Boy, was he wrong.
With a big budget action flick on the way, the Guardians have found themselves the stars of their highest-selling comic in years, a line of toys, a prose novel written by Abnett), a spinoff comic (written by Abnett!) and their own video game. Released by Disney Interactive, “Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon” is a side-scrolling action video game for iOs, Android and Windows devices, in which twenty-five characters from the comic and film punch, kick and shoot each other, all in service to a tale penned by Abnett himself, which tells its story through comic book-style panels.
We spoke with Abnett about bringing his talents and GotG knowledge to gaming, whether his story ties in to the movie and his reaction when he heard the team he’d spent so much time with was going to be brought back to comics under a different writer’s auspices.
CBR News: Is it safe to assume you were approached to script “Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon” because you co-wrote the “GotG” comic for so long?
Dan Abnett: Yeah, I guess you could say I was brought in to be the “Guardians” expert. Though that legacy has come back to haunt me, as I’m not only working on this game, I also wrote a novel about Rocket and Groot (“Rocket Raccoon & Groot: Steal the Galaxy!”), and I’m writing “Guardians 3000,” which will be out in October and is centered on the original 1968 “Guardians” characters. So, yeah, my involvement in Marvel’s Cosmic, which is my favorite part of the Marvel Universe, is fairly strong, and is why, I think, I was asked to collaborate on this game.
How does the story being told in “Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon” relate to the movie?
The game is more of a companion piece to the movie. If you’re familiar with the comic or the movie, there are lovely things that you’ll recognize in the game, there are points of commonality, in terms of the characters. But, ultimately, it is its own thing, its own story. Though it does not, in any way, deny the movie or the comic.
In making sure that the game wouldn’t conflict with the movie, did you get a chance to talk to director James Gunn or his co-screenwriter Nicole Perlman?
Everything we did in the game was run past the studio to make sure we didn’t do anything that destroyed or damaged the film in any way. But I also talked to James because he acknowledged that the 2008 comic was the inspiration for the film, even though it’s not a straight adaptation of the story. He invited me on set several times, and I’ve read the script, though I obviously can’t tell you anything.
When you got hired to work on the game, how far along were they?
There was quite a lot of the story there. Most particularly in the structure, since a game is a structural entity in terms of what you deliver and what choices you give people. They knew where the paths would run — what they wanted me to do is ground it in the Marvel universe. For instance — and this is hypothetical — we know the game has to go to some place for something to happen, so what should that place be?
I was also hired to work on how the characters would behave, what they would say in certain situations, and how they would interact with other characters.
Did the fact that “Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon” is a an action game, as opposed to, say, a puzzle game or strategy game, make any difference when you were deciding whether to take this job?
It didn’t. I was just rather taken with the idea of doing it. I’ve written novels and comics for a very long time, but in recent years, I’ve had the chance to work on games, and found it to be extremely rewarding because it takes the same storytelling elements I do, such as character building, but you’re directing them into a completely different structure where the player has the opportunity to influence the outcome. It’s really interesting. For me, it more that it was a “Guardians” game than what kind of game it was going to be.
Though let’s be honest, it’s a “Guardians” game, it should have a lot of shooty death kill. That’s the technical term, by the way.
What other games have you worked on?
I’ve spent most of the last two years writing the story and the script for “Alien: Isolation,” and I also spent some time last year creating different orc characters for “Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor.”
As you mentioned, a lot of this goes back to the “Guardians of the Galaxy” comic you did in 2008. A collected edition of which, coincidentally, is coming out the week after the movie as “Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett & Lanning: The Complete Collection: Volume 1.” Funny how that works.
When the comic ended, did you just figure you’d never hear from Star-Lord, Gamora and the rest again?
I hoped I would. It wasn’t the hugest selling comic in the history of the world, but the people who loved it really loved it. What I didn’t know when it ended was that Marvel Studios were seriously considering making a “Guardians” movie, and really did want to restart the comic when the movie was announced.
Speaking of that, the new run of “Guardians of the Galaxy” is being written by Brian Michael Bendis. When you heard that he was writing it instead of you, were you disappointed, or were you excited to see someone else’s take on the group?
I must admit, there was a tiny pang of, “Aw, someone else gets to do it now.” But Brian is an amazingly good writer. He’s one of my favorites, so the idea of him doing it was tremendously exciting, and I love what he’s done with the book.
Finally, I get the sense from talking to you that you play games —
Yes, I do.
What are your favorite comic book-related games?
Oh, that’s tough. This is going to sound like the cheap, get-another-job answer, but I have to say “Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon” is one I’m going to play. Not for any other reason than I love the “Guardians” characters so much, and I love what the game guys have built. Though I also really love the “Batman: Arkham” games; they’re terrifically well structured and very enjoyable to play. There are a lot of good games out there. I just hope people like our “Guardians” one, too.
“Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon” is available for iOS, Android, and Windows tablets and smart phones. “MArvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy” is in theaters August 1. “Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett & Lanning: The Complete Collection: Volume 1” arrives August 5.