Image Comics' PIRATES Take to the Skies

One if by land, two if by sea – what if it's by air?

If you're a modern-day Paul Rivere looking for threats, then you better look to the skies – for in the recent miniseries Sky Pirates of Neo Terra, there's danger in the air. Based on a forthcoming Nintendo DS video game, Sky Pirates of Neo Terra debuted back in September 2009 as a five issue miniseries published by Image Comics. The book, written by Josh Wagner and illustrated by Camilla d'Errico is based off the concepts of video game producer and creator Sean Megaw, and paints a picture of futuristic world that's one-part steampunk and one-part cyberpunk, mixing the thrills of podracing as seen in Star Wars Episode 1 with the flavor of the hit anime series Last Exile.

The book centers on a young racer named Billy Boom Boom, who has thrown in his hat to participate in the illustrious Great Race that brings participants from all around Neo Terra to race on unique crafts called Glidewings. Unfortunately for him, one of his racing colleagues is a outlaw named the Pirate King. 

We talked with the comics creators about the book, as the final issue is due out this week.

Newsarama: How would you describe the comic for us, guys?

Josh Wagner: I like to describe Sky Pirates as an optimistic take on the post-apocalyptic. Instead of a bleak world devastated by cataclysm, we're in an earth that has renewed itself long after devastation. That sense of vibrancy and innocence flows through the characters and the world to make the book a fun, light-hearted read. On the other hand, we do tackle some heavy subject matter. Even in the natural paradise of Neo Terra, darkness still lurks in the hearts of men. The nature of that darkness, and how it can be exploited becomes a major theme.

Nrama: Heading up this story is a character named Billy Boom Boom; what's his story, Josh?

Wagner: Billy is a kid on the edge of maturity. He's got incredible skill, but he can be reckless with his abilities. Billy is a true hero, noble in his heart, but he has yet to learn his limits. The girls all seem to dig him, but that doesn't matter to Billy... at least not as much as the girls would like. What Billy cares about most is flying and friendship, and of those I'm still not quite sure in what order.

Nrama: Josh’s told us about Billy, so can you tell us about the Pirate King, Camilla?

Camilla D'Errico: PK...he's one heck of a character. He's Josh's favourite actually, because he's the kind of villain that has layers of personality. Not typical by any means, and very rounded. His character design was one of the funner ones to do. Much like Billy I had to really nail the look of this character! When he appears in full view I hope that people will like my design. I think he's very sexy for a pirate king.

Nrama: This all started with a video game. How does this comic miniseries' story tie into the video game?

Wagner: We took a look at the overall plot of the game and pinpointed a few places ripe with drama and movement. Those became our major plot points for developing the series. So really, this book fleshes out a specific chunk of the story, puts a magnifying glass to it, and brings it to life!

Nrama: Camilla, you were not only brought in to do the comic – you did all the designs for the video game first, right?

D'Errico: Yes, I did all the character designs for the game, as well as design some of the gliders as well. But I had to rely on a lot of the world art from the video game to flesh out the comic designs. And having said that, there is a lot that isn't in the game that I just elaborated on in the comic. I really get to go in depth in this way, and add in my own flavour to the world.

Nrama: Do people need to play the game in order to "get" the comic?

Wagner: Not at all. We allude to "The Great Race", which is the main thrust of the video game, but that race doesn't play an overt role in the series. This story stands alone, and hopefully entices people into the larger scope of the world and the overall situation going down in Neo Terra.

Nrama: Adapting a story from a video game to a comic sounds challenging. What was that experience like?

D'Errico: A lot of fun! Working with Josh and Sean has been great. Josh is very creative and flexible, not to mention on the ball, so he really keeps this team together and in sync. And Sean is a nut for detail, which is great. I've never worked with anyone who is as, i suppose strict, before. He doesn't settle for anything less then perfect, and its awesome to be pushed this way, i feel like this comic is the best i've drawn because of it! He's helped a lot with dealing with the difficulties of making a comic from a video game, and we three are very particular about making this stand on its own.

The hardest part has been to flesh the game designs into a comic world. Its a challenge, but its a great starting point too. And i have to say that the best part of this for me is actually bringing to life the characters and becoming more personal with them. A game is interactive, but you don't get to really see their motivations as much as you do in the comic, so its been the best part for me. And i just love how its turning out.

Nrama: What about you, Josh? While Camilla was in on the ground floor with the video game before the comic, you were brought in just for the comic?

Wagner: It's been easy in all the ways I thought it would be hard; and difficult in all the ways I thought it would be a breeze. I expected the characters to be a piece of cake, because they were already so well-established. But the limitations that this imposed forced me to develop them in much tighter quarters than I'm used to. Then there's the part I was dreading: making a rich story that conformed the limitations of the game. But the world was so diverse that it left a lot of room to play.

Nrama: As a writer for the tie-in comic, I imagine you were one of the first to play the game. How was it?

Wagner: I got to play it in San Diego. It's a blast!! I've been a huge Mario Kart fan for years, so this is right up my alley. The pacing is intense, and the visuals are beautiful, but it's all the little elements (such as the air currents) that really enhance the gameplay.

D'Errico: I have played it, and i'm terrible at it! I've never been a very good gamer, mostly because I ignore the commands and just wing it button-mashing style. It's a lot of fun though, I just love seeing my drawings in a game setting and playing the characters is tons of fun.

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