The lights are on
A lot of video games have comic book spinoffs, but PopCap’s cutesy strategy title Plants vs. Zombies would seem an odd target for such an adaptation. And yet, EA has teamed up with Dark Horse to produce a Plants vs. Zombies digital comic. We talked with writer Paul Tobin – best known for this work on The Age of the Sentry and Marvel's kid friendly Adventures line – about what it was like turning this franchise into a comic book.
Plants vs. Zombies is a strange game to turn into a comic. How did the whole project start? An editor at Dark Horse, Philip Simon, contacted me. We had worked together in the past, and he said, “Are you familiar with the game?” and I was. It’s actually a game I love. I play it a lot. I write all day long; my writing days are like 14 hours sometimes, and that burns my brain out entirely. So I go back and forth, and I play little games in between. Plants vs. Zombies is one of those games. PopCap actually asked for me, because they were familiar with my other work.
Were they fans of anything in particular?A lot of my Marvel Adventure stuff, some of the charging, young adventure-type stuff that they felt would work with this. I do a lot of different stuff, but I think that’s what drew them into this project – that I do projects that have a sense of fun to them, and I like character.
Did they have an idea for the story going in, or did they just say “go”? They had a couple of things they didn’t want. They wanted some new characters to kind of showcase it, and they had a set group of the main plants that they wanted me to stress, like the peashooters and things like that. But other than that, they were like, “Tobin, just make up a story.” I came up with a couple of options for them.
They’re really easy guys to work with. I really like that, because I do some media tie-ins every now and then – I’ve got a couple more game things coming up – and some companies are really structured, “We’ll funnel you into the story I want.” But these guys were just like, “Just make something fun and entertaining that showcases our characters.” And that was easy.
What’s the premise of the story? Do you explore the origin of the zombie outbreak?You know, that was actually something we discussed – whether or not we wanted to explain the zombie origin – but sometimes if we give the zombie origin, or give origins as a whole, I think it diminishes the mystery and the fun of a project. So we actually specifically stayed away from the origin of the zombies. We just had them overrunning a small town, Neighborville, and Dr. Zomboss is making a huge machine that creates a cloud of stink and horror in the air that blocks out all the sun, so the plants and the people can’t get energy, so they can take over the town easier.
The comic is basically the story of two young characters – a young boy named Nate and a young woman, Patrice – who meet and team up to fight the zombies and get rid of the cloud, so that the plants can fight more effectively. I introduced Patrice as Crazy Dave’s niece, because I like Crazy Dave a lot. He’s such a fun character.
So are the characters in the comic supposed to be player’s character from the game?Patrice and Nate have never been in the game. Other than that, all the characters, the zombies and things like that are. They didn’t want me to introduce any new zombies or things like that. I don’t know if Patrice and Nate will ever make it in the games per se. It would be kind of fun to see them, but right now they are comic-specific.
Do you guys explain why the plants have these superpowers that let them fight zombies?We dealt with Crazy Dave kind of experimenting and making the plants, and having him be a catalyst for their intelligence. He’s kind of a reckless inventor, not necessarily a brilliant inventor, so I didn’t want him to be able to give the plants true life. But he has actually furthered them and helped them along. He grows them in his greenhouse, but they kind of escape and save the town.
Did you get to play Plants vs. Zombies 2?I didn’t get to play it so far, but they played a bunch for me when I was up at PopCap. They showed me a lot of how it’s going to work. I don’t know if you’ve seen, I know they’ve announced it, the first-person shooter and things like that, which is a lot fun. They walked me through everything they’re going to do and plans for those games, and actually have plans past those games and things like that. They told me a lot of things I shouldn’t know. Things that I can’t talk about for like 5 years. [Laughs]
The first few issues of Dark Horse’s Plant’s vs. Zombies Lawnmageddon comic are available now on iOS. It’s a silly little read, but its kind of fun to see how Tobin took one of my favorite mobile series and turned it into a comic book. Also, get ready for Plants vs. Zombies 2, because that game is awesome.
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