We are in the middle of a war. It is a war between three opposing sides, and it is a war that has been fought, in form or another, since the 1980s. The war is being fought not with bombs and bullets but with games and controllers, and the battleground is in your own living room. It’s the video game console wars, and while the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii are battling it out with competing announcements at this week’s E3 conference, the players are taking it to a new level in the pages of upcoming Image Comics release Next Gen Warz.
In the miniseries, cartoonist Ryan Kinnaird takes on these video game behemoths by putting them in the bodies of something more akin to booth babes. The two main characters are FoxBox630 and ESexy3; video game consoles come to life in female forms.
For Kinnaird, this two-issue series marks a return to comics after a years-long hiatus. Best known for his work on the Marvel miniseries X-Men: Phoenix – Legacy of Fire, Kinnaird's primary artistic outlet had been doing comics and illustrations for the video game magazine PSM. He’s been on the front lines in the video game war, and he’s taking that story to a titillating comedic conclusion in the pages of this new miniseries, set to debut on September 22.
Newsarama: Ryan, what can you tell us about Next Gen Warz?
Ryan Kinnaird: Essentially this story is my spoof on the eternally told video game console war going on currently. It's a two issue miniseries about a guy who's a hardcore gamer, but when his original next-gen console dies, he invests in a different one while his old one is being fixed. When the old one returns, the two rival "consoles" come into contact, and the battle begins. The big spin in the story is that the consoles are actually female characters, with competitive personalities, and a desire to be known as the best. The battle itself takes several of the tropes from the video game world, like fanboys, outspoken developers, and spin doctoring hardware manufacturers and has the consoles use that as ammunition against one another. The consoles battle to show who is most "giga," and demonstrate who is most desirable. In flame war-like fashion they summon developers and video game characters to help demonstrate their superiority.
Nrama: So will there be video game characters in the story?
Kinnaird: Yes and no. Being that this is a parody, the characters in the book are my spoof variation on some well known franchises and people of the video game world. There are no actual franchise characters, or real people in the book. Like the main female console characters, though, I continue the female embodiment design aspect when other characters show up. If you play games you'll get who the character is a spoof of; but has no connection, or affiliation with the actual franchises, I should point out.
Nrama: I can't help but notice how the lead characters' names (FoxBox630 and ESexy3) sound just like two popular game consoles out there. With your work on PSM giving us a little hint, what led you to creating this series?
Kinnaird: Well I'm a gamer, and I often like to read up on what's happening in the video game world. It's such a competitive field. Sometimes while reading the comments of a developer boasting about their game or berating someone else's product you can't help but laugh. There's true comedy in there. While working for PSM, who I did a bunch of comedic spot illos for, for a number of years, I got to dwell on the funny and ironic side of video games. I find the video game world is a faction that is not unlike politics or religion, in that the diehard followers will fight and argue to their graves before they allow someone to speak ill of their object of allegiance. I think of the next-gen war as the greatest insignificant battle ever conceived.
These aspects have always been rather amusing to me, and eventually an idea for a story started to form. When I was initially thinking of how to put it together, though, I originally was going to design actual box shape like consoles that would be the focus of the story. It was way too static though, reading about a couple hunks of inanimate plastic berating each other for any length of time wasn't all that interesting. This was about 2 years ago, and I had just read how the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) had done away with booth babes, and that particular show was one of the worst ever received. That’s when I thought to amalgamate a booth babe, with a console. It was a short trip though to that idea. While working for PSM magazine many years ago I had created a female mascot for PSM for a T-shirt, also for the San Diego Comic-Con one year, they had me create a image for a poster featuring a female character that was basically a female embodied Playstation 2. The pairing made for a much more interesting, and original read, I thought.
The idea gained enough momentum for me to start laying out some of the ideas into a story. I got 16 pages into it before I though it was just too goofy a concept to continue, so I shelved it, and had forgotten about it. Two years later I found myself digging though my pile of project folders and started reading it over again. Sometimes when you work on something you can get too close to it, and it can read differently to you, than it would to someone who's never worked on it. After two years I was able to look at the story with fresh eyes, finally, because I had forgotten most of what I had written, and I actually found myself chuckling during the reread. I thought then to give it another shot. Getting back into the story it was taking shape nicely. Originally it was only going to be a one-shot, but then got expanded to two issues.
Nrama: One console name I haven't heard about for this is Wii — is doing a parody character based on the Nintendo console just too easy?
Kinnaird: Heh, not at all. There's a parody of the Wii in the second issue. The main story is the conflict between FoxBox630 and ESexy3, but the "Gee" will show up later to throw in some extra wackiness.
Nrama: It's good to see you doing more comics, Ryan — last big project I remember for you was the Phoenix mini you did for Marvel back in 2003. What have you been up to?
Kinnaird: Since then I've worked on illustrations for Upperdeck's VS card game, as well as sketchcards for their Marvel Masterpieces series. I've worked on concept art for Soda Pop miniatures collectable figures. I've done work for DC licensing, as well as a few personal commissions.
In the short-term, I'll also be doing work with Sketchlords; It’s a project where six other artists and I will be creating original sketchcard art for a special card set.
Beyond that, I'm hoping to breathe life into other comic projects sitting on my project pile. Anybody that would like to catch up on my work can check out my deviant art page at http://ryankinnaird.deviantart.com/.
Nrama: It’s been a couple years since the comics public-at-large has seen your work, so I have to ask: are you approaching the art the same as you did on X-Men: Phoenix?
Kinnaird: For the most part, yes. I am doing a few things slightly differently, but I am still incorporating a lot of 3D elements. The incorporation of 3D is my own personal little battle, because it's a struggle to incorporate it while still making it look cohesive with the hand drawn elements. Everything that I do though I consider an experiment. I just hope the eye of the beholder finds some beauty.
I should also mention, the first issue has three different covers for it. Every book comes with two covers, the regular cover and a flip cover featuring either the ESexy3, or Foxbox630. I thought it would be cool for fellow gamers to be able to pick a flip cover that featured their favored console.