Announcing Morning Star Alpha: A Next-Generation Graphic Novel

Most of you know by now that I am working with game studio Industrial Toys to create Morning Star, a first-person shooter video game for mobile platforms. What you don’t know — because we’ve kept it secret until just about this very moment — is that the Morning Star project is not just the video game; we’ve been working on other ways to explore the Morning Star universe that integrate with the game itself in new and innovative ways. We’re announcing one of those other ways today: Morning Star Alpha.

What is Morning Star Alpha? The simplest explanation is that it’s a graphic novel, written by me and illustrated by Mike Choi, which ties into the events of the Morning Star game. But please note that this “simplest explanation” really is too simple. For one thing, Morning Star Alpha is its own app; you explore it on your tablet, and we’ve built the app and the story to take advantage of the medium we’re working in — which means it’s a pretty cool new graphic novel experience. You can make choices in Morning Star Alpha which affect the storytelling, and your actions while exploring in Morning Star Alpha can have an impact in the Morning Star game (and vice versa). You’ll learn more about the characters who populate the Morning Star universe, and what motivates them to action.

You don’t have to experience Morning Star Alpha to enjoy Morning Star – and you don’t have play Morning Star to get hooked on Morning Star Alpha. These are free-standing experiences in the universe we’ve created. That said, each is complementary to the other. Basically, the more you explore the whole Morning Star universe, the richer and more exciting it all becomes.

Morning Star Alpha is a very exciting project for me. Some of my favorite writers and many friends have worked in the comics and graphic novel field — Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Marjorie Liu and Chris Roberson are some right off the top of my head — so to be able to dip my toe in the waters of the genre is a thrill, and to do it on a project that is trying some new things in the electronic format is even more cool. Plus there’s the fact that I get to work with Mike Choi on this. The dude is pretty staggeringly talented, and it’s been awesome watching how he pairs my words with his pictures — and then how the rest of the crew at Industrial Toys put our combined work together and makes it fly.

In short, a dream first experience for me in the world of graphic novels. I can’t wait for you guys to experience it.

And when can you experience it? As they say: Soooooooooon. More details to come.

Speaking of “more details,” here are stories about Morning Star Alpha on Kotaku and Polygon. Go! Read them! Now!

39 thoughts on “Announcing Morning Star Alpha: A Next-Generation Graphic Novel

  1. Just tell me I can play this on my Nexus 7 when it comes out. If it’s iPad only, I will be a very sad panda. Love your work, John, but I can’t justify hundreds of dollars just to nom on something you wrote that was put together by the people who made one of my favourite videogames of all time dammit dammit dammit dammit….

  2. Sigh. Only iOS, Mark. Smart business move for a start up, really.

    @Robert Enders: Bioware does need new blood, and I think Scalzi would be great. I think their skill has always been giving people tools to tell stories (ie: Neverwinter Nights). I think the further they’ve moved from building tools with a game to building a game with no tools they’ve lost something. I can’t even tell you how many hours I sunk into NWN: more hours than if you’d combine Dragon Age 1&2 and Mass Effect.

  3. This sounds like a very cool idea. Really like the mixing of media like that all with the goal of telling an entertaining story. Great idea.

    Would be interesting to see Choi’s interpretation of a CDF type.

  4. @illmunkeys: Imagine a game using the ME3 engine set in the OMW universe, with writing from Scalzi, with a Harry Wilson-esque CDF protagonist (not quite as serious as Mass Effect on the surface, but still deep storytelling).

    Man I would lose so much time in that game…we can dream heh.

  5. Being one of those old guys – approaching 70 – who doesn’t game or have a mobile device, I’m guessing I’m out of luck if I hope for something like a old fashioned graphic novel, ink on paper, to hold, read, love? Or, if it were available to use on my trusty Mac or MacBook Pro. No, I see it’s just going to be IOS. Sigh. Sometimes I feel like someone who loved radio drama when television came along.

  6. I’m pretty sure the fellow who leaves those particular messages is twelve and his mom doesn’t let him leave the house for fear his asthma will act up. Fortunately he has his kittens to keep him company.

    (Also, now we’re done with this particular dude. Let’s get back on subject, please.)

  7. I should have seen this coming. Tim’s last game had comic tie ins too. I suppose this is either his influence or just shows what a great fit he was with this company. I look forward to experiencing this.

  8. How sad is it that when I saw “Morning Star Alpha: A Next-Generation Graphic Novel” I wondered if Picard would make an appearance?

  9. It is going to make me very sad if fiction by my favorite authors starts regularly coming out tied to one specific computing platform. I’d love to read this but I’ve got Windows, Android and Linux around. I get the games thing, but fiction being locked to one platform is going to be a bummer…

  10. I am 24 and understand technology, and I like the idea of video games hiring authors to write the story lines, but why are you making a game for a platform that is terrible for first person shooters, and only available to a minority of consumers (those possessing a iPhone or iPad). I mean, people who still read books are kinda nerdy, and we all (nerds) have computers, so why not make a game for computers, mac and PC?

  11. I’m going to second (third, no wait! fourth, it appears) the lamentations of those that don’t do iOS. I’m not a comic book fan, either. But I love first person shooters, and I love John Scalzi writing stuff, so I’m going to feel a bit pouty about being left out of this completely.

  12. Yeah, what Cliff and Jerome and others said above. guess the other game companies with larger installed bases couldn’t come up with the big bucks!

  13. As I totally lack the eye-hand coordination and nerves in general for shooters, and as a really disturbing number of iDevices have infested my household in the past year or so, I’m pleased to hear about the graphic novel. I look forward to checking it out.

    But… this is probably a sign of my complete lack of interest in comics and concomitant lack of inurement (inuredness?) to the art style… while the art is very pretty, it does make me wince a little. Smirking Caucasoid male in foreground as Big Important Dude, another manly white guy in action being all tough, and… prettified lipsticked (white) curvy female in snug top (thought it was a dress at first), posed to maximize her sexy silhouette. Not as egregious as the covers Jim Hines has been pointing out (with Scalzi’s help!), by far, but still, I really wish my first impression hadn’t been of stereotypes. I trust Scalzi’s writing and track record on this enough to expect that it won’t just be Heroic White Fighting Men And Their Sexy White Female Eye Candy, and this image won’t stop me from finding out. Just, the cover thing has been about covers foisted on authors without their having any say in the matter, while this was made by a collaborator. And maybe it truly is the best possible representation and there are perfectly good reasons to have all these elements independent of cultural weight.

    I apologize for being a downer. Maybe PixelFish or some other graphic artist can reassure me that this art is entirely unproblematic, for lack of a better term. I do like the color zoning in it.

  14. Well, awesome. More strength to your arm, and success to your enterprise.

    Robin: I understand your concern, and I’m no artist, graphic or otherwise, but it seems to me that the woman is doing something pretty cool with those glove-implant-equipment things. It’s not like she’s half-dressed and helpless. Actually, it’s nice to see a prominent female character in a video game. YMMV.

    The smirky freckled dude reminds me of early-to-mid Wesley Crusher, and not in a good way. Again, YMMV.

  15. I for one am thrilled that “Archie” has graduated to graphic novels! Betty Cooper looks even hotter with robot gauntlets.

    (Sadly, this is what first popped into my head upon seeing the artwork.)

  16. I have no idea who that woman is, but I need details on everything she is wearing.

    Also, I personally find her pose un-objectionable. She appears to be in motion or at least in the middle of something; not contorting herself for a viewer she can’t perceive. She’s not throwing out her hip to thrust her ass at us, either.

    Now, that coat: separate layer from the corset(?), yes? And the hands–cybernetics or gloves?

    (yes, yes, I know: these answers and more are available to me if I buy the graphic novel. And an ipad. Or possibly just steal Spouse’s ipad).

  17. Alas, this will have to wait until I can steal DH’s iPad, or the graphic novel is available for us peons in dead tree or readable on the PC.

  18. @ Robin

    You raise valid issues. I too found myself evaluating the potential for gender and racial bias in the image, in no small part because Jim and John have brought such things to my attention. Just to play Devil’s advocate to your Devil’s advocate…

    Dude on the left looks ginger.

    Dude on the right looks white, but could have a brown skin tone (tough to see through the helmet, goatee and angled pose). Again, part of the problem is that race isn’t a phenotypic wall, it’s a highly subjective and constantly shifting gray zone. I’d agree it would be a problem if, in say a cast of dozens there was no one in evidence who was unambiguously non-white, but one panel does not a trend make.

    Dudette in the center is arching her spine a bit unnaturally, but otherwise seems to present a fairly commanding presence.

    Pretty? Well, pretty is in the eye the beholder. It might be nice to see more alternative fashions and styles in characters, even if only for the sake of variety, but I have a hard time seeing what would be gained by taking cultural conventions of normative “beauty” and then explicitly doing the opposite, both because those conventions shift with the times and because inverting conformity isn’t necessarily itself nonconformist. Maybe it’s because I’ve consumed so much SF, but the lab coat never came close to signifying as a dress to me. Is my register representative of what most people would see? I don’t know, but I’d be slightly surprised if many people mistook it for a dress.

    Curvy? Well, women tend to have a curvier build on average. Would it be any better to de-curvify representations of women and just pretend all body types are the same? How would that be any better than whitewashing race? It’s great to buck gender stereotypes in character appearance, but masculating all characters doesn’t seem like a very good way to go about doing that.

    Just my 5¢

  19. Art quality notwithstanding (I find it unobjectionable but kinda samey-samey); I look forward with nervous anticipation. My experiences with novelists treading into graphic fiction have been…mixed. “Identity Crisis,” anyone?

    I’m sure Our Exalted Bloghost knows what he’s about, though, and look forward to his inevitable triumph over mamby-pamby naysayers (like me).

  20. @Gulliver,

    Thanks for the response, and seeing where I was coming from. I should note that for the most part it’s not any one element of the piece that prompted my reaction (except maybe the pose), but rather the combination of them all adding up to an impression of stereotypes. Drat, I know there’s a better word for what I’m trying to say.

    I thought “ginger” just referred to hair color? I agree he’s browner than conventional “white” (which is why I used Caucasoid, but maybe that doesn’t mean quite what I think it does), but as with the other characters it’s the overall first impression I get, with that lighter hair and freckles (though possibly illuminated by a rather orange light). IOW, I look at and see “oh, another piece of art with people who look like me” (being white myself), just like most covers I see.

    Re the curviness, it’s more that she’s turned just so to maximize her silhouette. I rather feel like with her head and arm placement I’d expect her body to be rotated toward the front slightly more, but that wouldn’t make as conspicuous an outline of her chest. I also don’t think of jackets usually being quite that form-fitting. I still tend to see it as a dress at first; maybe it’s just the screens I’m using that make the picture darker.

    Anyway, I’m not up in arms about this, just wanted to mention that the overall first impression was very… normative? Whatever that word I can’t think of is. Conventional, maybe. Important man, passive posed woman, active man, all whitish. (I don’t really consider her “passive” as she does seem to be doing something, but you know, without her arms, she’s just… posed.) Again, I can accept reasons for nearly all of it, and it may be that she’s really blue-skinned and he’s really orange and all, and I’m willing to read and find out. But if I had no reason to be interested otherwise I might appreciate the art for prettiness and execution, but be at best neutral on the characters and on actually checking it out.

    But as I said, I don’t read comics, so can’t tell what might be unusual or normal for that genre, either.

  21. Robin: But as I said, I don’t read comics, so can’t tell what might be unusual or normal for that genre, either.

    For the superhero genre this would be downright prudish. For an SF-genre comic this is fairly standard composition: Hollywood-pretty leads, lots of nifty technotoys to raise the viewer’s curiousity, and a character in a pose that suggests movement while still showing them off as attractive.

    That’s not a critique of Mike Choi’s art, which I like. This is very much a standard catch-the-eye-sell-the-product cover, and at a guess I’d say that’s what Choi was trying for here.

    Could be worse. Could be a Baen Books cover.

  22. Why, oh why must you taunt me with portable brain candy when I must go on business travel tomorrow with its’ inevitable loitering about in airports and on airplanes with nothing else to do? WHY???

  23. @ Robin

    I thought “ginger” just referred to hair color?

    I think it’s both hair color and skin tone, but I’ll admit to not being entirely sure either. As you said, the orange light makes it hard to tell.

    I agree he’s browner than conventional “white” (which is why I used Caucasoid, but maybe that doesn’t mean quite what I think it does)

    I’m not sure if ginger is consider Caucasoid. I gather the term Caucasoid is a bit of an artificial circle drawn around a whole lot of European ethnicities based on a slightly outdated theory that light-skinned Europeans all descended from a group from the Caucus Mountains.

    IOW, I look at and see “oh, another piece of art with people who look like me” (being white myself), just like most covers I see.

    I can understand that. As I said, I’d have to see more of the graphic novel to get a better read on the diversity it does or doesn’t reflect. This one panel does leave me wondering.

    I rather feel like with her head and arm placement I’d expect her body to be rotated toward the front slightly more, but that wouldn’t make as conspicuous an outline of her chest.

    Hmm…I think it’s more the S-curved arch of her back that puffs out her chest. Maybe it’s my background in martial arts and dance, but the stance itself doesn’t look all that unnatural to me, while the lower-back arch does.

    I also don’t think of jackets usually being quite that form-fitting.

    Most real-world labs coats are distinctly less stylish too :)

    Anyway, I’m not up in arms about this, just wanted to mention that the overall first impression was very… normative?

    That seems like a fair assessment.

    I don’t really consider her “passive” as she does seem to be doing something, but you know, without her arms, she’s just… posed.

    Perhaps. To me the guy on the left looks like a spunky kid. My first impression of the women was that she was the most important on in the picture, but that could just be the scientist in me :)

    But as I said, I don’t read comics, so can’t tell what might be unusual or normal for that genre, either.

    Ditto. And there is certainly a Devil’s advocate to my Devil’s advocate to your Devil’s advocate to be played. No harm in asking questions. Good artists want honest feedback, after all.

  24. Okay. If I have a REALLY good few months – and I do mean REALLY GOOD – then we shall see. I *could* make the argument that I could actually use an iPad for developing my own AWESOME VIDEOGAMES. Couldn’t I? Right?

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