“Halo: Fall of Reach” is a prequel novel that did a bit more hinting than outright telling. It came out alongside Halo: Combat Evolved, a game that helped reinstate first person shooters as a powerhouse genre in 2001, and sought to give fans of the game a bit of the back story of their mysterious main character, Master Chief.
Now, Halo masters 343 Industries and Marvel Comics are teaming up for their biggest set of stories yet, adapting and expanding on Fall of Reach. The comic series couldn’t come at a better time, with Halo: Reach, the video game prequel developer Bungie Studios is calling the “most ambitious game they have ever created,” coming this fall.
Writer Brian Reed is no stranger to video games. He worked first as a designer, then moved into writing alongside Brian Michael Bendis on the videogame of Ultimate Spider-Man. That new contact is what brought him to the comic book world, and he’s maintained his love for games since. We discussed the task of revealing more about a character that’s supposed to be a mystery, how adapting a novel works for the storytelling process, and announce that this will be a series of limited series.Newsarama: Master Chief's origin - this is a gigantic deal for Halo fans. We've seen it via the novel but now here it is in graphic form. Is telling this story, even as an adaptation, still daunting?
Brian Reed: Sure. Any property with a fan base as big and loyal as Halo is always slightly intimidating. But there's also the need to make it more than a copy/paste of the novel. You want to build on what was in the book, while also giving the audience something new. So, yeah, there's a little bit of “daunting” to be had.
Nrama: One of the more "controversial" things here is having an actual depiction of Chief outside the suit. What's the approval process with 343 on that part?
Reed: We've seen hints of Chief as a child a couple of times before, and his adult appearance is pretty well described in Nylund's novel. So the plan here is to follow those guideposts. There's certainly a fun to the mystery of his appearance in the games, and part of that appeal is that it lets you put yourself in the armor at some level, but this is a story and not a game. Short of hiding his face in the shadows or creatively framing shots to keep his head off-panel (both of which would be silly), we're going to need to show what he looks like. Which is exciting!
Nrama: When doing an adaptation of a novel based on a world created in a video game; how much do you reach into each side of the mythos?
Reed: With this story happening entirely before the first game, there's a lot right here to work with while not having to dig too deeply into the game content. The fun of this book for fans of the game will be “who were they then?” You find out where Cortana came from, what the point of Chief's armor is (aside from looking cool), and how the war that you fought in the three Halo games began.
Nrama: A lot has been added to the world of Halo since "The Fall of Reach" was published in 2001. Will you be pulling from some of the story beats added into "Halo: Reach," the forthcoming game?
Reed: I can't say a lot about Halo: Reach and how it ties into anything (non-disclosure agreement, family dog being held hostage, etc) but I can say that there's a lot of history hinted at in the novel that I get to expand upon.
Nrama: Have you talked with the original novel writer Eric Nylund at all about his original vision for the story?
Reed: I haven't had the chance to, no. But I've chatted with Frank O'Connor, the man who is all things Halo and we've discussed how best to approach the story in its new format. And I've always got him just an e-mail away to answer any questions about the overall Halo world.
Nrama: Adapting a 352-page Novel into about 88 pages of comic. Is that as scary as it sounds, and does that mean there are things that need to come out of the overall story?
Reed: We are doing a series of miniseries. As hinted in the title, this is Boot Camp – when the kids are first pulled into the Spartan program. As the other miniseries come along, we'll see more and more of their lives.
The trick to an adaptation is to decide what works in the new format and what doesn't. Novels have the luxury of spending pages with a character lost in thought. But in a comic book, with its visual medium, that's pages of a person sitting and staring. So, believe it or not, for the part of Master Chief's life that this story covers, we actually have a little bit of room to explore the universe around him and to better understand why certain events came to be.
Nrama: Oh, great! Is there any particular scene from the book you're especially excited to let people see in comic form?
Reed: In the first issue I was really looking forward to showing the abduction of the kids who are conscripted into the SPARTAN program. In the novel that happens “off screen” and we're only exposed to the after-effects of it.
Nrama: Why should people who've read the novels, played the games, etc read this comic? And how bout for the exact opposite, someone that hasn't experienced Halo at all yet?
Reed: For the hardcore fans, there is new material here. We get to flesh out Robert Watts, one of the pivotal figures in Chief's life—in fact, Watts is his very reason for becoming a SPARTAN, even though Chief himself doesn't realize it. There's also going to be more later on in the book with Cortana's origins and first missions than there is in the novel.
For comic fans who know about Halo but have never played a game, this is the story of humanity, on the edge of the frontiers of space, about to destroy itself through civil war. One woman makes an unconscionable decision that she believes will save us all from ourselves, and kidnaps 75 children in order to create super soldiers via terrible medical experiments. No sooner do those soldiers get trained than we learn there is something more dangerous than humanity in the cosmos—and it is coming to kill us all.
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