Gray & Palmiotti Talk "Prototype"

When "Prototype" arrives in stores this June, players will take on the role of Alex Mercer, a young man who finds himself with the mysterious ability to alter his entire genetic makeup. Alex must battle his way through New York City in the midst of a viral outbreak, as he tries to find out not only what happened to him, but what's behind the outbreak itself.

In anticipation of the upcoming game, writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti are penning a "Prototype" comic book miniseries, illustrated by Darick Robertson and published by WildStorm. The series will not only tie-in to events from the upcoming game, but also build on both the story and the world that were created for it.

With the second issue hitting stores next week, CBR News caught up with Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti to talk about the series.

CBR: It seems like you two are popping up around quite a few game franchises these days ("Dead Space," "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe"). How did you end up getting involved with the "Prototype" series?

Justin Gray: I believe "Prototype's" lead designer Eric Holmes requested us for the job. Is that right Jimmy?

Jimmy Palmiotti: I think that's exactly right. With that suggestion, WildStorm then approached us with the job, which also includes some online comic as well. When you get known for doing work in many medias, the cool thing is that there are a ton more opportunities and with "Prototype" it was the perfect match, I think.

As a prelude to the game, how do the events of the "Prototype" miniseries tie in with the game's main storyline?

JG: It isn't entirely a prelude so much as an expansion of the "Prototype" universe in comic book form, telling stories about characters that are game-specific as well as creating some that are stand alone. This series weaves through and around various points in time that are relevant to the game, but don't always interact with game-specific moments. Obviously part of the reason for this is not to spoil a game that has yet to be released.

JP: They wanted us to expand the universe they created and also fill in a lot of the backstory at the same time to make the game experience even more compelling. At the same time, our job was to present a comic book series that can standalone and not alienate anyone that isn't a game person.

The first issue of the series jumps back and forth between the late 1960s and 2008. Were the seeds of what is affecting Alex Mercer in the game sown all the way back in the Vietnam War?

JG: The war happens to relate more directly to a character in the game and structure of a covert military operation that has been operating since the 1960's. This serves as a window into the backstory of General Randall.

In creating a tie-in like this for a game, how much freedom do you have to tell the story you want to? Are you given lots of parameters?

JG: In some cases, like the detectives, we were given free reign to tell their story. In the case of the other game specific characters, we were given very detailed and thought out documents. The time and energy that's gone into "Prototype" the game is staggering and impressive. This is a fully realized universe populated with detailed characters that thrive and breathe on their own. Using these documents as a hard line we constructed the series.

JP: the most appealing aspect of taking this project on was we were going to be able to not only do our own thing, but work with the "Prototype" guys and build on their insanity as well. This universe is well thought out and as realistic as any game out there, but at the same time it's over the top, and that's awesome for guys like us who are big gamers.

Jimmy, you've worked with Darick Robertson before as both a writer and an inker ("Marvel Knights Wolverine," "Fury," "Deadpool"). What do you like most about Darick's style, and what makes him a good fit for this series?

JP: Darick understands how to move the reader from page to page smoothly, recognizes that scene shifts have to have a different mood, and he creates characters that are both familiar and different at the same time. We were really lucky to have the team of Darick, Matt Jacobs and Wes Hartman on this book. There is a style and a look that demands attention and Darick certainly has a lot of experience with drawing exploding body parts and horror material.

Will we see some of the characters from the miniseries making appearances in the game as well?

JG: Absolutely, there are characters pulled from the game at work in this series, including the main protagonist, Alex Mercer.

You both have been involved with a bunch of video game properties over the last several years, from writing comic and movie adaptations to scripting the games themselves. How do you think the relationship between comics and games has changed?

JP: We are storytellers and having the chance to put our skills to work in different genres is a natural, I think. There is nothing worse than a game without a clear thought out spine, and writing comics has taught us what we need to keep the story moving and at the same time hook even the casual reader. I personally think the games are getting better and the comics are as well and that's a good thing. There was a time when comic adaptations and such were looked at as PR material, and now it's not like that anymore. Both genres have become vital to each other. Now, if only they can make a decent video game movie...

JG: I think game creators see the potential for cross-pollination with their products and comics in the same way they have with games and film. With the amount of thought and construction involved in many of these games, particularly an open world game like "Prototype" there is always going to be room for expansion. It seems like a logical step to incorporate sequential storytelling.

As both gamers and writers, how do you think storytelling in games has evolved over the past few years, and where do you think it needs to go?

JG: Wow, that's a loaded question. I have some very specific ideas and thoughts that I'm waiting for the opportunity to develop if the situation arises when someone says "build us a game from the ground up". I think the interactivity of gameplay opens up a new world of fiction and entertainment when you are the active participant in a story. Granted, I love to shoot the crap out of things, but the depth of the experience can and will continue to develop. There tends to be a similarity in games where they stick to genres and they can also fall into some of those storytelling traps, but when you diversify the content by adding time sensitive puzzles, cognitive logic and thinking, then you have no limits outside of technology. The storytelling is getting better each year depending on the type of game.

JP: I agree totally. As we work on these games and the tie-ins, we are seeing the huge gaps that are appearing that need to be filled, and we cannot wait to put this knowledge to good use in each and every project we get involved with from here on in. As Justin said, creating and developing a brand new intellectual property is next for us we hope and when that happens, we will do our best to try to change the face of gaming. Hey...you never know.

The first issue of the "Prototype" is on sale now. Issue #2 hits stores May 6. The "Prototype" game is scheduled for release in North America on June 9 for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, and you can find out more about it by heading over to www.prototypegame.com.

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