Gears of War #9, Page 1NRAMA: Of course with the comic you're able to delve much deeper into individual characters' histories. In particular, the one off issue focusing on Tai was a cool look into his past and motivations. Do you plan on doing more one offs like that looking at some of the other supporting cast?
JO: Yes, and we've already done it with Issue #8, "Harper's Story," which focuses on Sgt. John Harper, a character we first met in the Collectibles of Gears 2 (the items you can pick up throughout the game). He had a story that weaved through all of the Collectibles, and now this issue fleshes out his full story with some amazing art from Liam Sharp, Henry Flint, Joel Gomez, and Trevor Hairsine.
Definitely expect more of this in the future, for sure; there's just so much to explore in the world of Gears.
NRAMA: There is a long history hinted at in the plots of the games, with the missing time between Emergence Day and the start of the first game, and of course the Pendulum Wars, which we've gotten a taste of through the comic and novels. Do you have free reign to explore that history and add to it, or do you have to stay in a specific set of guidelines?
JO: We're all trying to make sure to coordinate and keep the continuity tight. As a fellow fan, you know that nothing is worse than when companies muck up their franchise's continuity *Big Two, ahem* so we're trying to make sure we all talk, plan accordingly, and make the Gearsiverse a compelling, interesting, and rewarding place to visit.
NRAMA: Marcus Fenix is obviously the central character of the games, but do you feel he's the central character of the universe? Would you like to/do you plan to reach beyond Fenix and Delta to look at the larger world at all?
JO: We already have been reaching out to the larger world (i.e., Tai's story, the Aspho Fields novel), but I would say that Marcus is our central character, and always will be to some degree. He's really the Superman to our DCU, or Luke to our Star Wars universe.
NRAMA: When introducing a new character, it's nice to have a little help, and with issue 9 you're getting help from some smalltime newcomer named Jim Lee. What can you tell us about the lounging lady with a cigar and lancer that he drew for the book?
JO: Haha, yeah, that smalltimer guy, right! Man, it's been an honor to have Jim Lee do a cover for a book that I wrote, and he really knocked the design for her out of the park. Since her first appearance is just hitting the stands, I don't even want to reveal her name yet, since it could be a spoiler too, but suffice to say, she can hold her own with the boys, and
when you see why, well, always remember that Gears is SF/horror, and there are some damn horrific moments in that issue and the whole arc.
Also let me say that it's also been an honor to work with Liam Sharp and Simon Bisley as well. Both guys (or should I say "blokes?") were very inspiring for me growing up, and they were easily two of my favorite artists of the era. They've both turned in amazing work on the book, and it's been great to develop a lasting friendship with them both as well.
NRAMA: Liam, Gears of War has a very specific look, more so even than established comic book characters. Is it difficult as an illustrator to stay within stricter guidelines like that?
Gears of War #9, page 4Liam Sharp: I think the guys at Epic had a strong idea about what they were looking for, but in some ways their universe is just a perfect fit with my own aesthetic for that kind of work. I'm not a hardware guy particularly, but apart from the guns and vehicles I could very easily have designed the Gears universe myself!
Hyper-detailed crumbling cities, monsters - it's all stuff I have a great affection for from growing up with 2000ad and loving John Buscema and Barry Windsor-Smith's Conan work. I see the strip as having a lot in common with classic barbarian strips and future soldier stories like Rogue Trouper. It's certainly not an easy gig, there's a lot of prescriptive stuff in there, but if there was ever a book that was a good match for me, then this is it - and I think that's born out in the work I've done.
NRAMA: When working on such a high profile property, is your focus more on making sure it's in line with the other images of these characters and world, or on putting your own stamp on it?
LS: My primary concern was to make it a bloody good comic! I'm not a big gamer and hardly played any console games before Gears (I had to buy an Xbox 360 to research it!) but once I got past the fear of having to get all that hardware right it quickly dawned on me that - as my wife said - it was a no-brainer as far as it being a good artistic match was concerned.
I always feel a little uncomfortable admitting I'm not a gamer as that might suggest I'm not right for the book or alienate the guys who truly love gaming. The truth is between my comics and writing work I have very little time to play games. That said I HAVE played Gears, and enjoyed it. I'm still only half way through Gears 2, but my son, Lorcan, finished it.
As for putting my own stamp on it - absolutely I think I have. The artwork is unmistakably mine, though it is also unmistakably Gears. If I'd over-thought it it may well have seemed an impossible chore, but I just kept thinking of it as a comic, and making it accessible to readers even if they have never played the game.
NRAMA: The soldiers of COG aren't your average humans; is it difficult learning the "new anatomy" and the different scale of the Gears world?
LS: LOL! Well, you know, a lot of comic characters are like that! I did The Hulk back in the day, and - perhaps notoriously - a lot of my characters have been buff in a totally preposterous way, so in some way Gears represents some of my most realistic work! I've certainly tried to make them human, and have them 'act' within the story, not just prance around the place posing and flexing their biceps...
NRAMA: The Locust monsters in particular are often grotesque creatures, deformed and hulking; do you have a favorite? Did you get to create any of your own?
LS: I really enjoyed the Berserker in Issue 6, she was great fun. The Brumaks are cool, but a swine to draw! Would love to get to design some Locust creatures, or Sera wildlife we've not seen yet, but so far it's been heavily (and not surprisingly) tied in to the characters that feature in the games - and there are a lot of them! We've barely seen half, I think, in the comic so far!
NRAMA: Having done some writing yourself, do you feel it makes the storytelling flow easier in your art? How tightly do you work with Josh on things like layout now that you've worked together for several issues?
Gears of War #9, page 5LS: For my sins I'm an intuitive storyteller, not a technical one. I never learnt any rules or read any how-to books on comic storytelling - but I have been doing it well over 20 years now (in which time I've also read a lot of comics), so hopefully that counts for something! I try to keep it flowing and get all the information into the pages, and I try to show emotion and create depth in any given scene.
Joshua gives me the panel count (which I sometimes change) and the dialogue, and I shoot it, light it, stage it and have the characters act it out. I have had certain elements throughout - panels feeding in top left and out bottom right. The boarders going to black for the underground issue, and I also represented flashbacks in a different style (as suggested by the script). If anything, I've added panels rather than taken them away. I think Joshua and I have a very healthy respect for what we each bring to the party.
Drawing comics is very different to writing - though my novel, God Killers, is, I'm told, a visual experience. You can see the scenes unfold in your mind's eye. So maybe it's the other way around - that my comic work has informed my literature!
NRAMA: Josh, can you take us out with an upcoming moment, maybe even a few issues away, that you're really excited about and fans should look forward to?
JO: The one happening right now, in Issue #9: Finally, we get to see a female Gear! And trust me, it'll all make sense why you didn't see female Gears before; though you may be quite disturbed as to the reasons why. This is dystopian SF, after all!