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DF Interview: Ron Marz brings Skylanders to comic books
By Byron Brewer
All the connections have been made, the continuity is intact and the game is ready to begin. What game? Why, one of the most popular video games in the last few years as it comes to comics for the first time courtesy of IDW Publishing and writers Ron Marz and Dave Rodriguez: Skylanders!
Dynamic Forces sat down with Marz, who also pens the great John Carter, Warlord of Mars mag for Dynamite Entertainment, and asked for some details on the book and the process everyone went through translating game to comic.
Dynamic Forces: It is never easy to adapt one medium to another. What challenges do you face, Ron, in bringing the video game Skylanders to an IDW ongoing comic?
Ron Marz: Honestly, I don't find it to be much more challenging than writing in any other universe, whether it's Marvel, DC, Star Wars, or anything else. There's always history to be learned for both the characters and the setting, but that goes with the job. Skylanders is a well-established, expansive world, with a large amount of reference material in place. It's just a matter of immersing yourself in it, and then getting the tone right.
DF: You have had experience writing video games themselves, right? SWAP Force comes to mind.
RM: I actually live about 30 minutes from the offices of Vicarious Visions, the Activision subsidiary that produced SWAP Force. I've worked on a number of games for them, most recently SWAP Force, where I worked with my buddy Dave Rodriguez, who is on staff at Vicarious and one of the main story guys for Skylanders. It was a great experience, actually going into the office a couple days a week and being part of a team. Comics are produced by a pretty slim number of creative people, usually not more than half a dozen. On a game, you're part of a team of literally hundreds of people.
DF: How did you get involved in the project?
RM: When I was working on the SWAP Force game with Dave, we kept wondering why there we no Skylanders comics. It seemed like such a natural extension of the universe. Over the last year, I knew that a few publishers were talking to Activision about obtaining the comics license, but I didn't know that an agreement had been reached. IDW's David Hedgecock called me up pretty much out of the blue and offered me the gig, I said that I wanted to bring Dave Rodriguez along as my co-writer, and we were off and running.
DF: For the uninitiated – and what rock do you sleep under? lol – tell us a little about the Skylanders-verse.
RM: You know, when I first got called in to work on the SWAP Force game, I wasn't terribly familiar with Skylanders either, as my kids hadn't discovered it yet. But I quickly got an education and realized Skylanders is a phenomenon. The first two Skylanders games actually generated more money than "The Avengers" made at the box office worldwide. That's a staggering number, and now there are two more games out. The genius of it is combining a truly fun video-game experience with collectible figures that can be played in the game. Skylanders is obviously what inspired Disney's Infinity franchise.
Within the story, the Skylands are a series of floating islands with a number of different races, as well as a host of heroes and villains. It's a thoroughly engaging storytelling environment. The diversity of designs, especially for the heroes, is pretty astounding, so it's easy to pick out favorite characters. The overall story is about the various heroic Skylanders facing down the evil mastermind Kaos, who wants to conquer the Skylands.
DF: So which among the many characters will play prominent roles in this new ongoing?
RM: There's obviously a wide array to chose from, so initially we're trying to strike a balance between the more established, classic characters, and characters being introduced in the new Trap Team game. Spyro is probably the best known of the classic characters, so we'll see him on a fairly regular basis. But we want to give everybody a chance in the spotlight. We'll also see non-player characters like Flynn (who is voiced by Patrick Warburton) and Tessa pretty regularly.
DF: Can you tell us anything about the first arc?
RM: The first three issues form an arc, which was actually a little tricky to put together. The first three issues are also being utilized individually in the Fun Packs available at Toys R Us, which are printed smaller than a standard comic. The complicated part was that we had no real way to control the order in which people might read the Fun Pack comics. So the first three issues form a larger story, but they call also be read individually, in any order, and feel complete. It was a tricky storytelling exercise, doing a three-part story that could be read in any order, but I think we pulled it off.
The initial story revolves around Kaos trying to learn the secrets of the Skylanders by disguising himself as a student at Skylander Academy. And there's a food fight. The versions in comic shops, as opposed to the Fun Pack versions, each have additional backup stories.
DF: Why are artists Mike Bowden and David Baldeon right for this book?
RM: We have a great bunch of artists working on the first year of the series, including David and Mike. All of them are drawing fun, bouncy pages while staying within the established style of Skylanders. I can honestly say I'm having a lot of fun doing these stories, knowing the kids are going to be picking them up. When at all possible, we want the issues to work for young readers, but also contain some tongue-and-cheek stuff that older readers and adults will embrace, kind of like the classic Warner Bros. cartoons.
A few weeks ago I did a shop signing for Skylanders #1, and the store was packed with excited kids. It's pretty gratifying to be working on a book that hopefully leads some kids to discover comics.
DF: I know it is early, but a writer’s plotting is far beyond an issue number. Who is your fave among the characters thus far?
RM: If I have to pick just one, so far it would be Trigger Happy, who is just this manic screwball. He's a prime example of an unreliable narrator, which is pretty evident in his origin backup in issue #1. It's pretty freeing as a writer to have a character who will say and do anything at any time.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Ron Marz for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Skylanders #2 hits stores this Wednesday, November 26th!
Get your copy of Batman: Hidden Treasures #1 signed by Ron Marz right here!
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