the end of the month, the Halo Universe expands again. While the movie
and Halo 3 are still a ways off, respectively, July 19th marks
the date the Halo Graphic Novel hits shops, marking the franchise's
entrance into comics.
cover by Phil Hale, the graphic novel has stories written by Lee
Hammock, Jay Faerber, Tsutomu Nihei, and Brett Lewis; with art by
Simon Bisley, Andrew Robinson, Ed Lee, Tsutomu Nihei, and Jean "Moebius"
for the graphic novel reads:
Studios, part of Microsoft Game Studios, has joined forces with
Marvel Comics to release a highly-anticipated graphic novel inspired
by one of the most popular franchises in the history of the video
Halo Graphic Novel (HGN) brings the Halo universe to life for the
first time in the sequential art medium. The HGN is a 128-page,
full color, high quality, jacketed, hardcover graphic novel. It
features an anthology of original stories, including one lengthy
story, and three shorter tales.
17 and Up/$24.99
We spoke with
Brian Jarrard, Bungie Studios Community Lead and Executive Producer
of the Halo Graphic Novel to get more on the upcoming graphic
go back to the beginning - how did the Halo Graphic Novel
get rolling in the first place? Was it something that was solely
conceptualized within Bungie, or was it done in conjunction with
The Halo Graphic Novel was solely conceptualized within Bungie
Studios. Our team had long sought to bring the Halo Universe to
the sequential art medium and Lorraine McLees, one of our art leads,
planted the seed for the initial idea and pushed to get the project
off the ground. Our goal was to create something great for fans
of Halo and comics alike. At the time we had no idea how we'd publish
it or who we'd partner with, our primary concern was creating an
unprecedented team of artists and writers and making a book that
could redefine what a graphic novel could and should be.
How did it ultimately end up at Marvel?
BJ: Once the
book started taking shape, we began working with our colleagues
in the Microsoft Game Studios Franchise Development Group to solicit
potential publishing partners. We could have self-published the
book but we felt that would be a disservice to the great work we
had created - we needed to find a partner who could really get this
book into as many hands as possible.
Marvel was one of the
first groups we met with and from the very beginning they were extremely
passionate about the project. They were excited about the Halo franchise
and recognized the huge potential of this book and the pedigree
of talent who contributed to it. Marvel's leadership and experience
in the comic industry and their ability to deliver a top quality
final product and put a tremendous amount of promotional support
behind it made them the perfect partner for us. Within the Marvel
Group, we worked very closely with Ruwan Jayatilleke, who became
the champion for the project and devoted a tremendous amount of
time and energy to helping us realize our vision and get the book
out into the world.
Halo has the game series as well as novels. Why expand into comics?
What can you do in comics in terms of exploring the Halo universe
that you can't do in other media?
BJ: The sequential
art medium is a natural fit for Halo both in terms of being able
to expand the compelling fiction that already exists and leveraging
the wonderful artistic assets of the franchise. As a video game,
players are introduced to the primary story arcs that play out in
a completely visual and sensory experience. In the novels, it's
entirely about the story itself. Moving into comics allows us to
combine the best of both worlds and play upon the strengths of the
Halo Universe that fans have come to love - story and art.
wise - was it always planned as a graphic novel, or were other options
The initial discussions did revolve around a more traditional comic
book series but after further thought, we felt that the Halo debut
into the realm of comics should be something more unique and special.
A graphic novel allowed us the opportunity to tell a variety of
stories, to deliver a very high quality product and assemble a varied
and amazing team of artists and writers.
of the approach, you have a variety of artists and writers working
on individual stories/chapters. Why did you choose to go this route,
rather than one, epic story?
Partly it stems from our over-abundance of stories we're dying to
tell. The Halo Universe is rich and vast and spans two games and
three novels but even they only barely scratch the surface. The
stories that happen off camera, the parallel events to the arcs
that our fans know from the existing mediums, are the stories we
really wanted to tell. There are dozens of these types of stories
and they help us to fill in the greater overall fictional world
of Halo while still reserving the major big storylines for larger
projects like the upcoming Halo 3 for Xbox 360. And lastly,
making an anthology graphic novel gave us a chance to work with
a greater variety of artists and writers.
NRAMA: So what
went into the selection of the creators who ultimately ended up
working on the graphic novel? What kind of criteria did you have?
BJ: Bungie artist
Lorraine McLees sat down with our external producer and designer,
Maria Cabardo, and began putting together a "wish list" of writers
and artists that we all admired and respected in the industry. Our
criteria was simply to find the people who we respected and admired,
the people we all have followed over the years as comic fans ourselves.
Right, but still - some of your artists are major coups for any
OGN, let alone a Halo OGN. Probably the one that still has everyone
scratching their heads is Moebius. Can you share how you landed
him on the project? Is he a closet gamer and Halo fan?
BJ: Most everyone
at Bungie shares a love of comics and anyone who has followed the
medium knows of Moebius and the rich history of his work. Quite
simply, he's someone we admire and respect, a hero of sorts, and
we figured it was a long shot but we put him at the top of our list
of prospective creative partners. He landed on the project solely
due to the influence and connections of our partner and friend,
Maria Cabardo. When we hired her to help on the Halo Graphic
Novel, we did so for her extensive comic design and production
background but also for her outreach and connections deep within
the industry. She approached Moebius and all the artists and writers
and she landed them all for us.
don't think Moebius is necessarily a "closet gamer" but he quickly
understood and got the essence of Halo and became very interested
in the franchise and our established Universe. We sent him a variety
of reference materials including the game itself, which I believe
he dabbled in a bit with his son. I'm honestly not sure if he was
necessarily a huge Halo fan prior to this project, but we did turn
him into a fan over the course of working together.
NRAMA: What was
at the root of the stories? That is, did the creators come in with
ideas, or did they have a pool from which to select certain areas
of story or specific ideas?
BJ: The basic
ideas themselves started internally at Bungie. We came up with a
number of prospective story snippets and as the teams were assembled,
we worked with each group to find the story arcs that seemed to
fit best with each group. At Bungie, we're very passionate about
the Universe we've created and we go to great lengths to ensure
continuity and keep all our projects aligned with the central "story
bible" we maintain internally. As such, it would've been a lot more
difficult for an outsider to come in and know all the nuances and
rules of engagement, some of which are public but many of which
are still shrouded in mystery. Our goal was to provide a suitable
framework for the story itself but give the writer the freedom to
tell a great story in their own voice.
NRAMA: That said,
what makes, for lack of a better phrase, a Halo story a "Halo" story?
That is, what crucial elements have to be there, aside from setting
and props, that make these stories something unique, something different?
The Halo Universe has expanded quite a bit over the years, since
the original game debut on the Xbox. To most, Halo is personified
by the Hero, Master Chief, and his battles to protect humanity.
As the franchise has broadened, we've introduced new characters,
new foes, but the central themes of conflict, of the larger fight
for humanity, the mysteries of the ancient Forerunners and Flood
- they continue to provide the baseline of what makes Halo, Halo.
The core Halo stories to date are about overcoming the odds, maintaining
hope in the face of overwhelming threats, the difference a small
few can make against the many... These themes go beyond a genetically
enhanced super soldier picking up two guns and kicking some alien
I think one of the most
interesting aspects of the Halo fiction is the diverse reactions
and perceptions our fans have. Ask ten fans what they think defines
Halo, and you'll likely get ten slightly different answers. It offers
a little something different to everyone apparently, which is partly
why the characters and stories themselves have resonated so well
within our devoted fan base.
the Graphic Novel we didn't tell stories of Master Chief, as those
stories are handled quite well by the games and novels. We told
the offshoot stories of supporting characters, of events that were
previously undocumented. However, through them all, readers will
recognize the familiar Covenant threats or the menacing Flood or
the overall conflicts between a struggling Humanity and these all-powerful
NRAMA: Was there
any larger goal to the individual stories or the overall OGN in
terms of filling in the larger storyline of the games/between the
games? For example, the gap between 1 and 2, and Sgt. Johnson...?
BJ: One of our
goals for these stories was to expand upon existing elements and
shed new light on aspects of the backstory that fans had not been
privy too prior. For example, at the start of the Halo 2
game, players take up the role of Master Chief as they try to drive
away Covenant invaders from Earth. However, the game itself takes
place in a very narrow window of the overall planetary invasion.
Where did the Covenant make first landfall? Did the intelligence
officers at ONI know something that the rest of us didn't? What
was the impact like to the civilians in the streets? In the HGN,
readers will get a different perspective on these events. The circumstances
surrounding the fate of Sgt. Johnson are similar - in the first
Halo game, we were led to believe that the Sarge was overcome
by the Flood yet we see him again at the start of Halo 2.
What did happen down there in the bowels of the Halo ring world?
How did he manage to make it out? We shed more light on this in
the Halo Graphic Novel.
Wrapping things up, for readers who've never played Halo
- what do you hope they get out of this?
BJ: First and
foremost, we hope they will get a book full of amazing artwork and
compelling stories. Even if you don't know the first thing about
Halo, the collection of art in this book is awe-inspiring and the
artists and writers who contributed are the best of the best in
the business. If that's the only thing a first time reader gets,
then we'll be happy. However, beyond that, we hope that newcomers
to the Halo Universe might be intrigued and enticed to learn more
about the characters and worlds we've created. Perhaps they will
be spurred to pursue some of the Halo novels or try out a Halo
game to expand the stories for themselves and get a deeper involvement
in the overall Universe.
NRAMA: And for
readers who have played Halo - what are you hoping they take
away? A broader view of the world?
BJ: Right, but
even fans of Halo are going to hopefully take away an awesome
collection of artwork and great stories above and beyond anything
else. Once that has sunk in, fans of Halo are going to relish the
chance to expand their insights into the Halo Universe, to see new
sides to characters and events and help them fill in the gaps. I
for one was inspired to go back and revisist some of these familiar
locales in the Xbox games after seeing them realized in these new
ways and new contexts.
Larger strategy-wise in regards to the franchise, where does the
OGN fit in? Would it be safe to say it's part of a rollout of Halo
product and stories that are ultimately leading to the film? To
Halo 3? Or are you looking at establishing Halo's own comic
the Halo Graphic Novel is kind of all across the board. It
doesn't necessarily lead up to any specific future product like
Halo 3 or the upcoming Halo movie. Instead, it fills
in some gaps and broadens the existing base of fiction. The project
itself really began over two years ago, well before we had any notion
of a movie and the seeds of Halo 3 were just being planted.
It was a means for us to expand Halo into new mediums and to offer
Halo content for our fans between development of the games.
All of the existing
Halo products are intertwined but they don't impede on one another.
I think we would love to see a niche for Halo established in the
comic space, but it will also be tied back into the games and novels
and whatever else we do.
NRAMA: And finally,
if the OGN is well-received, what are we then looking at - another
OGN down the road? A monthly comic series?
Well, we certainly hope the Halo Graphic Novel will be well-received,
the final product is something a lot of people have put a lot of
blood, sweat and tears into and it has surpassed our own expectations.
Considering the momentum the Halo Universe has, the natural fit
for the franchise and the comic medium, the fact that we now have
a great partnership with Marvel and the fact that Halo is only going
to get bigger in the years ahead, it seems completely reasonable
to expect to see future Halo projects in the comics realm.