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Nice comic, but is it manga?

In 2005, when manga was the Next Big Thing, a lot of things got called manga that weren’t. But those days are long gone, so it was surprising when this popped up: The Official Firefall Manga, a comics tie-in to the online multiplayer FPS game. The comic looks decent enough, but why call it manga?

It doesn’t appear to be Japanese — the comic is by sci-fi novelist Orson Scott Card and his daughter Emily Janice Card and produced by the Canadian publisher Udon. No artist is credited, but this whole thing looks mighty North American to me.

Nor is the comic in “manga style” — OK, OK, we all know there is no single manga style, but non-Japanese comics that are labeled “manga” usually do hew to a certain set of conventions that includes big eyes, speed lines and sweatdrops. That’s not how this comic is drawn, and furthermore, it’s in color, which manga seldom is. Admittedly, there is one manga flourish in the page above: The three panels on the right that call out little details of the scene. But that isn’t uniquely Japanese; I have seen it in plenty of other comics.

So it’s hard to see what the marketing advantage was to calling this thing manga. The natural audience is people who play the game, or who play similar games, and for them, the draw is going to be the game tie-in, not the word “manga.” It’s a nice little comic but it probably won’t make much sense to anyone else. And anyone who finds it on a Google search for “manga” is going to be sorely disappointed. Just call it what it is — a comic.

It’s a comic! It’s a game! It’s a duck!

One of the pleasanter surprises of C2E2 was meeting Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, the creator of one of my favorite webcomics, All Knowledge Is Strange. Goodbrey is a past winner of the Isotope Mini-Comic Award, and he was at C2E2 to promote First Comics’ print edition of his Necessary Monsters (co-created with Sean Azzopardi). But he had something else to show me: A Duck Has an Adventure, his Android game, which uses comics elements in a choose-your-own-adventure type of format.

The game unfolds as a series of panels, and occasionally the reader is given a choice–go to college? date the girl? It’s a bit like the Game of Life reduced to its iconic form (and with a significant infusion of wit–Goodbrey is a very funny guy, in that dry, British sort of way).

“I tried to simplify the language of comics so you consume each panel really quickly,” Goodbrey said, and indeed, he does strip the images down to their basic components. The story gets more complex as you go, though, and eventually [SPOILER!] the duck meets an alternate version of itself and the two have to decide whether to work together or fight. “The more you play, the more it becomes like a puzzle experience—you figure out how to get more parts of the story to unlock,” Goodbrey said.

Although Goodbrey allows the reader to collect achievements and hats, there isn’t a lot of shooting or other skill involved; A Duck Has an Adventure reminded me of a digital version of Jason Shiga’s Meanwhile. It’s a good example of one of the many new directions digital comics can go in, with a single story having multiple branches. While the duck will set you back 99 cents, Goodbrey has another comic with a similar structure, Jack’s Abstraction, that is available for free.

Talking with Jim Zub, Part 2: What’s up with Shifty Look?

In addition to writing the standout comics Skullkickers and Makeshift Miracle, Jim Zubkavich is an avid gamer and an editor at UDON Entertainment, which publishes comics and graphic novels based on games. So it’s only natural that he would be involved in Shifty Look, a new project from Bandai Namco Games, the creator of classic games like Pac-Man and, more recently, the Naruto Shippuden game. Jim will be one of a number of creators who will be turning classic characters into webcomics… But let’s let him tell us about it.

Robot 6: Can you explain what Shifty Look is all about?

Jim: Shifty Look is an experimental new website put together by video game/media giant Namco-Bandai. They have dozens and dozens of intellectual properties in their vaults and a lot of that material hasn’t been utilized in many years.

Rob Pereyda and some of his colleagues at Namco had this brilliant idea to use a bit of seed money and see if they could refresh/reinvigorate old content in a way that wouldn’t cost a ton but could also have impact. They struck upon the concept of webcomics and brought the UDON studio on board.

We went through lists of old IPs and did a bunch of research. Some of these titles were never released in North America, some hadn’t been used at all since the 80’s… but it’s a whole new world now. Properties that might have seemed “too Japanese” back then are a perfect fit for the modern manga-reading North American audience. Other games had a visual hook we could turn into something new or even just a title that sounded like it had potential.

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NYCC | A round-up of Saturday news

Avengers Assemble

Saturday at the New York Comic Con brought news for the Avengers, Superman, Legendary Comics and … Disney’s Prep & Landing? Here’s a round-up of announcements from the show today.

• With a big, blockbuster Avengers movie scheduled for next May, Marvel announced a new ongoing series, Avengers Assemble, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley. The book will launch next March and will feature most of the Avengers featured in the movie — Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye and the Hulk. The first arc will feature the villainous group the Zodiac.

• Speaking of that big, blockbuster Avengers movie, fans were treated to new footage from it featuring Bruce Banner and the Black Widow. Tom Hiddleston spoke to CBR about his work on the film.

• Marvel also announced that writer Rick Remender and artist Gabriel Hardman will take over Secret Avengers with issue #21.1, adding new members and pitting them against a new Masters of Evil.

At the Cup O’ Joe panel today, Marvel also announced a Disney/Marvel crossover — Prep & Landing: Mansion: Impossible. It features the elves from the Disney television special who prepare homes for the arrival of Santa Claus every Christmas eve — only this time they’re trying to break into Avengers Mansion to get it ready for Santa. Written by director Kevin Deters and drawn by story artist Joe Mateo, the story will run in the back of the Marvel Adventures books as well as Avengers #19 in November.

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Zubkavich and Dogan do Mafia Wars 2 comic on Facebook

Jim Zubkavich is a busy guy these days. The Skullkickers writer has just relaunched his webcomic Makeshift Miracle with a new storyline and a new artist, and last week he announced a project with a very different tone: A comic based on the soon-to-be-released Mafia Wars 2 game, illustrated by Omar Dogan.

Mafia Wars 2 is a Facebook game, and here’s the rub: To read the comic you have to not only “Like” Mafia Wars 2 on Facebook but also allow MW2 to have access to your profile. Which, if you’re already involved with the game, shouldn’t be a problem, but it still skeeves me out a bit. So I didn’t take that last step.

Game comics are not usually my thing, but I enjoyed Zubkavich and Dogan’s previous collaboration, Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki, and I’d like to check this one out. I get the logic that the way to promote a Facebook game is on Facebook, but making the game accessible only from the app greatly reduces its effectiveness as a way to bring new people in. Still, if you’re already there, it’s probably worth checking out. As for me, I’m just going to check out the newest page of Makeshift Miracle, because even without Facebook apps, there’s plenty of Zub to go around.

Magic: The Comic to debut this fall from IDW

It’s been a big week for the trading-card game Magic: The Gathering. Let’s recap:

On Monday, Gizmodo intern Alyssa Bereznak briefly took the crown as most despised person on Twitter when she revealed that she was matched up with Jon Finkel on a computer date and rejected him once she learned that he was a former M:TG world champion. This got Bereznak a ton of hate Tweets and Finkel a lot of sympathy on geek and mainstream blogs.

On Wednesday, Dark Horse released The Last Dragon, a truly gorgeous fairy tale-style fantasy illustrated by M:TG artist Rebecca Guay.

And Thursday, IDW Publishing announced it’s teaming up with Hasbro to launch a Magic: The Gathering comic book. It’s not the first M:TG comic (here’s a list), but it is the first in more than 10 years. The series launches with a four-issue miniseries about “a unique, new Planeswalker, a powerful mage with the ability to travel between worlds in the Magic Multiverse,” which of course allows for lots of flexibility when it comes to stories. Game designer Matt Forbeck is writing the comic, and Martín Cóccolo will handle the art. The comic will be available digitally as well as in print, and it will be collected into graphic novels. And naturally —y ou know they had to do this — it comes with “exclusive, playable, alternate-art cards for the MAGIC: THE GATHERING TCG,” in “select issues” of the comic.

Just … if you read it, be sure to mention that in your computer dating profile, or you might be accused of being a stealth geek. On the other hand, that apparently isn’t all bad.

Penny Arcade and PvP creators team up for new comic

Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, creators of Penny Arcade, and PvP creator Scott Kurtz have begun collaborating on a webcomic even more off-mainstream than the ones they are working on now. Those comics were just about gamers, but The Trenches, which debuted last week and updates on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is a comic about a game tester. To sweeten the deal for the target audience, the blog will feature true-life adventures sent in by readers who are game testers themselves. It seems like narrowcasting, but the humor in the opening episodes seems to be fairly broad, so maybe it won’t be as tech-y as it first sounds.

SDCC ’11 | Ape to release Cut the Rope comic based on game

Following on the success of its Pocket God comic, which was one of the top book apps of 2010, Ape Entertainment is doing another digital comic based on an iOS game: Cut the Rope. Like Pocket God, Cut the Rope will be a standalone app (although Pocket God is also available through iVerse’s Comics+ reader). No talent was announced, but the art here and in the slightly longer preview at Mashable looks more than competent.

Play the Foiled board game: It’s ‘Candy Land, but evil’

The "Foiled" board game

The "Foiled" board game

Forget trailers or Twitter accounts for fictional characters or MySpace pages. The next great trend in comics promotion just may be board games. Okay, maybe not. But you have to admit, this board game for Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro’s new graphic novel Foiled is pretty neat. (Michael May reviewed Foiled for Robot 6 earlier this week.)

On the First Second Books blog, Marketing Coordinator Gina Gagliano writes that the game has been described at the imprint’s offices as “Candy Land, but evil.” (For a truly evil children’s board game, see Uncle Wiggily. Terrifying.)

Gagliano notes that the game, which is based on the plot of Foiled, has been sent to booksellers “far and wide.” There’s even talk that Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn may organize a game-playing session as part of its Free Comic Book Day activities. However, you don’t have to wait: You can download a printable version of the game from the Macmillan website.

Straight for the WTF?! | Hellboy online slot machine

Three frog men in a row and you win the prize

Three frog men in a row and you win the prize

This is either one of the best or worst licensing ideas I’ve ever seen. I’m tempted to go for the latter. Apparently this is not a hoax, dream or imaginary story, but an actual gambling game you can play at various Vegas casinos. How do you play it?

The Wild symbol of the game is the Hellboy logo, which substitutes for all other symbols except for the Scatter and all Wild wins are doubled. The Scatter symbol is none other than Hellboy’s red, boulderous Right Hand of Doom which pays any across the pay-lines. When the Right Hand of Doom thunders 3, 4 or 5 symbols across all the reels, the “Underworld” multi-level bonus game is triggered. Follow Hellboy as he travels down into the cavernous depths of Hades as he searches for his missing team members, traversing the four levels of the Underworld to reach the Chamber of Fire and retrieve the hidden, holy Relic of Power –kicking some serious monster-butt all the way!

Well that made no sense at all. I wonder if a BPRD game is in the works as well. (link and image via)

You either die a hero or live to breakdance

Here’s a fun time-waster — an interactive YouTube game where a click of the mouse lets you decide who busts the better move: The Joker or Batman? (via Topless Robot)

Sign up for the Champions Online open beta

5448champions_comicThe folks at Atari and Cryptic Studios sent over some information on Champions Online, their upcoming massive multiplayer online role-playing game based on the pen-and-paper role-playing games.

You can head over to their website to sign up for the beta, which is now open; you’ll have to sign up for an account on the website first, though. Click on “beta preview” in the upper right-hand corner to sign up.

Here’s the description of the game:

Based on the award winning Champions setting from the HERO System of pen & paper role playing games Champions! taps into the rich universe of heroes and villains with unparalleled intrigue and adventure. One of the coolest elements the game offers is the unique character customization tool the player can create their own characters as one-of-a-kind superheroes, where gamers can choose from thousands of costumes, body types, power sets, and character appearances. Furthermore, while players transform into the ultimate hero, the Nemesis system lets Champions Online’s powerful customization tools craft an enemy of the extreme opposite, a villain of nightmares. The story of Champions Online is constantly changing, continually evolving. Villains are defeated. Heroes rise and fall. Cities transform. Your actions may decide the future!

I never played the old school pen-and-paper version, but I remember the comic from Eclipse that featured Foxbat, who apparently is in the online version as well.

Unthinkable ARG: ‘Director’s Commentary,’ part one



Editor’s note: It’s not often you get to say something like “This post was almost delayed due to government intervention.” But over the weekend, while traveling from Los Angeles to New York, Unthinkable writer Mark Sable was detained by the Transportation Safety Administration after a random luggage search turned up a script for his BOOM! Studios series.

“Nothing like starting the day explaining you’re not a terrorist, but writing about them,” he said on Twitter. “Just hope TSA writes a spoiler free review for Unthinkable.”

Luckily for us, TSA let him go and he made his flight. If they hadn’t, I might not have been able to post the first part of his “director’s commentary” on the alternate reality game, or ARG, that he and BOOM! conducted in March to help promote Unthinkable. In this first post, Mark introduces the book and the ARG concept, and walks us through the first mission.

Also, if you’re in New York, be sure to stop by Jim Hanley’s Universe this Wednesday, when the first issue comes out, as Mark and cover artist Paul Azaceta will be there from 6 to 8 p.m. signing it.


By Mark Sable, writer/creator of Unthinkable

What is Unthinkable?

Unthinkable, my new comic from BOOM! Studios, is the fictional spy thriller rooted in the real world. After 9/11, the reaction of many was that this was something “out of a Tom Clancy novel.” Our government took it seriously, and commissioned a think tank made up of thriller writers. Their goal: to come up with worst-case terror scenarios, so that we could devise ways to stop them before the terrorists even had a chance to plot them.

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Join the Wolfpack and do the Unthinkable

Join the Wolfpack

Join the Wolfpack

To help promote their recently solicited title Unthinkable by Mark Sable and Julian Totino Tedesco, BOOM! Studios has launched an Altered Reality Game at The Wolfpack, it seems, is a Blackwater-type organization that “provides security for a variety of clients, from public high schools and churches to doctors and diplomats providing aid in warzones. We protect oil refineries and refugee camps alike. Whether you are a single cub or a large yet vulnerable herd, we can meet all your security needs. Thus, our motto: The Strength of The Wolf is The Pack.”

I signed up at the site, and it said the game kicks off March 9 — so sign up before then to play.

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