Wailing Heights: An Interview With Ruairí Coleman

Northern Ireland based, Outsider Games have been developing a new game Wailing Heights. With founder Stephen Downey being a comic book artist, it makes sense that they have involved a number of comic book creators in the process (you can check out all those details on their blog). One of the creators involved is artist Ruairí Coleman. I asked him about working on the project and about what else we can expect from him in 2016.

How did you get involved in the project?

Stephen first mentioned the project to me a couple of years ago, at DICE 2014; we were working together on Turok: Dinosaur Hunter at the time. He didn’t go into the specifics of the game itself at the time, but talked about how he wanted to get a lot of comic creators involved, as well as musicians and the like, to make – what I understood to be – a really ambitious multi-media game. He asked if I’d do some art for it, and naturally I said yes because Stephen’s one of the nicest guys around and the project sounded like something really unique. Fast forward a year or so to December 2015 and Stephen hooked me up with a script by Cy Dethan, who I hadn’t worked with before so it was great to pair up on this, and an amazing colour artist called Omi Remalante Jr. to colour my lines: the whole experience was fun, fulfilling and stress-free. I had a great time.

It is an interesting idea. Getting lots of creators to create comics that flesh out the game.

Definitely! I think it’s Stephen’s way of bridging his two passions – gaming and comics – and, given his experience in the industry he’s the perfect guy to draft in a wealth of great comic book talent. I haven’t seen anything the other creators have done yet but I’m looking forward to experiencing it all while playing Wailing Heights: I’m sure it’s going to be one of the most visually impressive games I’ll have played in a long time.

Did working with characters from a game change your process? I am wondering if it is different to working with previously existing characters from comics like The Turtles?

Not really, to be honest. It was actually fairly similar to working on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Amazing Adventures. In both cases, you’re working with characters from another medium (a video game, or TV series in regards to TMNT) and supplementing that iteration, so you have to honour the pre-existing character designs and such. That said, the Abnorm comic for Wailing Heights features some characters and environments not seen in the game and I was given creative freedom on those, which mirrors more what I’d do on non-licensed books; so it was balance of things I’ve done in the past but it was also an honour getting to contribute something to the back-story of the game.

You managed to keep the feel of the character while at the same keeping your own style. Is that a difficult balancing act?

I think part of Stephen and Outsider Games’ decision to commission a variety of artists to work on the peripheral materials was to embrace a visual diversity, much like the game itself refuses to be pigeon-holed by a single genre. Either way, I wasn’t constrained at all by having to adhere to a particular drawing/production style; I was just provided with character references and allowed to run with it. I did turn in some initial rough sketches where I explored the character designs using my usual art style, to show Outsider my interpretation and they were very supportive. It’s great to work with creatives who value the autonomy of other creators. I’m also really glad you feel I achieved that balance, which is important to me: thank you!

Can you tell us something about the story? Was there something about it that particularly appealed to you?

It’s an origin story of one of the characters in the game, a werewolf called “Abnorm.” So, as you’d imagine, the story tells of how Abnorm – or “Norm” when we first meet him – contracts the curse of the werewolf. I loved how Cy Dethan’s script embraced some of the horror tropes inherent in the werewolf genre but also played up the 1970s setting so we have full moons, werewolves and basement nightclubs. The quirkiness of it all really appealed to me.

Where will people be able to see the finished comic?

The comic will be unlockable content within the game: where or how you unlock it, I’m not so sure but I get the impression there’ll be a lot fantastic comics hidden away inside the game for players to discover. As somebody who, when he gets time to play games, loves to discover everything and complete the game 100%, that’s something that excites me.

There might also be plans to release a print format collecting all the stories at some stage down the line, which would be really cool!

Do you have anything else in the pipeline?

For myself, there are a few things coming up:

First and foremost, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Amazing Adventures #9 is out next week (April 13th) featuring a back-up story written by Caleb Goellner, drawn by myself, coloured by Heather Breckel and lettered by Shawn Lee. It’s a lot of fun, featuring a new take on a beloved character from the show and coloured so beautifully by Heather.

Identity, the comic I’m creating with Joe Khach, is almost ready to be submitted to publishers so we’ll be sending that off soon and, hopefully, be getting picked up by somebody for distribution but we’ll see how that pans out.

There’s one other thing that it’s way too soon to talk about but I have to at least mention it because I’m so excited. I’ll be working with another Irish artist on it and I’m sure we’ll be shouting from the rooftops about it soon enough!

You can find Wailing Heights on Steam here.