The Max Payne Comics Will Explain Why Rockstar's Hard-Boiled Cop Is So Messed-Up

Illustration for article titled The Max Payne  Comics Will Explain Why Rockstar's Hard-Boiled Cop Is So Messed-Up

Max Payne doesn't wear tights. But, if insanely fast reflexes, deadly marksmanship and an ability to swill the worst whisky around count, you could argue that the gritty NYPD detective of Rockstar Games' shooters has superpowers. Powers or not, he'll be appearing in a new series from Marvel Comics which is being written by Rockstar's Dan Houser and Remedy's Sam Lake.


Both men have put Max through awful tragedies in video game form and, in the interview that follows, Houser and Lake say that the comics will show that the character's streak of misfortune runs all the way back to his childhood. Read on to find out about the comics that inspired Bully, why Viking myths showed up in the Max Payne titles and what Dan Houser thinks is a terrible thing about the internet.

Kotaku: What were the formative comic-book reading experiences for you both? Can you look back in your past and see stories or creators that made you want to become storytellers?

Sam Lake: I've been a big comic-book fan all my life. I used to drive my parents nuts by hauling a pile of Donald Duck comics to the dinner table when I was a kid. Then, I discovered superhero comics and became a big fan of X-Men and Chris Claremont. And after that it was Vertigo graphic novels, like Sandman by Neil Gaiman and many others. My love for comic books is definitely the reason why Max Payne used graphic novel panels as a storytelling method. And Gaiman's use of old mythologies is one of the reasons the Viking gods are present both in Max Payne and Alan Wake.

Illustration for article titled The Max Payne  Comics Will Explain Why Rockstar's Hard-Boiled Cop Is So Messed-Up

Dan Houser: I'm English, so I combined reading fairly obvious American superheroes—in particular early Batman and Spider-Man, both of which we had in our house in some compendium or other—classic horror comics from the ‘50s, along with various issues of The Hulk, X-Men, The Fantastic Four and very early Superman. Alongside this was an array of British and European comics that I was reading obsessively from a young age - The Beano, The Dandy, Whizzer and Chips. These were all a huge influence on our game Bully. There were more: Tintin (Hergé is an undoubted visual genius), Asterix, Lucky Luke, Roy of the Rovers, (an old British soccer comic - I know - it's not very cool - but I did love it when I was 9) Dan Dare, the Commando series, Warlord (both fantastic WWII series in the UK in the late 70s and early 80s - I think Commando is still going now), Viz when it first appeared in our house when I was about 11, and, of course, 2000AD (my favorite story was Strontium Dog).


I also loved Mad Magazine when I could get hold of it but thought American Dennis the Menace was a bit wet compared to his British namesake. I loved all of them and, as some of them were pretty much my first reading experience of any kind, they were, of course, massively influential. But it is hard to say this or that influence was more or less important. They are all so iconic, and fairly typical for a British kid. Most of the culture I experienced is a weird combination of British, European and American influences. I love everything about the comics form—the art, the combination of words and pictures, the sense of place and of character—but I cannot draw at all, and for me, the heroes of this medium are the artists.

Kotaku: Both Rockstar and Remedy seem to align with ideas that spring from outsider cultures like pulp novels, comic books, grindhouse cinema and spaghetti westerns. What is it about cult subcultures that you all find so appealing?

Dan Houser: I'm not quite sure, but I know that for a lot of us at Rockstar growing up in the 1980s and early 1990s—when our cultural references and interests were established before the Internet became widespread—there was enormous, almost pathological reverence for the obscure and the underground. Things that were mainstream felt packaged and obvious. So, while we may have loved them, we had to pretend not to. We were always seeking out stuff nobody knew about, as if that would contain some truth or honesty that other, more mainstream things lacked. I don't know if that is still the same today, and I think one of the (few) great negatives of the Internet is that it does not allow subcultures to properly gestate and evolve. Movements, subcultures, styles of music… all those things nowadays become famous before they achieve any kind of creative maturity. Maybe that or simply constantly wondering about the answer to the question - what would make someone wear that?


Sam Lake: It's the stuff that inspires us, it's the brew we have been dipped in, soaked and marinated in since we were kids. We love that stuff, and we want to pass that on.

Sam Lake: "You'll finally see how far back the tragedy in his life goes and with that a lot of things will click into place."


Kotaku: The new comics series takes place during the era of Max Payne 1 & 2, and will feature stories that predate those games. How far back will they go? Will we see Max walking a beat or romancing his wife? Will we see Mona Sax in these comics?

Sam Lake: The comics take you all the way back to Max's childhood. You'll finally see how far back the tragedy in his life goes and with that a lot of things will click into place.

Dan Houser: All the way back to his childhood, and through his career before and after Max 1 and Max 2, in a series of brief flashbacks. That was, originally, why I needed Sam's help! For the comic books to do their job, which was to glue this game to the old games, and fill in the blanks for people new to the series, we wanted to go back to the very beginnings of Max. To do that, I needed Sam's help and guidance to properly discuss the character's origins. I had some ideas, and plenty of questions. What was very gratifying was how often my ideas and Sam's ideas aligned. It gave me confidence that my understanding of the character and his were very similar.

Illustration for article titled The Max Payne  Comics Will Explain Why Rockstar's Hard-Boiled Cop Is So Messed-Up

Kotaku: What was the creative process when Remedy and Rockstar were making the Max Payne games together? Did the stories originate in one place and then get bounced back and forth? Or was there collective brainstorming from the very beginning?

Sam Lake: The Rockstar guys were very much involved in Max Payne 2, and while the story came from us, they gave a lot of feedback on it. It's been very exciting coming back to Max Payne after all these years and being able to play and give feedback on Max Payne 3. The Rockstar guys take the earlier games very seriously and they have a lot of respect for the heritage, they want to get all the details just right, so much so that they have noticed and included things that I'm sure I would have totally missed.

Kotaku: Max Payne has always had a strong visual connection to comics. Where did that stylistic imprint come from? Why not use some other method to advance the plot?

Sam Lake: At the time, cutscenes were still quite clumsy, the graphic novel screens felt like the perfect way to tell the story, not only could you make them look very good, but they also fit the pulp style.

Illustration for article titled The Max Payne  Comics Will Explain Why Rockstar's Hard-Boiled Cop Is So Messed-Up

Kotaku: Lots of video games spin off their universes into comics. Why hasn't Rockstar done this before?
Dan Houser: I don't know. We've thought about it, but for some reason it never seemed to quite come together. This time, it felt like it really worked creatively, as the character really fit in with Marvel's style, and more importantly, it felt like we had something to say. So, the comic would be useful and support the release, and be entertaining in and of itself. I can't say whether it's well-written or not, but I can objectively say it looks very beautiful. The artists really did an amazing job and it was an honor to work with them.



I'm sure Max Payne 3 will be an amazing game from the standpoint of mechanics and maybe even story line.

The mechanics of the game look amazing and R* is a quality developer (although I'm annoyed with some of the Red Dead Redemption things they did) and breaks ground in every game.

With that said I'm not getting this game. I'm not going to try to tell you not to get the game. Because I do hope the game does well sine it is a R* game and I feel they are on the same lines of Bethesda and BioWare (Pre-EA) where they try to make a good game from all angles and they work hard to not simply sucker you into dropping cash on their products.

But my problem is that the name Max Payne has no credibility with me. I absolutely loved Max Payne and I enjoyed Max Payne 2 (some of the dialog and arcs in that game are amazing. Not as much as Max Payne but still Vlad's last words are so perfect.) and I wanted another game. Shoot B Bear (that's me) wanted a movie!...

I should explain that when I wanted a movie I was young (I'm 25 now and that was what? 10-12 years ago?) and I didn't understand how horrible Hollywood was and I couldn't comprehend what the word 'pimping' meant.

Then I came across (maybe in 2007?) a movie being developed called Max Payne: Payne and Redemption and the trailer looked awesome. I was very pleased and excited for this project. But turns out I guess the writer/producer/director of the film was kind of new to the scene and had taken some 'bad advice' to try and get it all shot in like one day. This some how caused the ruin of the financing and the guy was still trying to get funding for the film (And he still is, although it is no longer under the name Max Payne). I think Sam Lake had actually read the script and was pretty impressed with it.

Anyway then Max Payne with Mark Wahlberg (who never played Max Payne stating his susceptibleness to addiction. I assume he never youtubed the storyline either) was coming out and Fox (who must have known their movie was horrible) got their lawyers to shut down the Payne and Redemption project and remove the name Max Payne because of possible 'confusion' with people thinking the projects were related or the same.

On the website of Payne and Redemption someone had posted the script for the movie (Written by Beau Thorne who according to IMDB has not done anything since and deserves to never be allowed to do anything ever again. I seriously despise this guy almost as much as I do Lucas.) And so I got the read the script for the movie in June or July (I believe the movie came out in October).

The movie/script is nothing like the game. Max Payne has two daughters that were killed with his wife and they never really show or talk about it, Valkrie is a drug that causes everyone to see flying monsters of Valhalla, Mona Sax is a weapons dealer. I don't even think Vlad is in it. Cogniti's name is shown on a Public Storage sign and... It's just completely different.

Now I understand that when you are making a movie you have to cut things out because you don't have faith that you can make an engaging movie that is over 2 hours long. And I understand the video games of the 80's and 90's focused entirely on GamePlay and not story line and you can't have a 2 hour long movie of Mario jumping on Turtles so you have to change the story or add things. But we live in an era where games have had story lines and damn good story lines for the last 10-15 years. The developers of games gave us a little taste of good story line and soon that is what we all wanted and became a requirement/standard for the industry.

Games like Dragon Age, Elder Scrolls, Max Payne, Mass Effect, Indigo Prophercy and Second Sight and others have good if not great story lines now.

But what happened with Max Payne?... In my eyes Take Two or Remedy or whoever owned the rights to make a movie sold it to the highest or only bidder and didn't care about what happened next.

People who create and own these things need to protect them. Max Payne's story line is a form of art and it was pimped out to make a few bucks with no care as to what happened to it.

And what happened to it? They destroyed the credibility of the name 'Max Payne' as a brand and most likely the credibility to anyone who had faith in this movie and urged friends or took people to see it.

It poorly represented the 'gaming community' and what we like. This (as all movies and TV Shows are) was a representation and chance to show people on a grand scale that didn't play video games why people love video games. Not because we get to shoot a guy in the face and watch him fly off a cliff, but because there are true and moving story arcs in the interactive media we play. Instead with Max Payne the general population walked away most likely thinking gamers were as 'Fucking Stupid' as they always have been and just want 'Shit with flying Monsters and Drug Use'.

So that's problem number 1.

Problem number 2 is that Max Payne 3 is so drastically different from Max Payne 1 and 2 that there's nothing that says 'Max Payne' to me about it. And with the past misuse and 'pimping' of Max Payne as a brand name if you just give me a completely different looking character with a completely different story line device (no more comics and everything is a flowing cinematic during load and play scenes) and on another continent (I understand half the game is in New York in the past and Half is in Brasil but... eh...) then when I look at this game, despite the credibility of R* games, I fear that this isn't Max Payne at all and it's just the name being used to get me.

If Max Payne's brand wasn't a value of 0 right now because of the movie I might be able to buy into MP3 a little better.

But not even R*'s credibility can get me to bite on MP3. And hey, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Max Payne NEEDS all these changes because it makes the game better or needs to establish it's brand again in a new way.

I hope the game does very well. I simply don't see myself getting the game.

I know this is very long but I'm very passionate about Max Payne and my hatred for what Hollywood (and the gaming industry allows them to do) does to us. Max Payne should be an HBO Series even with each Act being a Season. (or something along those lines. The game is split up into chapters made perfect for a TV Series, not a movie)