Halo Graphic Novel: The Interview
As you know by now, Bungie has been working for a while on a little thing we like to call the "Halo Graphic Novel." This hardcover book consists of four original stories set in the Halo universe along with a collection of awesome gallery pages, all contributed by some of the most talented artists and comic book writers in the world. We recently partnered with the fine folks at Marvel Comics to help us get the book published and into the hands of our fans. The graphic novel is expected to be in stores on July 12th with a suggested retail price of $24.99.
Last week a great two page preview of the Halo Graphic Novel was featured in the Wednesday edition of USA Today. If you missed the print version, the gist of the story (minus the great artwork) can be found on the USA Today Website.
Mike Snider, the reporter who wrote the piece, worked with Bungie and through our partner, Maria, to get a few questions answered by the team behind one of the stories in the upcoming book.
Simon Bisley (artist) and Lee Hammock (writer) are responsible for "The Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor", the largest of the four stories that make up the Halo Graphic Novel. This is a 44 page tale of the Elite Spec Ops Commander, Rtas Vadumee, who has been exiled by the Covenant for failing to kill Master Chief during the events of Halo 1.
Unfortunately, due to page constraints, only a portion of their responses were able to be included in the final piece. Lucky for us all, Mike at USA Today was kind enough to share the interviews in their entirety, which we're now sharing with you!
To what extent did you guys work together on the story and images for The Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor?
Lee Hammock: I worked out the basic flow of the story in script form, breaking down the action and dialogue as it flowed page by page, and Simon took that script and turned it into art. He chose how to break up and frame the action as according to his judgment as to what would look best. I looked over the art in various stages to make sure the story was clear, but I had little to say.
Simon had things well in hand.
Simon Bisley: Initially we worked very closely. At the very beginning of the project, Lee was able to comment on the first pages and thought they were fine. The stress was to make the characters look very much as they do in the game. Beyond that point I was given free reign to interpret the script and the action.
|The Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor is the primary story in the HGN, written|
by Lee Hammock and drawn by Simon Bisley.
Where you given the germ of the idea or did you select this yourselves?
Hammock: Originally I pitched a number of other stories set in the Halo universe in the hopes of getting a chance at writing one of the shorter stories, but instead I was selected to write the 48 page story that would be cornerstone of the book. This larger story had is basic concept determined beforehand by Bungie, but the specifics were determined by me. After finding out I'd be working with Simon, I made sure I wrote a script that I thought would go well with his art style, specifically including lots of brutal combat.
Bisley: No, it was pre-written and ordained for me, but it was designed to suit my strengths, I surmise.
Are you fans of Halo? Do you play actually play the games?
Hammock: I missed out on Halo when it first came out as I don't have an X-Box, but when the PC version came out I bought it immediately and blew through the game in short order. I've played it through four times since then, in addition to borrowing an X-Box from friends to play through Halo 2 several times as well. I'm not much into the player vs. player aspect of play, but I love the single player campaigns in both games.
I've also read several of the novels and got involved in the tail end of the www.ilovebees.com marketing campaign. It's a very interesting world with far more detail and continuity than most video game worlds.
Bisley: I wasn't even aware of Halo at the time, but after I accepted the assignment, I checked out both the game and the books and I loved it. I gave the game a go and found myself thoroughly absorbed by it, now I'm hooked.
Fundamentally, it's the physicality of the characters that interest me. The way they would move and interact. I love the textures and colors, especially the metallic elites against the very spongy organic Flood. The best of all ingredients: Steel, flesh, blood, and bones, all struggling against each other in a poetic, but extremely violent ballet.
|Breaking Quarantine, by Tsutomu Nihei, tells the story of Sgt. Johnson and his|
escape from the Flood after the events of Halo 1.
This is the longest story in the novel, can you say something about the challenges it posed?
Hammock: The main challenges I found in working on the "Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor" were balancing action and plot, writing the dialogue, and fitting everything in. The Halo universe is filled with action and the story has to have a large amount of violence and excitement to really fit, but at the same time have an interesting plot and characters who are more than simple perpetrators of violence. The action scenes had to not only be entertaining due to their excitement but also convey information about the plot and the characters. While it is the longest story, there weren't any pages to waste on scenes that did not forward the plot or develop the characters.
The dialogue presented an interesting problem because all the characters are aliens from a highly organized, hegemonic society. They give their ships names that seem strange, and talk in slightly archaic and formal sounding ways (except for the grunts). Making the Covenant characters sound appropriate, particularly the foolish and cowardly grunts was a real challenge.
Despite the fact it was the largest story in the book, I always felt like I didn't have enough room to do everything I wanted. I had to cut several scenes to make everything fit, but that's always true when working on a set length.
Usually when working on a licensed property like Halo, there are problems with making sure everything meets the approval of the licensee. Not so on this job. Bungie and our editor Maria Cabardo were both great in working with me to make sure the story meshes with the existing Halo continuity and was approved. The story had to only go through a handful of pretty basic revisions to get Bungie's stamp of approval.
Bisley: Interesting question...initially was not a challenge, I regarded it as a simple, black and white comic book, but when I began to color it, I realized the potential for me to have a -blam!-load of fun. I was left alone to do my thing, and I refused to compromise and did the best I could for the time given, which was supposed to be two months, but took a year. The original idea was for me to do pen and ink and simple color washes, but I decided to get in it, and render and paint the pages fully - as they deserved.
|Armor Testing, written by Jay Faerber and drawn by Ed Lee and Andrew|
Robinson, looks at the early development of Chief's MJOLNIR armor.
Simon, could you talk about your approach? It really feels like an action movie with the flow of the images in the story.
Sometimes I do nothing at all and attack the pages once I get in the mood. I have to muscle up some enthusiasm and get into the BLAMing thing in essence, to get into the mood of the thing. To transform a white page and manipulate paint and pigment into something. Illustrating violent action is not something you do on a nine-to-five, you have to grasp that moment when you're angst-ridden and the bills come in, and you really want to kick some -blam!- out.
So the action visually comes to you from inside and it comes out more real. And I love it.
Also, I've been told you have a rock band, what's the name of it.
I was in a metal band before, and I'm in a new band now called Bloodhammer as the drummer.
|Second Sunrise Over New Mombasa, written by Brett Lewis and drawn by|
Jean "Moebius" Giraud, is the story of the fall of New Mombasa.
Could you both comment on Halo as an environment or subject for graphic novel storytelling?
Hammock: The Halo universe is a very fertile universe for graphic storytelling due to the strong design of the visual elements of the game, such as Master Chief's MJOLNIR armor or the Covenant aliens, and the vast background Bungie created. For many of the same reasons the Halo games are so successful, the Halo world is ripe with opportunities for illustrated storytelling. There are countless stories yet to be told in the setting, and it's an honor to get to shape some part of the Halo universe.
Bisley: Once you get the fundamentals of the story and the design correctly given justice, it wasn't a hard thing to illustrate. In respect to that, my story was based on a very closed environment, so we didn't have too much of an expansion in form and distance but had a close-knit violence. In movie terms, it's the difference between 2001, which was slow and reflective, and Mad Max 1, where you have no time to think or reflect.
Now I'm looking forward to Halo 3 and I hope the fans enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed working on it.
Lee, tell the readers a little about your experience as a writer.
Hammock: Most of my writing credits are in role playing games, such as sourcebooks and such for Dungeons and Dragons. I've written for over thirty such supplements, and last year was nominated for an Ennie (one of the role playing game industry's big awards) for the game Dawning Star (www.dawningstar.com).
I've also worked at DC Comics, which I have also done some freelance work for writing custom comics (such as one for the video game Advent Rising). I also write trading card quotes and factoids for the Vs. Trading Card Game created by Upper Deck through DC. Currently I am the Content Manager and Lead Writer at Icarus Studios (www.icarusstudios.com), a video game company developing a massively multi-player role playing game called Fallen Earth (www.fallenearth.com)
Any last thoughts on the creation of the graphic novel?
Hammock: Maria Cabardo was instrumental every way to this project. She organized it every
step of the way, and did a wonderful job at every turn.
If you just can't get enough of the Graphic Novel, check out this brand new desktop wallpaper (courtesy of AGDTinMan) which features cover art by Phil Hale. Click the link for the size you need:
Stay tuned to Bungie.net for more information about the Halo Graphic Novel!