If something exists, chances are that somebody is already trying to profit from it. Popular book series starring a teenage girl in a dystopian future? Hollywood is already writin’ up the script! Another Disney movie about a princess? Somebody is already planning a musical!
Video game characters like Super Mario and Pac-Man have become just as popular as the likes of Mickey and Bugs Bunny, so when something is THAT popular, you know that they’re going to go beyond just video games, right? We’re not just talking action figures and posters, but full movies! I can see it now: the greatest actors all over the country, being called together to act out some of time’s most beloved video game stories, with fantastic… um……yeah.
The majority of video game movies fail to stay true to their source material. Forget ’em for now.
So, what other kind of media has proven to be faithful to gaming? Comics! The comic format is very nice for expressing a serious tone, while also allowing for a more relaxed and comedy-based narrative. Practically every big video game franchise from Japan has a Manga series adaptation, and many other American games have gotten the panel-by-panel treatment as well.
For today’s article, I’ll be looking at a few comic books, all of which are based on some of my favorite games to play!
The first is Mega Man, which is published by Archie Comics, written by Ian Flynn, with art by Patrick Spaziante. This is the most recent of the 3 comic franchises, as it is the only one that debuted during the 21st Century. The story follows Dr. Thomas Light and Dr. Albert Wily, as they start work on service robots called ‘Robot Masters’. Angered by Light’s fame over his own, Wily corrupts the Robot Masters into becoming war machines. Doctor Light converts one of his own housekeeping robots, ‘Rock’, into a fighting robot in order to stop Wily’s reprogrammed Robot Masters.
One of my favorite things about the series is how each scenario in the story is taken very seriously, with weighty topics including the ethics of robotics. One such story arc involves the ‘Emerald Spears’, a criminal group that wants to rid the world of robotics because they fear that they will eventually become too smart for their own good. This series also features several new story arcs that weren’t inspired by the original games.
The next is Pokemon Adventures, which is the only manga series of the three I’m discussing today. There are two print runs of this specific version, with the original being formatted to the American left-to-right reading format, while the more recent versions are printed in the the original right-to-left style.
Our story follows Red, an aspiring Pokemon Trainer, in his journey to becoming a Pokemon Master. Along his way, Red meets up with other rising Pokemon Trainers, and even the villainous Team Rocket. Most of the plot is made up of battles between Pokemon Trainers and their Pokemon, which would normally be repetitive and uninteresting, but the distinct style of each fight helps to keep story at a balanced pace. The art style is nice and helps express each battle with a little more realism as if you really were there experiencing the fight.
Pokemon Adventures is still running to this day, with new volumes constantly being released and translated to tie in with each new game. Since most of the story portions are constructed of battle scenes, it’s pretty easy to pick up a random volume and enjoy.
And finally, Sonic The Hedgehog, which is also published by Archie Comics. Sonic holds the record for being the longest-running comic based on any video game series. The original issues focus on a comedy-driven narrative, with most issues being directly inspired by episodes of the Sonic Saturday morning show. You know the drill: Doctor Robotnik’s snooping as usual, cookin’ up a scheme, and Sonic has to stop him with the help of his fellow Freedom Fighters. There are plenty of jokes that break the fourth wall, and they’re quite funny! The best ones involve Sonic going too fast for the rest of the plot.
One odd thing about the comic’s main story line. The original series had a distinct focus on short tales with lots of jokes between, but as time went on, the storytelling and art design of the story became more complicated, with more emphasis on longer plot arcs and the backstories of the main characters. In some ways, these choices worked because they showed how the Sonic series gradually matured over each issue. The only reason I don’t like this style is because the plot is now too confusing to keep up with!
If you want to read the Sonic series nowadays, you can pick up a copy of one of the Sonic Legacy compilation books. These special collection titles aren’t printed in color, but they only run for about $13 and come with upwards to 20 issues, making them very good choices for the average reader or library.
That’s all I have to talk about today. I’m sure I could have looked at others, but these were my top three. Check them out if you can, and if you haven’t already, make sure you try the game they’re inspired by as well! Now, where can I find a good Dance Dance Revolution comic series? Hmm…
David Peters is one of the founding members of the Teen Advisory Board at the Highland Branch of the Lake County Public Library, IN. He also reviews video games under the name GadgetJax.