Believe it or not, Sam Fisher from Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell franchise is actually a rather complicated gentleman. He has thoughts and feelings, and these are explored for the first time in Splinter Cell Echoes, a graphic novel bridging the gap between Splinter Cell Conviction and Splinter Cell Blacklist.
And this is no ordinary graphic novel, either: Ubisoft has teamed up with artist Marc Laming and writer Nathan Edmondson to create something a little bit special.
Patrick Redding, game director, Ubisoft Toronto explains:
Nathan Edmondson and Marc Laming are respected experts in their fields and we are so incredibly fortunate to have them on board for the Splinter Cell graphic novel. Nathan’s work in The Activity put him on our radar with its gripping balance between real-world geopolitics and high-tech spy fantasy themes we also explore in Splinter Cell. We’re confident that all readers – whether they’ve played every game in the series or are new to the franchise – are going to really engage with this story and the level of fine detail Nathan and Marc inject into their book.
Names sound familiar but you're not able to place them? Marc Laming is an illustrator and comic book artist who also worked on The Activity, as well as contributing to dozens of comics for some of the world's largest publishers. Nathan Edmondson's critically-acclaimed history includes Grifter and Who is Jake Ellis?.
Sam Fisher is a legend, but this story is our own. We are working with Ubisoft to add something special to the Splinter Cell canon that will simultaneously be exciting to fans of the series while being a thrilling stand-alone read. Together with Marc Laming, Studio Lounak, and the Ubisoft Toronto team, we’re shedding new light on Sam Fisher.
Nathan Edmondson: I've created and written OLYMPUS, THE LIGHT, WHO IS JAKE ELLIS?, THE ACTIVITY, WHERE IS JAKE ELLIS? for Image Comics and I wrote GRIFTER for DC Comics and ULTIMATE IRON MAN for Marvel Comics.
Marc Laming: I’ve worked on American Century (DC/Vertigo), The Dreaming (DC/Vertigo), The Rinse (Boom! Studios), Exile On The Planet Of The Apes (Boom! Studios), THE ACTIVITY (Image Comics), Shepperton's Waltz (Oort Cloud Comics), and Revolver Romance Special (Fleetway)
2. Are you a fan of video games?
NE: I am a gamer, but not a huge one. In fact we go on XBOX Live to play the readers of THE ACTIVITY on Wednesday nights. My wife and I have enjoyed the Kinect a good deal, too--a game like Just Dance is something we can do together or with friends. I was into the Splinter Cell franchise well before Ubisoft approached me about working on the series. Splinter Cell is particularly up my alley because of my interest in the black ops world; it resonates a great deal with my research on THE ACTIVITY and for my spy-fi works like DANCER and WHO IS JAKE ELLIS?
ML: I was a fan before I started working full time as an illustrator. Deadlines and video games don't mix. I loved the Final Fantasy series and Lucasarts’ SCUMM-based games from the late 90s.
3. Have you played any of the Splinter Cell games before working on the comic book?
4. What challenges do you face when working with such a well-known, iconic character such as Sam Fisher?
NE: Making the story fresh, exciting and accessible to both the avid videogame players and comic readers new to the Sam Fisher universe.
ML: The main challenge an artist has is maintaining the series' look and feel while making it dynamic as a comic.
ML: It's no more difficult a challenge than any other comic job. It's still translating a writer’s script to the art board and making sure that the pictorial storytelling is a strong and readable as possible.
6. How challenging is it to adapt a 3D modeled character to a comic book style, and your style?
ML: It can be challenging but I have great references to work from.
7. How did you manage to create an original story while remaining consistent with Sam Fisher’s background and in-game story?
NE: Sam Fisher is a strong character, he's a legend, and what's exciting about working with a legend is conceiving situations and environments and seeing how he reacts to them, how he faces his challenges. It's like creating a game environment and watching a videogame player play through it--Sam Fisher is truly dynamic and alive. In the canon of the Splinter Cell games his journey is distinct and creating the Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Echoes graphic novel has been about identifying the direction of his journey and building conflict around them--and recalling important character and events in his past life to season the story.
8. How did this collaboration come about?
NE: Because of my work creating THE ACTIVITY, a book about a Black Operations force in the US Army, Studio Lounak (the studio behind the critically acclaimed Assassin's Creed graphic novels The Fall and The Chain) reached out to me for Splinter Cell Echoes. Marc has been a guest artist on THE ACTIVITY, and was a perfect fit to visualize Sam Fisher's world.
ML: Nathan and I had worked together on an issue of his acclaimed series, The Activity, and it turned out well. We had enjoyed that collaboration so we were looking for a way of working together again. When this project came up, it gave us the chance to do just that.
9. How has it been working with the Splinter Cell team? Do you have a lot of autonomy/creative freedom?
NE: The Splinter Cell Echoes graphic novel has truly been our own story, which is not always the case on licensed or for-hire opportunities. The Splinter Cell team in Toronto are creative geniuses and their input is invaluable. They know Sam Fisher and his world more intimately than anyone, of course, but having "introduced" us to him, they have allowed Marc and me to be true creators. The partnership really couldn't be better.
ML: They have been great with providing all the reference materials I needed and it's been clear that I can contact the team anytime I have questions related to the game.
NE: I don't think I can say anything beyond the fact that fans of my previous work--and certainly Marc's--will truly enjoy this book, even those that haven't played the games. The Splinter Cell graphic novel is both a thrilling and personal story about an operative whose career has been spent in the dark machinations of the political/military world.
ML: The graphic novel will get you super excited to play Splinter Cell Blacklist and let you in on some of Sam's motivations and more of his backstory.
11. Is this the first time you’ve worked on a comic book that’s based on a video game?
12. What is your creative process when developing an original story (or original artwork)?
NE: First and foremost, I have to get to know the character and his world. Only when they've become alive and real in my mind can I start to set up the story in broad strokes, and explore how the characters, for example, will react to certain conflicts. With Splinter Cell we knew the endgame; we know where Sam Fisher ends up in Blacklist. Knowing the future of his story, however, doesn't lessen the gravity of the "present."
ML: I read through the game script, make copious notes and assemble a huge amount of initial reference materials. Then I make small layouts of each page usually on the corner of the script pages. I then scan these very rough tiny thumbnails into page templates and start roughing out the pages in Photoshop. Once the pencils are tightened up and approved by the editorial team, I then print them out onto art board as blue lines and then begin inking the pages traditionally with brush and ink.
I like video games and music and cups of tea and noodles and beagles and colour-cycling LEDs.
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Jimmy the Geek