Marvel illustrator makes videogame and comic worlds collide

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Axcend is a blend of retro-styles day-glo panels, reminiscent of 90's bold, bright strips

Axcend is the Tron of a modern generation – flipping the switch and bringing games into reality, rather than the other way round.

The comic tells the story of a teenager Eric Morn, who, after being (literally) sucked into the Beta test of a new videogame, finds himself with a superhero strength. When he returns to the real world, so do the aspects of the game he thought he'd left behind – but there are no extra lives in reality!

"I have been playing videogames all my life," says creator, Shane Davis. "I tend to like story driven games, but I also like playing with other people online. I'm not a huge fan of shooters, but I can carry my own weight in an online team!"

In Axcend, Shane uses the reader's experience to fill in the gaps. "So many people have played a videogame of some sorts, whether it's on a cellphone or arcade or console.

"I will be using game montages that cover a lot of games for readers to relate to. That way every reader will feel like they played Axcend with character Eric Morn in one way or another, whether it's a shooter, puzzle, or fighting video game."

Team tactics

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Bright colours allow the reader to decipher which panels are "real life" and which are set inside the beta game

With over 10 years of comic projects under his belt, along with some writing credit, Shane had plenty of experience to give to a creator-run project.

"For a creator-owned project, it's essential to have a team together before submitting a pitch," says Shane, who's team consisted of Morry Hollowell, Pat Brusseau and his wife, illustrator Michelle Delecki.

"We are both artists and enjoy working together in studio," Shane admits of his other half. "Michelle is a big part of me doing the book. She has been a great moral support, and is always there to tell me my 'crazy ideas' are not TOO crazy!"

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Eric finds himself literally propelled into the beta game, Tron-style- this time it doesn't leave him behind when he manages to leave though!

Creating his own comic has been a far cry from working on existing titles: "If you're drawing a classic character, a lot of the groundwork is already laid out for you. With creator owned, it feels pretty natural."

"Drawing your own creations can be exhausting mainly because all of your energy is going into it. Also, because you're the creator it's really easy to get emotionally invested in the world you’re building."

His creative process is relatively straight forward. "I lay out arc one, then I break the issues down by page count and story beats. Then I write some pages in layouts, draw them and dialogue them. In heavy dialogue driven scenes, I flip it. I write everything out in a full script and draw it."

Making it Beta

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Eric teams up with co-players Rayne and Ruin to save the world from impending doom

Axcend doesn't just merge the worlds of comics and video games, but it is a unique blend of mediums and styles too. Shane has made an aethstic division between the segments within the game and those in "real life".

"In the video game panels, I experimented with panel gutters a lot in showcasing the character's powers, especially the character Rayne, as she can stop time as long as she is cutting an object," says Shane.

Shane fashioned the real world to be a little more subtle in it's colour palette compared to the fluorescent hues of the gaming world

Shane fashioned the real world to be a little more subtle in it's colour palette compared to the fluorescent hues of the gaming world

"Outside of that, a lot of the contrast between the two worlds is handled with colour, and a digital sky effect in the game." The result is striking, and a throwback to the 90's classic modern age comics and early console video games.

On top of this, there is a mix of digital and tradional artistic mediums. "Axcend is a bit of everything. I draw traditionally. Michelle inks in both digital and traditional," Shane adds. "Colors by Morry Hollowell are digital, followed by lettering by Pat Brusseau done digitally."

Gamer gains

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Shane says gamers want to like comics and perhaps with his help they will find comic books more easily accessible.

"The unique thing about Axcend is the consequence of the game bleeding over into the real world," Shane reveals. "I'm going to be juggling a lot of themes and fallout that I don’t think you can do in a Marvel or DC book."

Rather than delving too much into the video game world – Shane is bringing the video world into the "real" comic world.

Shane hopes video game fans will find it an easy way to enter the world of comics. Grabbing their attention with a unique gamer-based storyline, it's also self-contained with an ending, rather than a traditional on-going series with endless backstory to wrap your head around.

"I have been a fly on the wall in so many game chat rooms. Gamers want to like comics, and not just Marvel and DC. For every six players, two or more like a comic that's out on the shelf."

Axcend #1 is out now and available from Image comics.

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Alice Pattillo

Alice Pattillo is a freelance journalist with a passion for heavy metal, horror, science fiction, fantasy and comics. She has over seven years experience in magazines, formerly working as a staff writer at Creative Bloq, Imagine FX, Computer Arts and 3D World, as production editor for Guitar World and Guitar Player and online editor of Metal Hammer.