Chances are, if you know video games, you know Gears of War. If you know Gears of War, you should absolutely know Cliff Bleszinski, who was the lead designer on the first three installments of the massive franchise.
Now he has taken the dive into comic books, with SCRAPPER, what he describes as a book for kids who have outgrown Paw Patrol. Here is a bit more about the title from Image Comics, “Blade Runner-style action mixes with big emotions as stray dog Scrapper and his buddy Tank fight for justice against the totalitarian forces of a post-apocalyptic domed city. But when the fight comes to his home, Scrapper will face losing what’s most important to him and gain a terrifying truth in the process. (Don’t worry, Mom. The dog doesn’t die.)”
Bleszinski took a jump in and out of video games a few times, eventually landing on becoming the author of his own book, Control Freak: My Epic Adventure Making Video Games, and even becoming a producer on Broadway for Hadestown, which has been met with great reviews. Now officially in the land of comics, CGMagazine got to sit down with Bleszinkski to discuss SCRAPPER and his journey in video games, theatre and now comics.
The switch from video game creation to comics is a big one. Why take the leap off the screen and onto the page, and why now?
Cliff Bleszinski: I got into a situation in game development where, quite frankly, there were too many cooks in the kitchen. I needed a reboot creatively and somehow wound up infiltrating the comics industry, which has been utterly fascinating. Working with a tiny crew has been utterly refreshing. I literally cried upon opening up the previews of issue #1 (with a bunch of cool cover variants!)
Do you think your history in video games influenced SCRAPPER at all?
Cliff Bleszinski: Absolutely. SCRAPPER is surgically built to not only be a great story but also to potentially be a game and/or TV series. Videogames are built on their systems, but also their verbs, so Alex and I made sure that SCRAPPER has plenty of actions and skills that he can perform.
You have a book, Control Freak: My Epic Adventure Making Video Games. Did that help the transition to comics from games? How has the reception been for the book?
Cliff Bleszinski: Everyone who has messaged me on social media seems to have loved it! My goal was to make the book not only a deep dive into the videogame industry but also make it deeply personal. I really put it all out there in this book. One of the many things I’ve learned over the years is narrative/story are pretty universal across almost all mediums.
The size of the team for comics is a lot smaller than in video games. What was it like working on a smaller scale?
Cliff Bleszinski: It’s been utterly fucking fantastic. Alex and I vibe in the best way; she’s super intense and cerebral, and I respect the hell out of her. This honestly feels like when I was making Jazz Jackrabbit back in the 90’s with a handful of developers. I feel like I’m back in my mother’s house, building a platform game again. I suppose I’ve always had a soft spot for animals!
Who is the audience you’re looking to target for SCRAPPER?
Cliff Bleszinski: Kids who have outgrown Paw Patrol as well as adults who are eternal children.
Do you have any favourite projects you’ve worked on to date?
Cliff Bleszinski: I’ll always have a soft spot for the Gears of War games but to be honest becoming a producer on Broadway has been pretty magical. To go to opening night in NYC to Hadestown – and to see it win 8 Tony awards in person as well as going to opening night for the musical powered by the hits of Britney Spears – Once Upon A One More Time – was amazing. Some bucket list shit right there.
Do you have any favourite moments in SCRAPPER or from working on it?
Cliff Bleszinski: I don’t want to spoil it, but SCRAPPER’s interactions with his adoptive parents always move me. Good entertainment has HEART, and I believe Alex and I managed to do that.
Will there be more SCRAPPER in the future, or more comics overall?
Cliff Bleszinski: Scrapper is a 6 issue run but we leave it pretty open ended, so you never know. I have another IP that I’ve been working on called EFFIGY, so we’ll see where that one goes.
Do you see yourself jumping back into video games at all, especially if there is a new Gears of War?
Cliff Bleszinski: I’m doing some consulting right now, but I don’t see myself being lead designer or CEO in the games space any time soon. I’ll always adore video games, but my studio cratering broke me.
What do you want people to know before they dive into SCRAPPER?
Cliff Bleszinski: Just know that it comes from a place of, well, loving dogs and animals. I had to put my 13 year old Aussie down a few years ago, and then my amazing wife found me Lady, our Pomsky, and she was my muse for this project. I co-own two restaurants in town and I “check on them” which is basically my way of saying I just want to go around and pet all the dogs that visit (with consent, of course…) I just love our furry friends and hope everyone enjoys this series!