Miller and Francia on "Mass Effect" Sellouts

Dark Horse knew they had a hit on their hands when "Mass Effect: Redemption" #1 sold out three weeks after debuting in early January. Spinning out of Bioware's epic roleplaying games, the four issue miniseries series delves into what occurred between the events of the first and second "Mass Effect" games, following one of the SSV Normandy's former crew members (Liara T'Soni) as she investigates the disappearance of Commander Shepard.

The "Mass Effect 2" game launched in late January to huge sales and critical acclaim, giving the comic series even more momentum. Dark Horse also released an electronic version of the first issue on iTunes, which they gave away free for two days, allowing fans of the game to get caught up on the comic's story. When the second issue of "Mass Effect: Redemption" hit stores on February 3rd, it sold out in six days.

Following Dark Horse's announcement of a second printing earlier this week, "Mass Effect 2" lead writer Mac Walters, who penned the story for "Mass Effect: Redemption," said he was "ecstatic" to hear about the consecutive sell-outs. "I love our fans...they're so passionate about the games we make and the stories we tell through them," said Walters. "I hope the story we told in 'Redemption' lives up to their high expectations. And I hope the Dark Horse fans are equally excited to be introduced to our game in a brand new format."

CBR tracked down series script writer John Jackson Miller and artist Omar Francia to get their reaction to the news, as well as an exclusive preview of the next issue in the series.

CBR News: First off, what's your reaction to the "Mass Effect: Redemption #2" sell out, as well as the series' success in general so far?

John Jackson Miller: It's a good feeling, because it comes directly from reader demand. Retailers have a very difficult job, ordering in advance. With so many new titles coming out, information is vital. Knowing that the first two issues of "Mass Effect: Redemption" have sold out and gone to a second printing shows that we've found a good market to tap.

"Mass Effect: Redemption" #3 hits stores on March 3

It's been nice for me to hear from a new audience, as well.

Omar Francia: It feels great! The quick success of issue #2 was really, surprisingly wonderful. I think it might come directly from the enormous success of the game. The game is so well crafted artistically; the writing, the acting and the visual designs are so amazing that it makes the gamers feel deeply connected to the characters and it develops a hunger to know more about this universe. I'm glad that the mix of our talents could fulfill that need so well!

I also think that the idea of expanding the universe, and not just repeating what we already know, was a great call. For me, it gave me the opportunity to explore character's acting and designs - which was really fun to do - and it made the right impression that this product is not only a "game-related item," but it's a comic book by itself.

Speaking of the game, it seems that even more people flocked to the comic once "Mass Effect 2" came out, as this story is really showing fans what happened to Liara T'Soni in the time that Shepard was out of action. Are you surprised by how strongly people have reacted to the story in "Redemption?"

Miller: Liara was a very popular character in the first game, so it's not too surprising that gamers would be interested in following her further adventures. What we've been able to find out with the series is how motivated people were to learn more about her - and, at least so far, the results are very good.

JJM, as we head into the second half of this miniseries, can we expect to see how Liara ends up taking on the new role she has in the "Mass Effect 2" game?

Miller: Absolutely. We completely connect the dots between the two games as far as Liara's concerned - and Shepard, as well. Gamers who have reached the scenes with her know how impassioned she is about what happened during "Redemption." Soon, they'll have the rest of the pieces of the puzzle. And non-gamers will know an awful lot more about the character and what makes her tick.

Omar, now that the game is in people's hands, have you gotten feedback from fans about your visual take on the Mass Effect universe?

Francia: I've gotten some feedback from the fans, mostly from around the web, like public forums, Bioware's official Mass Effect forums, Facebook, the Dark Horse Web site, the CBR forums and more. Mostly, it's been great. I wish I could have a more direct link to the readers, but I've been so busy these months and I couldn't update my personal blog, so I hope I can do that soon. One of the common criticisms I've been hearing around - besides positive comments that they've loved what they saw so far - is that the art may need a darker tone in the lighting and the acting. I kind of agree with that, and I can tell you that the last issue is very much loaded with darker moments, fulfilling what the story needs and also the fans' expectations.

You mentioned in our last interview that you're a huge fan of the original game. As someone who loves the games, what was it like to see issue #1 of "Mass Effect: Redemption" included in the Collector's Edition of "Mass Effect 2?"

Francia: It was a great idea! That's the kind of thing that I, as a gamer, expect from a Collector's Edition! And this one is really generous. I already have my edition of the comic, and I'm looking forward to having everything from the game's Collector's Edition soon. It also shows that Bioware is really serious about the fact that the comic book is a functional part of the Mass Effect universe. They must be proud of this project, and that's just great!

Have either of you had a chance to play the final game yet? If so, has it made you look differently at the comic you helped create and how it fits into the Mass Effect story?

Miller: I watched a complete play-through the week the game came out. (Yes, I'm willing to yield the controller to someone more likely to get results!) It was a lot of fun seeing the characters in motion and audio. I also saw characters I wouldn't mind having a chance to write. "Mass Effect 2" is a wonderful gaming experience and a fountain of new ideas for the Mass Effect universe.

Francia: I had the chance to put my hands on it because a friend of mine already has the PC version. So I remember the excitement I felt when I was watching the opening movie with my wife and I told her I had to draw that moment when the Normandy is attacked by the Collectors! Liara is in one of those escape pods now, and she is watching Shepard's last moments on the ship! Later on in the game, I felt some butterflies in my stomach when I watched Liara talking about a lost friend that needs her help. Hopefully we can help her find this friend in future projects...who knows?

There are a lot of characters and places In the game I would love to draw in the future. It would be a lot of fun taking on Samara, Jack or Grunt someday! Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting my own copy of the game (hopefully the Collector's Edition), and when I have finished the last pages of issue #4, I'll be happy to dedicate some time to guiding Shepard through his new adventure.

Issue #3 of "Mass Effect: Redemption" is slated to arrive on March 3rd, and you can check out our preview of the issue now, courtesy of Dark Horse. For more on the series, head over to darkhorse.com, and info on Mass Effect 2 can be found at masseffect.bioware.com. John Jackson Miller can be found over on his personal blog at farawaypress.com.

Tags: dark horse comics, john jackson miller, bioware, omar francia, mass effect: redemption

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