The Mac Walters Mass Effect Interview: Part 3

In this portion of our week-long Q/A, Mac Walters waxes on about the Mass Effect comic. How does it distinguish itself from the videogame? And how is it like the videogame. Mac tells you, right here.

HG: When you look at Mass Effect as a comic in particular, do you always look at what readers want today in comics generally?

MW: The comics kind of serve two purposes. If you’re a fan of the game already, it’s a way to explore the universe in a way you couldn’t in the game. Mass Effect Evolution actually takes us back in time almost 30 years. We’re probably not going to have a playable version of the game that’s 30 years in the past. On the other hand, you get people who haven’t experienced Mass Effect at all. That’s where the Dark Horse expertise becomes so key.

HG: How so?

MW: I’ll say, here’s the story I want to tell. And they’ll say, you’re pushing too much into a territory than an outside person wouldn’t understand. In the first comic, for instance, I was a little too referential in telling our story as far as what was going on. We changed the start of it so that it opened up in a way that shows an awesome blue alien kissing ass.

You immediately wonder, who is she? What’s she doing? That doesn’t necessarily demand that I know anything about the Mass Effect Universe. Yet I think it makes people want to find out more about who this character is and maybe pick up the game. So we center these comics on interesting characters.

HG: And what does Dark Horse tell you about art? Where your eye goes in a video game is so different than where your eye goes in a comic.

MW: Fortunately, I’m working with a very talented scripter, John Jackson Miller. Especially for the first one, it’s me going, Here’s a high level story of about 20 pages for four comics. It was up to him to say, no, break that down, scene by scene, panel by panel in all of that. I was pretty much the newbie. You try to keep it to a single action per panel.

And try to keep it to one idea per page. It was so different from what I was used to in telling the story. I love it. But one of things that transfers well is that Mass Effect is a cinematic game. So when I think of a conversation, I’m not just thinking about the information revealed. I’m also thinking about what happens visually in the scene, about what’s happening in graphical and visual terms.

HG: In a sense it’s just as much conceptual work as the game because you have to keep thinking about what moves the story forward and what moves the eye forward.

MW: I’m a pretty harsh editor and I worked with a great editor at Dark Horse, Dave Marshall. You don’t want to do too much, just the essential thing to move it along. The action has to keep moving.

-Harold Goldberg

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