Just eight days after the debut of her first solo comic book series, “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl,” the furry and furious Marvel superhero has joined “Marvel Puzzle Quest” (iOS, Android, PC), a “Bejeweled”-esque match-3 game that has elements of role-playing and strategy, first released in 2013 as a spinoff of the “Puzzle Quest” franchise.
But while you might think this was the work of a competent marketing person at D3Publisher (the game’s publisher) or Marvel, it was actually the quick thinking of Erica Henderson, the series artist on “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.”
Though in talking to Henderson, who recently unveiled the game-inspired cover for “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” #4 and works with writer and “Dinosaur Comics” cartoonist Ryan North on the series, it seems this wasn’t the only forward-thinking idea she concocted. CBR News spoke with Henderson — a video game industry veteran — about both “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” and the character’s appearance in the game.
CBR News: Let’s start with the “Squirrel Girl” comic. What was it about the character and her new book that made you want to do it?
Erica Henderson: When Marvel first approached me, I actually didn’t know too much about what the book was going to be. But I knew the character was fun, and I liked the idea of doing a character who hadn’t had her own book before. She’s generally optimistic, she was created to be like a Silver Age character, and that was really appealing. And then, when I found out Ryan was writing it, I figured it would be pretty great.
You said part of the appeal of doing “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” was that she never had her own book before. But did that also put any additional pressure on you?
I think it actually took pressure off because people have an idea of who she is, but her appearances are few and far between, and she hasn’t had a definitive text yet. Some people liked her “GLA” [Great Lakes Avengers] stuff, and some liked her in [Brian Michael] Bendis’ “New Avengers” run, but it was actually easier for Ryan and I to make it our own thing than if she was a more established character.
Squirrel Girl also isn’t a serious character. Was that part of the appeal for you?
Yeah. I thought that would be a lot of fun because I’d still get to do a superhero book, but with a lot more humor.
The way you’ve drawn her in “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” is a bit different than how she was drawn recently in “New Avengers.” When you take on a character like Squirrel Girl — one who’s more of a supporting character, and hasn’t had her own movie or cartoon — does this give you more leeway in changing the way she looks?
With her looking different as a person, I was actually referring back more to her original appearance in her first appearance [1992’s “Marvel Super-Heroes: Vol. 2, #8”]. She looks different from that, but she was really goony and had a lot of manic energy, and I thought that was a really interesting part of the character. I actually found her original appearance a little off-putting, but I liked things about it.
As for the costume, we actually talked about doing something different, so I did a bunch of sketches and then we took elements from those sketches.
When you say, “we,” I assume you mean you, Ryan, and people at Marvel, right?
Actually, when I was doing the first drawings, I didn’t know who else was on board, I was just talking to Wil Moss, my editor. When we first talked about it, we didn’t know if the book was happening or not. So Ryan was asked to do a pitch, and I was asked to do some drawings, and they then used those materials to get the book made.
For “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4,” you did an homage to the game “Marvel Vs. Capcom.” What made you think of that?
There’s just something about a final showdown that makes me think of fighting games. Though, actually, the first thing I thought of was the “Fight!” graphic from “Street Fighter.” But then I was like, “Oh, wait, Marvel has a fighting game.” I also love pixel art, and “Marvel Vs. Capcom 2” had amazing pixel art.
Now, when it came to drawing Squirrel Girl in “Marvel Puzzle Quest,” did you automatically get the gig because you’re drawing the comic?
No. What happened is that I used to work at Harmonix, the people who made the “Rock Band” games, and so did Casey Malone, who’s one of the designers on “Marvel Puzzle Quest.” When I ran into him one day, I said, “Hey… you’re doing ‘Marvel Puzzle Quest,’ what about adding Squirrel Girl in January?” So he suggested it, everyone liked the idea, and then they asked me if I wanted to do the art.
Did you really ask them about adding her “in January”?
I did. [Laughs] Though I actually didn’t suggest it so I could do the art, I was just hoping they’d put the character in the game.
Had you worked in the art department at Harmonix?
No, I didn’t do art when I was there. But I was also doing some comic book freelancing on the side back then, just not enough to justify leaving my job.
Given that your drawing of Squirrel Girl in “Marvel Puzzle Quest” had to be approved by Marvel; the people making the game, Demiurge Studios; and the game’s publisher, D3Publisher, did that make it that much difficult?
No, they just asked me to draw her the way I draw her in the book. They didn’t mind that it’s in a different style from the other characters in the game.
Finally, what is your favorite comic book video game?
I’m going to say “Marvel vs. Capcom 2.” I played a lot of “M.V.C.2” when I was a kid, hanging out at friends’ houses, because I didn’t have my own game system back them.
“Marvel Puzzle Quest” is available now for iOS, Android, and PC. “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” #1 is now on sale; #2 is scheduled for release in February.
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