Like in a lot of video games, the co-operative “Escape” mode in last year’s Gears 5 added some colorful characters to the sci-fi shooting series. Now players of that game, and “Escape” mode, can learn more about those characters in Gears Of War: Hivebusters (paperback, Kindle), which collects the five-issue miniseries (and which also, in the first edition, comes with a code for the “Mechanic Mac” character skin and a Hivebusters banner). In the following email interview, Weibe explains what went into writing this comic, including how his work on the game itself influenced its story.
To start, what is Gears Of War: Hivebusters about, and how does it connect, narratively and chronologically, to both the story and the “Escape” mode in Gears 5?
Hivebusters is the story about Lahni, Mac, and Keegan, a team of mismatched heroes who take on a personal mission for the COG. They’ve a very specialized crew, trained for a high-risk operation that involves infiltrating the heart of Swarm hives and plantings bomb to wipe them out.
It takes place roughly around the same time as Gears 5, after the team has completed their first successful hivebusting operation. As it is revealed early in the comic, they were all promised something for their help, but rather than go their own ways, the team decides to come together to help Mac, the civilian turned hero, get some sweet revenge.
Who came up with the plot of Gears Of War: Hivebusters?
I came up with the premise based on the design work I’d been sent. The Coalition was open to a lot of the ideas I wanted to work with, and were a huge support in helping me achieve the vision I had for Hivebusters.
For me, the idea of Mac being a civilian, caught up in this near suicide military mission, surfaced some interesting questions I wanted to answer. What would cause him to risk his life to help the military? There had to be some deep reasons behind it, and that was where I started thinking in a more broad way about a story that was emotional and compelling.
So how much of the “Escape” mode in Gears 5 did you get to see either before you started writing Gears Of War: Hivebusters or after you started writing it?
I was able to see early builds of the “Escape” mode before Gears 5 was released, which was an amazing experience. Going behind the scenes at the studio, talking with the team, seeing their passion for game.
I had actually been brought on to develop and write some battle chatter for the characters in “Escape” mode, so I wrote up their backgrounds, their histories, and their personalities. The Coalition wanted some deeper context about why three people would go on a suicide mission together, and to add some personalities to their artist design.
It was an awesome process, and obviously deeply influenced the work in the comic that came later. The comic felt like a natural extension of that work to be honest. When I’d spent that time with Lahni, Mac, and Keegan, I wanted to tell stories with them beyond the game mode, and was happy to be offered the chance to do so. I think the tone and mood of “Escape” mode forced me to come up with very valid reasons anyone would willingly throw themselves into a mad situation like that.
And is there something in Gears Of War: Hivebusters about Jeremiah Keegan’s mustache? I feel like there’s got to be some weird story behind that you could explore.
That mustache is 100% the amazing art team at The Coalition, and you’re probably right, there’s got to be a story behind it, but that’s for them to tell.
As you were writing Gears Of War: Hivebusters, was there ever an instance when you mentioned anything that made someone from The Coalition say, “That gives me an idea…” and then run back to their desk like a jackrabbit?
Not that I’m aware of, but I would be very happy if it did. One of the awesome things I saw was the narrative team writing dialog for Lahni, Mac, and Keegan for the “Escape” mode and absolutely nailing it. I worked a lot with [Gears 5 narrative designer] Robert Shannon on “Escape” mode at the time, and he just understood the characters so well, and it made my job so much easier having talented writers doing so much heavy lifting.
And did you ever come up with an idea that made someone from The Coalition say, “Uh, you can’t do that…and I can’t tell you why?”
Not on Hivebusters, but a few years ago when I wrote the Rise Of RAAM comics, there was a very sexy scene involving RAAM that I think scarred anyone who read the script. And while that was the point, I completely understand why they told me to make some revisions.
Speaking of which, were there any writers, or specific stories, that were a big influence on Gears Of War: Hivebusters but not on The Rise Of RAAM? Or, for that matter, anything else you’ve written?
Honestly, Hivebusters was greatly influenced by the world already established in Gears Of War. I wanted to do a story about people who lived in that world that weren’t the front and center celebrity soldiers, people who were affected by the war but had to live out the effects of it quietly.
One of the recurring storylines or themes is of father and son relationships. I wanted that to be a major influence as well, but to take to a smaller, more intimate place. Hivebusters was the direct result.
Rise Of RAAM was, weirdly, inspired by the Spartacus TV series, about the brotherhood formed between warriors in dire circumstances. Not just in the relationship I created between RAAM and Skorge, but in the way they spoke. Spartacus had such a strange cadence in its language and it was a big inspiration to me.
Did any TV shows have a big influence on Gears Of War: Hivebusters? Or movies?
The classic ’80s move Predator was a big influence as far as location, the idea of a small team fighting an impossible enemy. But, generally when I write stories, I tend to focus on the characters to drive the inspiration, and less from outside sources when possible. I try to come to the most complex understanding of the character I can and allow that to inform how scenes and the story in general plays out.
Now, the artist on Gears Of War: Hivebusters is Alan Quah, who’s drawn a number of comics, including such video game-related ones as Dark Souls: Legend Of The Flame and Quake Champions. Whose decision was it to have him draw Gears Of War: Hivebusters?
I believe it was a collaborative decision between the publisher, IDW, and The Coalition. I’d never worked with Alan before, but he brought a strong tone and he had a great handle on the characters from the first page.
Along with Gears Of War: Hivebusters, there’s also two Gears 5-related novels by Jason M. Hough: Gears Of War: Ascendance and Gears Of War: Bloodlines. In my interview with him about Ascendance [which you can read by clicking here], he said he did not have a chance to talk to you, but that The Coalition made sure that he didn’t write anything that contradicted your comic, and vice versa. Did you ever write anything for Hivebusters that prompted someone at The Coalition to say you couldn’t do it because of his novels?
No, I know the lore masters at the Coalition are super knowledgeable about everything Gears, and could completely count on them to keep me in line if needed. One of the greatest aspects of the Gears team at The Coalition is that they’re happy to have numerous writers add to the canon and expand the lore in new ways. I think that kind of flexibility is rare, especially with franchises as big as Gears Of War.
Finally, is the plan for you to write any more Gears Of War comics?
I likely won’t be doing any new comics for Gears, as much as I’d love to. I’ve actually taken on a full-time job as a game writer with Ubisoft, so it probably wouldn’t be a good look to work for the competition.