Halo space video game turns over a new leaf

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Halo, the space warrior video game that has driven sales of Microsoft’s Xbox console, is invading the universe of comic books with what is thought to be the first graphic novel based on a video game.

With a jacketed hard cover and 128 over-sized pages in full colour, the release of the Halo Graphic Novel yesterday was as grand an occasion as any superhero release by Marvel Comics, which is publishing the book in co-operation with Microsoft’s Bungie Studios, the makers of Halo.

The novel is an anthology of original stories set in the “Halo universe” created by some of the best known comic book artists and writers.

The project was originally intended to be completed in six months but has taken two years because of the complexity of assembling the industry’s best talent to work on it.

Bungie distributed a 16-page teaser to comic book shops around the US in May and demand is expected to be high for the book.

Halo was the most popular game released for the Xbox when it was launched in 2001 and the release of Halo 2 in 2004 generated more than $100m in revenues on its opening day. Halo 3 for the latest Xbox 360 console is expected in 2007.

In Halo, players take on the role of Master Chief, a bionic soldier of the future stranded on a halo-shaped structure in space and leading his troops against an alien alliance.

“With the graphic novel, you can see more character development,” says Frank O’Connor, Bungie’s content manager. “Because the player is the character in the video game, Master Chief is vaguely defined.

“But here we can do more and also expand the Halo universe.”

Bungie and Marvel also plan to expand the graphic novel with more stories and art in a future version.

“This is definitely not going to be a one-off,” said Mr O’Connor.

Other Halo spin-offs include three novels, action figures, soundtrack albums and a film being produced by Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and due to be released next year.

One of the most popular unofficial Halo spin-offs is RedvsBlue.com, a satire of the game, science fiction film and military life where the game’s elements and characters have been incorporated into an online film.

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