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The Night Warriors

There was a time when I regularly wrote about comic book adaptations of video games over at the Geek Force Network.  While that time has come and gone, you can still enjoy the numerous articles I penned about such media crossovers at the archives.  Here is one such post from those halcyon days, just in time for the spooky October season.

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.


It 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.  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!”

From 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.


As 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.

Besides 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.

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Favorite Comic Book Games, Pre-2000

Lately, most of my gaming time has been spent swinging through the pixelated byways of New York City. This is due to the latest title featured on my blog Games From the Box– Spider-Man for the original PlayStation.  I have excavated this gem from the treasure trove of games given to me by a good friend, doing whatever it is a spider can. SpiderManBox1 For the next two weeks, I will upload photos of the packaging, scans of the instruction manual, and some thoughts on the experience of playing as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  So please be sure to follow Games From the Box for all of the superhero antics!  In the meantime, enjoy this article from June 2014, where I highlight some choice comic book games from the past.

Excelsior, faithful readers of Geek Force Network!  I am taking a bit of a break from the usual analysis of comic book adaptations of video games to glimpse some of the better video game adaptations of comic books. Like most of the writers here on GFN, I have played quite a few video games over the course of my life.  Many of these glorious digital distractions have been related to the sequential art I so enjoy.  So for the next three posts, I would like to take a selfish diversion and cover my favorite video games based on comic book properties. For the first of these articles, let’s take a short jump back in time to the last millennium.  A place where video games were just starting to exist on compact discs and major comic book publishers had not made the leap to a digital medium.  An era of licensed video games that didn’t suck super-hard was in full swing, and we the players reaped the benefits.  Obvious classics like the X-Men arcade game and Marvel vs. Capcom were the top dogs of the virtual battlefield.  But this grizzled gamer would like to highlight some great comic book games that made his day back in the 20th century. BatmanReturns1 Batman Returns- Super Nintendo Entertainment System The years have not been kind to the beat ‘em-up genre.  A once great style of games has fallen thanks to a shift to the third-dimension; relegated to emulators and the occasional XBLA/PSN release.  Even worse, all of the licensed beat ‘em-ups of the 1990s have fallen off the map because of legal matters (hence why the Simpsons and X-Men are no longer on XBLA).  But once upon a time, the home consoles caught up to their superior arcade cousins and amazing games were made as a result. BatmanReturns2 Like so many comic book movies of the 1990s, Batman Returns had several different video game adaptations.  The version I remember most was on the Super Nintendo.  A traditional left-to-right beat ‘em-up, Batman Returns stood out due to its gorgeous artwork and an excellent soundtrack.  Highly detailed sprites of each member of the Red Triangle Gang battled with the Dark Knight, while photogenic cut scenes fleshed out the story in-between missions.  Top it all off with vehicle levels where the player takes control of the Batmobile, and you have an excellent comic book game. TMNT1 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time- SNES and Arcade Years of television, movies, toys, and kids’ cereals have been the identity for Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo. and Donatello.  The fearsome foursome have made their mark on so many forms of media that the average person forgets that these turtles started as comic book vigilantes.  So when it comes to the numerous video games featuring these warrior reptiles, all of the titles are technically comic book adaptations. TMNT2 If it isn’t obvious by now, I grew up as a fanatic of TMNT.  So when the Super Nintendo came to our house, it was only a matter of time until the Turtles came home too.  My brother and I became experts at Turtles in Time; playing through every level on maximum difficulty, never losing a life.  But it wasn’t until our local Putt-Putt Golf received their Turtles in Time machine that we were truly challenged.  I had no idea that arcade games could provide a wholly different experience from their home console cousins until I encountered this game.  Many quarters were spent and a lesson was learned on that day. SpiderMan1 Spider-Man – Sony PlayStation I fully admit that picking a game from the year 2000 is cheating for this list, but I simply can’t leave this one out.  While this title didn’t evoke the same open-world web-swinging of later games, Spider-Man and his comic book ilk had their time to shine on the original PlayStation. Using the same engine as Tony Hawk Pro Skater, this game features our friendly neighborhood web-slinger battling the bulk of his rogues gallery across New York.  There are tons of hidden costumes and trivia bits to unlock over the course of play, and Stan Lee himself narrates the entire experience.  Even though numerous Spider-Man games had come and gone before the year 2000, this one felt like the first to really tap into the vein of comic book fun. SpiderMan2 And there you have it, my favorite comic book games from the last millennium.  While this list certainly isn’t comprehensive (looking at you Cap’n and the Avengers), it at least covers the titles for which I am most nostalgic.  I would love to recommend some legitimate means to play these games, but thanks to aggressive licensing agreements, most of them will never see a re-release.  So my best advice is to scour pawn shops and yard sales for the actual games, and when all else fails, seek out more creative means *cough-cough-emulators-cough*. In the meantime, please leave your favorite pre-2000 comic book games in the comments!  I look forward to seeing all the joyful nostalgia that extends beyond the printed page to the digital age.

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A Link to the Past Comic Getting Reprinted?!

Over 20 years has passed since the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past comic graced the pages of Nintendo Power.  A stand-alone graphic novel was released after the series run in 1993, but this gem from Shotaro Ishinomori has become something of an expensive rarity among collectors.  It seemed like the only way to enjoy this comic would be through online viewings or paying high bids in digital auctions, until now. LttPReprint Viz Media announced that they will be reprinting this fantastic classic and releasing it in May 2015.  It’s already available for preorder at Amazon.  In honor of this good news, please enjoy this post I wrote for the Geek Force Network, originally published in November 2013.

As someone who works a dreary desk job, I will often spend my breaks scouring the internet, looking for interesting sites to pass the time.  Earlier this year, I found a fantastic Tumblr blog which serves as an archive of video game magazines.  Old Game Magazines features high quality scans of covers and articles from the glory days of print gaming media (read: the 1990s).  Over the last few weeks, this Tumblr page has focused on scans from my favorite gaming magazine, Nintendo Power.  Along with the extensive strategy guides and fold-out posters that came standard every month, there was a period of time when comics were printed on the pages of this classic publication.  These paneled stories were serialized over several issues and were normally tied to the release of a big Nintendo property, such as Super Mario World or Star Fox.  Since a direct sequel for the SNES classic is looming over the horizon for 3DS owners, now is a prime time to have a look at the Link to the Past comic from Nintendo Power. LinktothePast2 First published in January of 1992 (issue 32 of NP), the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was written and drawn by Shotaro Ishinomori.  A famous manga artist, Ishinomori broke into the industry working as an assistant to animation legend, Osamu Tezuka.  The story goes that in 1955, Ishinomori entered an art contest for the magazine Manga Shonen while he was still in high school.  Impressed with the student’s work, Osamu Tezuka contacted Ishinomori, asking him to become an assistant on the hugely popular Astro Boy.  After years of work as an assistant, Ishinomori branched out on his own and went on to create several famous series, such as Cyborg 009 and Kamen Rider.  Through his impressive body of work, Ishinomori successfully established an entire genre of “transforming” superhero media, and his accomplishments have been honored by numerous outlets around the world. LinktothePast3 For the Link to the Past comics, Ishinomori focused on the story of the game, in which a young boy becomes entangled in a quest that would transform him into a hero of legend.  Unlike the mostly mute hero of the video games, the Link of this comic starts out as something of a clumsy, inexperienced kid who has plenty to say.  While not exactly prepared to defeat an ancient evil, Link does possess a plucky courage that causes him to run blindly into a stormy night to save a woman he has never even met.  The general plot of the video game is mostly unchanged in the comic, save for some minor enemy details and quite a bit of flourish on the locations in the game world.  The core story of Link acquiring the Master Sword and traveling to the Dark World to defeat Ganon and save Zelda remains, albeit with several new characters and encounters. LinktothePast4 Probably the two most notable additions to the cast of characters are a headstrong young knight and a feisty fairy, named Roam and Epheremelda respectively.  Roam serves as a sort of rival character for Link, even though the two share the similar goal of killing Ganon.  A master of archery, Roam is a descendant of the Knights of Hyrule who fought to imprison Ganon many years ago.  Even though he regularly shows up to harass and test Link on his quest, Roam’s efforts in finding the Silver Arrow directly aid in Ganon’s defeat.

Epheremelda is a fairy who Link manages to save from a band of monsters once he arrives in the Dark World.  Grateful for his rescue (and crushing on him hard), the young fairy agrees to accompany Link and help him on his quest.  What is particularly interesting about Epheremelda is that no such fairy guide existed in A Link to the Past, but the idea of a helper sprite would become a recurring piece of the Zelda universe thanks to Navi in Ocarina of Time.  It seems that Ishinomori was a bit of a forward thinker for the Legend of Zelda games.

The artwork is extremely impressive in the Link to the Past comics.  Most of the character models would be right at home in Ishinomori’s other works, with expressive anime-style features and minimal line work.  Certain designs are even taken directly from previous Ishinomori models, such as Roam who was based on the character Jet Link from Cyborg 009.  The backgrounds range from dynamic splash images for action scenes to highly detailed environments that set the mood for every scene.  The color work is extremely striking throughout the entire series.  Ishinomori uses a sort of watercolor-style technique, where shading and elemental effects are accomplished through gradual color changes instead of bold lines.  The result is a mood of epic fantasy that suits the comic quite nicely. LinktothePast5 Once the series had completed its run in Nintendo Power, all of the comics were collected and published as a graphic novel in 1993.  Now a highly prized collector’s item, this standalone version was once being sold in a bundle at the back of Super Power Supplies catalogs for the unbelievably low price of $25.  I have no idea why I never coerced my parents into getting that bundle for me as an obligatory Christmas gift.  Knowing me, I was probably too busy playing Donkey Kong Country at the time, and just assumed that since I had the issues of Nintendo Power with the comics, that was good enough.  As an adult whose video game magazines are all in storage at my parents’ house, I would love to have such an outstanding video game comic at my disposal.  Oh well, I will just take solace in fantastic sites like Old Game Magazines and spend hours pouring over my computer screen at the printed pages of the past.

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Geek Force Network and U-Pick Video Game Marathon

One of my favorite things about video games is their ability to bring people together.  On a basic level, multiplayer titles encourage players to work towards a mutual goal in a virtual space, but there is so much more that games can accomplish.  Individual experiences with games can pull complete strangers together to share their stories and make new bonds.  Emotional tales and powerful messages within games can inspire groups of players to change the world for the better.  Over the course of my own life, video games have been the common link to so many amazing moments and people, and this week I have the pleasure to share two pieces of news on that front.


I have officially joined the Geek Force Network!  Described as, “collection of great writers, podcasters and video producers who gravitate toward all things geek,” the GFN is an excellent to place to visit daily for all sorts of fantastic content.  I will be posting every Monday on the particularly geeky pairing of video games and comic books.  Every week, I will cover a comic book/series and the history behind it.  I will also take a look at the stories contained within the pages, and see if they serve as an expansion to the universe, a loving tribute, or a blatant cash-grab to my favorite hobby.  The first post is already live, so please take a look and be sure to check out the other excellent contributors to the Geek Force Network!


In the past, I have talked about the importance of charity and giving what you can to those in need.  Here is a perfect opportunity to do just that.  The U-Pick Video Game Marathon is now taking donations!  The brain child of my friend Stephonee, the U-Pick Marathon is a chance for people to fund water projects in struggling nations and watch a bunch of goofballs play tons of video games.  For 48 hours at the end of December, the crew at the U-Pick will play the games selected by our donors and broadcast a live-stream of all the gameplay!  While the broadcast is a few months away, donations and selections from our eclectic list of games can be made right now.  Please take a look, donate a few bucks, and tune-in later this year to watch my friends and I play video games for a great cause.

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