Ricardo Sanchez on Wildstorm's Resident Evil

Ricardo Sanchez on Resident Evil

Resident Evil #1, variant cover

Ricardo Sanchez is no stranger to video games and the way they’ve spread into other media forms. He worked as one of the heads of the game subscription service Gametap. He has worked on the online animated series Re Visioned: Tomb Raider, with the likes of Warren Ellis and many other comic and video game creators. He also has a substantial collection of classic toys and figures, purely as a way to establish more geek cred.

Now, he is writing an all-new story in the Resident Evil universe as part of WildStorm’s ever-expanding video game comic line. The six issue series launched in March, and we caught up with Sanchez for the inside scoop on games, comics, reimaginings, and of course this project in particular.

Newsarama: Your first comic that you're writing is on a property whose games have sold tens of millions of copies. Is that intimidating? Exciting?

Ricardo Sanchez: I think terrifying and exhilarating are the two words that would best describe getting the assignment. You rightly point out that as a franchise, it is one of the best known games of the 3d age and there are millions of people familiar with either the games or the movies. Getting to work on IP of that caliber, well, it’s an honor, especially for my first comic book. And it is really daunting! A lot of expectations to live up to. I’ve previously worked on projects with other well known IP though, the ReVisioned: Tomb Raider animated series being the most significant, and that experience helped a lot.

NRAMA: What about Resident Evil as a franchise appeals to you specifically?

RS: The horror. Although the type of horror has changed a lot over time. With the first game, the appeal was absolutely the classic B-movie horror aspect. The game was legitimately scary, but it also had a touch of shlock to it, which I really enjoyed being a huge fan of EC’s horror books. But by the time I’d gotten to RE4, or even the remake of RE1, the games became a lot more serious and the horror component a lot more graphic, taking on more of a cinematic quality. I’m a huge fan of horror movies too, so getting to play out a horror movie was an awesome experience.

Resident Evil #1

NRAMA: What's your personal favorite Resident Evil moment? A moment that you aspire to reach the same level of excitement, fear, or discovery?

RS: Well, the favorite moment question is easy. The first time the Cerberus came through the window in RE1. Keep in mind that the closest thing to Resident Evil back in 1996 was the Alone in the Dark series, which was really creepy, but lacked the scares that RE1 delivered. It also wasn’t delivered on a platform that could deliver the visuals that the PS1 could deliver. I actually went back and tried to play through the original PS1 version of the game before starting on the comic and couldn’t get very far, it hasn’t aged well, but at the time there was just nothing like the atmosphere or frights that Resident Evil delivered. There’s no question that the series has gotten much better since then, so my favorite moment is as much about the time and place as it was the game itself.

The second part of your question is a lot harder to answer. When I got the assignment, I spent a ton of time going back and playing all my Resident Evil games, re-familiarizing myself with the plots, characters and atmosphere. I also read a bunch of game comics to see how they’d handled the leap from game to comic. I ultimately came to the conclusion that, for the most part, trying to re-create a game experience in comic form just won’t work. There is no way I can create the tension and sudden breaking of tension of a cerberus crashing through a window that you get in the game, in comic book format. With comics, or fiction for that matter, you can convey a sense of horror, or tension, but you can’t really scare somebody like you can with a game. So I focused on the other aspect of the games that I loved, especially in the more recent titles, the unraveling of what’s really going on beyond the zombie attacks. That is something you can do exceedingly well with a comic book. With the mini-series, I’m trying to tell a story that captures the horror of running out of ammo and encountering a horde of zombies, while wrapping those moments in clues to the big picture.

NRAMA: You have a long history with games, helping run the PC/Mac game subscription service GameTap, but what is your personal history with comics?

Resident Evil #2

RS: The very first comic book I ever got was for my birthday in October 1977. An older cousin bought if for me. At the time I was familiar with comic book characters from TV, mainly Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and my favorite, Wonder Woman, but had never really read any comic books. The book my cousin gave me had a flaming guy with a skull head on a fiery motorcycle about to run down a sinister looking dude in red spandex and a blue cape. It was Ghost Rider #26 and it literally blew my 7 year old mind. I liked Batman well enough, but this was awesome! I became a rabid comic book reader, and ended up getting the entire run of that first Ghost Rider series, which I still have today. As a kid, Micronauts, Shogun Warriors, Rom the Space Knight and Doctor Strange were the foundation of my comic reading experience.

Since then I’ve drifted in and out of comic books. But even during my lulls, when I wasn’t making it down to the local comic book shop on a regular basis, my collection has followed me from apartment to apartment and coast to coast. The first volume of Ghost Rider has traveled over 15,000 miles with me.

Swamp Thing, and then Hellblazer, are two series I’ve stayed connected with. Animal Man, all the way through to the end, had a big impact on me, so I was thrilled when he showed up in 52. Kirby’s The Demon and Fourth World are also books I frequently re-read.

NRAMA: Getting back to Resident Evil, how closely does this comic fit into the overall continuity of the games? What kind of support did you get from Capcom to fit it into the timeline?

RS: How closely does this comic fit into the overall continuity of the games? Short answer: It doesn’t. At least not much. As we were working on ideas for the series, we went through a bunch of ideas for different characters at different times in the series history. Ultimately we decided not to make use of any of the existing characters and focus on the Resident Evil universe itself. The series follows two BSAA agents, veteran Holiday Sugarman and rookie Mina Gere, and explores the BSAA’s role in a world threatened by bio-weapon proliferation - specifically T-Virus.

This presented a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is one of expectations - RE fans want Chris, Leon, Claire and Wesker, so I had to develop characters that could eventually earn a place along side those icons over the course of a 6 issue mini-series. The other side of the challenge was the monsters the heroes would have to face. In RE4 and RE5, Capcom introduced brand new, and very cool, enemies for the characters to take on, but the BSAA primarily deals with the ramifications of T-Virus and G-Virus showing up throughout the world, so I needed to develop a scenario that felt like a logical outcome of bio-weapons being used by terrorists, rogue nations or multi-nationals. The opportunity is a much greater degree of flexibility to create a story that works in comic book format and to explore how T-Virus based bio-weapons might be deployed in actual conflicts, and what advances might be made in their creation.

Going through this process with Capcom has been fantastic. They provided a tremendous amount of reference material and have given both me and (artist) Kevin Sharpe extensive access to their in house experts on Resident Evil, so any question we might have gets an immediate answer. They’re actually quite deeply involved in every issue and I collaborate directly with them on the script, working the dialog and the story line to make sure it fits within the parameters of the Resident Evil universe.

Resident Evil #3

As far as pin pointing where in the timeline this story takes place, it’s loosely set in the months leading up to RE5. The BSAA is well established and deployed around the world, but Chris hasn’t yet been sent to Africa.

NRAMA: Zombies in general have had quite the explosion over the last couple of years. What makes these Zombies stand out in the horde of undead, especially in comics?

RS: Personally, I’ve always loved the overwhelming numbers associated with zombie attacks. Every person brought down by a zombie becomes a zombie. It’s compelling because the likelihood you’re going to survive is pretty low and once killed, you’re going to attack your friends and family.

Depending on which RE game you look at, you may only get a few zombies coming at you at any given time. The thing about zombies in Resident Evil is they are always very up close and reaching for you. Very in-your-face undead.

In this comic specifically, I moved away from some of the chaotic aspects that usually governs human-zombie interaction and tried to focus on how a government or terrorist group would actually deploy zombies and control the outcome. Or at least direct the outcome. Imagine the “shock and awe” of a group of zombies being used in the initial stages of a conventional border conflict. The defending nation would have to deal with the horror of its citizens becoming the undead, the fear among the troops of infection, and the chaos of dealing with the infected before they turn. The book isn’t about a zombie invasion, but in coming up with a rationale for the ongoing creation of zombies, this was the direction we went with.

NRAMA: What other RE specific monsters can fans expect to see in the book?

RS: The book mainly incorporates T-Virus monsters, so expect zombies, hunters, cerberus and other T creations. Many of them will be new variants. In the first issue we had a hydra that was exposed to T-Virus and able to rapidly grow to a massive size without the constraints of gravity. In Grezbekistan, Holiday encounters a human infected by G-Virus that has been exposed to cosmic radiation. It wasn’t explicitly stated that it was G, but hopefully the mutations give it away.

NRAMA: The humans-transformed-into monsters...in space as seen in the opening issue has been seen before, most recently in the Dead Space game and comic. What, in your opinion, does that device hold that makes it especially scary and worth going back to?

RS: The scary thing about space, and it has been true since the sci fi of the 50’s, is you’re in a confined space with few, if any, viable exits. To be honest though, the potential for creating a scary situation was only one reason why I chose that location. Since RE4, realism has played a major role in the RE franchise. If you were a corporation that wanted to experiment on T-Virus, to develop new mutations and new weapons, space is an interesting place to do your work. Having a bio-weapon incident aboard a space station gave me the dual benefit of a scary, confined space to test a rookie BSAA agent and a research platform that allows the series’ villain to develop new applications for T-Virus.

NRAMA: Now that you've jumped head first into comic writing, any other properties you'd like to tackle? Any personal ideas you'd like to bring alive in the medium?

RS: There are a ton of games I’d love to adapt to comics, or at least see made into comics. The first time I played Beyond Good and Evil, I thought it would make a great comic book. I don’t know if you remember Oddworld, but I think its wonderfully macabre sense of humor is perfect for comic books. Command & Conquer is another favorite of mine. It has a rich narrative history, and the absence of a prominent central character that the player identifies with gives the writer a lot of opportunities to explore.

As for my own ideas, yeah, dozens! I am particularly fascinated by work being done now on the pharmaceutical use of psychotropic drugs. I’d love to apply those ideas to a horror comic. Sci Fi is another passion of mine.

NRAMA: OK, you need to do everything you can to make that Oddworld comic happen! Why do you think there's a sudden flood of game to comic adaptations, especially considering how much smaller the comic industry is relative to games?

RS: In the last ten years game companies have really matured. I’m not talking about type of content or even median age of the employees though. I mean as businesses. Video game brands are now as recognizable as movie, tv or comic book brands to everyone from 10 year olds to 80 year olds. (I know this because a 10 year old cousin and an 80 year old uncle were both very excited about me writing Resident Evil) The people managing these brands know that the more ways you can engage fans, be it through online communities or comic books, the more successful your brand will be. So for the game companies, comics become a great way to introduce potential new fans to their products. For comic publishers, creating comics based on video game brands that appeal to the same demographic as their other books is great way to introduce potential new comic readers to the medium.

NRAMA: Finally, what's one specific moment in the comic that readers should look forward to in an upcoming issue?

RS: That would be telling! But I’ll give you an idea of what it is anyway. Toward the end is a series of events that gives you a good idea of what a tactical deployment of bio-weapons might be like. It is definitely the sequence I am most looking forward to seeing in print!

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