Interview: ‘Hawken’ Is Coming To Comics and Joe LeFavi Is Making That Happen

Up until this point, Adhesive Games’ mech combat FPS Hawken has dazzled us with its Unreal-powered visuals, realizing detailed, ravaged cityscapes. But in the months we’ve been teased with the playgrounds where you and your mech will be blasting enemies to bits, there haven’t been all that many details about the story about the world of the game. Transmedia producer Joe LeFavi is hoping to change that with the upcoming release of an original graphic novel set in the Hawken universe from comic publisher Archaia. LeFavi, who’s with transmedia company Quixotic Transmedia (the folks who try to figure out how to get movies into games, games into comics, and so on), is overseeing the production of the graphic novel which will feature multiple artists including Adhesive Games co-founder, Khang Le.

While its release is about a year out, we got a few questions over to LeFavi by e-mail recently during the C2E2 convention in Chicago about the story of the game’s universe and assembling the talent for the Hawken OGN.

MTV Multiplayer: What made Hawken ripe for the comic book treatment?

Joe LeFavi: Hawken has been a rare treat. When it comes to multiplayer FPS games, the mythologies behind those experiences are usually nothing more than thinly veiled excuses to start shooting each other. Most game publishers are satisfied just making a great game. Yet Meteor and Adhesive are equally committed to creating a compelling world around the game, which is designed to engage their fans on multiple levels.

That goal is what sparked our interest in Hawken. The creative minds behind the brand have always envisioned the game as just one of many ways that fans can and should explore the Hawken universe. Within the game, you only see the world through the cockpit of your mech. Thus, our graphic novel is designed as a narrative counterpart to the gaming experience. We offer fans the opportunity to step outside of their mechs and walk around the world, appreciate its unique vision, and engage with the stakes on a more emotional level. It is our mission to make sure this world is believable and relatable. Sure, we’ll satiate the reader’s hunger for mech battles in spades. Yet we also want to extend far beyond the genre’s reach and appeal to people who love science-fiction, drama, action, political intrigue, even romance. No matter who you are, you should read our graphic novel and immediately want to climb inside a mech.

Multiplayer: It’s about a year out—what’s the progress on the book so far?

LeFavi: Farther than you’d think. We’ve been working alongside the Hawken team (Adhesive Games, Meteor Entertainment, and DJ2 Entertainment) for the past few months as they developed one behemoth of a brand bible (200+ pages!). The boys at DJ2 and I had a blast diving into the mythology and asking questions both big and small. Their history. Culture. Socio-political hierarchies and power struggles. Right down to their clothing and form of currency. Fleshing out a timeline spanning over a century, we then wove a narrative thruline that tied together key moments that led up to the post-apocalyptic war unfolding in-game. After that narrative roadmap was drawn up, we happily hopped into the backseat and watched the magic happen as our creative team took the wheel and sped off tires squealing.

Multiplayer: Tell us a little about the fiction of the world.

LeFavi: And spoil the surprise?! Alongside the Hawken team, we are planning to slowly expose fans to the underlying mythology throughout the 2012 convention season. From EC3 to the game’s 12-12-12 premiere, fans will learn something new and exciting about the Hawken universe. Fortunately I can reveal a few of the broader strokes now. A few hundred years into the future, big business has propelled Mankind to expand across the galaxy. Yet for the first time in history, the government permits three corporations to privately terraform and colonize an entire planet. Just imagine it. An entire planet owned and governed by corporate interests. On this planet, we watch two rival tech companies rise as first global, then galactic superpowers after a scientific breakthrough redefines modern warfare. Yep, you guessed it. MECHS. We literally watch the birth of the mech, and learn how a 100,000-lb. beast becomes an anthropomorphic, flying war machine unlike anything we’ve ever seen. This innovation ushers a new era of prosperity for the planet as a whole, but ultimately spells its doom as a series of events sends this once thriving society into post-apocalyptic pandemonium. And once society realizes that control over their dwindling resources will drive not only business, but also their survival… well, it doesn’t take long for those mechs to start shooting each other. It’s a pretty epic story, truth be told. We ride the entire arc of this world, both its meteoric rise and tragic fall… and all over the course of only three decades. As you might expect, it’s one hell of a ride.

Multiplayer: Could you spotlight some particular characters making their appearance in the book?

LeFavi: While I can’t reveal too much, there is a reason why the brand is called HAWKEN. As history has illustrated time and again, the fate of the world is usually determined by the personal choices of a few individuals standing in the wrong place at the right time (or vice versa). This tale places particular focus on the unique relationship between two men—one driven to ascend the socio-political ladder and one destined to change the world in more ways than one. Together their contributions strongly influence the trajectory of this world. As they thrive, the world thrives. As they suffer, so does the world. There’s a classic Arthurian feel to this land and its unique bond with the few who control its destiny. So while the impetus of this story is certainly mech-driven, we’ve managed to instill a human heart at its core.

Multiplayer: Who are the creators you have lined up?

LeFavi: The sincere fanboy in me is geeking out about our line-up. As we speak, the talented Jeremy Barlow (Mass Effect: Homeworlds, Star Wars) is writing our script. Each key moment in that story will then be presented by a new artist, whose unique style and mood fits the tone of the unfolding events. The anthology boasts an impressive army of visual talent, including Greg Tocchini (Last Days of American Crime, X-Force), Francisco Ruiz Velasco (Inhumans, conceptual artist on Hellboy 2, The Hobbit, and Pacific Rim), Nathan Fox (DMZ, Haunt), Christopher Moeller (Iron Empires, JLA: League of One), Moritat (Elephantmen, Transmetropolitan), Michael Gaydos (Alias, True Blood), Brian Thies (Winter Soldier, Dark Tower), Bagus Hutomo (Shrapnel, Heavy Metal), Stefano Gaudiano (Daredevil, Amazing Spider-Man), Alex Sanchez (Star Wars: The Old Republic, JSA Classified), and Federico Dallocchio (StarCraft, Modern Warfare 2: Ghost, Suicide Squad).

And let’s not forget Khang Le, the Co-Founder of Adhesive Games and an Eisner Award nominated writer/artist for his contributions in Flight. Khang’s extraordinary vision inspired this entire brand, and it’s pretty easy to get people inspired about Hawken when it looks that frickin’ good.

Multiplayer: What were you looking for in a writer and the artists in contributing to the book?

LeFavi: Looking for the right writer wasn’t easy. We never wanted fans to see our graphic novel as a “licensed” product. We want to produce a compelling story worthy of fandom on its own merit. To achieve this goal, we needed a writer with a track record for producing engaging and original stories within a very defined brand box. Looking over Jeremy Barlow’s career as an editor and a writer, readers have uniformly embraced his contributions to fan-favored sci-fi brands such as Star Wars and Mass Effect. And once Jeremy expressed a genuine connection with the characters and themes driving the mythology, it was obvious that he was our guy.

Finding the right artists was also challenging and just as rewarding. As I mentioned earlier, the game world was designed by Khang and his team of obnoxiously talented concept artists. They painstakingly crafted every element of that game and produced a stunningly visual experience that rivals most AAA titles. Consequently, the traditional “comic book” look and feel wouldn’t work for this brand. We needed fine artists with similarly rich and distinct styles, so that our graphic novel is regarded as an equally well-crafted work of art. In our mind, every time you encounter a new artist in the book, it’s the next piece in our Hawken art gallery.

Multiplayer: In the press release for the book, influences from Blade Runner to Tekkonkinkreet have been cited. How do you think these diverse works have made their way into the Hawken OGN?

LeFavi: It’s all about the world and the complex mixture of genres. Some of my favorite stories take inspiration from a variety of genres and produce something fresh and unique. What is Blade Runner? Science-fiction? Crime noir? A murder mystery? A romance? In the end, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a great story, and everyone can find something in that tale that speaks to them. This has been our approach on Hawken. Yes, this is a story about mechs, just as Blade Runner is about replicants. Yet in the end the scope and appeal of that story extends much farther and aspires to offer something more universally engaging.

Those references also reflect upon the scope and design of the world itself. The world of Hawken is not Star Trek, I Robot, or Tron. This isn’t some sleek sci-fi world with polished surfaces and lens flares galore. This world is dark and gritty, yet utterly unique with a distinct personality. That’s another reason why films such as Blade Runner and Tekkonkinkreet came to mind. They’re more than just great stories. They’re visual feasts that you can watch over and over, appreciating the set design one sitting and the dynamic cinematography or costuming the next. The vast and inspiring scope of those cinematic worlds serve as inspiration for Hawken. Awe-inspiring architecture. Mood lighting. Rich sound design and color schemes. Rusty grates, signs, wires, tubes, and steam ducts everywhere. The game pays close attention to the little details, making the world feel so much bigger than the story itself. True, it’s ambitious to set such a bar for ourselves, but we’re really hoping to provide a similar visual experience for Hawken. You read the book once for the story… and then read it again and again to devour all the little details.

Multiplayer: What was the collaboration like between the creators on the Hawken OGN and the Adhesive team?

LeFavi: Smooth sailing. DJ2 Entertainment, who brought my company into the family, has been a trusted friend and peer for a while now. Archaia and I have been constant collaborators ever since my Henson days. And while Meteor Entertainment (the indie game publisher releasing Hawken) is new, DJ2 has known its founding members for over a decade! The entire team is a strong constituency built on friendship and mutual respect, and it’s been a pleasure working on such a promising project with such great friends. Plus, I couldn’t really ask for a more supportive team. Everyone at Adhesive, Meteor, and DJ2 has a genuine appreciation for the medium. Khang is an Eisner nominated writer/artist. Dan and Dmitri at DJ2 Entertainment are long-long comic fans. Even Mark Long, the CEO of Meteor Entertainment, is a best-selling graphic novelist. Everyone understands and respects our creative process, and encourages the kind of trust and collaboration necessary to bring out the best in their brand. It’s been a very positive experience thus far, and this level of cooperation will play a key role in producing a final product in which everyone can be proud.

Multiplayer: Where else might we see Hawken pop up in the future? Models? Machinima?

LeFavi: Tee hee hee. The easier question is where you won’t see Hawken in the future. The game alone is one of the coolest (and most addictive) FPS games that I’ve played in a long time. It’s just so obvious that the people behind this brand are genuinely driven to give fans something worthy of their time and investment. Something worthy to endure for years to come. Archaia and I are convinced that we’ll be telling stories in the Hawken universe for the next 10 years. From what we’ve seen and experienced thus far, it deserves nothing less.

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