An Interview with the Creative Minds Behind Half-Life: A Place in the West
Half-Life is a gaming series known and loved by many; the immense popularity of the original game has made Valve what it is today. Even in 2008, the various installments in the series had sold just under 18.4 million units; the sales the series must have achieved by now must be astronomical. It is the intricate world, interesting characters, and various narrative possibilities that have drawn fans back to the franchise time and time again. Sadly, there hasn’t been a third installment to satiate the desire for more content, and the 10-year gap from the release of Half-Life 2 could suggest there never will be. Luckily, mod and comic book creators Ross Gardner and Micheal Pelletier have bought life back into the series with their episodic comic book Half-Life: A Place in the West.
Half-Life: A Place in the West is set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2 on alien-occupied Earth, and it follows three characters who are all drawn to a decrepit American town called New Franklin. The protagonists are searching for a group of missing children when they stumble upon a retinue of freedom fighters who seek to reclaim their land. A simple twist of fate connects the fighters with the missing children, and the tale unfolds from there.
The comic has received heaps of praise from fans, as the comic stays true to the atmosphere and content of the games while telling a different story entirely. The overwhelming success of Half-Life: A Place in the West has been incredibly unforeseen, but it's an exciting prospect for both fans and those involved in the project. At GameSkinny, we have been given access to the brilliant minds behind the comic and their inner thoughts on their marvelous creation.
GameSkinny: What are your backgrounds, and how has that enabled you to create the comic?
Ross Gardner & Micheal Pelletier: Our backgrounds are sort of all over the place. Making a comic is something we’d wanted to do for a very long, long time.
It’s been an amazing learning experience, and I’m not sure there’s a lot that really could prepare you for it.
GS: What inspired you to create the comic?
RG & MP: We were inspired by both the bizarre science-fiction universe Valve created and our love of comics … We wanted to tell a story outside the confines of the game and introduce new perspectives on the traditional Half-Life archetypes.
GS: What made you put it into comic form?
RG & MP: In developing our story, we found Half-Life naturally lent itself to the comic book medium, and whatever we envisioned, whatever we imagined we could do. The vast imagery of Half-Life was open to us, and A Place in the West presented an opportunity to present it in fresh and exciting ways. Hopefully we’ve done that.
GS: The comic has been praised by many as being able to capture the Half-Life universe to its fullest. What do you think allowed you to create a story that is so true to the original content?
RG & MP: We’ve more focused on being true to the themes rather than any actual events, and I think that resonates with our readers. I think the key to making it feel true to the world is about not capturing the events of previous tellings, but capturing how those moments made you feel.
GS: Although not being a property of Valve, the comic has been an incredible success thus far and is continuing to grow. What do you think draws people to the comic?
RG & MP: [We've] stepped aside from the main narrative of the game to focus on different aspects of it … I think the reason that people are interested in it is the same reason that we were drawn to creating it. Half-Life presents an enormous and fascinating world and explores small facets of it.
GS: Where do you see the comic going? Can you envision the future and direction you want to take the comic in?
RG & MP: We have a total of 13 chapters planned, the last of which will bring the story to a definitive conclusion. The story was planned out from beginning to end before we started production on the first chapter, so we’ve always known our endpoint, even if certain arcs and plot beats have necessarily taken different forms along the way. Our main goal is just to keep getting better at this comics thing. We’ve never done anything like this before, and we learn so much with each subsequent chapter. From where we’re sitting, there’s a clear uptake in quality with each release, and we want to keep going on that trajectory.
Half-Life: A Place in the West is truly a magnificent comic that captures the essence of the series perfectly. If you haven’t already, check out the first chapter here. It’s entirely free, and subsequent episodes are only $1.99. If you would like more information about the project, you can also visit the Half-Life: A Place in the West website.
Are you interested in reading the comic? What have you thought of it so far if you already have? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!