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Lorna Evans of Ubisoft on Turning Games into Comics, Books and Movies

By Daniel Kalder

Lorna Evans is Cross Media Producer for video game developer Ubisoft, and also helps the UK games industry find new business opportunities with books, TV and film. She has worked on some of the UK’s biggest games titles, including Tomb Raider and Resident Evil and is passionate about the need for increased cooperation between media.

“Sometimes when you get game people and book people together in a room, it’s like talking to aliens from another planet,” says Evans. “But the economy being what it is, everyone needs to make more money. So cooperation makes a lot of sense.”

“At Ubisoft, I make deals for games to become books or comics,” she continues. “The key is not simply selling something and then ‘slapping a logo’ on it. I work with writers to get it right. You have to respect the audience by putting together a whole universe, which all fits together correctly, intelligently, and is of interest. Respect for content is crucial. Otherwise you get rubbish like Kung Fu Panda.”

Evans laments that marketing departments think too much in the short term, pointing to the dearth of successful game crossovers as evidence. “Everybody talks about Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, but that was ten years ago. What’s come since? Nothing.”

Star Wars is often cited as a great example of cross media coproduction; Lucasfilm enforces strict continuity upon
its films, cartoons, books and comics. Evans agrees with this approach: “Universes need to be created around characters and story lines. In games, traditionally, this has been done very poorly: the creators meet in a pub and write the scenario on the back of a beer mat. But story and writing are vital. We need the same brains working across platforms to make the content rich.”

It’s also crucial to select excellent partners, adds Evans. For her latest project, a comic based on Ubisoft’s decade old Drive franchise, she chose to work with DC Comics, the publisher of Batman and Superman. Then she brought in top flight talent: issue zero, distributed free at this year’s San Diego Comic Con featured a cover by “Jock”, creator of series The Losers, recently adapted into a Hollywood film. It was written by David Lapham, author of the award-winning series Stray Bullets. She has also struck a book deal with Random House. Every production will exist within the same, coherent universe.

“You mustn’t insult the niche fans. If you get credibility, then it enriches the proposition.”

Evans points to the 1970s toy line The Micronauts as an example. Although the toys were cancelled in 1980, the tie-in Marvel comic lasted another six years. “That comic is fondly remembered by fans today because of its writer Bill Mantlo’s story work. That’s why JJ Abrams, who successfully rebooted the Star Trek franchise, is in talks about producing a film.”

“With budgets being cut, people need to connect, to make stuff happen. During the economic crisis, profits were down everywhere except games, which held steady. Comic book people need to work with games people better. My formula — totally respectful of content and story lines — works.”

(This story originally appeared in the Publishing Perspectives show daily at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 6 October 2010. Download the complete, 32-page show daily here or click on the image to view the online version.)

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