Eric Powell, call me, yeah?!
I’m not a fan of “The Capes” when it comes to comic books, but I understand why they’re such an easy fit for video games. Superheroes are proactive investigators and brawlers with adventures based solely around their exploits. Their worlds are ready made, their rogues galleries are fully fleshed out, and their main goal is to excite the audience with thrills and spills.
So, for years it was pretty disheartening to know the comics I adored couldn’t get a foothold in the gaming industry, despite having the potential. It’s only until recently that, thanks to the success of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, the door opened a little for the leftfield titles. Granted, The Wolf Among Us worked because Bigby’s role as Fabletown’s sheriff was the perfect piggyback into his world — investigators are an adventure gaming staple, allowing the audience play detective, solve puzzles woven into the narrative, and uncover mysteries — but the fact Fables even had a game, quite late into its run, still knocks me for six. More importantly, it gives me hope.
Sure, not all cult comics need a video game. Just because you could, it doesn’t mean you should (ask Blue Estate and Watchmen). But there are certain titles that could easily make that successful transition with the right developer. Maybe even expose them to a new audience, which is sort of why comics go for such licensing in the first place. Anyway, without further ado, here are some comics I’d like to see get a virtual spin-off. You know, because that’s what video game writers like to do when they’ve got a deadline to fulfil and their new workplace hampers that. Lists and shit, yeah?!
What’s it about? The Goon runs a protection racket out of a Depression-era port town with his partner and only friend, Franky. It’s easy money until the zombies show up, and The Goon has to face the demons of his past in order to protect the sort-of-innocent. Did I mention the giant talking lizard, roller derby girls, and even a man made of wicker? Yeah, that happens along the way, too.
How would it work as a game? You could easily set it up as a co-op brawler, where The Goon and Franky fight, shoot, shank, wrench, and quip their way through the zombie hordes, before tackling the more serious issue of werewolves, burlesque house killers, and Lovecraftian parodies. Think Hellboy: The Science of Evil, but more fun.
Why isn’t there a game, then? It’s all about timing. Whereas the similar Hellboy broke the glass ceiling with a movie, during a time when obscure comics were worth a risk, The Goon hasn’t had the same chance. Years after its announcement, The Goon movie is still stuck in development hell and creator Eric Powell is currently slowing down his output, opting to do mini-series runs instead of monthly issues. So, in a way, the heat has died down on what is otherwise one of the best comics around.
What’s it about? Detective Richard Fell is maverick cop with plenty of book smarts and an ego to bolster it. But after he gets his partner seriously injured, Fell is transferred to Snowtown, a crime ridden burg where madness prevails and the good rely on magic to protect them. The more methodical and cynical Fell figures it’s down to him alone to clean up the streets, even if it means being just as violent as the criminals he’s chasing.
How would it work as a game? I adore detective games, but unfortunately most punish you for not following the developers’ train of thought. Act too clever or arrive at the same solution from a different angle and you’re slapped on the wrist for not sticking to the script. Phoenix Wright and L.A. Noire were notorious for this, while Hotel Dusk and Heavy Rain were far more forgiving, allowing you get back on track with a roundabout line of questioning.
The idea of Fell being too smart for his own good (and at times, to his own detriment) perfectly falls in line with the player’s own inventiveness. So having a game where you’re free in drawing your own conclusions, but having to know when to hold back information or lay it all down for the best sentencing would make for an intense balancing act; one that credits the player for being smart on their own accord.
Why isn’t a game, then? Fell was short-lived at 9 issues long, released sporadically over 3 years (2005-2008). It’s probably too much of a risk for such a dead comic, and Warren Ellis is either too busy rocking out with Grinderman (Edit: Not the same Warren Ellis!) or writing another book to check his emails.
What’s it about? Dex Parios is the sole proprietor of Stumptown Investigations, a P.I. agency based in Portland, OR. She’s perpetually stubborn, witty in the face of danger, and not afraid to get into a fight. She’s also damn good at solving mysteries, which is pretty useful as she’s in deep with the casinos, has to look after a brother with Down syndrome, and owns a Dodge that needs repairing on regular basis. But as much as she needs the money, she never gives up on a client and her cases usually shine light on the darker side of Portland; the one all but forgotten in the midst of a hipster boom.
How would it work as a game? I wasn’t a fan of Life is Strange, but that’s really down to me wanting a straightforward neo-noir set in the Pacific Northwest than a Donnie Darko homage with bad dialogue. However, its point and click/choice-and-consequence gameplay perfectly suits Stumptown and Dex herself (brilliantly written by Greg Rucka, a man who understands solid female characters). In the comics, she’s constantly strong armed by client compromises and her own addictions, so it would be nice to see a game where a modern day white knight is bent out of shape as loyalties to one person has a knock-on effect to others. Plus, the episodic nature would be ideal for standalone cases.
Why isn’t it a game, then? The straightforward detective game is a rare beast. It has to have a gimmick to work, to keep the player engaged and allow a broad audience to win. I’d love to see a no-frills experience happen, though, and the Portland backdrop has currently been refreshing mysteries in the media from Backstrom to Cold Weather and even the police procedural elements of Grimm. Look, I’m just obsessed with going to Portland at the moment, okay?
What’s it about? The near future: America has been torn apart by a second Civil War. Manhattan is now a demilitarised zone, with its poorest citizens trapped in a Westernised No Man’s Land. Reporter Matty Roth enters the zone to get the scoop of a lifetime, but ends up becoming the news as the DMZ heads towards revolution.
How would it work as a game? The Walking Dead and This War of Mine have both shown there’s an audience for moral choices and tough decisions. You could go either direction for DMZ, either as a Telltale adventure or as a survivalist scavenger hunt. Much like The Goon, this one writes itself with a rich lore without you knowing every little detail to buy in.
Why isn’t it a game, then? Eh, This War of Mine already exists and does an excellent job of highlighting war from a civilian perspective. Plus, The Division, which is basically all the action parts of DMZ in one condensed package, is on the way. Got to love Ubisoft for taking existing IPs and tweaking them enough to pretend it was their idea all along; see also: Watch_Dogs and Person of Interest.
What’s it about? Petty bitterness and primal urges threaten simple common sense when a town is invaded by identical naked alien women who just want to procreate. Trapped in a giant dome, a battle of the sexes erupts between its human cast. Their very survival depends on telling the men to keep it in their pants. Guess how that turns out.
How would it work as a game? Girls would be controversial as a video game, but played right, it wouldn’t be anything more shocking than what Catherine achieved with its sexual dilemmas. Video games shine when they’re allowed to be reflective of player interaction, even throwing back excuses for our Machiavellian nature. There’s a scene in The Walking Dead: Season One’s finale, where Clem’s kidnapper goes over the choices Lee has made, and at times, breaks the fourth wall. Think about it: Did you really save Carley over Doug because she had the gun, or because she was a potential love interest? Imagine a game like Girls having the same “don’t bullshit me” attitude as you doom a whole town with your virtual dick.
Why isn’t it a game, then? It’s a comic about naked alien women and the men who take advantage of them. Stark naked lady bits and all! As much as I’d love a game like Girls, it’s probably not going to be on Steam any time soon.
What’s it about? Several wronged people across America are given an offer by a mysterious old man named Agent Graves: One untraceable gun, 100 spare bullets, and a carte blanche for revenge. Some buy into it easily, others chew over the morality of it all, but those who impress Graves end up being taken under his wing and into a conspiracy that’s integral to the country’s violent history.
How would it work as a game? Despite the snappy title, 100 Bullets is more of a hardboiled thriller than an action series. It’s a saga where every pull of the trigger has a far reaching consequence, where loyalties shift, and just about every character struggles to see the bigger picture. When the violence does happen, it’s the end result of some messy choices and the gory outbursts are nasty periods at the end of every chapter. As a game, 100 Bullets would work best as a cocktail of third person shooting and tailored choices, much like Blues & Bullets. It would make for some nail-biting decisions and morality plays, where killing someone actually means something, good and bad.
Why isn’t it a game, then? Well, it’s not like someone hasn’t tried already. Personally, the cancelled game had it all wrong from the start. Yes, Cole Burns is probably the second famous character of the series, but that doesn’t make him a good fit for a shootbang protagonist. He’s actually the kind of shit stirrer you’d find on an episode of The Apprentice. Also, making 100 Bullets a generic third person shooter just takes the depth away from, in my mind, one of the best comic books ever made.
What’s it about? Cal McDonald is a junkie private eye and monster slayer for a bunch of ghouls living in the L.A. sewers. He’s a total badass, and this is before he gets wings.
How would it make a good game? Despite the umbrella title, The Cal McDonald Mysteries are usually solved with a lot of guns and even more painkillers. I can almost see a Max Payne-meets-Constantine shooter with moments of crime scene investigation and crazy demon boss fights. But mostly crazy demon boss fights.
Why isn’t it a game, then? Cal’s creator, Steve Niles, worked on F.E.A.R. 3, and I’m guessing that terrible game has scarred him for life. That, and as much as I love the series, it would have to be a stellar third person shooter to be remotely successful; something that’s gone the way of the B-tier developer.
What’s it about? Post-apocalyptic, rape and murder nightmare fuel, one that makes The Walking Dead look like a camping trip. Forget making any decisions, you’ve already been buggered and God knows what else.
How would it work as a game? I don’t know, try asking uber-fan and Community Manager, Occams Electric Toothbrush, because he’s a sick son of a bitch.
Why isn’t it a game, then? Because as I’ve already said, our Community Manager, Occams Electric Toothbrush, is a sick son of a bitch.
Right, enough about my choices, what comic would you like to see made into a game?