork is a bit of a departure from the video game, but not to the detriment of the comics.  Corey Lewis brings his unique look to Rival Schools, which is a nice blend of American comics and Japanese manga styles, with a dash of graffiti art for the action scenes.  All of the characters retain their original designs, but their facial expressions and details in movement are distinctly “Rey” in their execution.  The specific use of line work stands out for each emotion, with sharp edges in the face and body to express intense feelings/actions and softer edges for a muted tone.  The background art is rather minimalist in most scenes, but there are little details that enhance each panel instead of just serving as window dressing.  Most unique to this comic are the battle scenes between characters.  Instead of opting for the usual “BAP” or “POW” of most comic series, Rey infuses the actual moves and button executions from the video game to convey attacks.  While it sounds a bit ham-fisted in description, this style suits the fighting quite well, and the distinct lettering that Rey uses complements the overall style of the comics.  The entire series is presented in black-and-white, which further ties the work to the various Japanese manga from which this story seems influenced.

When the Rival Schools comics first hit shelves back in April 2006, I scooped up the first issue and devoured it whole.  I had played plenty of Rival Schools back in college, and its sequel Project Justice stands as one of my favorite games of all time.  In June of the same year, the second issue made its debut and included most of the other characters from the game outside of Taiyo High.  I was so eager to read the rest of this four-issue series, I couldn’t wait for the other installments.  But after several months of waiting, it seemed like this beloved series wasn’t going to be finished.  Years went by, and nothing was heard from Udon on the future publication of Rival Schools.  I had pretty much given up on being able to complete my collection, and moved on to other comics.

RivalSchools5As I was re-reading the first two issues for this article, I decided to give my search another try, just to see if Udon ever commented on the lack of closure.  It seems that back in 2009, Udon decided to post the entire series online as a free-to-read webcomic.  I was so excited, I was finally going to enjoy the previously unreleased third and fourth issues of Rival Schools!  I promptly followed the link….and encountered a 404 error.  I tried accessing the comics directly from Udon’s website, and found no evidence of a release on their Rival Schools page.  After reaching out to Udon through Twitter, I found out the sad truth: the third and fourth issues of Rival Schools are currently unavailable.  The entire series was removed from Udon’s website, potentially never to return.

So as I sit here with my unfinished Rival Schools series, I am once again conflicted with the rise of digital media.  There are plenty of advantages to this trend.  I can carry around an entire library of comics on a single device, there are plenty of rare comics that I finally have the chance to read, and the sheer convenience of an issues being just a click away.  But there are situations like this one, where a series that was exclusively digital has been lost to the swirling vortex of the internet.  At least if there was a print version I could embark on a quest to find a copy.  As it stands, I am at the whims of Udon and Capcom, waiting for the chance to read a comic book.  How odd that the “digital versus physical media” situation that is currently affecting video games can make the leap to comics as well.

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.