THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS FOR ‘SNIPER ELITE: RESISTANCE’ TPB.
by Jarrod Jones. Karl Fairburne, hurtling through the black night skies of occupied France, shells bursting all around him, is a fit soldier to fight under the ‘Battle’ banner.
It’s only appropriate, since Sniper Elite: Resistance is a video game adaptation that serves as a union of Rebellion’s video game legacy and the many storied legacies of British war comics long since passed. Considering who’s writing this comic, the stars seem to have aligned above those bursting shells and zinging bullets: Keith Richardson, graphic novel editor for Rebellion, has an intimate knowledge of Rebellion’s history as a gaming entity and as a comics powerhouse. Sniper Elite: Resistance might be the finest example of Rebellion’s inter-company synergy yet. It’s also a hoot to read.
Equipped with the shooting and stealth mechanics that have made Sniper Elite a successful franchise and an attention to military detail that would make Garth Ennis raise a pint in appreciation, Resistance is a video game tie-in that feels every inch a worthy successor to all the men and women who have fought and perished under the ‘Battle’ banner over the decades.
DoomRocket spoke with Richardson about Sniper Elite: Resistance, its place in the hallowed ‘Battle’ tradition, and how he fares under the pressure of the video game controller.
1. The ‘Sniper Elite’ comic is published with the ‘Battle’ logo. If you would, tell me how the decision came that Rebellion’s premiere video game franchise would make its comic debut under such prestigious fanfare.
Keith Richardson: To a certain degree it was about brand recognition. Sniper Elite is a very successful franchise in the computer games world, but not all comics fans are gamers, particularly some of the older readers. ‘Battle’ on the other hand, is a much-loved war anthology, so having that ‘Battle’ logo on the cover is something that catches the eye of a significant portion of older, British comic book fans It is also very relevant when you consider who turns up in the story at the end of issue two!
2. You’re embellishing stories from a well-loved video game series, but you’re also delving into war history. How do you go about reconciling game story points with historical accuracy?
KR: Resistance is very much a melodramatic boy’s own adventure romp in the vein of The Dirty Dozen or The Rat Pack. Locations are real – for example, Angoulême was in the occupied zone at the time in which the story is set but plot wise several liberties have been taken in order to tell a (hopefully) exciting story.
3. You emphasize portions of the sniper and stealth mechanics seen in the ‘Sniper Elite’ games throughout this adaptation, which goes a long way to further the harmony between mediums. Do you feel there’s a set of rules for what to do (and what not to do) during a game-to-comic adaptation?
KR: I think that you have to stay true to the spirit of the games and of course you have to incorporate the sniping element into the story because that is what the games are all predicated on. Apart from that, I just focused on trying to tell a good action-packed story – that’s the only rule that counts in my opinion!
4. ‘Sniper Elite: Resistance’ assembled quite an impressive roster of artists for its covers, a veritable murderer’s row of talent from across the Rebellion and ‘2000 AD’ spheres: ‘Dan Dare’ artist Ian Kennedy, Colin Wilson of ‘Rogue Trooper’, ‘Sniper Elite’ conceptual artist Edouard Groult, the late, great Carlos Ezquerra — and, of course, your ‘Resistance’ brother-in-arms, Patrick Goddard. Was this a deliberate assemblage to underscore the brand unity between the arms of Rebellion, and its stewardship of many legendary British comics?
KR: We really lucked out with our artists on Resistance… the only one missing who I would love to have had on board is Cam Kennedy. We wanted to get artists who had made an impact in British war comics, hence the great Carlos and Ian Kennedy. Colin Wilson is another legend who made a very memorable contribution to ‘2000 AD’s very own war strip, Rogue Trooper.
5. If you would, tell me how you and Patrick Goddard came to be the creative team behind this adaptation.
KR: I was chuffed to bits when Matt Smith (the Sniper Elite: Resistance editor) told me that Patrick Goddard was on art duties. I think Matt may have hired Patrick due to his incredible work on Savage – a near future strip about a British resistance fighter taking on a vicious occupying army, which has appeared in 2000 AD for years. Pat’s clear and detailed artwork is perfect for strips that need feature a lot of detail. He’s also a great visual storyteller. I could say more about his work, but its all getting a little gushy!
As for my own involvement – I was approached by of Publishing Manager to edit a new Sniper mini-series. I had already edited a couple of one-off promotional Sniper comics which coincided with the release of earlier games and felt that I had a good handle on the main character and a feel for the material. I also had a seed of an idea for a story, so I asked if I could pitch it and write the thing myself and to my surprise, they said yes!
6. ‘Sniper Elite’ is appropriately violent, considering it’s based on a game series that specializes in X-ray “kill cams.” When you were scripting ‘Resistance’, did you know how you wanted the violence to look, or did you leave it to the imagination of Patrick Goddard?
KR: I always intended it to be violent and bloody – that’s exactly what war is! Pat Mills and Sam Peckinpah taught me that from an early age. The tone had to reflect the games – I’m surrounded by an office full of guys and girls who made the Sniper games and who wouldn’t take kindly to me sanitizing their baby!
7. There’s a nightmare sequence that sees Karl face-to-face with a Nazi horde in various states of post-mortem decay. A nod to the ‘Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Party’ campaigns, clearly. Did you sneak in any other Easter eggs you sneaked in from the series that you’re particularly proud of?
KR: You have it in one! I had to tip the hat to Nazi Zombie Army. I also wanted to give Pat something different to draw. There is one other Easter egg in there, which will only be relevant to people from Hammersmith. My local – the Salutation pub, appears in the first issue. I was hoping that I could wangle a few free pints by putting it in there!
8. How did you go about realizing the characters that surround Karl Fairburne in ‘Resistance’? Where did Babette, the lethal customer with a Betty Page cut, come from? How about Maximilian Althaus, the pampered Gestapo brat with a real hate-on for Karl? These characters feel like they’ve been around for years, there’s so much story given to them.
KR: Every good action story needs an interesting antagonist and a strong supporting cast. Babette is all femme fatale and owns a lot to my love of film noir more than anything else. Althaus is an all-out villain – there may be a lot of clichés in his make-up, but that isn’t always a bad thing, especially in these kinds of stories where everything is dialed up to eleven. When I started this project, I actually sat down and wrote out complete back stories for both of these characters.
9. Are there future plans for the ‘Battle’ banner in the near future? Reprinted trades from stories long since passed?
KR: Yes – there is something that will appear with the Megazine in the very near future which is very cool. We have just released the great Hebden/Ezquerra Western El Mestizo and I have paginated several other classic ‘Battle’ strips which will be released over the next few years, one of which is the often overlooked Invasion 1984 by John Wagner, Alan Grant and Alan Hebden.
10. You’ve admitted that you’re “completely crap at” playing ‘Sniper Elite’. What do you think is keeping you from being the ace crackshot we all know you can be?
KR: Age and a lack of concentration/good coordination keep me away from modern gaming. I’m a Spectrum guy, so the likes of Renegade, Bomb Jack and Chucky Egg are more my speed. A joystick and one or two buttons are as much as I can handle.
‘Sniper Elite’ TPB hits UK shops 29 November and US shops November 27. You can order it through the 2000 AD webshop here.