Interview: Continuing the Life is Strange story through comics

Square Enix
Square Enix /

Life is Strange presented players with a polarizing ending that featured two major choices. A comic series was created to explore one of the outcomes further and we had a chance to chat with the author and artist behind it.

Life is Strange has somewhat quietly grown into one of the most popular narrative video game series of all time. From the original game’s release in 2015, it has suddenly built up a huge following. This includes millions of followers on social media platforms.

The games have been praised for their storytelling and in-game decision-making as their common investigative gameplay moments. And then there’s the signature aspect of the series shows each main character with their own special powers. This of course begins with the O.G. character, Max Caufield, and her rewinding ability.

The series has gotten popular to the point where a new game, Life is Strange: True Colors is set to release in the Fall. Remasters of the first game and the prequel, Life is Strange: Before The Storm, were announced as well.

But many fans have hypothesized what happens after you decide to save Chloe at the end of the first game? In the game, you see the dynamic duo, Max and Chloe drive off into the sunset and away from Arcadia Bay after the tornado hits, and then the credits roll.

However, the story continues thanks to the comic series written by award-winning writer, Emma Viceli and drawn by the highly talented Claudia Leonardi. We had a chance to talk to them and ask them about the comic series as well as the games. We thank them for their time.

Colin Mieczkowksi, App Trigger: The graphic novel is, of course, about Life is Strange. What was it about the video game that inspired you guys to create the comic series?

Emma Vieceli, Writer: First of all, the tone and mood of it. That title sequence, the placement of the title itself as Max headed through the school corridor listening to mood-evoking music. It was stylish, evocative and so, so compelling. I was hooked. Then to add that twist of the supernatural and ‘strange’ into this fantastically realised reality…there was no escape for me. As time went on, the characters were what pulled me in the most. So of course the chance to write something that would attempt to recapture some small part of what I felt on that first playthrough was something I couldn’t say no to!

Claudia Leonardi, Artist:  The atmosphere was the first thing that caught me. It resonates in every part of the game: from the constant sunset light to the music, the mystery, and the characters. As soon as I finished the first game I actually had the idea that it would be cool to draw a fan comic that dealt with the consequences of Max’s choices. When I was presented with the possibility of being part of the LiS comics project I jumped into it!

Mieczkowksi: There’s some excellent artwork in each issue. How important was it for you guys to give the right amount of artistic detail to coincide with the writing and bring the books to life?

Vieceli: Claudia and Andrea are just getting better and better with every issue. I’ll let Claudia answer this question, but I have to jump in and just say how bloody amazing I think she is! ^_^

Leonardi:  For Life is Strange comic, I think it was important to try and stick as much as possible to the aesthetic of the game. As Emma said for the “player choice” that is a difficult thing to keep in the comics, the detail that one can have in a video game is not the same that we can put in a comic, just for the mere fact that it takes A LOT of time and attention to have to draw a lot of details on every single panel

Mieczkowksi: How cool is it to be able to continue Max, Chloe, and Rachel’s adventure through writing and art?

Vieceli: Obviously, it’s…hella cool! What more can I say? It’s an honour and it’s exciting. It’s gone places I didn’t know we’d go, or get to go. We’ve been able to explore so much more than I ever originally planned for, and I feel so lucky.

Leonardi: As a fan of the video game is beyond cool, it’s a dream become reality!

Mieczkowski: Were there some other ideas or angles for the stories that you all considered that didn’t make the cut in the final comics?

Vieceli: Absolutely! Any story goes through different idea stages, and I’ve had to be reigned in a bit, haha! But also, working closely with square as well as titan has meant that some ideas get incorporated or lost depending on what works best for all parties. Some of my first ideas were pretty outlandish, and some of the ideas I’ve incorporated from others across the teams have come with challenges, but I wouldn’t change where we are now.

Leonardi: Just a few on the art side, but some made the cut into the comic collections (alternative character designs and styles for the characters)

Mieczkowksi: From a gaming standpoint, what are your favorite features and moments from Life is Strange or Life is Strange: Before The Storm?

Vieceli: Piecing together alternate outcomes or considering how context changes our understanding is something I’ve always enjoyed and have always incorporated into my writing, so maybe that drew me to Life is Strange as well. Maybe it’s why I love branching games, or maybe branching games are why I love the concept 😉 I once wrote an entire fan-novel in the Dragon Age (bioware) universe because I wanted to see how I could weave a paralell narrative into the one we saw in the game; that notion that a little off-screen conversation can entirely change the way we parse what we see in the main story. ‘Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are dead’ by Tom Stoppard could have even set that ball rolling for me! My comic BREAKS (co-created with Malin Ryden) is one long investigation into that notion of context shaping our reaction to story and characters. Life is Strange is a rich playground for the concept.

Leonardi: My favorite feature is that the story seemed to build around your choices, giving you the possibility to explore many outcomes and choose the one that fits your Max the most. My favorite moments are when Max realizes that she brought the storm trying to save Chloe, and all the investigating bits.

Mieczkowksi: As a follow-up, what do you enjoy most about the main characters, setting, and overall environment of the game and your graphic novels?

Vieceli: Hopefully we capture something similar. Context shaping our emotional reaction. Nothing comes out of nothing. Humans are shaped by experience and memory, and our internal narrative can overwrite what we’re experiencing externally. So Max can be in a place where life is ‘good’, but her contextual place in it means she can’t be truly happy there. Knowing what we know of her life during the game and what she’s lost can colour our emotional response to everything she goes through in the comic. A character like Rachel analysing Shakespeare’s use of Ophelia hits a deep chord with us because we have the context of knowing her other outcome. It’s such an exciting, layered thing to be able to play with.

Leonardi: Something I think Emma captured perfectly in the comics: the deep conversations and the friendships getting stronger along the way, the characters getting to know themselves through the others

Mieczkowksi: If you guys could have a superpower like Max, what would that power be?

Vieceli: I think Tristan’s ability is pretty useful, though I wouldn’t want to live his life to get it. One of the lovely things about LiS is that the powers aren’t gifts as much as abilities forged through life experience. Maybe it’s more fun to consider…if it ‘could’ manifest, what on earth would my ability be, based on my life XD

Leonardi: I’d like it to be something useful, especially feeling so powerless against the current climate crisis, but I really don’t know what would help. I probably couldn’t handle the responsibilities that come with a superpower and become a supervillain!

Mieczkowksi: Partners in Time: Tracks is the latest issue in the series. What excites you most about this fresh addition?

Vieceli: TRACKS turns a corner. It’s the start of a journey on several levels. The destination is very exciting, but we’re going to have some fun and surprises along the way!

Leonardi: At the end of Strings, we left Max just about as she found her destination. In Tracks, she’ll start her journey to get there. And it’s going to be full of confrontation, discovery, and friendship!

Partners in Time: Tracks is the fourth graphic novel in the officially licensed Life is Strange comic series. It is available now from Titan Comics.