FCBD 2011: Filip Sablik Walks Us Through ‘The Darkness II: Confession’

Earlier this week, we brought you the new trailer for 2K Games’ sequel to The Darkness titled appropriately enough The Darkness II. The game won’t be out until October, but you can get a little taste of what’s in store for lead character Jackie Estacado in Top Cow’s Free Comic Book Day entry, The Darkness II: Confession. The issue was written by Filip Sablik and Matt Hawkins, with art by Michael Broussard and Romano Molenaar, and is being used by Top Cow and 2K to provide a bridge between the first and second games given the two year gap between the stories.

Sablik, a writer and artist who has worked on Top Cow’s Pilot Season: Asset and Last Mortal was happy to provide MTV Geek with a little insight into the issue—which, if you haven’t heard by now, is free—while trying to avoid any sort of spoilers for the upcoming game.

MTV Geek: Could you tell us a little about the story you’ve chosen to tell for The Darkness II: Confession? What does “the confession” refer to?

Filip Sablik: We wanted this comic to act as both a prologue to The Darkness II, but also act as a bridge from the first game to the second. If you are a fan of the comic, but haven’t played the game, the comic is intended to be an entry point. If you’re a gamer, but not familiar with The Darkness, this comic is meant to serve as an introduction to Jackie and his world. So that was the challenge we gave ourselves, but we also wanted to make the story interesting as a stand-alone comic. Otherwise you end up with something that’s just purely expositional and we’ve got Wikipedia for that!

The story opens with Jackie Estacado, bearer of the Darkness, visiting the grave of his one true love, Jenny Romano and basically pouring his heart out to her. Jackie and Jenny were raised in a Catholic orphanage, and while Jackie has grown up to be a hitman working for the mob, like many people brought up in that tradition he has the idea of confession and penance engrained in him on a deeper level. He’s been struggling lately with his conscience and since Jenny was the one pure soul in his life, he goes to give a confession of sorts to her in hopes of finding some absolution and peace.

Geek: It’s been two years between the first and second game. How has that interval—and becoming a Don—affected Jackie?

FS: Jackie has been through a number of changes, many of which will be revealed in the game, but the two biggest changes, which I can talk about, are that he’s become the Don of the Estacado family and that he’s kept the Darkness chained within himself for two years. In the first game, Jackie took out his Uncle Paulie, the head of the Franchetti crime family, who was responsible for Jenny’s death. Changing the name of the family to the Estacado family is kind of Jackie’s final middle finger to Paulie. And since the Darkness held Jackie back and prevented him from saving Jenny from Paulie, Jackie sees keeping it locked in himself as the only way he can punish the Darkness. As you can imagine, after two years, the Darkness is NOT happy about this.

Geek: Are there any characters from Confession who might make their way into the game?

FS: Not that I can comment on.

Geek: Why is this book a good introduction to The Darkness game and comic?

FS: It’s a great introduction for the game. Most importantly, it really gives you a sense of Jackie as a character and what his mindset is before the beginning of The Darkness II. It also gives you a sense of what came before in the first game – how Jackie inherited the power of the Darkness, his relationship with Jenny and Paulie, and how he came to control the Darkness. The developers at Digital Extremes and producers at 2K Games did a phenomenal job of making The Darkness II very accessible for new players, but any time you do a sequel there are some folks who want to know what came before. The comic provides a great way to jump in without necessarily having to replay the hours it would take to get through the first game.
For us, it also gives a great opportunity for Top Cow to spotlight what makes the Darkness and Jackie Estacado such a compelling comic franchise. One of the goals of Free Comic Book Day is to bring in NEW comic customers and we think that by partnering with 2K we have the opportunity to do just that with the gaming community.

Geek: The press release for the book notes that the FCBD entry will also tie into existing Darkness canon. How did you go about maintaining fidelity to both the comic and the game?

FS:The continuity between the game and the comic universes vary slightly, but the core of the character remains true. The Jackie Estacado in the video games and the one in the comics are easily recognizable as the same character. Same thing with the Darklings, Jenny, Paulie and so on. But with the game, 2K was able to comb through 15 years of The Darkness comics and pick and choose the best of the best storylines to tap into and play with. Paul Jenkins, who is one of the seminal writers on The Darkness comics, is also the primary writer behind both games, so we knew that the essence of the character and property was in great hands.

Sheldon Carter, Project Director at Digital Extremes (the devs behind The Darkness II) weighed in with some of the big changes coming in the upcoming sequel.

Geek: In terms of the visuals for the game, what was behind the move to the more cel-shaded look in the sequel?

Sheldon Carter: When the first game was released, the gritty, realistic look of the graphics was fairly unique and striking, but since it came out several years ago that look has become the norm. 2K Games and Digital Extremes really wanted to give The Darkness II a unique look to stand out in the marketplace. And what’s more, they really wanted the gamer to feel like they were playing a comic book. They looked at the source material and put together a really unique “graphic noir” aesthetic for the graphics inspired by what they saw. What’s amazing to me is that the graphics aren’t an automated rendering engine; everything in the game is actually hand-painted to give it the unique “graphic noir” look. In many ways, they took the same love and attention to detail that we put in the comics every month and injected that into the look of the game. Honestly, the stills that have been released so far do not do it justice. The final effect when you are walking through this world and interacting with everything is stunning!

Geek: What were some ways you were looking to make Jackie tougher and even more dangerous with this game?

SC: We looked at everything really: shooting, demon arms, executions and said “I want to be able to do all of these things at the touch of a button.” For Jackie to be a complete badass, it couldn’t be slow and deliberate.

Geek: Could you tell us a little about the new Quad-Wielding system? Were there any particular advantages or challenges to implementing the new quad control?

SC: Our intention was to make a game that was intense, first person action with up close and personal combat. Jackie is now the Don of the Estacado family, and wields demonic supernatural powers, so he is, simply put, a badass. The Quad-Wielding is a result of this type of action: you’re a whirlwind of death, you can fire two guns, slash and grab, and use powers all at the touch of a button.

The gameplay aspect doesn’t force you to manage each action separately, rather, you can do it all, at the same time, all the time.

The challenges were just around making the gameplay intuitive. We have a really talented team though – so we had this all really early in development. This meant we could start building encounters and AI knowing that you’d be this powerful.

The Darkness II: Confession will be free this FCBD and The Darkness II will be on available on consoles October 4, 2011. You can see the trailer on our video page.

Discuss this story in our Comics forums! Follow @MTVGeek on Twitter and be sure to “like” us on Facebook for the best geek news about comics, toys, gaming and more!