It’s a good time to be a “God of War” fan. The highly anticipated “God of War III” arrived for the PlayStation 3 this past week to strong sales and very positive reviews. While the game will be providing the concluding chapter in Kratos’ tale of revenge against the Greek gods, Sony and WildStorm have collaborated to provide fans with a deeper look into Kratos’ past.
Additionally, a six-issue “God of War” miniseries kicks off later this month, and will explore some of the events that have defined Kratos as a character. Veteran scribe and longtime “God of War” fan Marv Wolfman is writing the series, with artist Andrea Sorrentino providing the visuals.
CBR recently spoke Wolfman and Sorrentino about the series, and also learned why each of them is a great fit for the project.
CBR News: Marv, you’ve said in the past that this is a series you wanted to write as soon as you heard about it. What is it that interests you so strongly about the “God of War” property?
Marv Wolfman: I’ve been playing video games since the days of “Pong,” but certainly got into the action games with “Wolfenstein” and “Doom.” But with time, action games seemed to become either first (or third) person shooters or strategy games. I played “Halo,” which added strategy to the fps, but though I found it fun, I wasn’t emotionally involved with the story because it was just a series of “go there and do this, go here and do that” scenarios. It was the Master Chief fighting whatever was out there while trying to find whatever he was assigned to find. I know in games the main hero is essentially a blank slate, so we put ourselves into it as we play, but “Halo,” like many games, seemed to be devoid of real story or character. I always felt there should be a way to create character and need in a game beyond just going on your mission because you’re assigned to do it.
What “God of War” did was create in a few quick scenes a character I actually cared about. We see Kratos committing suicide in the very beginning, and then we flash back to how he got there as the story begins. We’re brought into the game because we want to learn about why this big fighter is ready to off himself. That’s powerful. And then, as we learn more about him, we’re drawn deeper and deeper into the story. That’s character and story.
But on top of that, there is real imagination at work. The visuals are astounding and the game took us places we’d not seen before. There was real scale to some of the events. I am a mythology nut, so I’m predisposed to like those kinds of tales, but rarely have I seen a myth story that is bigger than I expect. Also, the game moved between battle scenarios and strategy, so when I got tired of button mashing fights, there were events I had to spend time figuring out. All in all, “God of War” provided an experience to me that I hadn’t seen before in games. I cared about the character, the story and was wowed by the events. When I heard it might be done as a comic, I fought to get the assignment.
We know that this series will delve into Kratos’ past, but just how far back will you be going? Will the series explore a number of past events or focus on one particular time in his life?
MW: I came up with a story that took place before the events in “God of War” #1 and, in a way, explained why what happens in the first game is so vitally important to Kratos. The people at Sony suggested I also add a related story that takes place between game one and game two. That was a great concept, because the original story was a solid, emotional Kratos adventure taking place at the time of the birth of his daughter. By adding the later story, which ties in with the original, albeit years later, I was able to come up with a major surprise element that allowed me to play with what happened in the past. What happened back then affects what happens later, but in ways you’d be surprised about because you won’t see it coming. It also affects how you see the game itself, something rarely done in tie-in stories. Whereas the past time story explains much of Kratos’ background and why he acts the way he does, the reason for the later time story connects directly to “God of War” #1 and shows the consequences of that game in his life.
When you played the original “God of War,” were there moments or events that you experienced in the game that you wanted to see expanded upon? Have any of those made it into this series?
MW: Games can’t and shouldn’t spend a lot of time with cinematics, which is where you get most of the character and plot. Even though you’re learning about the character and the story, you want to get back into the game playing. But comics aren’t as interactive; you’re there to read, so I can spend time doing character building. Also, I can be a bit more subtle in some story places. Specifically, I was able to use some characters who you saw only in cinematics, and flesh them out. I was able to take the story of Kratos’ wife and child, which motivates the entire game story, and really flesh that out. There are many bits in the story that take elements from the game and plays with them.
Andrea, how did you approach this series from a stylistic point of view?
Andrea Sorrentino: I think it was clear from the start that for this project Sony and DC wanted something a bit different from a “classical” comic. So I just took my usual style and added to it something new, like new colors from the videogame palette.
The “God of War” games have very epic and strong images, and I have to say that with this, Marv did really good work showing both dramatic and epic scenes, so it was quite easy to adapt my style to his script to try to create something that could reflect this sensation of epic and bloody battles. I also tried to give a chromatic importance to each scene. Adding some hot colors (like red or orange or brown) in action scenes and cold ones (like green or light blue) in others, like chats between gods, so that I hope that the reader could have an emotional feedback just by giving the page a first look.
I hope people will appreciate all the work we’ve done even before starting the first page of this comic.
Marv, being a fan of Greek mythology, will you be bringing gods and Titans into the comics that we haven’t seen before in the “God of War” games?
MW: To some degree, yes. We’re, of course, using most of the gods you’ve seen in the game, and because my story has to do with the human champions of the other gods, too, you get to see them as well. In many ways, beyond Kratos’ story which is front and center, this has to do with the way all the gods see humans. We’re just chess pieces to them to play with as they wish.
Andrea, apart from the games themselves, were there other depictions of ancient Greece and the gods (in comics, movies, books, etc.) that inspired your designs for this series?
AS: I’m Italian! I’ve lived my childhood in school visiting ancient Roman and Grecian ruins we have here. Plus, one of the first books I ever read when I was a child was “The War of Troy.” So, you could say that when I started working on this comic, I already had a good understnding of the background of the story, and I already had an idea of how to perform it.
How does the process work in terms of Sony’s involvement? Is there a lot of back and forth over each issue, or did you pitch them the general idea and they let you run with it?
MW: I’m working directly with the Sony team who works on the game, which means more than almost any tie-in project I’ve done in the past, the story, although generated by me, fits completely into Kratos’ overall story. The way it worked, and it’s been pretty seamless, is I came up with an overall idea. They suggested using two different time periods. I went back and used the concept of not only having the past story affecting the later storyline, but also what happened in the past is a solution to something that happens in game one. We went back and forth with this as I further developed the story. Thankfully, they really liked my ideas, because there was very little rewriting on the story. I then wrote a script and they went over it, suggesting dialogue changes or making some of the changes themselves. They write the game so they know the subtleties of dialogue much better than I, as a player, can hope to, even though I read all the “God of War” scripts. It’s the same as when I did the Titans and I’d see other people writing my characters; they’d get close but it was never quite exactly as I saw it. I’d also come up with characters, such as Kratos’ wife, whom we saw in the game but was never named. They’d huddle and come back with names and backgrounds for her which now can be used in their other projects. We worked together very closely, so by the end we had a perfect mesh of what I wanted to say, but done with the exact dialogue that Kratos and company would use.
Andrea, what do you feel are the most important aspects of Kratos and the “God of War” universe that you wanted to represent visually?
AS: I think people love Kratos because he’s such a strong, brutal guy that fights for a good cause against superficial and lazy gods that have nothing better to do than play with human lives. And, for sure, one of the better parts of the games is the amazing scenarios Kratos fights in. I think that it was important to show both of those things.
I tried to give gods the look of something superb and ethereal, but in the same way make them look bored, or capricious or just frustrated, so that readers could have the idea of some big lazy guys that want to overcome their boredom by playing with humans. Again, Marv’s script helped a lot with this.
For scenarios, I took some photographic references from real Grecian ruins and merged them with what we usually see in the videogames.
Also, I made the fights as strong and bloody as I could!
“God of War” games are known for the epic scale of their action sequences. How challenging is it to maintain that epic feel in a comic?
AS: I think that as my works are more like illustrations than classical penciled/inked/colored comics, for me it was a bit easier to keep things similar to the videogame. I know that Kratos has a lot of fans that don’t want to be disappointed with this comic, so I’m really doing my best to make the action scenes as bloody and strong as possible, and epic or solemn scenes (as the one with gods, for example) as solemn as possible.
Marv, as both a writer and a gamer, what is one challenge of bringing a game property into the comic medium, and how do you address that challenge in this series?
MW: The biggest problem is to make the character and story feel to the readers that it came from someone who understood the original as much as they do. I used to hate reading tie-in novels of TV shows or movies I loved and get the feeling that the person who wrote it looked at one or two scripts and then went off and did it all wrong. They really didn’t get it. Whether you’re a gamer or a reader, you want the tie-in projects to really tie-in. You want to know this could have been part of the original. I hope the kind of action I came up with, as well as the character story, feels absolutely right to those who know the game inside out. Although I came up with the story and the motivations, I’d love it if people thought it came from some giant story bible the “God of War” people had written themselves and I just chose this story to tell. I want the reader to come away saying, This is a real “God of War” story.”
For some readers, this series will be their introduction to the “God of War” franchise. How are you making the story accessible for those who have never played a “GoW” game?
MW: Since the story takes place at the time of the birth of Kratos’ daughter and also after he becomes the God of War, I’m hoping the strong character story and motivation I give Kratos will explain everything you need to know. You’ll see a younger Kratos being shaped by the forces around him. You’ll see why he acts the way he does. Then you’ll see what he becomes and you’ll know how he got there. You don’t need to know the specifics of the game story because you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to follow this adventure.
When all is said and done, I think whether you played the game or not you’ll get a great big mythological story about a powerful warrior and the Greek gods. It’s filled with gigantic monsters, warriors and battles. It also has a strong human story because of why Kratos is doing what he’s doing. To the game player, you’ll come to realize why what Kratos does in the first game affects him the way it does. You’ll see why what happens in the game needs to be addressed in a way that it can never happen to Kratos again. You’ll see characters who are very important to Kratos’ life but aren’t seen much because they are characters who appeared only in cinematics. I’m hoping, whether you played the game or not, you will come out of this with a great, fun story. But, of course, if you have played it, you’ll get a lot of the subtext that will add to the overall Kratos storyline. As always, we’ll see what the readers think.
The first issue of “God of War” is scheduled to hit stores on March 31st.