One of the hottest games to come out of this year’s Comic-Con will be “Unbound Saga.” WriteBrain Media interviewed The Devil’s Candy Store member Mike Kennedy on his new comic (through Dark Horse Comics) and videogame (through Vogster Entertainment).
Denise Dorman: Mike, can you tell us what this graphic novel and videogame are about?
Mike Kennedy: UNBOUND SAGA, the video game, is an old-school, arcade-style, side-scrolling brawler like Streets of Rage or Final Fight from back in the good old 16-bit days. In it, you play as RICK AJAX, a typical comic book tough guy wandering the streets of Toxopolis, a typical comic book dystopia. The thing is, Rick knows he’s a comic book character, and is fully aware of the fact that his daily life is dictated by the whims of “The Maker,” the mysterious, omniscient giant hand that constantly draws him into ridiculous adventure after ridiculous adventure. And after 30 years of this nonsense, he has had enough. So you take him on an twisted Wizard of Oz journey through 10 episodes of bizarre adventures and oddball enemies in an effort to meet The Maker and square off once and for all.
DD: I’m told it’s a lot of “insider” humor for those who really know the comic book industry?
MK: Yeah, it’s totally tongue-in-cheek, satirizing comics and video games equally. The fictional history is that “Unbound Saga”, the comic Rick inhabits, has been around since the 70’s, and has seen its fair share of reinventions over the years, from black and white indie status, to talking animal zoo-crew versions, to foil-covered Jim Lee variants and Manga versions… Now after 30 years, they are making yet another come back with a brand new reinvention from the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics and Vogster Entertainment, and hey –! Now they got a video game to boot!
DD: Are these the first pieces in a continuing series? Are there plans for the next book and game?
MK: We sure hope so! With 30 years of bogus history to these characters and this brand, there are a ton of misadventures to tell. While this initial launch will provide a fun gaming experience on the Sony PSP, and a fun first-issue comic to read, we’re hopeful that it will click with the market so we can keep playing with these action figures in the sandbox. There’s no end to the hijinx these characters can rustle up, be it in comic form, game form, cartoon form, shrinky-dink form, whatever…
DD: How does it feel to have a property that is completely your fingerprint?
MK: Well, in all fairness, it has taken a ton of talented people to get this thing where it’s at. There’s a whole team of brilliant programmers and artists behind the package, not to mention amazing voice actors and musicians, etc. Beyond the cutting edge code and dazzling graphics, I just made sure the game design fit a fun story and script. As producer, I was able to coach the team and, in many cases, select who’s on the team and what kind of contractors would best fit the brand. And we got some great talent attached to the title: Cliff Richards’s providing comic art, David Lodge bringing Rick’s voice to life, Jason Novak’s music setting the mood and tone… all of those things came together in complete harmony. As writer, I also made sure the script and storyline were as fun and colorful as possible. (And being both writer AND producer made it easier to drive all those pieces towards the same vision and goal…)
DD: How did you come up with the concept for “Unbound Saga”? Was it a single incident, or series of incidents that made you think of it? Do you recall where you were when you came up with the idea?
MK: The concept grew out of the tech demo the team had put together, with a bit of our love of comics thrown in to make it complete. The core game engine was in place, with some fun arcade-style brawling in place, but the characters and storyline came out of some outside-the-box brainstorming mixed with a heaping load of 4-color nostalgia. We came up with a half-dozen different concepts we could shoehorn into this solid brawling engine, and this self-aware comic-tough-guy concept just floated to the top of the list.
DD: Will we see your game and graphic novel at San Diego Comic-Con this year?
MK: Absolutely! The comic hits the shelves July 1st, released by the good guys at Dark Horse Comics, so we’ll be showcasing it at their booth in San Diego with banners, graphics, and most likely a couple of signings. The comic features some pretty heavy hitters in the biz, including Joseph Michael Linser and Leinil Yu, so we’re hoping to have them available for signings as well. The game is released July 16th on the PlayStation Network, so it will be brand-spankin’-new for the big show the week after. We’ll also have a number of exciting giveaways and presentations going on, although at the moment I’m not 100% sure what. (Note: Become a fan of the Unbound Saga Facebook page for news and updates!)
DD: What kinds of collectibles can the fans look forward to?
MK: In addition to the comic, we’re producing a GORGEOUS collectable statuette of the two main characters, RICK AJAX and LORI MACHETE. Coldcast polystone, handpainted, they’re NICE. The limited run is initially being considered for sales incentives, contest giveaways, and collectability. We should have them on display at San Diego as well (or check the Facebook page for more info).
DD: Aside from “Unbound Saga,” do you have any other books coming out?
MK: Unbound Saga has taken a pretty good chunk of mindshare this past year, but I’m turning attention to a couple of other projects that went dormant in the meantime. I’m hoping to do more Aliens vs Predator (negotiations in the works), as well as one or two personal projects that have been underway for a while. If all goes well, one or two of these should be on the shelves by 2010.
DD: When you’re not creating, what do you do for fun?
MK: You mean when I’m not ‘working’? Probably playing video games. But frankly, for me, creating IS fun. If I can spend a Saturday working on a personal comic project, I’m a happy camper.
DD: Which other videogame properties have you worked on?
MK: The list goes back quite a ways… back before Playstation, before 3D GI, back before CD-ROM even! Some of the most recognizable titles (for game geeks and aficionados) would include MIGHT AND MAGIC, FLASHBACK, LEMMINGS, LODE RUNNER, ARMY MEN, DEAD TO RIGHTS, and most recently DEF JAM: ICON.
DD: What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened to you while producing a videogame?
MK: Ya know, directing voice talent has always been the most fun part of the job, and I’ve been privileged to work with some amazing names. But one memory I will take to my grave is eating pasta salad in Steven Spielberg’s kitchen at his home in the Hamptons after pitching him a video game idea. (He loved the pitch and greenlit the project, but the title was never released, sadly enough…) Yeah, those fleeting few hours make the other 99.9% of the hard work somehow worthwhile…