If you're not an avid gamer, there's a good chance you may be unfamiliar with Liithos. However, with a team that's comprised of industry veterans such as Days Gone co-creator John Garvin and The Last of Us executive Michael Mumbauer, they're clearly worth keeping a close eye on.
The company's first project, Ashfall, was announced last June, and an upcoming comic book - and TikTok series - looks set to introduce us to that world for the first time. The story takes place in the climate-change-ravaged Pacific Northwest where Seattle has been submerged beneath the ocean for hundreds of years.
The Trace - deadly pockets of dark energy - has brought mutation, ruin, and chaos wherever they appear. With civilization devolved into factions and enclaves and humanity fighting over resources and differing ideologies, Ash Naranjo, born without arms, is taken by the Order of Life Science, who give him TechGyn prosthetic arms and other nano implants, changing him forever.
Now one of the Order’s Ghosts, Ash fights for the United Enclaves, vowing to destroy the oppressive Freelanders who have taken his family and destroyed his homeland.
Setting the stage for this game is the aforementioned comic book series penned by Garvin with art from Aquaman and She-Hulk artist Paul Pelletier. A Marvel and DC Comics veteran, Paul has brought just about every major character to life on the page imaginable, and the fact he's lending his talents to Ashfall is a very big deal.
Recently, we were fortunate enough to ask Paul some questions over email, getting some fascinating insights into his creative process, what drew him to Ashfall, and his own video game fandom. While we can't share any preview pages with you just yet, we've read the first issue, and can assure you it's some of his best work yet!
You can check out our full conversation with the artist below.
How did you come to be involved with Ashfall and what was it about this project that appealed to you as an artist?
The chance for me to continue branching out beyond standard comic book companies was intriguing, and the subject matter was really different from a lot of the work I had been doing over the last several years. It looked like a challenge that might push me in different ways than when I draw classic superhero comics.
Did you get a lot of access to the game, or materials relating to it, in order to better prepare for the process of helping bring this world to life?
I did...a lot of conceptual art, character work-ups, tons of environment artwork. So much it's almost difficult to keep track of it all! But it really helps to get the right feel for the book and keep it as consistent as I can with what the game is all about.
What has your collaboration with John been like? Have you been given a lot of creative freedom or, given that this comic has to set the tone for the game, has that required a closer working relationship than on other titles you’ve been part of?
This is the first time I've worked with John, so early on I tried to stay as faithful as I could to what he had in the script. It was a good chance to feel out how he writes, and it also gives him the chance to see how I deal with his plots and how I might pace things out as a visual storyteller. I think as we get further into the story, I'll feel more comfortable changing up the pacing a bit more...when to try and punch things up more for effect. But, as a rule of thumb, I never try to change the basic thrust of the story, just how to take advantage of certain story beats and hopefully give more punch when needed.
You’ve illustrated many of Marvel and DC’s most iconic comic book characters, but when a new property like this comes along, does your approach differ at all?
Not for storytelling, no. But it's always a challenge when working with completely new characters with no history compared to the Marvel and DC characters. It's something I hadn't really done since my days at Crossgen Comics.
What were some of the biggest challenges when it came to working on this series?
For me, drawing tech, like guns and vehicles are always a challenge, and this book is full of them! Drawing characters in armor and loose robes and face coverings, utility belts and pouches....much more difficult for me than skin-tight superhero costumes. It's difficult sometimes to always have to figure out how these outfits work at different angles and be consistent with them.
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In terms of exploring this world and its characters, what about that have you most enjoyed and is there anything, in particular, that really resonated with you?
I generally don't get a real "feel" for characters until I've drawn 3-4 issues with them, so I'm really just getting to know them now. I am having fun with some of the environments though...broken, ugly, organic landscapes can be a lot of fun to mess around with, especially trying to get a proper sense of scale for them. Another fun challenge!
I thought your artwork in issue #1 was phenomenal, but what would you tease about what readers can expect from you here?
Thanks for the compliment. I think as I get more comfortable with the story and characters, and John's writing style, I'll be able to open up the art a bit more...take more chances with being even more dynamic and trying to accentuate the "Oh Crap!" moments in the story.
So many of the characters you’ve illustrated have been brought to life on the screen - how does it feel to now see that link between your work and something like a video game?
The idea of that is very fun. It brings me back to my first big gig in comics, back in 1992 working for Malibu Comics on a book called Ex-Mutants. Sega Genesis did a game of the Ex-Mutants and used my art on the cover, as well as in the game itself. Sure, it was kinda rough and pixelated, but it was still pretty cool!
Are there any iconic heroes or villains you’d love the chance to work on, but haven’t before now for whatever reason? I’d love to see more of your take on Spider-Man!
Spider-Man is definitely on top of the list! My career has been spent drawing whatever book was available, so I became comfortable with the idea that I may not get to work on the characters I liked the most. It help put me in the mindset to try and find the enjoyment in any project I take on, no matter who the character is.
Ashfall looks and sounds like an epic game; are you much of a gamer, though, and if so, what are some of your go-to titles to play?
I grew up a huge fan of Atari game systems, and then moved on to PlayStation. Sadly, my most recent game system is PlayStation 2 [Laughs]. I always enjoyed third-person platformer action games. I would say for Playstation2 games (I'm so old [Laughs]), I really enjoyed games like God Of War, Prince Of Persia, Ico.....Shadow Of The Colossus. But I also enjoyed the weirder, off-beat Japanese games like Katamari Damaci. Anything that was more artistically creative would catch my eye.
Thanks so much for your time, Paul. Where can our readers find you online?
I have next to no online presence, [Laughs], but I do have a website where I sell comic book pages and artwork. It's at paulpelletierart.com. Thanks!