“They believed that trusting us do our thing would result in a better end product” Plants vs. Zombies comic artist Ron Chan and writer Paul Tobin from Dark Horse Comics
This weekend at Comic Con we saw Dark Horse Comics release the brilliant new Plants vs. Zombies comics via their exclusive iOS app. With a story from Paul ‘Bandette’ Tobin and artwork from the awesome Ron Chan, we wanted to find out the secrets to converting a simple iPhone game into a fantastic digital comic. Taking a minute to fend off the advancing hordes of plant hungry undead we spoke to artist Ron Chan to get the lowdown on creating new characters and the best plant defence techniques to ward off Lawnmageddon!
How did you get to be involved in the Plants vs Zombies comics and were you a fan of the game before you started?
PT: The staff of Popcap had seen a bunch of my writing… my work on Marvel Adventures in particular… and thought I’d be perfect for the book. So, when when editor Philip Simon brought the project to me, my name was already attached. It was just a matter of if I was interested. And I definitely was, since I’d been playing the game all the time, and still am. I use it to clear my mind when I have to transition from one work to another during the course of a day, or just to relax in general.
RC: I was definitely a huge fan of PvZ before I started work on it. I bought it one week after it originally came out on PC via Steam!
[As for how I got involved in the comic] the editor on the project, Philip Simon, actually got the idea for putting me on the project after running into me at a Halloween party a couple years back. The project hadn’t come together yet, but Philip knew that he wanted to do Plants vs Zombies comics at Dark Horse. I believe the idea for inviting me to be artist on the project came to him when he saw me that Halloween… wearing a peashooter costume.
Ron, how did you find working with Paul and how does P vs Z compare to your other work?
RC: Working with Paul was great because he’s actually a friend and studiomate of mine (who is also a fan of the game.) He wrote me an excellent script with tons of enjoyable things to draw, and since we know each other, I was able to easily come to him if I had any questions.
I’d say my artwork on Lawnmageddon is probably my cartooniest drawing yet. The characters are so charming and the story so fun that I was able to explore a lot of playful cartooning.
Plants vs. Zombies has a very distinctive look, how close did you feel you had to keep to the original characters and how much leeway were you given? Did Popcap already have most of the look and feel for the characters mapped out or could you be a bit creative with some of them?
PT: Ron and I had a meeting at the Popcap studios in Seattle where we fleshed out what we wanted to do in general terms. Honestly, they gave me a plenty big playground to develop the story and the characters. There were a few characters they definitely wanted to see in the game, to stress their participation… Crazy Dave and some of the main plants… but other than that, I had a pretty free reign. The Popcap people have been GREAT to work with.
RC: I was given a lot of reference imagery of the existing game art, but Popcap was very happy to let me explore the characters with my own way of drawing. I still had to make characters recognizable, but rather than tightly controlling the look to match in-house art, they believed that trusting us do our thing would result in a better end product. This was a huge relief – without the pressure to have to match exactly I was able to loosen up and have a lot of fun with the art.