Exclusive interview: Joe Mad

Recently, SciFiNow spoke to comic book legend and game designer Joe Madureira about new adventure title, Darksiders. Here’s what the super-artist had to say… We’re big fans… Not everyone is, believe me. We once went into a comic shop and they criticised how you drew elbows. Elbows? I’ve gotten like faces and noses but not … Continued

darksidersRecently, SciFiNow spoke to comic book legend and game designer Joe Madureira about new adventure title, Darksiders. Here’s what the super-artist had to say…

We’re big fans…

Not everyone is, believe me.

We once went into a comic shop and they criticised how you drew elbows.

Elbows? I’ve gotten like faces and noses but not elbows… Now I’m gonna be all self-conscious when I’m drawing elbows.

Clearly popular mythology played a big part in the creation of Darksiders, but were there any other influences that are perhaps less obvious? You’ve said before that film directors influenced the design…

I’m a big fan of spaghetti westerns, Ridley Scott and The Lord Of The Rings films, obviously. I think they did a great job of taking fantasy and making it appeal to a mainstream audience. I mean, my parents liked those movies but if I tried to explain to them beforehand that they were going to watch Orcs shooting arrows at people they probably would not be interested in seeing it. The way that it was handled really appealed to everyone.

Darksiders offers many fantastic otherworldly visions but how, as a creator, do you help the gamer relate to such environments, and indeed the characters within them?

There’s a lot of different philosophies when you’re designing something. Some artists create things you’ve never seen before, but I actually prefer to start with something more familiar and then try to put a little spin on it. I think if a weapon is supposed to cut you it should look somewhat like a knife or a sword whereas someone else might make a laser whip or something like that and I think it starts to become too alien. When we’re working on the visuals for Darksiders I didn’t want anything to be too alien or too grotesque or too unrelatable. I think because we had that mind set I think it’s pretty relatable. If you look at some games, like Bayonetta, or something like that, which looks awesome but for some people it might be hard to relate to.

What is it that excited you about working not just on Darksiders, but in the medium of videogames as a whole? It must have been quite a transition from comics…

I had always been playing videogames since I was a kid so the ability to work in this industry has got me so excited. Working on things like animation, sound effects and voice recordings – it has so many more dimensions to it. It’s amazing to see one of the creatures that you’ve drawn actually stomp around and you’re fighting him. It’s just awesome. It really is cool.

Darksiders seems to have a very definite story with a beginning, middle and end. Obviously, though, there are, for better or worse, less linear titles doing great business at the moment. Would you ever want to work on a title like, for example, Mass Effect or, as a storyteller, are you happier being in control of the ending?

I’m a huge, huge fan of RPGs and at some point I would love to tackle a game like Mass Effect and I would hope that we didn’t just keep making the same type of game. With Darksiders we have a good mix of both because there is a definite ending but there are parts of the game where you can run off and explore so you advance the story at your own pace. You don’t make choices that affect the overall story but you are able to explore, which makes it a lot less linear than some of the other games out there. As a storyteller, I definitely prefer there to be a definite ending, but as a gamer… I don’t know. I’d certainly like to work on an RPG, though, yeah.

Well people would love to see World Of Warcraft as done by Joe Madureira…

Well, I should mention that we are working on the Warhammer MMO at Vigil, which gives us exactly that.

Arguably videogames have so much potential to be much more immersive than novels, or comics or films. Do you feel as though we’ve only really scraped the tip of the iceberg with what the medium can achieve?

Definitely. Just look at the advances in technology – every three years it’s just a huge leap. If you look at comics from ten years ago or even films from ten years ago they don’t really look that much different… except maybe for Avatar – that was pretty sweet. Right now to even max out the capabilities of the current consoles would cost a fortune so I think we’re good for a few years but after that I think it’s gonna be huge. As far as being immersed goes… I’ve played World Of Warcraft on and off for three years – you can’t spend that kind of time with a film or even games up until this point.

Is there anything you find limiting with the videogame format that you perhaps didn’t with comics, or do you now feel it’s coming into its own?

The biggest limitation is time. You can conceive the most ridiculous sequence ever – how long is it gonna take me to draw? Not that long – but in games it’s like “this would be awesome but it’s gonna take 15 guys and three months to do this and we’ve only got one month and eight guys, so what can we do?”. And really, you’re constantly up against what would be the best way and what would be the most practical and efficient. You just don’t have those kinds of limitations in comics, at all. It is hard – definitely the most challenging job I’ve ever had… you’ve got to be pretty thick-skinned and ready to throw away a lot of stuff.

How do you feel the comics industry has coped from a creative standpoint in recent years? It would seem that there are now more event, Crisis On Infinite Earths-type stories than ever before.

Honestly, I haven’t been following it that closely, especially in the last year. But it’s gotten so hard to find a comic book store in my area… everything just gets collected into a graphic novel and sold at the book store. That makes me sad because that was where I spent most of my tie as kid – at the comic shop – now they’re all gone.

You worked with Jeph Loeb on Ultimates 3 – how close is that to your idea of what the Avengers movie should be like?

Probably not very close at all. The Ultimates series one and two was a lot more gritty and realistic and film like. We actually took it in the opposite direction, which is classic superhero comics and we knew we were getting extremely comic book-y with it, like we brought back the classic costumes for some of the guys. Probably if you were gonna go with the movie you would want to revert back to the more movie-like Ultimates.

Have you a line-up you’d like to see in mind?

I think our line-up was pretty awesome. Thor, Iron Man… Hulk’s gotta be in there.

Any plans to work with Marvel on its own videogames in the future? Or perhaps Disney’s…

Not currently but you never know. It’d be fun.

And finally… can we look forward to BattleChasers: The Game?

No, no plans.

Not even like an RPG-type game? That would be cool…

[Laughing] Alright let’s do it. Put it on the schedule…

Picture 4Darksiders, on sale now, is developed by Vigil Games and published by THQ.

For more news, previews, and interviews, go to the leading videogames site, NowGamer.com.