If you've been living under a rock -- or just don't follow video games -- you may not be aware that the long-awaited "Borderlands 2" hit stores this week, featuring hours' worth of shooting, leveling-up and pillaging would-be Vault Hunters. The sequel to Gearbox Software's popular 2010 hit follows four new heroes -- a Gunzerker, an assassin, a commando and a Siren -- as they battle the vicious Handsome Jack, a man looking to keep Pandora's treasures all to himself and his corporation, Hyperion.
But there's more to the story than the games can contain, and IDW Publishing is there to fill in the gaps with the "Borderlands Origins" comic series. Every installment of the four-issue miniseries (with the first issue available online for free) focuses on a different character, and tells the tale of how each particular Vault Hunter gets on the bus with Marcus to begin with, leading up to the opening of the original "Borderlands" game while introducing other elements and surprises to the "Borderlands" universe.
To learn more about "Borderlands Origins" -- and talk more about Vault Hunting in general -- we spoke with the main man behind its story, Gearbox Software's "Chief Creative Champion" and writer Mikey Neumann. Needless to say, Neumann had a lot of fun with our questions, filling us in on why Gearbox and IDW are filling in story gaps in comics rather than in-game, what fans can expect to discover about the extended universe and much more.
First off, tell us what kind of "Borderlands" fan you really are. Do you have a Claptrap dancing on your phone, or are you just a casual player of the game?
Mikey Neumann: I'm a mega-diehard-play-every-day kinda "Borderlands" player. I very much liked to grab builds of the game during development. Now that the game is out, I'm going through on all platforms and playing it through one more time. "Borderlands 2" is the best game we've ever made and we could not be more proud of the success it has had already. We love our fans and our universe, and I think it shows.
Fill us in a bit on the story behind "Borderlands Origins." What can we expect to learn about the Vault Hunters?
You will learn a lot more than we knew. We purposely kept them a bit mysterious as to where they came from and what their background was in the first game.
With the comic, I wanted to take a simple concept and run with it: "How did the four Vault Hunters get on the bus in the first place?" That's the story I wanted to tell, and in the process of that, dive into some piece of their backstory that was previously unknown. For characters like Roland and Mordecai, this might simply be a day or two in the life that sheds light on who they are as people and what events could put them on the bus in the first place. For Lilith and Brick, the stories span multiple years.
You will learn a lot, but the one-shots are done in such a way that there are still a boatload of cool stories to tell about them if the comics were to see wide success.
How deep does the legacy of the Crimson Lance go?
That's just in the Roland book. I would say not incredibly far in the same way that a story about a soldier does not necessarily dive into what created the outfit they are in. Each book focuses on [the question], "How did they get on the bus? What caused them to make that decision?"
Having said that, we get more information about the Lance then we had before. The Lance is an organization in bed with corporations, which can end very badly for all involved.
Are there any events that tie into "Borderlands 2" at all? Maybe something that sets the scene for Handsome Jack's possible takeover of Pandora? Or is he even involved in the books?
We have some glimpses of things, but the narrative of the books leads directly in the first game. "Borderlands 2" takes place many years later and a lot has not come to pass yet -- keep your eyes peeled in the Lilith book, though. You might see some familiar faces from the sequel.
Comics, like video games, are rarely one-person creative endeavors. Tell us about the team that you worked with on the "Borderlands Origins" series..
I've been working with Agustin Padilla on the books, who was selected out of quite a few artists to bring "Borderlands" to the comic world. He does absolutely incredible work and always knows how to add just that much more to the story at large. Working with him has been a pleasure and I hope the two of us get to do more work in the Borderlands universe soon!
Will ClapTrap appear in the four-part series at all? Or perhaps you're saving him for his own series?
I'd love to do a second set of one-shots for different characters. ClapTrap, Scooter, Moxxi, etc. Depending on how successful Gearbox and IDW are with this series, I can imagine doing all kinds of cool things within the demented sensibilities of the Borderlands universe.
Finally, after finishing up "Borderlands Origins," what's next on your plate? Do you see yourself adapting another Gearbox game to comics?
I'm up for anything! I have an online novel series I've been self-publishing on the internet called "The Returners." It's about a bunch of famous historical figures being reincarnated in present day and trying to figure out what's going on. It's like "Lost" meets the History Channel. You can read it for free at BOZPublishing.com or if you prefer, can pick each part up for 99 cents on Amazon. The response to my little experiment has been insane, so I will certainly keep doing this into the near future.
On the game front, we're finishing up "Aliens: Colonial Marines" at Gearbox, which is an in-canon sequel to "Aliens" and "Alien 3" -- which is obviously a huge deal. That will be out on shelved on February 12.
As for future comics: I'd love to do more. Hey, if IDW likes what I'm doing, there's certainly properties in their wheelhouse I'd love to take for a spin *COUGH* "Star Trek" and "Doctor Who" *COUGH*. I'm smelling a four-part Wesley Crusher series. I bet Wil [Wheaton] would write that with me, or he could just write it alone. Without me. Did I just get Wil a job?
Read the first issue of "Borderlands Origins" for free online and be sure to check out "Borderlands 2," available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.