William Harms: Narrating the "inFAMOUS" comic book

A comics interview article by: Andre Lamar


In addition to writing the storyline of Sucker Punch's hit video gameinFAMOUS, author William Harms continues to flesh out Empire City through the game's ongoing comic book series.

Harms interviewed with the Comics Bulletin to share his insight on the game's six-issue miniseries and more. 

Andre Lamar: How excited were you to work on the inFAMOUS comic book? 

William Harms: The great thing about writing the inFAMOUS comic book is that I could steer the story down some avenues that couldn't be explored during the course of the game. Games are about action, about the player being an active protagonist in a world that reacts to them. Everything is centered around that. It's why people play games.

In comics, that isn't the focus. You can shift the story between multiple locations and focus as long as you want on each character. And that was exciting to me because I could write a scene packed with over-the-top action where Cole [MacGrath is] slugging it out with the First Sons, and follow it with a scene where Zeke [Dunbar] wonders whether or not Cole is ever going to forgive him. It's really about taking this cool universe and expanding it even more.

Lamar: Will the events in the comic impact the storyline in inFAMOUS 2?

Harms: The comic is set between the first and second game and directly leads into inFAMOUS 2. Everything that happens is canon, so what you see is real.

Lamar: What new things will readers learn about Cole and the inFAMOUS universe?

Harms: A lot of things from the first game are resolved, such as what happens to Moya [Jones], Sasha and Alden [Tate]. Playing the first game isn't required to understand what's going on, but if you have played the game, you'll get a real kick out of where the story goes.

There are two big narrative elements that I wanted to explore in the comic: the first of which is Cole finally accepting who he is and what his life is going to be like from now on. In inFAMOUS, Cole was very much a reluctant hero — one second he was a bike messenger and the next he has super powers. That would throw anyone for a loop. So by the end of the comic, we really see Cole acknowledge that his old life is gone and that, like it or not, this is his life from now on.

The other big element is the relationship between Cole and Zeke. Zeke was Cole's best friend and, during the course of the game, Zeke betrays Cole. That act hangs over every scene that the two of them share and Zeke's search for redemption cuts right through the comic. 

Lamar: At what point did you realize you wanted to create an inFAMOUScomic series?

Harms: We actually did a one-shot comic that was released after the game. It was a prequel and explains how John White got involved in the search for the Ray Sphere, along with some of Cole's first encounters with his powers. The first comic was a team effort with the team at Sucker Punch. They illustrated it. It got a good response and we had a blast doing it. 

From there, it made sense to further expand the universe into comic books. Sony set things up with DC and, when it came time to find a writer, I pretty much volunteered.

Lamar: What were some of your challenges in crafting the storyline for both the inFAMOUS videogame and comic?

Harms: The biggest challenge is understanding that they're different mediums. With comics, the focus is solely on producing an entertaining story that's fun to read. You can have a five-page fight scene and then a five-page scene where two characters bare their souls. Comic book readers, and readers in general, expect that level of depth. 

Lamar: In addition to the success of the inFAMOUS video game, you’ve also received acclaim for your comic 39 Minutes, which won Top Cow’s 2010 Pilot Season. Considering your success as an author, what are the most important elements to you in storytelling? 

Harms: I think it's identifying the core conflict in each character. What do they want and what's keeping them from getting what they want? Once you have the answer to that, then it's a matter of creating situations that push the character either toward or further away from what they want. I always find it fascinating when characters think they want something very specific, but in the end realize that they were actually lying to themselves and they want something else.

Lamar: Popular video games including Gears of War and Call of Duty have also taken the comic book route. From your perspective, what’s the future of video game based comics?

Harms: I love the way video game comics are going. Gears of War is set firmly in that game's universe. And in the case of inFAMOUS, it's not a story about some minor characters from the first game. It's a story about the main characters from the game and shows what happens next. I think that's really exciting. I hope more publishers decide to expand their universes via comics and really let the creators go after it and tell some great stories.

Lamar: Switching gears, did you also write for the inFAMOUS 2 video game? [inFAMOUS 2 is slated to release in May] 

Harms: I did pre-production on inFAMOUS 2 for about a year, which means I helped develop the overall story, create new characters, etc. I left just as the game was going into full production, but everything I've seen looks really cool.

Lamar: Aside from the inFAMOUS series, what other projects are you working on? 

Harms: I just finished adapting Charlaine Harris' novel Grave Sight as a six-issue series for Dynamite. That starts shipping in May.

Moving forward, I'm going to focus more on creator-owned work. I'm working on a book called Shotgun Wedding with Ed Pun. Ed draws all of the 2-D cut-scenes in theinFAMOUS games, so anyone who plays either game will be immediately familiar with his art. Hopefully we'll be able to get that out before the end of the year.


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