The release of Mortal Kombat X #1 this week made us ponder: why aren’t there more comics based on videogames? While series like Tomb Raider and Uncharted have made the successful leap to sequential art, a host of other AAA properties and indie gems lie ripe for the comic treatment. Game developers pour countless hours and Red Bulls into a project that — save for MMORPGs —lasts an excruciatingly finite amount of time. Comics can extend these rich stories into endless months with the support of a loyal audience. Think of it as trans-media DLC. For this list, we focused on games with the richest backstories that could lend themselves to further tales. We also avoided games that have already been translated into comics (The Last of Us, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, etc…). Let us know what games you would like to see in comic form in the comments below.
The Binding of Isaac
Writer & Artist: Jhonen Vasquez
The Binding of Isaac walks a very intentional tightrope between the innocent and the horrifying. On one side, doe-eyed sprites wander around basements filled with poo monsters and giant Zelda hearts. On the other, a fundamentalist mother stalks her child with a kitchen knife as her spawn descends into the depths of hell (or a vicious heaven). Without the disarming cartoon aesthetic, Isaac would probably draw far more censorship attempts beyond Nintendo declining a 3DS port. But this story leaves so many open questions fueled by its subversive plot: is Isaac (maybe a spoiler alert) actually a demon? Why are the Four Horsemen parading around his basement? And what happens after he beats Mega Satan and retreats to his chest?
Only Jhonen Vasquez has successfully approached this combination of the disturbing and whimsical in such works as Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and I Feel Sick. The Invader Zim creator is also brutal and cynical enough to tackle the themes of child abuse and religious extremism that underpin Isaac with a healthy dose of black humor. At the very least, the man could draw the hell out of a claustrophobic basement covered in flies and despair. Sean Edgar
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
Not long after being dropped into Bioshock’s ravaged under-water city, Rapture, it becomes clear that this is a world with incredible, and weird, depths to plumb. What was meant to be a utopia of unchecked scientific progress collapsed into a decaying Ayn Randian monument to hubris. Wouldn’t it be great if there were injections that gave normal people super powers? No! And this is why. I want to witness the collapse. I want to see, in vivid illustration, how a plasmid-riddled society at the bottom of the sea spirals out of control. I want to read the rise and fall of Rapture, channeled with angry, steam-punk abandon by Warren Ellis and Robbi Rodriguez. Robert Tutton
Child of Light
Writer: Eric Shanower
Artist: Charles Vess
As soon as I witnessed the velvety, sun-streaked screens of Child of Light, I immediately wished I could read it as much as play it. This downloadable gem from Ubisoft feels like a 19th Century children’s book, recalling such hallowed literary muses like J.M. Barrie and L. Frank Baum. With poignant storytelling and evocative eye candy, this game would make a spectacularly gorgeous comic. Charles Vess has proven his mastery over all things fantasy in books like Stardust, Thorn and The Book of Ballads. Vess could seamlessly frame the adventures of Young Aurora as she journeys through Lemuria to battle the Dark Queen, Umbra.
As far as narrative and dialogue are concerned, Eric Shaonwer has translated (and extended) the works of Baum in Marvel’s Oz books as well as Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo for IDW. He would bring the necessary respect and polish to place Child of Light besides its bookshelf inspirations. Sean Edgar
Writer: Brandon Graham
Artist: Travis Charest, Farel Dalrymple
Along with a platoon of genius illustrators, Brandon Graham has created a universe of sprawling, mysterious worlds in the sci-fi mindfuck, Prophet. Each planetary diorama supports a detailed ecosystem of flora and fauna, politics and history that could warrant its own comic. Within these exotic locales, a succession of recently-born heroes and villains liberate and dominate implanted monsters and warriors, though all of these characters may just be pawns in an overarching mission hatched by ancient, insidious demigods. Also: incredibly detailed item descriptions.
Reread that previous graph, ignoring the comic book and sci-fi lingo, and it almost describes the Dark Souls saga to a scary degree. And how could you not want a Dark Souls comic? These games excel in minimal storytelling conveyed through random pieces of dialogue, context and (again) item descriptions, while regal tales of love, loss and betrayal resonate just underneath the surface. Graham could easily be the auteur to maintain that mystery while still spinning intoxicating myths in a Dark Souls comic. Though Travis (Wildcats) Charest hasn’t worked on a major project in years, his hyper-detailed figures and backgrounds would do Lordran justice. Farel Dalrymple could also lend his pencils to the gritty, encroaching chaos of Lost Izalith with gravity and emotion. Sean Edgar
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Damien Worm
Who doesn’t love a good post-apocalyptic romp through the ruins of what used to be America? And, naturally, all the giant bugs, messed-up creatures and human mutations that go along with it. In the year 2077, America and China have a not-so-friendly dispute about the world’s dwindling resources, which culminates in the gratuitous dropping of nuclear bombs. Two-Hundred years later, in Fallout 3, we’re presented with a story from but one of the survivalist vaults. Whether focusing on other people in Vault 101, or moving to another vault altogether, this is exactly where a comic could step in. At the very least, it would fill some of that void until Fallout 4... whenever that happens. Robert Tutton
Writer: Emily Carroll
Gone Home broke new narrative ground with a haunting first-person mystery that unfolded as a young girl discovered miscellaneous letters and crushed dreams in her parents’ empty mansion. It was a horror story mired in adolescent hormones that sucker punched players with a heartwrencing ending. Emily (Through the Woods) Carroll works through similar methods, lining the reader’s path with enticing barbs of information before yanking the sheet off the elephant in the room — or in some cases, the demonic wraith or folklore boogeyman. Though Carroll’s work usually packs a supernatural punch, she could easily transition to this world by exploring other residences in a Gone Home anthology adorned with her gorgeous watercolors, swimming in the wine reds and mustard yellows that make her other works stand out. Sean Edgar
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Murder. Rubber masks. The ‘80s. Dennaton Games’ Hotline Miami is absolutely perfect for a gore-filled journey, panel by panel. And what better hands to entrust Richard and the crew than with the kings of crime themselves, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
In many ways, the duo’s bibliography is evidence enough that they would be the perfect fit. Time and again, Image has spun absolute gold from these two, making them the unparalleled crime drama creative team. Almost every collected story is a period piece in itself, whether it’s the ‘40s Hollywood glitz of The Fade Out or the urban modern grit of Criminal. Also, with fantastic tales spinning from Sleeper and Fatale, you just know they’d be able to handle whatever bizarre or trippy material Miami could throw at them.
So violence and the supernatural would fall within their comfort zone, but the creators’ best work often lies outside of those confines. The sparse dialog seen throughout Hotline Miami would be more than enough to put Brubaker on edge and Phillips would have to pull back from his shadow-heavy inking, embracing the neon-soaked time period where the game takes places. For Brubaker and Phillips, this project would be equal parts familiar and ambitious — the perfect mixture for something really great to happen. Darren Orf
Kentucky Route Zero
Writer & Artist:
If there’s one thing Cardboard Computer’s indie darling, Kentucky Route Zero, has a lot of, it’s atmosphere. Luckily, the developers also delivers an incredible story that will keep you pointing and clicking through the entire somber adventure. With such a stark setting and compelling narrative, only Jeff Lemire fits the bill for its comic adaptation.
The Canadian writer/artist’s work on Essex County and Sweet Tooth shows an ability to balance between the daily dramas of an average life and apocalyptic horror with equal intensity and humanity. What makes Kentucky Route Zero so magical is that you never lose the sense that this story is dripping with meaning, and even when Lemire is penning some spandex adventure, meaning always lies at the soul of his stories. Darren Orf
Skulls of the Shogun
Writer & Artist: Art Baltazar
How many times did you laugh while playing the feudal strategy game Skulls of the Shogun? And if you haven’t played it, go play it. Right now. Turn-based shoguns who munch on enemy noggins in the afterlife should not be this entertaining, but they most definitely are in this addictive, joyous romp. Developer 17-BIT brought so much loving personality to these skeletons and the ancient Japanese ogres, gods and anthropomorphic animals they battle that it was sad to see them go when the credit screen rolled.
Art Baltazar is also a king of the non sequitur and PG puns, with work on Itty Bitty Hellboy and Tiny Titans that delivered all-ages gold. Pair Baltazar with Shogun and 17-BIT on a new Dark Horse comic, and there’s no way we won’t be yucking it up once more at General Akamoto as he bumbles through more enchanted rice paddies. Sean Edgar
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Darick Robertson
Tell me if you heard this one before: Alternate timelines. Nazis. Unrelenting ass-kicking. If you said The Boys, or really any Ennis/Robertson comic production, you wouldn’t be far off. It also happens to be the key ingredient to Wolfenstein, especially with the franchise’s 2014 revival in Wolfenstein: The New Order.
William “B.J.” Blazkowicz is Jesse Custer, Frank Castle, and Billy Butcher all wrapped inside the same person: he chainsawed a Nazi in half. If that doesn’t have Garth Ennis written all over it, I don’t know what does.
The Boys also dabbles with a Man in a High Castle alternative dimension in which superheroes are real (and complete dicks) and 9/11 goes completely different than the horror tale in reality. So, too, does Wolfenstein fiddle with what is real and what is fantasy. It’s at those exact crossroads that this creative team has always done amazing work. Darren Orf