The Video Game Industry and I
April 19th, 2014
I fell into the game industry. Unlike movies, which I planned to be a part of since childhood, video games were a different world. I played a bit in my youth but never thought of that industry as a career. It's not that I wouldn't have been interested, it's just that I'd never even considered it.
But then in 2003, I was contacted by Bruce Woodside, from Disney Interactive Media Group. We'd known each other from the movie industry having worked at Rich Animation and Warner Brothers together. He asked me if I'd be available to design a set of characters and environments for a multiplayer game they wanted to make. I said sure, and I approached the project the same way I tackled film or TV. It was a creative and fun assignment.
I didn't fully realize at the time that I had just entered the arena of the video game industry—an industry that I'm still very connected to 11 years laters. Since 2003, I've been invited to work on several projects for companies such as Sony, Electronic Arts, ngmoco and FXVille.
One of the highlights of my game career started in 2005, when Joe Olson and I started Shadow Planet Productions and began work on Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Five years later, in 2010, we released the game. It was a difficult and punishing experience in many ways but also an exhilarating one. The game received critical acclaim and went on to win a BAFTA and an Annie Award. Shortly thereafter, I was lecturing to game professionals and talking about video game animation techniques to college students. Suddenly, I was a video game pro.
Which brings me to where I am now. Last September I was contacted by Jim Sanders and invited to Gearbox Software in Texas, to spent a week with their special effects crew. I returned home only to be offered new assignments and more asset requests.
Last Month, I spent two more weeks with the crew in Texas and was provided with a full time assistant named, Seung Kim. Seung is a Disney veteran who understands "feature quality standard". I really appreciate that. We had some great sushi together.
Upon my return home, I landed a 6-month exclusive gig. So for the next half a year, my focus will be on games and to be frank, I'm stoked. I love the challenges and the variety of the work. You'll start seeing my new stuff soon in an upcoming cinematic. I'll keep you posted.
March 22nd, 2014
The Saga of Rex is kind of in limbo until all the elements are in place to start production. So, I wanted another project to breach the gap.
To my great delight, I've been working with a company in Texas called Gearbox. I can't reveal what I'm working on, right now, but I'm truly excited. More will be announced when the time comes.
This week, I'll be devoting my time to doing the final mastering for the DCP Theatrical Master of Synesthesia. The film is scheduled to show at both Annecy and Zagreb, so I need to finish this project. Now, there's a real deadline.
On Saturday, March 29th, I'll be signing at the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle at:
Image Comics, Booth 212, from 1:00 to 2:00
Fantagraphics Booth 207, from 3:00 to 4:00.
If you're around, make sure you come an say hi.
Got Young Romance 2 Comps
March 5th, 2014
A couple of days ago, I received my comps for a new book I edited for Fantagraphics called, Young Romance 2: The Early Simon & Kirby Romance Comics. It is really awesome. 200 pages of pure Simon & Kirby goodness. Special mention must be made of Chris Fama's beautiful restoration. His technique combined with my yellow matte process makes for a very pleasant presentation. Really happy with the book.
I wrote to Editorial Supervisor, Gary Groth, to tell him how much I loved the book and his reply was, "Another triumph!"
For those wondering what my involvement with this book is, check out this post.
Interview at Animdesk
February 12th, 2014
When I first received an email containing this interview on November 17, 2013, I asked for it to be shortened. I mean, there were so many questions and my time for such things is quite limited. However, Shany, who handles the website and interviews, was very persistent and didn't want to cut any of his questions. The result, after a few months of filling in the answers in my spare time, is probably the longest and most in-depth interview I've ever done. Check it out!
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet For $3 on Gamefly Digital
February 3rd, 2014
A few months ago, when it was announced that Microsoft would be retiring Game for Windows Live, Joe (ITSP co-creator) and I were left with two options: Have our game become obsolete by this coming summer or take it upon ourselves to have GFWL removed and replaced with Steamworks. For us, this was a no-brainer.
By handling the GFWL removal ourselves, we were able to expand the nature of our agreement with Microsoft and be allowed to self-publish our game on services other than Steam and Amazon.com (which Microsoft still handles). Being able to self-publish is exciting as it offers us an opportunity to finally derive some revenue from our game.
The first partnership under our new deal is with GameFly Digital and to celebrate the occasion, we are offering the game at 75% off from Feb 3rd to Feb 16th . If you want to try out ITSP, there is no better time: You'll be supporting us as developers while getting a cool game for a fraction of the price.
And to make the deal even sweeter, you can use codes, FEB20OFF or UKFEB20OFF to save an additional 20%! Click here to buy Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet on Gamefly Digital.
How I Came to Edit a Second Book for Fantagraphics
January 26th, 2014
After the release of Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's Romance Comics, Editor in Chief at Fantagraphics, Gary Groth and I started talking jokingly about doing a follow-up volume. I say "jokingly" because I was not seriously considering doing another huge restoration task. The first volume had taken me years to finalize and I didn't see myself repeating the process anytime soon.
Then, I remembered an email I received when the first book was announced. Chris Fama had written to tell me how he had been restoring Simon & Kirby's work for years and offered to help on the project. At the time, however, Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's Romance Comics was already completed. I thanked him for the offer and explained that no more help was needed. Thinking back to the exchange, the idea struck me that perhaps Chris would be interested in providing the restoration for a new volume. I wrote to him and explained my idea for a second tome covering the early Simon & Kirby’s romance stories—a compilation featuring the birth of the genre.
About a week later, I received a package in the mail containing several samples of these stories restored by Chris. Needless to say, I was greatly impressed by his technique. A few phone calls and several emails later, we had mapped out the inside of the book, and Chris enthusiastically went to work on the restoration, adding the yellow paper technique I developed for the first book as part of his pipeline.
For the first book, I wrote two essays and recruited comic historian, Michelle Nolan to write the introduction. For this new volume, I didn't feel like I had the necessary knowledge to go much beyond what I had already written in the first book, so my search to find the right person to write the intro began. I first touched base with noted comic historian and writer, Roy Thomas, to see if he would be interested. Unfortunatelly, his busy schedule prevented him from taking this on. Roy suggested that I contact Bill Schelly, whom I had already met a few times at comics conventions, and whose knowledge of comic book history is unparalleled. After exchanging a few emails with Bill, and supplying him with some of the research I'd already done, he agreed to take on the task. The result of his effort is a wonderfully insightful introduction to the book, which met and surpassed my expectations.
To accompany his text, I blew up and restored five panels using the same technique I used in the first book. My thought was that these panels would form a nice bridge—a segue of sort between the first book, for which I did all the restoration, and this second volume, which uses Chris' wonderfully accomplised restoration technique. I also provided restoration for the cover and back cover of the book, working from Fantagraphics' designer, Tony Ong's layout. Below is an example of two panels I restored for the introduction, with the top being the original scan, and the bottom being the restored panels. You can click on the image for a larger view.
When all the elements came together, I designed the inside layout and meticulously went over every aspect of the book to insure high quality. Chris and I were dedicated all the way to the end, making last minute changes right up to the book going to press, in an effort to get the best possible presentation of this material.
I frankly never thought I'd be doing another comic book archival project, but I'm happy it came to be as I believe this material needs to be preserved for historical purpose.
Young Romance 2: The Early Simon & Kirby's Romance Comics will be available in 6-8 weeks and can be pre-ordered now from Amazon.com.
The Saga of Rex Sets Course for Belgium to Become an Animated Feature Film
January 7th, 2014
For Immediate Release
Grid Animation, Belgium's premier animation and visual effects company, has acquired the option to create the feature film version of Michel Gagné's graphic novel, The Saga of Rex. Production is expected to start in the summer of 2014 with Gagné attached as director. The animated film will be a European co-production with main production taking place in Brussels.
The Saga of Rex was initially serialized over a period of 6 years, from 2005 to 2010, in the acclaimed comic anthology, Flight. It was compiled and published as a graphic novel in 2010, by Image Comics. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Gagné was able to produce four minutes of animation demonstrating the potential of bringing the story and imagery to animation.
"Years ago, I discovered The Saga of Rex in Flight, and I immediately loved it," said Mark Mertens, Managing Director for Grid Animation. "After the Kicktarter campaign, I contacted Michel to inquire about the rights for the movie. I was thrilled to discover that they were still available."
Since 1995, Grid has been providing services such as 3D, 2D, VFX, and set supervision for advertising and film production companies from facilities in both, Ghent and Brussels, Belgium. More recently, they started organizing complete productions for advertising and corporate assignments, as well as acting as a co-producer for international animated films. Last year, they were awarded "Animation Producer of the Year" by Cartoon Forum.
"I'm extremely excited about the prospect of working with Grid Animation and have access to the amazing European talent pool," said Gagné. "With a proper budget, and an inspired team to help me fulfill my vision, my dream of making an animated feature film that is a poetic work of art is now closer than ever to becoming a reality."
Michel Gagné is a veteran filmmaker, animator, comic artist, author and video game designer with over 25 years of experience. He was awarded a BAFTA (British Academy Award) and an Annie Award in 2010 for his video game, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.