Brian Buccellato Talks the End of Injustice: Gods Among Us and Writing Video Game Tie-ins
Injustice: Gods Among Us is the hit video game turned comic series that begins to wind down with just a few chapters left. The digital series soon wraps up as we finally get to the moments leading up to the video game (the comic series is a prequel to the game).
With the end on the horizon, I got a chance to talk to writer Brian Buccellato about writing a video game tie-in series and some of the differences between writing for digital first as opposed to print comics.
Also, check out art from chapter 39, the second to last chapter of the series! The final chapter foes on sale September 20th and will be available for download Tuesday via the DC Comics App, Readdcentertainment.com, iBooks, comiXology.com, Google Play, Kindle Store, Nook Store, and iVerse ComicsPlus.
Graphic Policy: Injustice: Gods Among Us started off as a video game. Does writing a tie-in for that form of entertainment differ than a movie or tv tie-in or just a comic in general? I think of video games as much more action oriented and active participation than passive entertainment like television or movies.
Brian Buccellato: I think it’s different for some of those reasons. I think the biggest reason it’s different, especially with the case of Injustice, we know how the comic book ends. So everything builds to that point, so there’s certainly things you can do because the world is wide open. There’s things you can’t do. You can’t kill Superman at the end of the story. Things have to be where they were at the start of the game, so that’s an interesting and fun challenge. I actually kind of like it, to be able to go ahead and try to make a new story and have interesting things you have seen in a story you already know. It’s really fun, but it is a challenge.
As far as the action element. There’s always fighting inside, so I don’t know if it’s different. Because Injustice is a fighting game, I try to have match-ups where we see different people fighting each other, even one’s you wouldn’t expect because you do get that in the game due to it being a fighting game.
GP: With the battles, in the fighting games characters have their special moves and abilities. Is what each character can do in the game on your mind as you’re writing those battles?
BB: I think I did more of that in Year Four where I thought there was more opportunity for that. Aquaman uses his shark maneuver. I also have Batman in Year Five running down someone with the Batmobile. I do try to find moments where I can put in special moves and what characters are known for. But story needs to come first.
GP: We know where the video game begins and so we know where the comic needs to get to. With the series wrapping up, did you know how long you’d have to get to that point?
BB: Yeah, as the book has done well, we’ve gotten a bunch of extra issues. It seems in the past in Year Four and Year Three it was twelve issues and we were able to tell Year Five in twenty issues, which was great. I was able to explore a lot of characters I wouldn’t have had time to explore and see how they feel about the Injustice universe. I knew it was five years and we were done. I didn’t know we’d be able to get twenty issues.
GP: It’s obviously a different world, as a writer, how does it feel being able to do almost anything you want, as opposed to being limited somewhat if you were to write in the main DC Universe?
BB: It’s really liberating actually. Having worked in the main DC Universe with Flash and Detective Comics, what you do find is most of the decisions you have to make sort of have to be run by the bosses because there’s lots of things at play. There’s events, there’s all of the other titles. You sort of have to play in the playground that wasn’t as quite as clear because all these people are working on things simultaneously. Where with Injustice I know how exactly how it ends. I know exactly what can change. So there’s no last minute audible because there isn’t something going in in another book. It is different and in some ways it’s a lot more fun because you get to use all of the characters. There’s also no last minute changes you have to do.
GP: I’d image that makes things easier as the writer.
BB: That’s just part of the business. That’s part of how it works. It’s a good thing we’ve got a million different comics because that means people are buying them.
GP: Did you have to work with the video game designers at all? There’s a sequel to the game coming up.
BB: Jim Chadwick, he’s the editor, he interacted with anything that goes to the game developer and has feedback. That mostly takes place in the outline stage for the year. They don’t chime in much as I write the comics, they just see the beginning and make sure it doesn’t mess with what their plans are. Also what’s cool about them is that they seem to be using our comic book continuity for their game which is kind of cool. It’s a little bit of back and forth with that respect.
GP: The series came out in digital first and then went to print. I always ask this for folks who are working on that sort of book if that impacts your storytelling at all?
BB: I think you can’t help to do that. There’s a very practical reason to do that because digitally the artist draws the comic book page in a printed book. Digitally they draw two pages, so there’s that invisible line in every single page going across the middle. So digitally, even though a chapter is only ten pages long you’re really telling a story in twenty pages. In a lot of ways you’ll see a lot more panels digitally first comic than you will in a regular comic. You can’t do the big splash pages as you could in print. So there’s a lot more condensend story telling and a lot more work for the artist.
GP: There’s a lot you can do artwise with digital such as the transitions. Is that anything you’re thinking about? Or is that more for the artist to decide and come up with?
BB: In print comics you think about the page turn, so you keep that in mind when doing digital. But, at the end of the day the writing’s half the battle and we have really good artists. When you have good artists you trust they will take your words and make them way better.
GP: With the series, a lot of the characters have completely changed. Superman is this fascist overlord. What did you do to make sure that things didn’t go too far with that to make it difficult to recognize or like these characters? It has come to me when reading the series that Superman’s motivations are still understandable after everything he’s done, you get his point of view.
BB: One of the great things about this series in particular is that we have had five years and I don’t know how many issues. Tom did two and a half years and I’ve got two and a half years, so Superman’s transition has been a slow descent into darkness. We know the inciting incident of killing Joker, that’s the thing that changed him. Tom didn’t instantly make him a bad guy, he started through a process. I just picked up where he left off and as the series has gone on, he’s gotten worse and comprimised his ethics more and more. In Year Five he’s an evil despot.
GP: Yeah, but even as a despot, you still see his point of view he’s coming from. He never crosses over that line where he totally goes over the top and is completely unlikeable.
BB: In my opinion that’s sort of a diservice to writing. Even the most heinous villain has to be a hero of their own story, right? They have to think that they’re doing what’s right for their reasons. It’s just their reasons don’t line up to morality, or the government, or laws. So, that’s just writing. I don’t see any difference with Superman. Yes, he’s the villain of this story, but he has his reasons, everyone does. Lex Luthor does. Maybe the Joker does. But, the Joker’s an exception, he’s a wacko. But, most bad guys have reasons and they think those reasons are legit. We may not, but they think that. I think in some ways it’s easier as Superman since he has equity as a hero. So when we see him do things evil or bad, we know what’s behind it is some twisted version of good.
GP: Thanks so much and looking forward to seeing how the series wraps up!