Over the past several years, video game franchises have found successes in comics that Hollywood has yet to replicate. But even with a number of game-based comic books on the stands, not all the major releases are yet represented. And soon, one of the biggest franchises on consoles is making the jump.
Today as part of their WonderCon 2014 series of rollouts, Dynamite Entertainment announced they’ll be bringing Ubisoft’s best-selling “Splinter Cell” series of games to comic shops. Based on concepts by the late techno thriller legend Tom Clancy, “Splinter Cell: Echoes” focuses on deep cover operative Sam Fisher and his adventures in and out of the dark corners of political intrigue. The comic will be written by “Black Widow” and “Punisher” scribe Nathan Edmondson and drawn by “King’s Watch” artist Marc Laming.
CBR News spoke exclusively with Edmondson about the project, and the writer explains how the Dynamite team has approached matching the tone of Clancy’s novels, the look of “Splinter Cell’s” gameplay and signature three-eyed night vision goggles and why Fisher’s latest adventure will be wholly original.
CBR News: Obviously these games are indebted in myriad ways to the late Tom Clancy, and considering your own work, I’m betting his novels had an influence on you as well. What in your mind are the defining characteristics of a Clancy story that you hope to carry over into a project like “Splinter Cell?”
Nathan Edmondson: Clancy was an expert at drawing the cool factor, the intrigue, and especially the human element out of military politics, espionage and special ops warfare. The idea behind the “Splinter Cell” franchise carries all of those qualities forward into the icon that is Sam Fisher. With the comic, we set out to expand the world of the game into a fresh and, new space where we can learn more about Sam’s motivations, his life, his role on the shadowy world warfare stage.
For a lot of young people these days, Clancy’s name is best known from the games rather than his original novels. What’s your experience playing things like “Splinter Cell” and “Rainbow Six?” Are you immersed in that world at all?
It’s truly amazing the level of fandom these franchises have. As much as I enjoy playing the games, I’m swept up in a big way in the waves of excitement around Ubisoft and everything they do. This past year at SDCC I was guest of Ubisoft’s and they threw the coolest parties and had the best people and swag and presentation and approach to everything — it’s just one massive thrill machine all centered around these games they work incredibly hard on. The fans respond to all of that, and so do I.
One of the defining characteristics of “Splinter Cell” as a franchise is the focus on Sam Fisher as the solo star of the action. From the stories already told about the character, what’s your impression of what makes Sam an engaging lead?
That was part of the question we had to ask ourselves. While Sam is such a well defined character in the game space, with his technique as an operative so unique and, well, cool, in gameplay the gamer is going to bring an element of themselves to the character they’re playing. In the comic, we had to define him in a way that didn’t conflict with what gamers saw in him, but also in a way that new readers without any experience with the game completely “got.” So we focused on his extra-operational struggles — interactions with his daughter, his lost wife, his retirement and even his lawn care — and used that to help bring us close to the elite and lethal operative we see in the game and kicking ass on the pages.
What new twist are you hoping to bring to the general set up of the franchise with the mission we’ll see in the “Splinter Cell” comic?
Much of what I mentioned above I think sparks a reaction to readers that will surprise them, both game players and casual readers; additionally I think the story will defy some expectations about the nature of the villain, the threat, the terrorism that Sam finds himself up against. It’s a twisting, Bond-esque tale, with lots of layers.
While “Splinter Cell” has been adapted into a number of novels to date, it seems like comics are a more natural home for the franchise purely based on the visuals. So much of what makes the games unique is guided by the POV action, the night vision and even the look of the character in the goggles. How have you drawn on all that in crafting the story?
We certainly play on that in some ways, but we were careful not to distract with it. That nearness to Sam is part of what makes the games so special, and we wanted to see that in the comic — we want the reader to feel as if they are there, as if they are in the shadows, plotting, thinking, ready to execute…
As a compliment to that, your artist Marc Laming must be working to ride a line between adherence to what fans expect to see from the games and some original comics stylings. What’s been your impression so far of how that balance gets met?
So much of that was between Marc and Ubisoft, but overall we were very happy with the liberty that Ubisoft allowed us on all levels of the book. The best part of it all is that there is nothing in the story that won’t really make sense to anyone who hasn’t played any of the games. It’s a spy/war/assassin/terrorism story that easily stands on its own, and that’s true of the visual approach.
Overall, what’s the element of this entire project that you’ve put the most focus into? In other words, is there a particular theme or aspect of the series you feel you’ve got to nail in order to make this feel like “Splinter Cell?”
I’m not really sure. Overall we sought to tell an original story about a one-man-army and the echoes of his actions, both good and bad, through time. I’ll look forward to seeing what readers find in it, though.
“Splinter Cell” debuts later this year from Dynamite Entertainment.