Interview with Gemma Sheldrake on adapting OFF from game to comic
Centering around the enigmatic Batter in his mission to "purify" the world of monstrous spectres, OFF has made waves as a free download in five different languages. Prepare to experience the surreal horror RPG by MortisGhost in an entirely new way. Artist Gemma Sheldrake, perhaps better known within internet circles as Petitecreme, has been commissioned by writer Lynn Gray to produce the OFF Comic, a full-length adaptation of the original game.
Alongside the player Tuvynia, a personification of Gray, you can now follow the Batter through each Zone panel by panel, faithfully recounting the story that has been accumulating a cult following since 2007. Here is the comic and the game side by side for comparison:
Sheldrake graciously took the time to give us a greater insight into her work with OFF.
What were your initial thoughts when Lynn Gray approached you with the idea of adapting OFF into a full-length comic?
I originally was in the process of illustrating important story moments into comics for my own personal enjoyment at the time she approached me. She wanted the whole story done and honestly I was amazed and super excited about the prospect of illustrating the whole game's story!
The Batter interacts with the player much more frequently in the comic than the original game. How does Gray's player character, Tuvynia, affect how the story is told? And how does her presence affect the Batter's interactions with Zacharie?
Tuvynia in a nutshell, is Lynn's personal experience and train of thought as she plays through the game (which she then writes into the story). The Batter knows that he is being controlled and as the player, you know you are directing The Batter through the world. We wanted to have a side character that basically is unable to interact with the world but is still able to talk and interact with The Batter.
Zacherie, like many merchants from other games, is able to break the 4th wall. The player is the one who needs the wares, so why bother with the middle man (Batter) when Tuvynia is right there? It's The Batter's job to purify the [game's] world and seeing how Zacharie can get close to Tuvynia, he's pretty wary of him (I personally think it's hilarious).
In comics, we're given snapshots linked together to tell the story. Is there a process you go through in choosing the contents of each panel?
The whole story basically goes through each zone/map of the game. Me and Lynn work together to make the characters go from A to B and it's my job to make these scenes as interesting as possible with the limited colour palette I have for each zone. Some panels have to be altered to accommodate the amount of in-game text that is used, while in others I try to create the sense of atmosphere with the backdrops of buildings and locations.
How long do you anticipate the OFF comic to be, once completed?
I honestly couldn't say. At this moment I've finished all of Zone 1 and it's taken me the better half of 8 months to do! There's still so much more to go!
Depictions of the Batter with four eyes are popular among the fandom, but have never been confirmed as canon. How did you and Gray decide on this interpretation?
It was actually my idea when I originally started drawing fanart of OFF because of the black smears baseball players put under their eyes. I thought it was an interesting concept that's widely accepted in the fandom's variations of The Batter.
Lynn and I then both came up with a theory that the "black eyes" are able to see the paranormal activity that goes on in the world. It's how he see's Tuvynia and the spectres and why a lot of the natives are unable to see them. He keeps them closed when talking to the local folk not to creep them out.
Finally, do you see yourself adapting any other video games as comics in the future? Are there any you're particularly interested in being commissioned for?
I've already produced a Dark Souls fanbook involving my Chosen Undead on her mission to rekindle the fire and I've done many Devil May Cry fanbooks as well. I'll be doing a DMC4SE book later this year hopefully!
I personally would LOVE to do a Bloodborne one, the aesthetics of the game are right up my alley and I'm a huge Souls fan but I sadly can't afford a PS4. Perhaps you'll like to help me get one by buying some of my comics or commissioning me for a project? [laughs]
The OFF Comic can be read on Tapastic or Petitecreme's personal Tumblr. You can also find Sheldrake on Twitter, Facebook, and DeviantArt. The OFF Comic updates every first and third Sunday of each month.
Thank you again to Ms. Gemma Sheldrake for a great interview. Be sure to check out or purchase more of her work in the links provided.