Video games have had a rather checkered history when it comes to adaptations in other media. Do I even need to go into it? Many a Nostalgia Critic-clone has made many a video cluttering up YouTube giggling at clips of various ill-conceived film and cartoon adaptations of classic games. Comics have fared a little better in that department, however. There have been some damn good video game based comics out there and I figured I would shine a light on a few you should check out.
1. Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics)
I’ve often said one of the hardest things to do is genuine family entertainment. Not just something kids love, but something that can entertain adults as well. I like to call that hitting the Pixar sweet spot, and I think this comic (as well as a few others on this list) does a fantastic job of it. The world Archie has fleshed out for the Blue Blur in over 250 issues—plus a second series Sonic Universe which has gone on for over 75 issues now—is remarkable. At this point, Archie has done far better stuff with this character than Sega themselves have.
If you want to check it out, I would start with the Sonic: Genesis trade paperback, but really, anything after writer Ian Flynn first took over is worth a read.
2. Mega Man (Archie Comics)
This may in fact be my favorite comic being published currently. I read a lot of comics, but this is the one I’m most excited to get home and read when I see it in my subscription box at my local comic shop. Part of it is just because I love Mega Man, but this is also a surprisingly well-written and clever book. It even manages to touch on some of the deeper issues of what it means to be human that the games hint at, albeit in an extremely lighthearted way. If you’re not reading this, you’re wrong.
3. Nintendo Power Comics (Nintendo Power)
Not to be confused with the horrendously bad Nintendo comics Valiant published, these were the ones that ran in issues of Nintendo Power magazine. Pretty much all Nintendo’s franchises at the time got this treatment—Mario, Zelda, Starfox, Metroid, Kirby—and they were all damn good. They were done by veteran manga creators and really captured the spirit of the various games.
The only problem is that they’re rather hard to find. Thankfully, the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past comic was recently reprinted in a trade paperback, but for most of them you have to hunt down the actual issues of Nintendo Power, which can be costly and time-consuming. Mario’s comics got a trade paperback years ago, but it is so rare it goes for hundreds of dollars. But there are some places online where you can find scans of them if you know where to look.
Here’s hoping Nintendo reprints more of these lost gems.
4. Tomb Raider (Top Cow)
There’s a Tomb Raider comic going on right now published by Dark Horse Comics, based on the new “grim and gritty” Tomb Raider games. As I said here before, I can’t stand the rebooted Tomb Raider, so that comic is just not for me. However, this comic series was great. If you liked Tomb Raider, old-fashioned Tomb Raider, you’ll love this. It’s easy enough to find both the issues and trade paperbacks. And let me just say that in the first story arc there is a twist regarding one of Lara’s closest friends I did not see coming at all.
5. Injustice (DC Comics)
Maybe I’m cheating on this one, since it’s a comic based on a video game based on a comic, but this was a damn good read. Telling the story of the five years before the game, we see how Superman went from squarejawed hero to brutal dictator, and it is gut-wrenching at times. Kinda sad that the only DC book I actually think is worth reading right now is based on a fighting game, but such is the state of the comic industry and especially DC these days.
6. Darkstalkers (Udon)
My first introduction to Darkstalkers was playing Marvel vs Capcom 2 with my roommate at the time. He was a big fan of the series and would ramble on about the backstory for characters like Morrigan while we played. This sparked my interest and we ended up playing some of his old Darkstalkers games a lot too. So with those fond memories, I decided to check out the Darkstalkers comic Udon published, and I was extremely impressed.
Fighting games aren’t the easiest games to translate into more linear forms of storytelling (for obvious reasons), but this one does it flawlessly. It doesn’t put too much of an emphasis on fighting and action, but rather spotlights the various interesting characters in the series in little intertwining sub-plots, with the biggest focus being on Morrigan. I can’t say this enough: any fan of this series simply must read these two collections. Don’t bother trying to find the issues, as they seem rare as all hell.
So there you have it, some examples of video game adaptations done right that are well worth your time and your money.