DisComfort Food Comics: An Oral History of Marvel’s Resident Evil Comic

I’m a HUGE Resident Evil fan. I have been for years. Capcom’s legendary survival horror franchise has given me a lifetime of chills and thrills. Just like with comics, I obsess over video games I love too and I’ve spent so many hours learning everything I can about Resident Evil. I like to consider myself pretty knowledgeable about the series. Be it comic legend Bernie Wrightson’s Tyrant designs for the aborted George Romero Resident Evil movie, the Resident Evil 1.5 build or the many iterations of what would eventually become Resident Evil 4, I feel like I’ve been able to find the info when I want to look for it. But one nugget of Resident Evil info had always alluded me: Marvel’s Resident Evil comic.

Released in 1996 as a free 15 page promo giveaway for the upcoming Playstation game, Resident Evil #1 from Marvel Comics has for many years befuddled me. (If you’ve never read it, don’t log on eBay and spend $50-$100 for it like I did, just skip to the end of this article where I have uploaded the whole thing for your reading pleasure.) When you search the web to find more info about it, you invariably find just what I said and nothing more, or worse, misinformation. I talked to a few people online who had remembered owning it but nobody could ever tell me where they got it. As much as seemingly every bit of obscure Resident Evil history has been dug up and shared with fans, this wonderful little intersection of my love for comics and video games seemed to be a constant mystery. Inspired by the recent Boss Fight Books release for the original Resident Evil by Phillip J Reed and Alex Aniel’s upcoming Itchy, Tasty: An Unofficial History Of Resident Evil, I decided to set foot into the Spencer Mansion and find my own answers.

The only thing I had to work with were the creator credits on the last page of the comic. Through a combination of a lot of Googling, some LinkedIn and Twitter searches and some back and forth e-mailing I was able to get in contact with just about everybody listed here. I wasn’t sure when I started this hunt if I’d find anything but I ended up with even more info than I expected, from the genesis of this comic, the infamous Bill Sienkiewicz cover and most of the marketing involved with bringing this new Capcom horror game “Biohazard” to the States.

CHARACTER SELECT

First, let me present to you a roll call of everyone involved in this Oral History. This was a joint project between Capcom USA and Marvel Entertainment. Below are the people who I got to speak to, their jobs at the time and how they contributed to this comic.

The Capcom Side:

Chris Kramer: Game Counselor/Public Relations Admin – Co-Plotter, Co-Scripter

Simone Seydoux: Product Marketing Manager – Co-Scripter

The Marvel Side:

Dana Moreshead aka Desmond Church: Executive Director of Creative Services for Marvel – Co-Plotter

Dave Johnson: Comic Artist – Pencils, Inks & Color Design

Jeremy Kove: Ad Director – Special Thanks/Editing

Bill Sienkiewicz: Comic Artist – Cover Art

How This Project Came To Be

Chris Kramer: At that point in time in the early 90s, video games were not very sexy from a cultural perspective. That started to change with the PlayStation 1, but to most of America, video games were still childish or something weirdos did in their basements. Simone Seydoux was the marketing manager on Resident Evil and came from a music background, working for a few different record labels before coming to games

Simone Seydoux: I just started Capcom when I got Resident Evil as a project. Katsin Loeb was the ad agency on the project. They had already developed most of the advertising. One thing they had ready was a funny/compelling video that showcased the gameplay and a memorable promo box to send it out in. They also set up the promo comic with Marvel (I don’t know if it was through Capcom’s relationship or through Katsin Loeb.)

Dana Moreshead: I helmed the project (and it) was full of Kismet. Jeremy Kove will have more insight, but Marvel already had a licensing relationship with Capcom Japan and we worked with their US offices as part of that. Our ad sales team also had a relationship with Katsin Loeb. Lots of meetings with the same faces.

Jeremy Kove: I was the ‘suit’ in the situation. As ad director Capcom was my client and while my job was to sell print, thats not what or how we sold it. This was a GREAT integrated effort, unique at the time.

Chris Kramer: Capcom was working on some Marvel-related games, so we were already having conversations in the U.S. with Marvel’s licensing team in LA. Back then, Marvel was still split in half, geographically, with editorial all being back in NYC and licensing in L.A. Lisa Leatherman and Dana Moreshead were Capcom’s two main contacts at Marvel licensing. In an effort to make games seem more “cool,” the Capcom US team put together a marketing partnership with Marvel that lead to promo and marketing projects like this comic.

Jeremy Kove: It really was a group effort. When we had projects like this we worked very closely and easily together, which was also rare. It was a testament to the ethic Dana Moreshead had. His confidence was also unchallenged, which was needed. Behind the scenes these projects can get ugly quick, but we had a elevated tone from the get go on this. Capcom was a cool, core company and you could tell they had something different. Novel, definitely new….and our guys respected that. They weren’t the huge silicon valley game company. They were a respected Japanese company, who almost quietly did their thing. Therefore, when you have mutual respect, and the Capcom client also appreciated what Marvel stood for and meant, well, it was a great match. Made what is usually hard work to be on the same page, easy.

The Cover

Chris Kramer: Simone decided that a Marvel artist needed to do the box art for Resident Evil, but she wasn’t super-tuned into the comics scene at that point in time. She and I worked together a lot on Resident Evil, since that was the first project I had asked to manage as fresh PR person.

Simone Seydoux: The Bill Sienkiewicz cover was being worked on for the game. Lisa Benson was the Marketing Manager at Capcom USA and was pulling that together.

Dana Moreshead: We also hired Bill Sienkiewicz to do the cover for the US release. And we did the custom book. Helped with the ad buy in the comics. Lots of synergy.

Chris Kramer: I was (and am) a huge comics nerd and loved Bill’s work on New Mutants, so I recommended that we hire him for the artwork and Simone made it happen with Marvel. He actually did two pieces for Capcom, the one on the cover of this comic and the box, as well as a second piece that was more blue and had ravens perched on the end of Chris’s shotgun.

Bill Sienkiewicz: The character on the box art isn’t based on anyone in reality (such as an actor); he’s roughly based on a character from the game. At the time I did the cover, the game’s concept was still developing. So I was told to run with it, but include certain elements-like spiders, etc

Chris Kramer: It’s Chris Redfield in Bill’s art. Chris was the main character marketing was focused on and was also the first playable character in early builds of the game. The group in the US didn’t even know until very late in the process that Jill would be a second playable character.

Chris Kramer: I am not sure what that art (above) is. Maybe an early sketch for the final image?

Simone Seydoux: When Lisa gave us all a look at it, it was pretty much there – very creepy and claustrophobic – a little tweaking and that was done.

Chris Kramer: When we got the final Bill S art back from Marvel, Simone was almost in tears. Even for Bill, it was not the cleanest image and it definitely didn’t look like other game box art at the time. There was no way to really change it, so we just accepted it, but a lot of people at Capcom at the time were not super-happy with that art. As the years go by, I like it more just because it’s very unsettling and different from other games, which was actually perfect for Resident Evil. Needless to say, on her next Marvel project, Simone went with Joe Mad to do artwork for the Marvel Super Heroes fighting game. Much cleaner, definitely more “Marvel” style from Joe Mad. I think there was some digital retouching done on Bill’s work, but he definitely did those two pieces for us.

The Comic

Chris Kramer: So, with the Bill S artwork done, Simone suggested we work with Marvel to do a promo comic to use for retail.

Jeremy Kove: This had to have been late ’95 and early ’96 since the game launched in march ’96.

Dana Moreshead: So. Many. Balls. Juggling.

Simone Seydoux: The comic was to be a prequel to the game and give the background story. I got to work with Marvel to pull it together which was unbelievable. Chris wrote a brief story of the prequel (I’m sure he told you more of that). Chris is an amazing writer, incredible gamer so – as always, did a great job. I gave that to Dana, Jeremy and/or Justin from Marvel and then Dave Johnson and Dan Shaheen worked on it. I don’t remember how Dave saw the footage – I don’t know if it was the same footage Katsin Loeb used for the video or whatever but the art that was delivered was great. 

Dave Johnson: I only had some character design print outs if I remember correctly.

Dana Moreshead: “Desmond Church” is me. With rush projects like this was, we often had to work on the fly to get all the parts moving. I’d done the same with The Saturday Morning and the Doom comics. As I recall, I rough plotted the story out on the phone with Dave Johnson.

Chris Kramer: Marvel sent us their first pass at the plot and Simone and I didn’t love it because it wasn’t “Resident Evil” enough. So she and I re-worked the plot and sent it back to Marvel with heavy edits and changes for things we wanted to see, based on the limited amount of the game we had seen in early Alpha builds of the gamer.

Simone Seydoux: The only problem was the script they delivered didn’t fit the images – obviously Marvel wasn’t sure how much they could cut or whatever. It just didn’t read right in places – the words took up too much of the page, didn’t play off the images, etc. So, because I love comic books/graphic novels, I just started cutting and re-arranging and making it more like the graphic novels I like  and if it doesn’t hold up – sorry. That’s my fault. Justin and/or Jeremy took all my notes, and he did like it and told me he was going to give me a writing credit.  I rarely wanted my name on anything – I like being behind the scenes – but this was too cool to say no to…..

Chris Kramer: Marvel put a writer on it, sent us the script and we re-worked the script, adding some characters and ideas for dialogue, which is why Simone and I got writing credits. We knew very little about the game story.

Dana Moreshead: I *think* Mark Paniccia was going to be the original editor of record — as I recall he was swamped. So Dan Shaheen got the gig. Dan, Mark and a few others were Malibu Comics staffers kept on and folded into the Marvel LA team. Dan may have been freelance at that point. We threw Mark into the deep end a lot. Good thing he’s an amazing swimmer.

Chris Kramer: At that point in time in history, there wasn’t much direct communication between the US marketing team and Capcom developers. Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil Director) was one of the first Capcom developers to realize that the game he was making would be very popular with western players and was going out of his way to keep Capcom US up to speed with the game’s development. They sent our US office builds of the game every 2 – 3 months for over 2 years, which was unheard of at that time but we never got a full script or game design documents. Everything we were learning about the game came from those quarterly drops. Each new build we got had a little bit more gameplay, a little more dialogue, a little more of the mansion to explore. In the early builds, the giant snake more or less ended the game, which is why Simone and I wanted to make sure it was included in the comic.

Dana Moreshead: I really wanted Dave to do the art. The deadline was tight. It was a project where likenesses / visual aspects had to be approved by the client, and Dave had unofficially sworn off sequential work. But I was able to talk him into it. There were lots of adjustments that needed to be made to make the project happen. pages were done at a smaller size than typical. The art was given to the writer / scripter and the colorist as they came in. It was a mad dash to the finish line.

Dave Johnson: They told me that it would be printed half size. So I drew the art more simply to work for the format. I was pissed when I saw it printed at full size. Lol

Chris Kramer: Simone and I also wanted to make sure the Puzzle aspect of the game was reflected in the comic. I do remember writing the sequence for pushing the column and tripping the switch because the first draft of the comic script was very shooty-shooty action. Which was no fault of Marvel’s by the way — this comic was written and produced months and months before anyone outside of Capcom would have had the chance to play Resident Evil, so there was no built-in knowledge of what Resident Evil has become over the last two decades. In retrospect, it’s amazing how much correct lore we were actually able to get into the comic to set up the game with the small amount of information we had. Marvel was really good about listening to our feedback, especially as it was mostly coming from a 20-something weirdo with no comic book writing experience.

Chris Kramer: Another detail Simone and I wanted to include (was Wesker’s betrayal), as the builds at that time were clearly hinting that he was going to be the “bad guy” in the game. We had no idea about all the parts of the game below the mansion at that point. We wanted to set up the elements you’d see in the game — puzzles, mystery, mutated creatures, action. The thing that sticks out reading through this now is how little zombie flavor comes through, even though that’s the majority of the game’s enemies. Also, there’s no mention of Umbrella. At the time we worked on this, our team in the US may not have known about them.

I had to then point out to Chris Umbrella finds its way in through this coffee cup logo.

Chris Kramer: Ha! You’re right — but it’s not even “the” umbrella logo. Like I said, Mikami was one of the only producers in Japan at that time who really cared about breaking out in the western market. Most Capcom game leads only really cared about the Japanese market as the US game market at the tail end of the SNES/Genesis era was tiny compared to how much revenue was being generated in Japan between arcades and console games. PlayStation 1 in 94 was the start of video games going from nerdy hobbyist passion to global form of entertainment, but it still took several years to prove.

Simone Seydoux: Looking back on the comic now, I wish we had gotten to do a full-size one!

Chris Kramer: Overall, we were really happy with the way the comic turned out. Marvel had been super-collaborative on the process (to be fair, Capcom did pay for it) and the end results were solid for what the US team was slowly coming to realize would be Capcom’s biggest game since Street Fighter II.

Dana Moreshead: Dave gifted me a page of art. Dave is a prince. At the time, he wasn’t doing much sequential work. We were lucky to get him onboard.

Dana Moreshead: Everyone, including Capcom, carried the baton and had a hand in finishing the race on time and one budget.

Simone Seydoux: I don’t really know about the distribution of the comic or even remember how it was received. If I remember right, and as I said, I came when promotion had already started for Resident Evil. There was concern some of the regular outlets would not carry the game. I think the thinking was some alternative outlets like comic book stores might be a possibility. I don’t really think it helped to sell the game – I think it gave fans who were hungry for more about Resident Evil (which really was a showstopping game of its time) more info, more to love.

Dana Moreshead: (Distribution) was handled through Capcom as ad sales and marketing as I recall.

Chris Kramer: We received BOXES AND BOXES of the comic after it was printed, which were given out at trade shows, sent to retail to use as pre-order incentives, mailed to media and buyers to help build hype, etc. I know we shipped tons out to Electronics Boutique to have distributed to their stores (before Gamestop bought the EB business). And I know that myself, Corey Tressider and a few others were giving them out at the Capcom booth at a consumer event in Dallas that we worked.

Simone Seydoux: The back cover was from the teaser ad Katsin Loeb did. The advertising was going a different direction which wasn’t working for a few reasons and then Capcom sent us art from the game including the zombie which was just amazing looking (nothing ever looked as perfect as that first print they sent us). I was so excited when I saw it I took it into Greg Ballard, the CEO, and he said “THAT should be the ad.” We were close to having to go to print but I drove the picture up, Katsin Loeb scraped their other ad, they scanned the art in and made it workable at a larger size, Jef Loeb gave us the tagline and it was done. A very quiet, very scary ad at the time. People said the eyes were taken from pictures of a corpse and I remember one of our sales people saying she couldn’t look at it. Ha!
My time at Capcom was fantastic. Everyone that worked there was really wonderful. You never know how special something is until you look back. 

Presented for you below is the entire comic:

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