Your Man at Marvel Games #2


Marvel.com’s got a man inside Marvel Games.

For nearly two decades, Bill Rosemann has been part of the Marvel family, working in Publishing, Marketing and even as a comic book writer. Now he’s the Creative Director of Marvel Games, where he uses his knowledge and love for the House of Ideas and its illustrious history to collaborate with partners on hits like “Marvel Contest of Champions,” “LEGO: Marvel’s Avengers,” “Disney Infinity,” and much more.

Every other week, Bill and the talented members of the Marvel Games team will join us to exclusively share their stories as well as the latest news and scoops on what’s happening in the world of gaming!

This time around, Bill recaps his trip to New York Comic-Con and all the latest news on “Marvel Contest of Champions,” “Disney Infinity,” and more!

Marvel.com: So, I just saw you. You were just in New York.

Bill Rosemann: Yeah! Bill and Ben together again! Marvel Games did a coast-to-coast tour. Executive Producer Mike Jones and I journeyed out to glorious New York City, which is a bit of a homecoming for me after spending so many years there. It’s always nice to return to a place where you spent time and learn that people are happy to see you again. Anyway, we jetted out for the great and momentous New York Comic Con. On Wednesday, Mike and I spent hours at the Marvel offices saying hi to everyone and hatching plans for world gaming domination. Then Thursday through Sunday it was Comic Con all the time.

Marvel.com: That’s right. You were very busy…

Bill Rosemann: It was great. We had huge panels almost every day and we were able to talk to the gaming fans out there and spread the word, spread the love. Thursday was our Marvel: House of Ideas panel that was hosted by the lovely Ryan Penagos aka Agent M. We looked at our entire portfolio of games and chatted about all the cool stuff that’s happening now and in the near future.

We started with “Spider-Man Unlimited,” the free-to-play mobile endless runner created by our friends at Gameloft, and talked about new characters that are hitting the game. What’s great is once we receive info and reference art from Marvel editorial we’re able to reach out to partners and see how quickly we can get new content into our games. “Spider-Man Unlimited” is very fast at introducing content. It still takes a couple months but that’s relatively quick in the gaming world. So we’re introducing an All-New, All-Different Spider-Man costume that debuted in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 last week. There’s also an All-New, All-Different Spider-Man 2099 costume hitting the game. And to celebrate both, we created what I think is the first variant cover created by Marvel Games working hand-in-hand with Marvel Publishing: a “Spider-Man Unlimited” variant cover created with the artists at Gameloft for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1. It features Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, Silk, Spider-Woman, Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen, all delivered in the “Spider-Man Unlimited” art style. Oh, and we also teased the coming of Spider-Ham!

Marvel.com: Yeah, that was big. That got a big reaction.

Bill Rosemann: Fans were totally excited by that. We’re working as closely as we can with the other divisions at Marvel so that a reader can buy a comic like AMAZING SPIDER-MAN or WEB WARRIORS and then if they want to play the characters in the game, they can do so in this case with “Spider-Man Unlimited.”

Marvel.com: Next up: “Marvel Puzzle Quest”

Bill Rosemann: Which is celebrating its second year anniversary in a big way. The gang at D3Go has unleashed a huge boss battle with Galactus. They’re introducing new characters like Red Hulk and Classic Cyclops. And “Marvel Puzzle Quest” is also coming to console.

Marvel.com: Yes, in fact, I believe they’re on console now in the U.S.

Bill Rosemann: There you go. So now you can play the game whether it’s on your smartphone or on your console. And we also revealed new characters coming to the game. There are two Wolverine related characters. There’s Old Man Logan. And that was cool to see because just yesterday I read OLD MAN LOGAN #5 and saw how he’s traveling from Secret Wars into the real deal current-day Marvel Universe. So why not also play him in the game? And also, in the game, speaking of Wolverine, we have the all-new Wolverine, X-23.

Marvel.com: A character close to your heart.

Bill Rosemann: Yeah, that’s right. She was in AVENGERS ARENA…

Marvel.com: And AVENGERS ACADEMY.

Bill Rosemann: Two series I loved editing.

Speaking of characters I love, also coming to “Marvel Puzzle Quest” is the Totally Awesome Hulk aka Korean-American Amadeus Cho. Because Wolverines like to fight Hulks, so why not have a new Hulk to go along with the two new Wolverines?

Marvel.com: Alright so let me throw a question at you about Totally Awesome Hulk. Since he’s not only making his first video game appearance in “Marvel Puzzle Quest,” but also going to debut simultaneously with the comic’s release, when you learn about a character like Amadeus Cho becoming the Hulk and you’re like “this could be cool,” what’s the process? Where do you guys at Marvel Games fall in that decision of where we’re going to debut him?

Bill Rosemann: That is a good question and there is never one set answer or plan of attack. It depends on the character and on how long we have until the character debuts. And then also, based on the game mechanics and the types of characters that are already in the games, where might they be the best fit? So in this case, we knew that “Marvel Puzzle Quest,” since it features 2D and not 3D art, could create Amadeus in a quicker timeframe than other games and have him appear either right before or at the same time as the comic. Other times we create a pitch deck that will be three or four pages of a summary—here’s this new character, here’s what they’re about, here’s their personality, here are their powers, here’s some art and here’s the first script if we have it. And we will share that with many of our partners at the same time and then we see who responds and what their interest is. It’s not about us dictating to our partners what goes into their games.

Marvel.com: Right, it’s about who’s excited about it.

Bill Rosemann: Exactly. We want their passion to guide them. We want to see what their ideas are. We want to see how it could best impact the game and most excite the players. So we offer it out and we see who responds and we go from there.

Marvel.com: Cool. That’s a neat bit of behind the scenes for everyone. Okay so that’s “Spider-Man Unlimited” and “Marvel Puzzle Quest,” and we spoke about “Marvel Future Fight” a bunch in our first column; what came next?

Bill Rosemann: New York Comic Con was a gigantic week for “Marvel Contest of Champions” and for Marvel Games and Publishing as a whole because the first issue of our CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS comic hit that Wednesday. This is something that had been cooking since January, when the discussion first started. I was at my desk right after a long weekend. My phone rang and I was like, “Who even knows I’m at Marvel Games right now? Who knows my number?” I picked it up and it was our Publisher Dan Buckley. And Dan says “Hey, Bill, how’s it going?” “Everything’s great, Dan.” “Are you and your family all settled?” “Yeah, Dan, everything’s great.” “Okay good, now I can start bugging you with ideas.” I started laughing. And he essentially said, “No seriously, this ‘Marvel Contest of Champions’ game, it’s great. How can Publishing and Games work together on this? It feels like there’s a real Marvel Universe story here.” And I said, “Definitely. Let’s start talking.” So a group of us from Marvel Games and Marvel Publishing—my good buddy senior editor Mark Paniccia, and new pal assistant editor Chris Robinson—sat down with our partners at Kabam and started talking about what this series could be. The big question was, “Is it possible to create a great monthly series that’s inspired by a game that’s constantly evolving by introducing new characters and events?” And we realized quickly that the key to doing that was by not doing a direct adaptation of the game.

Marvel.com: There have obviously been comics based on games in the past but how did you guys want to make this different?

Bill Rosemann: Before, Marvel published limited series based on games like “Halo.” But we thought, “Can we create an ongoing series and how can we craft it in a way that a reader wouldn’t know what’s happening next?” Because if you’re playing the game, you know where the story is heading; so we didn’t want to just adapt the game and we weren’t interested in some sort of non-continuity story. We wanted a story that’s happening now—that counts. We also wanted to constantly surprise readers, and we wanted to give our creators the room they would need to deliver a really cool comic. Because obviously, there is a difference between games and comics, just as there is a difference between movies and TV shows and comics. Yes, they share certain traits but each one is its own art form and you have to respect that and give them the freedom to do what they do best.

We were very lucky and we landed Al Ewing as our writer and Paco Medina as our artist, and we wanted to give them as much freedom as possible to be inspired to tell the best story and own that story and at the same time deliver an unexpected journey for the reader. So we said, “Let’s look at the game very, very closely. Let’s study it. Let’s see what’s gone before and what’s coming. And let’s see what the key elements are that we can weave between the comic and the game.” And we said, “What’s important?” There’s the ISO-8, this mysterious element that everyone is fighting for. There’s the idea of superhuman combat, trying to decide who is the ultimate champion. And there are powerful forces manipulating our characters. There is the Collector. There is the Maestro. There is this idea of the heroes and villains being kidnapped and forced to fight in the Contest and they fight across famous Marvel environments. So we started there and said, “Alright we really want to cut loose and really open up the possibilities.”

So we talked with Al and Paco and said, “We’ll start there, but how do we raise the bar? How do we not only debut the comic during the week of New York Comic Con, but also introduce characters that will appear in the comic and the game at the same time? And how about one of those will be an all-new character that has never been seen before?” So we zeroed in on the classic Eddie Brock version of Venom and the Joe Fixit personality of the Incredible Hulk. Because in the comic there is a team of our point-of-view characters battling a team of all-star alternate reality characters, and on that side is Venom and Joe Fixit.

And the third character, that we came up with together, is Guillotine. We wanted someone who wouldn’t replicate the powers or personality of any other Marvel character, because we have so many cool characters, and if you’re going to create a new character, they had better be distinct and unique and not duplicating what’s come before. She’s a French Algerian vigilante who is the latest in her family’s bloodline to inherit a cursed sword that’s possessed by the spirits of those that it has slain and it hungers for more blood. The sword doesn’t care where it gets the blood from, it just wants it. But Guillotine, she’s trying to control it and use it for good and say, “Well, if I’m going to accept this responsibility, I’m going to use it to strike down the wicked.” So she’s always fighting back and forth between the voices of the sword and the sword trying to control her; she’s almost like a vampire in a way. So which way is she going to go? Is she going to give in to the bloodlust? Is she going to use it to fight for evil and how is the Contest itself going to affect her?

It was a true honor working on Guillotine with Gabriel Frizerra, a Kabam art director who creates a lot of the game’s character art. Gabe, who created a variant cover for our first issue, was there at New York Comic Con along Cuz Parry, Callie Jenkins and the rest of the Kabam team, and we all quickly became one big Marvel family over a couple meals. Gabe is a true blue True Believer, a huge Marvel fan, so it was cool to have the game and the comic and Gabe and Al all come together in that moment.

Marvel.com: In addition to the House of Ideas panel, you also got to sit in on the “Disney Infinity” panel which I watched. So tell me about Battlegrounds.

Bill Rosemann: In addition to “Infinity 3.0” introducing all the Star Wars characters, we announced that there’s going to be a huge Marvel playset that’s coming this Spring, along with new figures. Prior to New York Comic Con we announced Hulkbuster and Ultron; the third, which we announced at the con, is Captain America: The First Avenger. Now people might say “Isn’t Captain America already in Disney Infinity?” And we said, “Yes, but we thought it would be an awesome way to honor his 75th anniversary, not to mention celebrate ‘Captain America: Civil War.’” And it’s not just a repaint or a reskin of the existing figure. He’s been rebuilt from the ground up. New pose, new costume, and no mask, because we always want to stress at Marvel that there are relatable people under these masks. We celebrate who they are underneath the costume as well as who they are while wearing the costume. Cap has an all-new set of abilities and he’ll interact with characters in new ways. We also revealed that Battlegrounds features four-person co-op brawler action where you can fight against three other heroes and villains. And we announced that all other Marvel figures from 2.0 are usable in Battlegrounds, which is a huge value to this playset.

By opening it up to every Marvel figure, you get the chance to settle the score of who’s the best and give you bragging rights over everybody else, and also see how they interact in different ways. On top of that, Battlegrounds has an all-new story that Yours Truly was lucky enough to be asked to help write, which explains why everyone is fighting. Because while it’s cool when everyone collides, Marvel fans know there should always be a reason why they’re fighting. Sometimes two heroes come together and they don’t know each other and think the other hero is up to no good and they fight and then eventually realize that they’re on the same side. And they have a greater foe that they need to team up against. Or maybe they just have different agendas and they both think they’re right and they have to settle it through combat. Either way, Marvel fans want a compelling story and they know that’s what we do best.

We thought if all the heroes are colliding, then maybe a traditional Marvel super villain team-up is behind it—so Loki and Ultron are uniting! They’re after something big, and to get what they want, they’re trying to take all the heroes off the board, so they create robotic duplicates—because what better combo is there between Ultron, the master of AI, and Loki the trickster? In the story, you don’t know whether you’re fighting a robot duplicate or the real Marvel heroes and villains. So that leads to the combat and it leads to combat that takes you across a bunch of awesome locations. As the drama escalates, so do the locations. You start on Earth in this big train yard outside Manhattan, and then you travel around the world to Wakanda, and then you go off-world. First you go to a S.H.I.E.L.D. lunar base, and then you go from there to Knowhere from Guardians of the Galaxy fame, and as the drama escalates, the locations do as well. Revealing all of that was a blast, and then we ended the panel by having four of us in all-out combat by playing the game live. It was the first time we played it in front of a crowd because the fans traveling to Comic Con deserved something really cool.

Marvel.com: My big question for you is, as Marvel Games Creative Director, as the writer of this game, how did you not win?

Bill Rosemann: [Laughs] Because they’re way better than me! Believe me, I was trying as hard as possible to avoid their attacks, but the game is crazy! Also, we did a little trickery. We announced that each of the four sections of the audience would be rooting for one player, and whoever the last character standing was, that section would win a Hulkbuster figure. So I had hundreds of people screaming my name and yelling at me not to get defeated and I was scrambling to last long enough for the floor to get destroyed, because I knew that was coming. That’s another cool thing in Battlegrounds: As you’re fighting each other, you can damage the environment and on the S.H.I.E.L.D. base I knew if we damaged it enough the whole floor would collapse and we would tumble down to a basement.

Marvel.com: Who were you playing as again?

Bill Rosemann: I was Venom. He’s great. You can shoot out your tendrils, jump on people, pick them up and throw them. You can shoot webbing for long distance attacks. You can get up close and brawl. There’s a lot of opportunity for Venom to cause damage. But the people I was playing with are experts at this thing and they were ganging up on me and I was like, “Leave me alone! Let me live!” I was defeated first, but I knew that we were actually going to give a Hulkbuster figure to everyone in the audience.

Marvel.com: So in a way, everybody won.

Bill Rosemann: Everybody was a winner, and when Disney’s John Vignocchi announced that, the audience went crazy and we all felt good.

Marvel.com: Last game I want to touch on is “LEGO Marvel’s Avengers.”

Bill Rosemann: At the con we were finally able to show that not only would people be able to play through “Marvel’s Avengers” and “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron,” but you could also play through key scenes from all the movies in between. So there’s everything from “Captain America: The First Avenger” to “Thor: The Dark World” to “Iron Man 3” to “Captain America: Winter Soldier.” Plus there are 100 different characters that didn’t appear in the first “LEGO Marvel Super Heroes” game that will appear in this game and we revealed three of my favorites:  Fin Fang Foom and the duo of Devil Dinosaur and Moonboy, created by the late, great, Jack Kirby. Together with WB Interactive and Tt Games we’re creating the most huge, satisfying Avengers game possible. We went through all the back issues and if a hero or villain has teamed with or fought against the Avengers we’re doing everything we can to get them into the game. People are going to be amazed by the width and depth of this game, and that’s the result of everyone working on the game sweating the details and pouring on the love and fun.

Got questions for Your Man @ Marvel Games? Use the hash tag #YMAMG on Twitter and have them answered here!