CCI XTRA: "ReVisioned: Tomb Raider" Animated Series

As part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Tomb Raider franchise, Eidos Interactive, the company that holds the rights to the Tomb Raider trademark and Lara Croft character, commissioned popular online videogame site GameTap.com to produce and develop a new animated series, "ReVisioned: Tomb Raider Animated Series." The project includes ten short features to be screened on the GameTap website, chronicling the adventures of the fan-favorite heroine, Lara Croft.

GameTap looked to some of the most popular creators in the fields of comic books and animation to make the series a reality. An all-star panel spotlighting the new series was held at Comic-Con International. Panelists included the six creators behind Lara's animated adventures: Warren Ellis, Gail Simone, Brian Pulido, Michael A. Stackpole, and Jim Lee, who made it clear that his contribution to the "ReVisoned" series was a total collaboration with many other members of his WildStorm studios.

Lee arrived late to the panel, and Ellis joked, "Saying that Jim Lee is late is like saying that water is wet."

"We have such fantastic relationships with game designers that we thought it would be fun to take some of those characters and turn them over to the most fantastic, creative minds on the planet – comics creators! – and see what they could do with them," said Ricardo Sanchez, Ricardo Sanchez, GameTap's Vice President of Content and Creative Director behind the "ReVisioned" series. "And our first choice was Lara Croft."

Sanchez then asked what was it that drew each of the creators to work on the new series in the first place and what was their familiarity with Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise beforehand.

Ellis said, "I had a short, difficult affair with Lara several years ago. It was brief, and pretty much ended up with her being drowned a lot."

Peter Chung replied that he was not very familiar with Lara Croft as a character before getting the opportunity to work on "Tomb Raider," as he didn't read comics or play videogames, which prompted Jim Lee to remark that he couldn't even imagine life without comics or video games.

The offer of creative freedom was enough to entice Chung to the "Re/Visioned" project. "It's rare to get a chance to do a project like this," Chung said. "I like to see a project through all the way to the end, and it's rare that a client will actually let you do that…but this was an opportunity to do so. So I jumped at the chance."

Lee joked that he got involved with the project because he wanted to meet Angelina Jolie, disappointedly adding that he never actually got to.

Peter Chung's contribution to the series, "Keys to the Kingdom," is the longest feature, at three parts. It debuted July 10 on the GameTap site and is about an archaeologist who claims to have discovered a way to bring the dead back to life. Lara gets involved after the archaeologist is murdered. One of the things Chung said he found enjoyable about working on Lara is the character's moral ambiguity. "We were given pretty clear instructions that [Lara] wasn't out to save the world, all of her actions had to be selfish. So I liked it in a sense that it wasn't moralizing, as so much animation tends to be."

Sanchez referred to novelist Michael A. Stackpole's episode, "Raising Thaumopolis," as by far the most politically charged of the series. Stackpole said, "The thing with Lara is she's always saving the world. So I sort of looked at all the things that were going on in the world at the moment and our current political landscape and used them for inspiration." Stackpole's episode involves Lara discovering the lost underwater city of Thaumopolis.

Sanchez then asked how each of the writers approached the series and what they used for inspiration.

"Lara Croft is really solidly in the tradition of the British adventurer character that you can trace back to H. Rider Haggard and all that," Ellis said. "And one of the tropes of that genre is the adventurer coming up against the complete unknown."

Gail Simone fielded the question of whether or not Lara was a strong, positive role model for females or just "a hot chick with big boobs and a bunch of guns."  

"Yeah, I think she is a feminist icon, in that she's got the qualities – she's smart, strong, able to take care of herself – so all the major components are there as far as I'm concerned," Simone said. "Yeah, she is a chick with boobs and guns, but she's also smart and quite capable. The fact that she's also beautiful doesn't make her any less of a feminist icon in my mind."

Simone's remarks prompted Ellis to chime in, "In my mind, [Lara's] stark naked, but she's got on an 18-inch emerald studded strap-on with the head of Cthulhu on the end."

Simone's episode is entitled "Pre-Teen Raider" and features a 13-year old Lara Croft-- which, Simone was quick to point out, means that Lara "didn't even have boobs yet."

"I just started thinking about what Lara would be like at 13, and that made me crack up," Simone said.

Brian Pulido penned two separate episodes for the series, one entitled, "Revenge of the Aztec Mummy," that he said will most likely surprise a lot of his fans. "It's a lot closer to something like those old 'Looney Tunes' cartoons than the sort of dark, morbid stuff I'm known for," Pulido said. "And getting a chance to do something like that was what I found appealing about the project."

Ellis then seemed to fixate on the idea of Aztec mummies.

When a fan asked if Eidos was very "hands-on" when it came to letting outside creators handle one of their most popular characters, all six panelists replied in the negative, explaining that to start, each creator was given a two-page outline/synopsis, and then left to come up with whatever they wanted.

However, Ellis joked, "[Eidos] made me cut out the bit with the flying wound that looked like the pope. I had to lose that. They were horrible to work with!"

The panel concluded with the premiere screening of the first episode of Ellis' two-part contribution to the series, "Angel Spit (Part 1)," with character designs by Cully Hammer.

From the first line of dialogue, it was quite clear that this was indeed a Warren Ellis--penned script.

"There's a curious object I've been keeping in my trousers for you, Miss Croft," an older, professor-looking gentleman said to Lara Croft.

The episode can be viewed on the GameTap website.

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