Captain America first appeared in 1941’s “Captain America Comics” published by in Timely Comics, the predecessor to what would become Marvel Comics. Following World War II, the iconic hero faded from public view, and while there was an attempt to resurrect him in the 1950s, it wasn’t until 1964 that the character was successfully brought back from 4-color oblivion in the pages of “The Avengers.” But Cap, while being one of the first in what would collectively become known as the Marvel Universe, holds another distinction — he was the first Marvel character to find his way to the big screen through movie serials in 1944.
Since those days, Captain America has appeared in numerous comic books, on television and in movies. There was a 1990 film in which the Captain was thawed out to battle the Red Skull, several animated series featuring the star-spangled character and a pair of made-for-TV movies in the 1970s, neither of which were warmly received. He has also starred in various offshoots of his self-titled comic, both in the familiar red, white and blue uniform and under different costumes and monikers, from Nomad to The Captain and more. This year, Chris Evans takes up the shield in the anticipated summer blockbuster, “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
Get a Marvel movie, expect a game — that seems to be the modern trend, and for the patriotic hero, SEGA turned to veteran comic book author Christos Gage to pen their video game take on the ever-popular character. “Captain America: The First Avenger” will tie in with the movie of the same title, release in July and be available on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS. CBR spoke with Gage, discussing what was involved in writing for the video game medium and the challenges of bringing Captain America to the current gaming world.
CBR News: Captain America has had an impact on pop culture in quite a number of ways, but for the most part, stories about the character focus more about the costumed persona, steering clear of the man behind the mask: Steve Rogers. Recently, though, this has changed, with the identity of the man in the costume — currently Bucky Barnes — not only being a major focus of the stories, but with Steve Rogers becoming a force in his own right, even headlining the recent miniseries, “Steve Rogers: Super Soldier.” Does the game take the various incarnations of the hero — and the man behind the hero — and meld them together?
Christos Gage: Well, he’s definitely Steve Rogers. In terms of his character, the story is set in WWII, so we have a younger Cap who is still discovering his capabilities as well as who he is and what he represents, as opposed to the veteran leader comics fans are used to. In terms of merging incarnations, we naturally want the game to be accessible to the widest possible audiences, so the game is set in the world of the movie — but it’s a completely separate story. You don’t have to have read a Cap comic or see the movie to enjoy the game; you can go into it just wanting to have fun. You don’t need a degree in Cap’s comic book history, but for those who have one, I made certain to throw in a lot of fun Easter eggs. Some of the characters — like Iron Cross, a villain from the Invaders comics — will ring a bell with longtime fans.
When dealing with a pop culture icon, there has to be some level of caution taken when writing a new adventure for them. What did you know you had to do right, and where did you decide to take liberties, if you did so at all?
I took no liberties. Some of the villains were tweaked a bit to fit the world of the game and the movie, but you do not take liberties with Captain America! Now, he’s not exactly like he is in the comics; the game is, as I said, set in the world of the movie. But I saw it as my job to make Cap familiar to all who know him. He’s not Spider-Man; he doesn’t throw out quips every two seconds. It was up to me to see that he stays true to who he is.
What did you view as the biggest challenge you had to face coming into this project?
That I’d never written a video game before. The format was new to me. Fortunately, the folks at Marvel Studios, Sega and Next Level made it an easy adjustment.
How big of a fan of Captain America were you prior to the start of this project? Did writing him reveal anything to you about the character that you didn’t know before?
Cap is one of my favorite characters. I’ve been reading the comics for 30 years. As far as what I learned about him, it was more that I got a new perspective on him. I’m used to writing him as the experienced, confident leader who’s seen everything and is ready for anything. Writing him as a younger, sometimes more hesitant, more exuberant kid — and trying to make sure you can still see the man he’ll become in there — was an interesting change of pace.
Having written for both mediums now, how much of a correlation do you see between the mediums of comic books and video games?
They’re both very collaborative, and both can do a lot more than movies or TV in terms of big set pieces that would bust the budget of any live-action production. There are still budget issues with games, in that you can only animate so many characters, but to offset that you have the benefit of voice actors. You have to be even more concise with dialogue in games than you do in comics; you need to trust your voice actors to get across what they’re asked to.
Despite the work put into them, there are a lot of players that don’t care that much for a game’s story and prefer to get straight to the action. How did you balance your tale with the action sequences to make one segue into the other seamlessly?
Keep the cut scenes short, make them as compelling as possible and hopefully make them feel like rewards for the players, not something to suffer through. The player should feel like a participant in them, not an observer. Also, try to avoid using the cut scenes for exposition. Getting across needed information in unobtrusive ways — such as during the gameplay itself, without slowing or stopping it — is key.
Are there any multiplayer components in the game?
No. There are points where you get assistance from Cap’s allies, but they’re controlled by the AI.
What aspects of Captain America do you wish could have been explored more in the game?
I didn’t really find myself wishing for things that weren’t there. But having written a game about Cap in WWII, it would be fun to do one in the present day, when he’s older and more experienced.
Finally, what elements of the game do you believe will resonate strongly with players and what aspects are you the proudest of within the game?
The development team has to get all the credit for the gameplay, but I think what will resonate with players is using the shield, especially using it to take out multiple opponents with one throw. From the demo I played, that’s a lot of fun and you really feel like Cap. For me, what I am proudest of is getting some cool stuff from the comics into the game, like Iron Cross and Madame Hydra.
“Captain America: Super Soldier” lands on all platforms July 19