Dark Horse Comics Collaboration with PopCap Games and CD Projekt RED (Exclusive Interview)

GameSkinny sits down with Eisner-award winning author Paul Tobin about Dark Horse Comics' collaboration with PopCap Games and CD Projekt RED.

When you can combine my two loves–comics and video games–it’s a recipe for success. Like so many comic lovers, I’ll invade my local comic shop to get my hands on the latest issue. I have no problem spending my last dollar on my favorite comic–much to my fiancé’s disapproval.

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So when I was asked if I wanted the opportunity to speak with THE Paul Tobin for Dark Horse Comics on their collaboration with PopCap Games and CD Projekt RED; what do you think I said?

Um…yes please!

I’m a fan, yes I’ll admit it but I’m a fan of comics in general. Yes I have my certain favorites but speaking with a comic industry veteran is Heaven for any fan. Tell me I’m wrong.

Eisner-award winning author Paul Tobin is best known for The Age of Sentry, Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four, Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes, Marvel Adventure: Spiderman, PROMETHEUS: Fire and Stone, and Colder. He’s credited in over 300+ issues–much to his surprise I might add. He’s also scripted comic adaptations of the 2010 film Predators.

In a very crowded Javitts Center during New York Comic Con 2014, I had my opportunity to speak with him inside the Dark Horse Comics booth. I must say, he’s a really nice guy. The comics we discussed were their collaboration that he wrote for Plants vs. Zombies Lawnmageddon with artwork by Ron Chan and The Witcher with artwork by Joe Querio; which had a NYCC 2014 exclusive cover art by Stan Sakai.

How’d you get into writing comics?

I did a bunch in the ’90’s just when it was easy during the B/W explosion, anybody could package a comic and send it out. I got out of it for a long time mostly because I wanted to start working more in novels. Then my wife Colleen Coover started wanting to do comics. I was just coaching her and remembered how much I loved it. The we became friends with Jeff Barker and at one point he said “Hey, do you want to do some work for Marvel?” I said “Yeah, why not,” and then it just exploded from there. I got back into the game and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.

What were some of your greatest influences?

Everything really. Love and Rockets was huge. The Hernandez Brothers really were one of things that brought me back into loving comics. Also Matt Wagner on Mage was pretty instrumental. The Pander Brothers on Grindel–those were probably the comics that brought me back in. I’m a pretty creative person and even when I kind of quit comics for awhile, I was still reading them and just loving them. I think the ’90’s comics, the Super Heroes comics kind of drove me out for awhile because they were unrelentlessly bad for the most part. It was easy to go “all comics are bad” but they’re really not. I was looking at a narrow focus which is just poison. It’s like saying music is bad because you don’t like anything in the Top 10 charts. It’s a stupid way and I got out of that. That’s one of [the] ways, I got smarter about comics if that makes sense.

Do you find it more of a challenge working on a video game based comic as compared to the classic comic genre?

I really don’t. If I’m writing Spiderman as compared to The Witcher, they both have established universes that I just sort of have to follow their rules. I have to look and find what I want to say which is always characterization. I’m a characterization writer, so it’s really about the character and then making sure I’m not killing Spiderman, they don’t like to do that, they get mad. It’s still playing within a contained sandbox to a certain degree.

How did you get involved with PopCap Games for Plants vs. Zombies?

Philip Simon, an editor at Dark Horse, called me up and said “Hey, are you aware of Plants vs. Zombies?” At that time I had been playing a ton and I completed the game an ungodly amount of times. I’ve been using it, I still use it. It’s a good short game for me when I’m writing throughout the course of the day, it’s easy. During the course of the day my mind starts to shut down, so I’ll try and read a book for a little bit to refresh.

Plants vs. Zombies has long been one of those games that I’ll use, so I was very aware of the franchise. Although at the time there wasn’t the new games that have come out, it was just the classic. It was literally just a strange job at first because the game was just plants line up against zombies and they fight; so make a story out of that. There’s no story there whatsoever.

In other projects, there’s relationships, there’s this, the town as a whole, the city, grand atmosphere; but no in Plants vs. Zombies there’s a yard, there’s plants, there’s zombies and they fight. PopCap, the folks for Plants vs. Zombies, they were fans of my writing and almost said “Just do whatever you want. Establish [a] story of any kind you want and it’s a go.” They’re a dream to work with. So I wanted to have someone related to Crazy Dave because he can’t really talk, you can’t have a whole bunch of nonsense. So I invented Patrice the niece–his niece–so that someone can translate what he was saying, and then Nate as sort as the foil “what is going on;” things like that, the town as a whole and they loved that. We have upcoming stuff, the Zomboss will be developed some more, the University he went to, and things like that. It’s been fun developing who these people and zombies are. I’m getting to make some individual zombies at this point.

Ron Chan–the artist–he’s a friend of mine, was perfect. We knew he’d be perfect. The Halloween before we got this job he dressed up as a PeaShooter, so it’s like “Do you know Plants vs. Zombies?” Guy dressed as a PeaShooter, so he’s been perfect for the job as well.

How did you get involved with CD Projekt RED for The Witcher?

That was similar to Plants vs. Zombies. Daniel ChamBon is the editor for The Witcher and he asked me if I was aware of The Witcher. I had played the 2nd game and then read everything that was available in english. Sapowski’s novels I really enjoy and I like the character a lot. So he was like “Dude, do you know The Witcher?” I’m like “Dude, yeah, I know The Witcher.” It kind of blossomed from there.

CD Projekt RED are awesome to work with as well, just as much as PopCap is. They really let me develop whatever I want to and they’ve been so forthcoming on anything researched to the point that I mentioned that I read everything that was available in english. There are lots of Sapowksi novels that are not translated into english but I mentioned that. So they brought in a translator, translated all the novels who then gave me all the novels. So I think I’m one of very few English-speaking guys who’s read all the Sapowski novels. Their translator did a really ace job at translating them to, they were beautifully translated.

I must say as an avid reader and Sapowski fan–I’m very jealous.

What are some of your favorite types of genres of video games to play?

I don’t know if I have a favorite. Like you mentioned on how many different things I write from Bandette, which is charming to Colder, which is pure horror, I’m that way with games. There are horror games that I truly love, then Plants vs. Zombies, Katamari Damacy, Borderlands, and Skyrim. I’m sort of all over. Sometimes I like a good shooter and carnage. We all have different moods and different ways. Sometimes it helps me since I play games mostly to turn my brain off. If I don’t turn my brain off, the ideas are a constant flow and it sort of drives me crazy. When I play a game, it’s such an interactive thing, I don’t have time to worry about story plots and things like that. So sometimes it helps to use a game that’s different from the sort of things I’m writing, so if I’m writing Colder, a horror, it’s nice to play like Animal Crossing. They really help me and they can backfire a bit. I played video games to turn my brain off and now I’m writing about video games so my brain is sort of like on. I’m having fun and that’s the main thing.

Paul Tobin is very much excited for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, he’s not of fan of games with microtransactions and doesn’t do online gaming–since he doesn’t really have time. He prefers the single-player experience in games.

For you comic fans, The Witcher House of Glass, Dark Horse Comics and CD Projekt RED are set to bring fans a new adventure of Geralt of Rivia, the legendary monster hunter from the hit video game franchise The Witcher.

The latest from Eisner-winning writer Paul Tobin with art by Joe Querio, Fox Children will lead Geralt aboard a ship of fools, renegades, and criminals; where some passengers are more dangerous than others but one is hiding a hideous secret. Issue #1 goes on sale April 15th, 2015.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt releases on February 24th, 2015 on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.

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Venisia Gonzalez
Venisia is a public relations professional, video game industry contractor, published author, freelance entertainment journalist, copy editor, a co-organizer of the Latinx Games Festival, and a member of the Latinx in Gaming and the Puerto Rico Game Developers (PRGD) community. Her passion is video games. She loves the adrenaline rush from a multiplayer match and understands the frustrations of a brand-new raid. Venisia finds immense value in gaming especially in the realm of mental health.