For a start, I would like to apologize for what was meant to be an April article coming out in May. Anyone who knows me should know that I believe in consistency. Last month, I had some required military training to attend to and then caught a case of a bad cold (or mild flu), and whatever the case, it put me out for about a week. Yet, on the plus side, all that down time allowed me to muse over what might be a good topic for this month’s installment of Jessica’s Journey, namely, comics based on video games.
What makes this interesting to me is that we know that comic books are often adapted into TV shows, animated specials, and movies. We also know that video games are sometimes adapted into movies with rather mixed results. And, of course, we know that comics and movies often get turned into video games for the latest platforms. But what of the video games that get adapted into a comic book?
Well, the good news is that even though we don’t see much of this today, especially in the mainstream, back in the 80s and 90s there were several comic books based on video game stories. Nintendo had a big role in this back then, with both their Super Mario and Zelda franchises receiving various comics, either directly in Nintendo Power Magazine or in a licensed third-party publication, such as the numerous Valiant Comics from the late-80s. On the whole I thought Valiant did a particularly good job in turning the Zelda series into an enjoyable story. Furthermore, the comics put out by Nintendo Power, particularly related to the Super Nintendo titles Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Metroid, were very good. They can also be found online for those true collectors out there, but don’t expect them to be on sale at a low cost.
However, even though you would probably think that Nintendo had the lion’s share of this market, you might be surprised (unless you follow this stuff religiously!) to find out that Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog series has had the longest-running and most-successful comic run ever for a video game franchise. Archie Comics has been producing Sonic the Hedgehog since 1992, and although these comics are based on the games, they also draw heavily from the world shown in the 1993 animated series. What I personally like about Archie’s take on the series is that they’ve created a large, detailed world which is essentially a distant-future Earth (a fact later backed up by Sega in their 3D titles in the 2000s) with diverse characters and very complex and fun story arcs.
In 2008, Guinness recognized the Archie Sonic cartoons as being the longest-running comic series based on a video game, and then in 2015 they were recognized again as being the longest-running comics based on a franchise of any sort, surpassing the 1970 to 1993 run of Conan the Barbarian.
Based on the success of Archie’s run of Sonic comics, it’s probably no surprise that the company was chosen to put out an adaptation of Mega Man starting in 2011, which itself has been really fantastic to follow. While these new comics do great justice to the source material for telling a story adapted from the classic 2D platformers, the comic’s writing team (headed by Ian Flynn) have also taken some very interesting creative liberties by doing crossovers with Sonic the Hedgehog as well as by presenting a few things from new perspectives while injecting new characters. The end result? Something I think that Capcom should be proud of. Heck, I think Capcom should come to these guys next time they work on a new Mega Man game to get some fresh ideas.
If you’re willing to dip into the Japanese market, though, you’ll likely be pleasantly pleased to see just how many video games have been adapted into comic form over there. Or, to be more precise, how many have been made into manga. For example, pretty much every Zelda game ever made by Nintendo has been adapted at some point into a manga, and while these stories are very faithful to the events seen in the games, much like with the Sonic and Mega Man comics, you’ll find a lot more character development and even a much more active, vocalized version of Link (who is pretty much a nearly-silent protagonist in the games). Mega Man has also had some very famous mangas put out in Japan in the guise of the Rockman Megamix and Rockman Gigamix series, and thankfully they’ve been making their way overseas. UDON picked up the rights to Megamix and Gigamix, putting the former out in 2010 and the latter out between 2011 and 2012. And, as to the Zelda mangas, you can likely find them at your local big book store, or wherever you’d find manga or video game related products.
I’m not really even an expert on this specific topic, yet hopefully you can see that the world of game-related comics and manga is pretty vibrant. The odd thing is, unless you really start researching these topics, you might not know any of this stuff. For example, I only knew about the various Mega Man comics because of a Mega Man website I follow on a regular basis. Yet if I only had a casual interest in the series I’d likely never have come across any of the publications, at least not intentionally.
What’s also interesting is that topics like these bring up a large topic that there’s just no way I’m going to get into this time around: what’s considered canon and what’s licensed but not related. I can tell you this much -- when it comes to video games, everyone always has their own timelines based on the games they feel “fit in” right, and those that feel like they were side-lined stories made by other development companies or producers. Often, this will conflict with the official timelines put out by the publishers, if the publisher even cares enough to do this (it took well over a decade after Ocarina of Time’s release for Nintendo to put out an official timeline of any sort). The greater question may be whether it even matters at the end of the day, but I’m the type that spends tons of time coming up with ideas to piece together cohesive stories, and I’m sure I’m not alone with that.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on the topic. Stay tuned for more crafty content coming your way! This installment of Jessica's Journey was written by Jessica “Allahweh” Brown from GamingGoddess.Net.