Between the Covers of Star Raiders

by Robert Greenberger

From Video Games magazine, volume 1, number 10, pp. 18 & 20

What could follow Pac-Man to television or Donkey Kong to bubble gum cards? How about Star Raiders as a comic book? Well, next month, DC Comics will be releasing Star Raiders as a 64-page trade paperback. The comic ($5.95), called an album because of its size and production values, will be printed on heavy stock paper, use a fuller rainbow of colors than most newsstand comics, and comes as an outgrowth of DC's association with Atari (discussed in VG's January issue). At one time, both companies were planning to jointly produce comic books featuring the adventures and characters of popular Atari games. It appears that budget pressures have forced those plans to be scuttled for now.

According to DC special projects editor Andrew Helfer, the Star Raiders' project was one of the more fully-developed and best-received concepts to be considered for this format. Over a year ago, Helfer called comics writer Elliott [sic] Maggin, who had given up writing Superman some time before and was teaching in upstate New York. "He liked the idea and then found out it was for Star Raiders. He loves the game and had been playing it on his computer before the video cartridge came out," Helfer explains. "He was very eager to do the project."

Another factor that convinced Maggin was the idea of working with Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, one of the best and most underrated comics artists today. "Jose has been doing many comics and one-shot projects but has never been associated with any one series, which is why a large number of people overlook his dynamic talents," Helfer says.

Maggin worked out some ideas on how to translate the game, in the shoot-'em-up vein, into an involving story. He and Helfer decided it was necessary to broaden the scope of the game by infusing some fresh ideas. The Zylon enemy ships, they decided, were manned by mindless, insect-like drones, controlled by an overpowering menace in the Dragon Lady vein.

Garcia-Lopez enthusiastically began developing ideas of his own on how the comic should look. Rather than produce typical line drawings and add color to them, he decided to pencil the pages and use a variety dyes, inks, and paints to complete the art, giving it a unique appearance. Helfer had Garcia-Lopez try his hand at the game on a visit to the DC offices in Manhattan. Armed with some experience and detailed diagrams from Maggin, the arist then set about designing a new universe. Those who have seen the completed work admit it is some of the most dynaic comic art around.

Original plans called for Star Riaders to be one of several stories in an Atari coimc, but when the decision came to turn it into an album, the idea had to be altered. Rather than four 20-page chapters, Maggin had to rework the story into one 62-page adventure. Everything is resolved, Helfer says, although there is always room for a return visit to the series if sales warrant the move.

"What we attmpted to do is give an identity to the pieces that are shown in the game," Helfer reports. "We introduced crews aboard the space ships and gave everyone a common evil to fight. It works as the next step of the game play and it works as an exciting comic story."

DC has not announced further plans regarding other Atari-related material, although the Atari Force will be receiving its own monthly newsstand comic in September.

Copyright 1983 by Pumpkin Press, Inc.

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Created: 6 May 1999; Last Modified: 6 May 1999