Throughout the month of June, Blastr will be celebrating our favorite digital diversions with Video Game Month: a look at some best, worst and wackiest from the world of shooters, space sims, strategy games and more.
Comic books have been around a bit longer than video games, but for almost as long as video games have been in the public consciousness there have been comics based on them. While there’s no comic based on Pong (as far as I know), the history of video games in comics stretches back to the early '80s and includes many of your favorite franchises. From Mario and Sonic to Kratos and Nathan Drake, there are countless adaptations of varying quality that no true gamer should go without knowing.
So, in honor of Blastr’s Video Game Month, I’ve compiled a brief look back at 20 times the biggest names in gaming jumped from cartridges to comics, going all the way back to Atari and leading up to releases from recent months. There are many more video games that have been adapted to comics than just what’s on this list, however, so be sure to let us know your favorites in the comments.
The legendary Atari game Star Raiders was the subject of the first entry in the DC Graphic Novels series, and was immediately followed by Warlords, as well as an Atari Force series. The series was meant to continue, but Atari canceled their deal with DC due to financial problems brought on by the failure of the Atari 5200.
SUPER MARIO BROS.
Despite being video games’ biggest icon, Mario hasn’t had an extensive presence in comic books, aside from a couple of years' worth of comics as part of Valiant’s “Nintendo Comics System,” which blended elements of the games with parts of the The Super Mario Bros. Super Show cartoon. It also introduced such classic Mario characters as Dirk Drain Head, Mario's favorite plumbing-based comic book hero.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA
The Nintendo Comics System also included a Legend of Zelda series that ran concurrently with Super Mario Bros., which also adopted the art style of its contemporary animated series. Valiant didn't continue publishing them past 1991, but more recently there have been several manga based on games in the series that have been translated to English by Viz Media.
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
With over 280 issues and counting of Sonic the Hedgehog since it started in 1992, the blue blur has had more success in comics than any other video game franchise. Add to that long-running spinoffs like Knuckles the Echidna, Sonic Universe, and Sonic X, and it’s hard to argue Sonic’s place as the king of video game comics.
The Mortal Kombat franchise has had series from Malibu and most recently DC Comics, but the very first Komic was Mortal Kombat Collector’s Edition, written and drawn by John Tobias, one of the game’s co-creators. But unlike most comic books, you couldn’t get this one from a store. Instead, it was available to those who mailed $3 to the address displayed on the original arcade machine’s screen before November 1, 1993.
Street Fighter has had a constant and decently successful presence in comic books through UDON since 2003, and is currently duking it out in a crossover with IDW's G.I. Joe comics. But things weren't always so great as, the first time Street Fighter hit the pages of American comics, it was through now-defunct publisher Malibu, who did such a terrible, excessively violent job of it that Capcom revoked the license after only three issues.
The first American Resident Evil comic book series was through Wildstom, and was enitiled Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine. It was an anthology series featuring short stories that fleshed out the games’ stories, and was followed by a number of other series at the same publisher, with the most recent being a prequel to Resident Evil 5.
(Top Cow, 1999)
While Lara Croft has seen a resurgence of interest in print in recent years thanks to her multiple series at Dark Horse, she previously raided her way through over 50 issues of an ongoing series from Top Cow. The run was naturally accompanied by a series of one-shot crossovers with Witchblade, and the two even added Magdalena and Vampirella to the scantily-clad crossover fun in 2005.
METAL GEAR SOLID
Writer Kris Oprisko and artist Ashley Wood created an extremely faithful twelve-issue adaptation of the first Metal Gear Solid game, lifting a majority of the dialogue directly out of the game. It was followed in 2006 by an adaptation of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, this time by Wood and writer Alex Garner.
The first Silent Hill comic book was a five-issue miniseries entitled Silent Hill: Dying Inside, and featured artwork by 30 Days of Night artist Ben Templesmith. This was followed by a handful of miniseries and one-shots from IDW over the next few years, and was preceded by a graphic novel from Com.X that was completed in 2000 but has never been released.
Master Chief blasted his way into comics with The Halo Graphic Novel, a collection of four short stoies set in the Halo universe that included art from such comic book legends as Simon Bisley and Jean “Moebius” Giraud. Marvel followed it the next year with the four issue Halo: Uprising, which was set between the second and third games. They created a few more comics for the franchise, but Halo can now be found at Dark Horse.
WORLD OF WARCRAFT
World of Warcraft made it to the four-color funny pages nearly a decade before it hit the big screen, thanks to a renewed push for video game comics from Wildstorm in the late aughts. It ran for 25 issues and was written by Walter Simonson, who was no stranger to bombastic, epic fantasy comics, thanks to his legendary run on Marvel’s Thor.
GEARS OF WAR
Gears of War timed its comic book launch to coincide with the release of Gears of War 2, and used the book to fill in the story space between the original and the sequel. The series was drawn by a number of artists, including Wonder Woman: Rebirth’s Liam Sharp, and Simon Bisley, who was apparently a big fan of Xbox third-person shooters.
After their success with World of Warcraft, Wildstorm decided to try their hand at another massively successful Blizzard property, StarCraft, but to lesser effect. StarCraft ran for just seven issues, falling short of its planned twelve issue run. A graphic novel was planned that would follow up on the series, but has yet to materialize.
GOD OF WAR
Continuing their quest to publish every video game as a comic book, Wildstorm released a six issue God of War series, concurrent with the launch of God of War III on PlayStation 3. Just like with World of Warcraft, the publisher decided to give writing duties to a comic veteran, this time Marv Wolfman, best known for New Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths.
While several yet-to-be-translated volumes of Assassin’s Creed comics have been released in French, the first American comic books for the roof-running franchise were from—you guessed it—Wildstorm, with the three issue Assassin’s Creed: The Fall. Subsequent English-language comic books from the franchise have been and continue to be released by Titan Comics.
In 2011, Archie Comics figured that, if they can handle one blue gaming icon, they can handle two. Archie’s Mega Man has been met with positive response similar to that of Sonic the Hedgehog, which it has already had two epic crossovers with, “Worlds Collide” in 2013, followed by “Worlds Unite” in 2015.
DC Comics sent Nathan Drake on a journey to the center of the Earth in their six issue Uncharted miniseries. It didn’t tie in to any specific plot points from the game so that it would be accessible to readers, but game developer Naughty Dog worked with the creative team so that it didn’t conflict with the games’ canon.
IDW’s first trip to the planet Pandora was in the four issue Borderlands: Origins, which acted as a prequel, with each issue focusing on the beginnings of one of the game’s main characters, Roland, Lilith, Mordecai and Brick. It was a big enough hit that the publisher has produced more stories for the franchise, titled The Fall of Fyrestone and Tannis & The Vault.
While Dark Souls III has been tormenting players around the world this year, Titan has been releasing a new comic book telling an original tale in the world of the horror-fantasy franchise. The series has been selling out since its debut in April, and will be joined by an ongoing anthology series, Dark Souls: Legends of the Flame in September.