Video games are digital, so why not video game comics? Dark Horse is embracing this symbiosis with an ambitious comic book project to bridge the storytelling gap between 2009’s open-world actioner Prototype with its upcoming sequel Prototype 2. A total of three two-issue miniseries will fill the empty spaces by telling three stories from three different perspectives, first from the original game’s hero, Alex Mercer, the second from a small group of civilians caught up in the biological apocalypse and the third from the franchise’s new protagonist: the vengeance-minded Sergeant James Heller.
Spearheading this effort is Dan Jolley (JSA: The Unholy Three, Firestorm) who is penning all three stories, starting with Prototype: The Anchor. Newsarama caught up with him as the first issue hit the digital stands.
Newsarama: Just to start, your involvement with Prototype 2 goes deeper than your work on the tie-in comics, correct?
Dan Jolley: That's correct, I'm the lead writer on Prototype 2 the game. It's a hugely collaborative process, but I'm responsible for a sizeable chunk of the game's story and about 90% of the dialogue.Issue 1, Page 1 Nrama: Alex Mercer was the protagonist of Prototype, but not exactly the kind of person many would consider a 'hero,' how did that affect the creation of The Anchor?
Jolley: You're right: Mercer was definitely not the most sympathetic of protagonists in the first game, and it's no secret now that he's not the protagonist of the second game. And while you don't have to read the comics to understand Mercer's motivations in Prototype 2, we spend a good bit of time in the game on why he does what he does. The Anchor provides us with the chance to color in and flesh out both the character and the circumstances that led him to the conclusions he's come to. Plus the comics give the reader the chance to see Mercer in completely new situations and interacting with people in ways no one's seen him do before. I'm a firm believer that even the most extreme of antagonists are not 100% evil, and I really wanted to paint a more well-rounded portrait of Mercer as a character. Get into his head, see how he thinks, what he feels, what some of his likes and dislikes are, just explore his personality more.
Nrama: What are we going to see from Alex Mercer the character in The Anchor that we didn't get from his depiction in Prototype?
Jolley: He definitely comes across as more human, I would say, at the same time that he's painfully aware that he's not human anymore. That's what The Anchor of the title refers to, Mercer is looking for something to latch onto, some sort of emotional touchstone that will let him rejoin the human race. He's become unique; a new kind of organism, completely alone on the planet, and he's struggling hard to figure out how to reconcile that or how to live with it. He's essentially an alien now, trapped in a world that has nothing in common with him, so the question has become: "What do I do now? Do I fake it and try to blend in? Do I isolate myself for the rest of my life? What's the next step?"
This is not to say he's not still going to be tearing people into bloody chunks, 'cause he totally does that too.Exclusive
Issue 2, Page 1Nrama: From the beginning of The Anchor it’s clear that the setting has changed away the infected New York City, why the switch?
Jolley: We wanted to show Mercer traveling the world. All of the action in the first game took place in NYC, and it's a pretty normal response, when someone's been through something traumatic, to want to change venues. Mercer had seen enough of the city for a while, it was hard for him, mentally, to get past the experiences he'd been through there, so he just took off. Of course, he ends up finding just as much human evil in other parts of the world as he encountered in New York, but that's no surprise to anyone who watches the news.
Nrama: The Anchor is being released digitally, was that the goal from the beginning and did the use of that format effect the development of the comic?
Jolley: I can't speak for Activision or Radical here, this is just my own observation, but it seems to me that going digital, in everything, not just comics, is basically inevitable, and it's smart to get out in front of it as much as you can. Rather than 20K or 50K or even 100K readers, you've got a potential audience of millions of readers by going digital, so why not take advantage of it? Comics look amazing on the iPad, too, I mean, it's as if the device was built for them. And I know a lot of people love physical comic books, love holding them and turning the pages and smelling the paper and the ink. I'm one of them. But the question of physical comics vs. digital, the question of physical books of any kind vs. digital, makes me think we're looking at the same kind of argument people had hundreds of years ago, when someone said, "Scrolls are never going to go out of style! People will always want scrolls! There's nothing like unrolling a scroll, appreciating the workmanship, taking in that great parchment smell!"
As far as the format affecting the development of the comic, though, the answer is no, it wasn't a factor. I just wrote the scripts the same way I always have.Exclusive
Issue 2, Page 2Nrama: The Anchor is just the first part of a trilogy of miniseries leading up to the events of Prototype 2, how did this idea to breakdown the story this way come about?
Jolley: Basically we wanted to accomplish two things: give people a really good idea of the characters and settings of the game, and tell really solid stories while we were doing it. The three most important elements of Prototype 2 are one: Alex Mercer, two: James Heller, the new game's protagonist, and three: the city itself, which has in many ways become its own character. So it made sense to split the comics into three separate arcs and focus each arc on one of those elements.
Nrama: You worked with three different artists on the project, Paco Diaz (Fraken-Castle) for the first series, then Chris Staggs (Deadpool Team-Up) and finally Victor Drujiniu (The Occulitist) what was the biggest challenge towards making the story work visually?
Jolley: Honesty, I didn't feel any challenge at all working with these guys. We looked at a ton of different artists, a ton of different samples, and we all agreed that these were the three guys who would do the stories justice. And DAMN, have they delivered. This was the first time I've worked with any of them, and I would work with any or all of them again in a heartbeat.You can purchase the first issue of Prototype 2: The Anchor at the Dark Horse Digital store. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!