Arguably the most anticipated game of the year, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” hit stores everywhere this week. The direct sequel to 2007’s blockbuster picks up years after “Modern Warfare’s” story left off, allowing players to take on the role of a member of Task Force 141, a counter-terrorist unit formed to deal with the Russian Ultranationalist group that is once again threatening the safety of the world.
This time around, however, the story will continue beyond the game, as WildStorm is publishing a six-issue series called “Modern Warfare 2: Ghost.” The title will delve into the history of Ghost, one of the characters from “Modern Warfare 2” and a member of Task Force 141. In order to bring the world of “Modern Warfare 2” from the TV screen to the comic book page, WildStorm turned to Eisner Award-winning creator David Lapham (“Stray Bullets,” “Young Liars”). CBR recently spoke with Lapham and discussed the challenges and rewards involved in writing the limited series.
CBR: David, how did you get involved with “Modern Warfare 2: Ghost,” and what makes it appealing to you?
David Lapham: Ben Abernathy (WildStorm Senior Editor) called me up and asked me if I was interested, and I was. What I liked is that it’s not a wimpy game, and I figured they didn’t want a wimpy comic. It’s very “balls to the wall.”
Were there general boundaries that you had to stay within when creating the storyline, or were you given carte blanche?
This plays in to why I wanted to do the job. You have an amazing game, and they wanted an amazing comic. At the same time, the game is a first person experience. You are a member of Task Force 141. In the comic we were going to be creating a character that the reader was going to follow, so there was a broad canvas upon which to create.
There wasn’t pressure to recreate the game in comic form. The boundary was that a) they had to dig what we were doing, of course, and b) we had to give them a kick-ass experience to match the game, but it didn’t have to be the same experience. Comics aren’t video games. I can’t give you the vicarious experience of being a counter-terrorist soldier sneaking up and knifing someone. But I can give you a bad-ass character and take you on a journey through this guy’s psyche. A hellish, twisted, nightmarish journey.
There was a suggestion – and I don’t remember if this was from them or Ben – to use a character from the game and expand on their story. The character of Ghost was the obvious visual standout.
Speaking of Ghost, you’re introducing this new character into “Modern Warfare” lore. What can you tell us about him?
Well, like I said, he does appear in the game, and his name is Ghost. Beyond that, though, the fun part was figuring out who this guy is. What makes a man wear a skull mask and be such a bad-ass? I can tell you that he starts out damn good at what he does, maybe the best of the best…then we put his head in the blender.
How does this series connect to the “Modern Warfare 2” game overall?
It connects by deepening the experience. It expands on the universe you see in the game. Now we find out that there’s a real world going on in there beyond the world-saving missions.
Are you a fan of the “Call of Duty” series yourself? Have you played the original “Modern Warfare?”
I love the game. I love all of these kinds of games. I can tell you which deadlines were missed because of this game or that game. I have to admit, regrettably, that since having kids my time for the 60-hour video game has gone the way of the dodo. As much to write the book, it was a good excuse to “have to” play the game – y’know, research.
Were there other kinds of research you did for the book?
Mostly I knew my story, and the guts of it are internal, which is my specialty. The research came in trying then to tie the external elements to real world realism. Just like the game, I imagine. It’s made up, but to feel real – real special forces doing real things in the world – you definitely need to hook into real events and world situations, either using them directly or creating composites.
What are the elements of the “Modern Warfare” gaming experience that you wanted to capture with the comic series?
The tone for one. Heck, to access the game’s trailer on the website, you have to declare that you’re 18. So I wanted the tone of the book to match that. The other element was that I knew we were going to give a different experience than the game, but still I wanted it to feel like it’s a companion to the game. You’re just learning more about a particular character – a particularly bad-ass character.
Is there an added challenge in taking a first-person experience like “Modern Warfare” and transforming it into a comic?
They’ve been so open to what we’re doing, I would say no. The only challenge in this type of project is that you’re hoping the people you’re creating the story for are going to be open to where you’re taking things. It can happen – whether it’s this or a movie license, that they can only see their format and just want a recreation in a different medium, which I think never works. “Modern Warfare” is a perfect video game. Its makers set out to use the strengths of a video game to give you that experience. When you want a comic, we have to see what works best there, and that then adds to the overall experience for “Modern Warfare” fans.
What do you think will make the title appealing for someone who isn’t familiar with the video games?
It assumes nothing from the game. There’s no requirement for you to play, or even have heard of the game. If you are a fan of the game, you definitely get more, but if not, you get a hell of a great, mind-bending story about a unique Special Forces soldier.
This is not your same old, same old, seen-it-before terrorist 101 story. Plenty of action, plenty of intrigue, yes. But I really wanted to get in this character’s head and let you see his transformation. It’s as much a psychological suspense story as anything.
CBR would like to thank David Lapham for talking with us about “Modern Warfare 2: Ghost.” Issue #1 of the series is in stores this week, and you can find out more about it here. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” also arrived in stores this week for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, and you can visit the game’s official website here.