Marvel's Master Chief: Jayatilleke Talks "Halo Uprising"

Fans of Marvel's "Halo: Uprising" miniseries may already be familiar with Ruwan Jayatilleke, the hotel concierge caught in the middle of an alien invasion. What readers may not realize is that the real-life Ruwan is largely responsible for that invasion in the first place. As Marvel's Vice President of Development, Ruwan Jayatilleke worked with Bungie Software, the publishers of the "Halo" series of games, to bring the property to comics, and now serves as editor of the series.

With issue #2 in stores this week, CBR News had a chance to talk with Jayatilleke about "Halo Uprising," the games that inspired it, and the resemblances between himself and Ruwan the character.


I'd like you to go back to the beginning of landing the "Halo" license -- what was it about this license that makes it so attractive a fit for Marvel?

Obviously, Bungie has created an expansive compelling universe with a lore that is both attractive and captivating to both hardcore gaming fans as well as the casual ones. One can point to the massive pop culture phenomenon that "Halo" is as well as the fact that it is a mega blockbuster sales-wise. Bungie's ability to weave story, innovate visual storytelling, provide cutting-edge entertainment, pay attention to the tiniest details and care about gaming fans made Halo "an attractive fit" for Marvel. It was a no-brainer!

What was the process of landing that license?  Was Microsoft/Bungie looking for a comics partner, or did you see an available license you had to jump on?

In 2005, Marvel heard through the grapevine that Bungie had created an original graphic novel based on Halo-- aka "The Halo Graphic Novel" (HGN)-- and that they had procured elite talents to work on it which included Moebius, Bisley, and Nihei, to name a few. Bungie had the graphic novel ready but needed a pre-press, print, marketing, and distribution partner. After that is where Brian Bendis and I visited Bungie with a proposal for the HGN as well as a series of limited original "Halo" comic miniseries. The rest is history: Marvel and Bungie agreed to partner up, and as the fans have seen, the HGN's launch was stellar at San Diego Comic-Con 2006, as was the launch of the "Halo: Uprising" miniseries in August 2007.

The space-faring epic of "Halo" is a bit of a departure from Brian Michael Bendis's other comics. What insight did you have that Bendis would be the best writer for this project?

Brian's coming on-board was the result of one of Marvel's offsite creators' brainstorming retreats. Brian expressed a huge interest in Alex Maleev and him teaming up to tackle the first "Halo" miniseries. Maleev and Bendis went to Bungie to pitch their story idea. Bungie had its own insights into what would make the series a compelling one for fans. The collaboration started and there began "Halo: Uprising"!

In addition to editing "Halo: Uprising," you also appear in the book as a central character. Was this your idea,or Bendis's?

Totally Brian's idea! Bendis is a force of nature; he's uncontrollable. And it's good thing, too, because he is an awesome creator and collaborator who has this amazing gift to create story out of nowhere. It's been a pleasure working with him over the past few months. Of course, working with Alex has been a blast, too. He took the time and effort to make my visualization in print a non-horrifying experience for fans. Alhough it's a tiny bit creepy seeing myself in the issues, as I am editing. I am just glad that Bungie okay'd me to be in the book. I was a bit nervous when the first script and pages got sent out. Whew!

Is Myras, your gorgeous pop-star "teammate" in the comic, a real person, too?  What's the story behind this character?

Myras is based on someone that Alex knows---and that's all I can say about that! Obviously, he altered her look a bit to fit the visualization of the character with Bendis's story and the futuristic feel of Halo. Alex never shot/sketched us together, he did it separately and merged us together with the backgrounds and/or foregrounds seamlessly. Maleev is an absolute phenomenal artist.  Hands down!

The second issue of "Uprising" lands this Wednesday, November 21, what can you tell us about the story as it unfolds in this issue?

Well, the reader will have a lot to digest. Some tidbits: the Chief escaping the capture, hunting down the Covenant, and putting a sniper scope to good use. In terms of the story on Earth, Ruwan and Myras managed to escape the stadium due to the bravery of the UNSC, and another clue is given about the Key of Osanalan that further connects the Chief's fight on the Forerunner vessel with the invasion on Earth.

Oh yeah, there's lots of explosions, a lot more story, and quite a bit of mayhem!

With "Halo 3" allegedly completing the video game series, will we see further miniseries after "Uprising" concludes?

Yes, indeed comic and gaming fans will have further miniseries to sink their teeth and eyes into. Each miniseries arc will likely cover different aspects and stories within the Halo mythos. However, Marvel and Bungie are focused on completing "Halo: Uprising" before rushing to an announcement on future arcs. So fans will just have to stay tuned and keep reading "Halo: Uprising!"

CBR:The first Halo graphic novel, and now the "Uprising" series, have been quite successful at bringing people into comics who might not regularly read them. What is it about this franchise that inspires such devotion and demands that more stories be told in the Halo universe?

I am going to steal a Bendis answer on this because his answer is far superior to anything than I would "typey-typey" on my keyboard:

"I really do think Halo is our generation's Star Wars. It's got a rich and untapped back-story and worldview that completely inspires me and millions of others. That's why the game is such a hit, that's why it raises past being a game into a cultural phenomenon, because it has richness to it that other games, and frankly, a lot of movies and television shows simply do not have.  It was an honor to be asked to add something to the Halo pot. To bring to 'Halo: Uprising' what the HGN also brought, some humanity and perspective. Something you can't get in the game based solely on the nature of the different mediums."

On the topic of the game series, and I'm assuming you play the game, what is your "Halo 3" weapon of choice?

Sniper Rifle! Spiker Carbine! Energy Sword! The list goes on and on. If it kills, I likey! I am not picky.

How about your favorite map?

Hmmm, tough one. The pit and the narrows...for now.

Do you get into trash-talking on the headset, or just let your actions speak for you?

Trash-talking ain't my style. Besides, I can't hang with the high-pitched/cracking voices that occasionally make my eardrums bleed during gameplay. To be a pre-teen again... as if!

Do you own any Halo collectibles, like the Master Chief helmet or a limited edition X-Box?

Not yet but I am sending mom, dad, siblings, friends, ex-girlfriends, etc. several links now. Thanks for the reminder, hombre! It should be a treasure trove of gifts for me this holiday---I hope!

Finally, as we close things out, tell us a bit about your role at Marvel as Vice President of Development.  What's this mean in terms of your role at Marvel and what does it mean to the common Marvel comics fan?

I operate behind-the-scenes, mostly. Undercover missions. I'd have to kill you if told you mission specifics. However, here are the vague details: working on different aspects of the publishing game; delving into category management for certain products tied to Marvel's classic, movie, TV and animated brands for our Consumer Products Group; overseeing brand management of certain third-party IP like "Halo" and "Dark Tower;" targeting new top-tier writer; and wrestling with IP acquisition. There are bunch of exciting things that I am working on right now that will hopefully be announced next year!

Basically, these days, my main role is to negotiate and cut deals while occasionally getting to work on creative project like editing "Halo: Uprising." In a parallel universe, the Ruwan there is a top-notch hostage negotiator (I save people, in my delusions of grandeur!), whereas the Ruwan in the Halo universe negotiates for hotel guests, as "Halo: Uprising" fans know. And so and so on. As you can see, negotiation is a common theme. It's a good thing that I am great at it! Ha!

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