Instead of just being seen as quickly produced tie-ins, more and more high-profile creators are working on comic book adaptations of video games — David Lapham wrote a Driver series; Karl Kerschl and Cameron Stewart teamed for Assassin’s Creed: The Fall.The next step in this evolution is Bleedout, an April-debuting hardcover from Archaia Entertainment based on the first-person shooter of the same name. On the subject of “high-profile creators,” here’s the list of artists contributing to the book: Tim Bradstreet, Howard Chaykin, Gary Erskine, Glenn Fabry, Nathan Fox, Zach Howard, Sanford Greene, Trevor Hairsine, Vince Proce, Ben Templesmith and David Williams.
At the center of Bleedout is writer Mike Kennedy, who has worked in the video games industry for nearly 20 years and written comics including the DC Comics original graphic novel Superman: Infinite City and Ghost and Star Wars titles for Dark Horse.
“It’s always been in my blood,” Kennedy said, in a phone interview with Newsarama, of comic books. “I’ve managed to squeak out some gigs here and there, but the paycheck was always the video game stuff.”
Kennedy’s current gig is as a producer for Chicago-based developer Vogster Entertainment, the company behind the Bleedout game. It’s an expansion of the free-to-play online shooter CrimeCraft, which was originally released in 2009.
“It had like no story,” Kennedy said of the original game. “It had a pretty faithful following. The producer of the game realized, ‘Look, we need story.’ I brought the idea of maybe doing it with some comic book artists, and crossing those worlds together.”
Bleedout’s depicts a bleak dystopian world where a lack of oil brings society to its knees. The narrative focuses on Sunrise City, which despite its cheery name has been overrun by a criminal syndicate.
“It is kind of a plausible scenario,” Kennedy said. “The fact that oil disappears in less than a year in the book might be a little fantastic, but I think the way that all the events unfold are kind of possible, considering that we’re actually burning through oil at a pretty ridiculous pace already.”
The chapters of the Bleedout graphic novel are first debuting online as part of the game’s continuing storyline, with “episode 8,” illustrated by Fabry, set to premiere this Saturday. Each installment of new gameplay is bookended by cutscenes featuring art from the graphic novel rendered in motion comic style, with the 10 episodes included in the Archaia book scheduled to wrap in early March.
As a result, the Bleedout book is more of a collected anthology than the kind of original graphic novel that Archaia is known for, but Kennedy says there’s definitely an overall narrative thread.
“It’s not a linear read from beginning to end, so it does engage the reader to hold on to clues,” Kennedy said. “There’s a little bit of a puzzle aspect to reading it from beginning to end, but the pieces are all there, and the conspiracy does get pretty well revealed in its entirety through the course of the book.”
Because of the needs of the video game’s production schedule and the artists’ other commitments, the chapters of Bleedout were not written with specific names in mind.
“We had an idea of what we wanted to happen in each episode,” Kennedy said. “We didn’t really have the artists in mind at that point. I had a big list. As guys started coming on board, that’s when I would figure out, ‘Oh, Howard Chaykin’s going to be perfect for Chapter 7, Nathan Fox’s going to be perfect for Chapter 1.’ It wasn’t hard to find the best chapter for them.“I’m still just thrilled by the guys that we managed to get on board this thing.”
Kennedy says that part of the motivation for the comic tie-in was opening up the game’s potential audience, and that you don’t have to be a Bleedout player to enjoy the book.
“Probably most of the fans of these artists, they might not even play games,” Kennedy said. “If they pick up this book, then maybe that’ll intrigue them to want to check out the game.”
Kennedy’s last comic book writing credit was another adaptation of a Vogster game, the 2009 Unbound Saga one-shot for Dark Horse.
“That was the last original print work. Games are pretty full time,” Kennedy said. “I’m hoping to make more time for it. If this book gets some good response, there’s all kinds of stuff we can do with this, and beyond.”