At Comic-Con International in San Diego, Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee joined video game creators Bryan Shutt, Chris Schultz, and Brian Reed for a preview of two upcoming collaborations between Marvel and Activision. With both "Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2" and "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows" heading for platforms within the next year, what did the original creator of these characters have to say about these new video games?
"I never thought there would be video games done as magnificently as you guys do them," said Lee, "with the visuals and the stories and the excitement, and crowds like this coming to talk about them -- it would have been unthinkable. There's no way we could have imagined it [when we created the characters]."
Chris Schultz, of Shaba Games, was first up to discuss his upcoming game for Activision, "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows." "Did everyone see the trailer [for the game]?" asked Schultz. The crowed shouted, "No," and dozens of voices called out, "play it!" When the lights dimmed and the trailer began, it soon became evident that the wrong video was being projected. But the crowd didn't care, and cheered wildly as the trailer for "Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2" played.
The trailer showed Iron Man, Thor, and the assembled Marvel multitude in animated sequences from the upcoming game. When it ended, to much applause, the crowd was asked if they wanted to see the "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows" trailer for real this time. But while the technical difficulties were being attended to, video game writer and current "Ms. Marvel" scribe Brian Reed had a request for Stan Lee.
"I need a Marvel name," said Reed, referring to Lee's penchant in the classic "Stan's Soapbox" column to refer to his Marvel collaborators nicknames like "'Jazzy' John Romita" and "Gene 'The Dean' Colan." Lee thought for a moment, sitting in complete silence.
"Brian 'Razzle-Dazzle' Reed," Lee proclaimed.
The video game creators went on to discuss a bit about the plot from the upcoming "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows," which was conceived as a zombie game, with Spider-Man. Schultz said the thought was, "What if it was a symbiote invasion of New York? It's spider man vs. all of New York."
After the technical difficulties were settled, the "Web of Shadows" trailer rolled and the audience got a chance to see a clip of animation from the game: Spider-Man, perched on a rooftop, looking out at a New York covered with millions of webs.
Schultz explained that, coming from the "Tony Hawk" series, he and his team wanted to "take a lesson from those games" and bring that to an action-adventure game "Spider-Man," said Schultz, "is the perfect character. With his abilities, it's a perfect match."
Schultz applauded the relationship between Activision and Marvel, saying that "It's been great working with everyone at Marvel," and recognizing that they and Marvel are on the same page. "They just want the games to be awesome," said Schultz.
Stan Lee chimed in to praise his fellow panel members, saying video games have not only surpasses his wildest imagination, but "They've gone beyond movies," said Lee. "Movies are linear--you have a beginning, middle , and end. With video games, you're writing many stories, and the job of writing is a much more difficult one."
Lee went on to add, "I thought that, in the beginning, video games were kind of clever. But now you see these games and it's like you're watching the greatest superhero movies, except you're part of it. You're inside the movie."
Talk moved to the upcoming "Ultimate Alliance 2," and Bryan Shutt, of Vicarious Visions, said, "We're taking the largest army of superheroes, and we're allowing the players to fuse the characters' abilities."
Regarding the top-secret plot of the upcoming game, Shutt said, "All I can say is that it starts with Secret War, and it takes it from there." Shutt explained how the games start with the comics. "The first thing we do is open up all the comics and just pour through them."
One of the hardest parts, said Shutt, is that they have to "Actually model these characters. So we have to add detail that may not be in the comics," he added. "The costumes are everything. The game is about the characters and making you feel powerful."
Lee compared it to his own humble beginnings at Marvel: "I would come up with the basic idea. Then I'd ask the artist to draw it--hating myself because I can't draw it myself, because I knew exactly what I was looking for. When the artists finally drew the costume, it was always better than I had envisioned. If hadn't worked with artists who were nearly as good, I wouldn't be here. I'd be looking for a job."
Shutt explained that creating a video game requires an immensely large staff of people. "I'm helping to lead a staff of over 100 artists," said Shutt. "We're really working toward making this game the best experience possible."
Lee, astonished by the effort and achievement of these leaders in the video game industry, said, "I feel like a caveman who was painting on the cave walls."
Trailer for "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows":
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