CHRIS: The player select screen (along with a couple of the video game references in the art) comes directly from Ghostwriter X — and if you’re familiar with our previous collaborations, there might be something interesting in there for you.
CHAD: I’m in love with the combined coughing effects on this page, too. I think X, and our letterer Josh Krach really compliment each other so perfectly on this book, and this page is an excellent example of how in sync the art and the lettering are on this book. I mean, right from the get-go!
CHRIS: Peter’s coughy is actually based on something that happened to me a couple of years ago, but for me, it wasn’t nearly as serious as it is for Peter. I had a period of a couple of months where I’d just start coughing, usually after meals, and it would get worse and worse and I’d retch until I threw up, and this would happen literally every one or two days. There was even a time when Chad and I were flying to a convention — I think it was New York, or maybe Emerald City in Seattle? — when it happened to me on a plane.
At the time, I didn’t have health insurance, and I was terrified to go to the doctor because I couldn’t afford it and was worried that it would be something like… well, like a degenerative lung disease. In my case, it just turned out to just be an acid reflux/sinus draining kind of thing, and it stopped when I quit taking cream in my coffee in the morning, but for a while there, it was really scary.
I really wanted to capture that feeling for Peter, just trying to ignore a thing and hoping that it’ll go away until it turns into a crisis, and I think that comes through here. He just thinks he’s getting older and tries to focus on other things, ignoring the thing that’s actually, literally killing him. In future issues, I think we’re going to be seeing that come through in his personality a little more.
CHRIS: The “GameTip” panels are, of course, based on those classic gaming magazine tips that you’d see in Nintendo Power or GamePro. Occasionally they’d be helpful, but usually it was stuff like “shoot the boss with rockets until it dies.”
CHAD: Yeah, with the “GameTip”, here again, another cool collaboration between artist and letterer. X’s drawn lettering hands things off to Josh perfectly.
CHRIS: The best dog names are foods. Think about it, you know I’m right.
CHAD: So what kind of food is “Bandit”, because that’s literally the best dog name.
CHAD: Of course Peter drives a Volvo.
CHAD: Looking at this now, and seeing Pete’s car and the fire trucks on this page, I didn’t realize we’d asked X to draw so many cars in this issue. Glad we did, though, because those trucks look great!
CHAD: And here feels like a pretty good time to give credit where credit’s due, as so much of the game tropes in this book come from GhostWriter X. We maybe gave some vague directions and gaming touchstones to riff on in the script, but nothing quite like what he keeps coming up with. It’s some of the best stuff in the book!
CHRIS: Another brilliant layout from the Ghost. The Donkey Kong riff in the last panel especially, and the tunnel vision effect of the doctor just blew us away when we saw the pages.
CHAD: Yes! That strikethrough on “HOME” is one of my favorite things. It does so much with so little.
CHRIS: In my head The Cutting Board is sort of like a combination of Iron Chef, Cutthroat Kitchen, and Chopped. But that might just be because we watch a lot of Food Network competition shows in my house.
CHRIS: This sequence is actually based on the gameplay of SwordQuest: WaterWorld, the third (and, it would turn out, final) game in the series. When you moved between screens in the game, you’d have to play one of a few minigames, and we’re seeing Peter, Alvin, and Amy’s mental view of two of ‘em: swimming past the sharks, and trying to avoid the octopus.
WaterWorld is, incidentally, the most technically impressive of the three games by far, with what were essentially four different popular arcade game setups used as the minigames, in a way that’s far more balanced than, say, the incredibly frustrating Frogger-esque minotaur game in EarthWorld.
CHRIS: On this page, we asked the Ghost to recreate some of the panels from the original Roy Thomas/Gerry Conway/George Perez/Dick Giordano Earthworld minicomic — specifically page 3, panel 4, if you’re curious. In the original, the panel of Torr and Tara talking to each other about being thieves is on the right-hand side of the page, but hey, what’s a little artistic license for the sake of clarity?
It’s worth noting that sometimes the hidden words in the original comics, which were keyed to the puzzle and the contest, wouldn’t be hidden at all. Instead, they’d just be bolded words in the dialogue — just like “thief” is in that panel. Turns out that when you look for hidden clues, you might just start seeing them everywhere.
CHAD: What an ending, right? Holding back the word “sword” in that last panel is genuinely one of my favorite moments in the series. I did a signing the weekend after the issue came out, and I can’t tell you how many people came by the table and flipped through the book, and when they got to the last page — it never failed — they all spoke the phrase “Steal the sword” before realizing a word was missing, and it dazzled them! That page works so perfectly, and I’m so proud of how well we accomplished with this first chapter! Maybe it’s not for me to say, but I feel like we did exactly what we set out to do, and showed the world the potential of not just our book, but the Atari line of comics as a whole.