Who was there: Top Cow president Matt Hawkins, The Darkness creator Marc Silvestri, Digital Extremes' Sheldon Carter, and Faith No More singer and voice actor Mike Patton, with GameSpot editor in chief Ricardo Torres moderating.
What they said: The panelists were on hand today to talk about The Darkness, a comic book series that launched 15 years ago and has since spread to video games and beyond.
Silvestri and Hawkins began with how the Darkness franchise was born. Silvestri said people think that it came after Top Cow's other big comic series, Witchblade, but actually that's not the case. Silvestri said the idea for The Darkness was first conceptualized in 1993. He said The Darkness was launched out of Witchblade; both were supernatural-based and plugged into each other well.
Hawkins offered his take on the birth of the series, saying Top Cow made a conscious effort to go supernatural, and he wanted to make sure that it was "not spandex s*** like Marvel."
Silvestri added that The Darkness' main character, Jackie Estacado, is the "exact opposite of Superman," further noting that "[Superman] bored the hell out of me." According to Silvestri, Jackie has experienced nothing but betrayal, saying he is more of an "intense" character than Super-Man.
Torres then queried the panel about how successful they believed the franchise would become when they first created it.
Silvestri said, "We didn't want to do guys with their underwear outside." He said he grew up on horror, science fiction, and fantasy, but not superheroes. He said after Witchblade performed well and The Darkness spun out of it, he "never would have dreamed video games would have been done, especially at this quality."
Then the panelists were asked to comment on the game's protagonist, the troubled and dark Estacado. Silvestri said, "Everyone is kind of crazy. We all are people who have issues…some more than others." He said Estacado was created out of the thought of "How terrible would it be to have something we try to hide inside come to life?"
Hawkins elaborated on the point, saying Estacado has the "power of creation, but with limitations." He called Estacado the "classic antihero" and said, "He is forced to become the hero because he sacrifices his humanity to keep the darkness inside."
When asked about how Top Cow feels about bringing The Darkness to other mediums, like video games, Hawkins said it's all about quality and aligning with the appropriate partners.
"Partner with the right people," Hawkins said. "The second game is so much better than the first game. We knew it was gonna be good."
Mike Patton--the singer from Faith No More--was tapped to voice Estacado's inner demon in the original game, but how was he chosen? According to Silvestri, all the credit goes to Starbreeze, the team behind the first Darkness. Silvestri added that the first time he heard the voice he said "What? That's the coolest thing I've ever heard; there's magic happening here."
As for how Patton found the voice, he said he "came up with it on the fly." He conceded that he isn't a voice actor "per se," but he thinks about voice acting as a "piece of music." He said he channeled his "teenage death metal vocal styling" to play the role. Patton said that prior to entering the recording booth for The Darkness II, he "only saw a few stills and motions scenes" and that creating the voice required "a lot of imagination."
"2K really made me see it. If I screwed up they told me," he said. "I've been screaming and using my vocal chords since I was a teen. It's an extension of what I do all the time."
As for how much fan feedback Digital Extremes is putting into The Darkness II, Carter said the developer was exhaustive and tireless in its pursuit to hear all possible critiques.
"We took everything under consideration," he said. "[We] had our own feelings, but we really did comb the forums and read literally everything people had to say about [the original Darkness game]."
The sequel will stay true to the original's level of violence, claimed Carter. Silvestri then chimed in, saying that in the prerelease builds he has played, he has found that the "violence is over the top; it's almost cathartic, but it definitely fits into the overall story. It's not so much gruesome as it is entertaining."
As a final surprise, Hawkins said that the Darkness franchise is gearing up to the silver screen. Top Cow has partnered with Mandeville Films--the production team behind David O. Russell's The Fighter--for a film based on the franchise. Unfortunately, no further details are available. However, Hawkins did say the film will not be "a small watered-down Darkness, and will be a major motion picture."
"We're not gonna do it if it sucks," Hawkins said. "We're gonna make sure the film kicks ass."
Quote:"[Jackie is] a guy guys want to be, and a guy girls want to f***." -- Matt Hawkins on The Darkness' protagonist, Jackie Estacado.
Takeaway: It's no secret that The Darkness has been a smash hit for Top Cow Productions. The comics have sold millions of copies, the original video game scored a strong critical reception, and The Darkness II is receiving enthusiastic preview coverage. It's too early to judge how big the film will be, but altogether The Darkness is proving to be a big brand in multiple media types.