In their effort to expand the reader base of their ShiftyLook webcomic initiative, Namco Bandai brought a row of talent, a pile of free t-shirts and some breaking news to one of the cozier panel rooms of C2E2 2012.
The host of the panel, Producer & Editor-in-Chief, Rob Pereyda, described ShiftyLook as a place where Namco Bandai can “make something cool” out of their deep library of arcade titles. That cool thing is a series of semi-weekly updated webcomics that take place in the worlds of nearly forgotten video games. Pereyda continued on to explain that while ShiftyLook comics are already viewable on any home or mobile platform, work has commenced on an app that will not only deliver the comics but allow their readers to buy both classic and new games that the comics are based on.
Two new comics were announced at the panel. The first is Rapid Thunder, based on the arcade title Rolling Thunder, which will be written by Jimmy Palmiotti (All-Star Western) with art by Juan Santacruz (Hulk: Broken Worlds), in association with Cryptozoic Entertainment. The strip will expand on the game's basic side scrolling action by telling a 'sexy-tough spy story with a sense of humor' using the characters and locations of the game as a jumping off point. It is set to launch in May of 2012.
The other new title due that same month is Wonder Momo: Battle Idol, based on the Wonder Momo arcade game that was released only in Japan. This story of a wanna-be teen sensation gifted with superpowers to fight off an alien invasion. It will be written by Erik Ko (Street Fighter) and Jim Zub (Skullkickers) with art by UDON's Omar Dogan.
Pereyda also reviewed the roster of existing comics for the attendees. Xevious by Mike Costa (Transformers) with artist Mike Norton (Runaways) tells a sci-fi action story of pilots attempting to repel an alien invasion in South America. In attendance Costa and Norton shared the degree of research that went into their work, how they explored the game's visuals for clues as to its setting and their on going search for a very rare Namco soundtrack collection CD that was only released in Japan that contains a Rosetta Stone for deciphering the alien language used in the game.
Sky Kid by Jim Zub, art by Jeffrey Cruz (Street Fighter: Legends Chun-Li) takes the 1985 side scrolling arcade game literally and casts its anthropomorphic animal characters into a World War I 'Knights of the Sky' style story.
Bravoman, based on the brawler of the same name is by Matt Moylan (Transformers) with art by Dax Gordine is a robotic superhero satire.
The Five-Dimensional Adventures of Dirk Davies, based on the multi-directional shooter Warp & Warp, by Ben McCool (Pigs) and Dean Haspiel (The Quitter) takes the choppy, basic gamplay of the arcade title and interprets it as time-traveling hard-boiled detective story where homicides can be undone by killing the murderers.
The cyborg-samurai comic Scar, which trades the source game's (Genpei Tomaden) supernatural element with science fiction is written by Edmund Shem and drawn by Skan Srishuan.
Alien Confidential: Black & White, written by Sharon Scott (More Than Mortal) , art by Andrew Pepoy (Green Lantern: Circle of Fire) is a Men In Black style story of sci-fi secret agents.
Finally there is Rocket Fox by UDON's Stacy King and Shane Law, a new cute-animal slapstick humor title based on an upcoming game that will be released soon for mobile platforms.
Rob Pereyda then revealed the “ShiftyLook Party Kits,” boxes of posters, stickers, an exclusive T-Shirt and a logoed thumb drive that will be available for comic retailers and internet cafes to help host their own ShiftyLook event. The floor was then opened to questions.
A Sky Kid fan asked if the strip will also someday cover modern aerial combat. Pereyda empathized that it will stick with its WWI focus.
Asked if there were plans to make comics based on other, non-game, proprieties Pereyda made it clear that the games are the primary source material.
Another fan asked how the decision is made how a classic game is interpreted into a comic. Pereyda described the process of cooperation ShiftyLook has with the classic game in question’s original creative team and that they do not proceed without it, even though Namco Bandai holds all the rights.
On plans to adapt better known Namco Bandai properties like Dig Dug, Pereyda teased the audience to stay tuned to the site.
On plans to distribute the comics via Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network, Pereyda joked about the difficultly in reading comics on a TV and reminded the audience of the upcoming ShiftyLook app which will include the new games like Rocket Fox.
A member of the audience polled the writers on the panel and asked about the challenge of adapting their writing style to the webcomic format. Jimmy Palmiotti first joked about how clogged with word balloons his first strips were, but he learned quickly and got into a groove. Mike Costa said it was all about knowing that you only have four panels, knowing how many beats you have and learned to consider each comic like a a single page in a regular book. Ben McCool emphasized the challenge of making each comic its own little story and shared the fact that the shortened format made storytelling more exciting.
Lastly, a fan asked the panel what comics they'd like their strips to cross over with, if ever given the chance. McCool would like to cross Bravoman with the new Momo comic, Costa would like to see the aerial action of Xevious and Sky Kid cross over. Jimmy Palmiotti joked that he'd have his Rapid Thunder characters take a lot of drugs and see all of the craziness.Check out all these titles at the Shiftylook official site.