Interview: Behemoth Calls Up 'Hotline Miami Wildlife'
Sep 22, 2020
Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
Get ready for 80s action, chaos, excess, and awesome!
Behemoth has teamed up with madmen and women of Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital for a new Hotline Miami eight-part mini-series.
What you say? You never heard of the explosive, action-packed, gun-totting, ass-stomping that is Hotline Miami?! Well...you better keep reading.
PREVIEWSworld: For those late to the party, what is Hotline Miami: Wildlife?
Federico: It's an action comics miniseries set in the same universe as the videogames created by Dennaton Games. We focused on telling a stand-alone story that can be fully enjoyed without any experience with the videogames, while still remaining faithful to the spirit of the series and expanding the overall Hotline Miami universe, giving fans some more insight and the kind of thrilling storytelling that they expect from HLM.
PREVIEWSworld: How did this project come about?
Federico: We had previously worked with Dennaton Games and their publisher Devolver Digital on the official comics for Hotline Miami 2, which were released on Steam in the weeks before the game's launch. We had a great time working together and those comics were a massive success in terms of number of downloads and feedback from the fans, so Dennaton offered us the possibility to make more Hotline Miami comics. We love HLM and the opportunity to tell a new meaty story set in this universe was too good to pass on it, so we immediately started figuring out how to organize the project.
The core group of me, Maurizio and Alberto was set in stone from the beginning because of our previous experience with Dennaton and Hotline Miami. When we realized that we wanted to adopt the perspective of multiple characters (just like it happens in the games) we decided to bring in some guest artists and we contacted Ludovica Ceregatti, Andrea Dotta and Andrea Errico. Alberto drew the five issues with Chris as the main character while the other three artists worked on one issue each, all of them spotlighting a different new character.
PREVIEWSworld: This isn’t just an adaptation of the games?
Alberto: No, it's an entirely new story set in the same universe and featuring the same kind of moods and themes as the videogame series. The videogames tell the story of a patriotic clandestine organization called 50 Blessings and its war with the Russian mobs operating in the United States in an alternative universe where Russia won the cold war. In the games, they follow some of the people involved with 50 Blessings while alluding to the fact that there's more of them, in the comic we tell the story of some of these other people who got involved with the organization but weren't in the games.
PREVIEWSworld: So the first game takes place in 1989 and the second one takes place 1991. What is the setting for the comic then?
Federico: It's pretty much all set during the events of the first game, except for some flashbacks. This made the process of making sure that our story never clashed with the games more complicated, but we think it was worth it.
PREVIEWSworld: Alberto, how did you go about depicting the period?
Alberto: I was born in '82 so, since I grew up during the late 80s and early 90s, I had a good grasp of how the world, the technology and everyday items looked back then, and that definitely helped. Other than that, I did some research in order to choose carefully everything from clothing to electronic appliances and everything else, and I frequently discussed these details with Federico, who also helped in this process, for example writing down in the scripts the specific car models that every character used. I admit that at the beginning I had to pay attention to not draw flat screen TVs, cellphones and whatever else, but then I got used to it.
PREVIEWSworld: The game has “Jacket,” who is an enigma in many ways. You’re focusing on a new character, though. Chris. Why do we follow him through this story, specifically?
Alberto: We wanted to tell a completely autonomous story so using the game's characters was never really an option, otherwise new readers would have felt lost unless we repeated stuff that was already in the games, which could have been boring for fans of the videogames.
While trying to spoil as little as I can about the story, I can say that we created Chris in a way that makes him – in our opinion – both believable and relatable, he's a deeply angry and complicated guy but he's not completely deranged.
He's broken, but maybe not hopelessly so, or is he? This makes him a bit of an enigma too, just like Jacket, but their reasons and personalities are pretty different and we think that Chris' character arc could perfectly allow us to tell a different story while not straying too far from the games' narrative.
PREVIEWSworld: What was it like working with Dennaton Games? I’d imagine there is tons of reference material to comb through.
Federico: I was a fan of the first game before I met Dennis Wedin from Dennaton, and as mentioned earlier, we collaborated with them on Hotline Miami 2, so when we started working on Wildlife we had a pretty deep knowledge of every aspect of the games and their lore.
Actually, the fact that we knew well how to handle the material and characters from the games played a big part in Dennaton trusting us with this project.
They knew we weren't gonna betray the spirit of the games and publish something that was Hotline Miami in name only, and that we'd put all of our efforts into making it a worthy addition to everything the games already narrated.
We were given almost complete freedom with Wildlife, Dennaton pretty much let us do our thing, we discussed a pitch for our story and once they approved it we had total control over the project, although we still sent them storyboards and finished issues in advance to make sure that they liked what we were doing.
PREVIEWSworld: At this point, are you both expert level Hotline Miami gamers because of this?
Federico: It's more like the other way around, and this project would have never existed if I wasn't a huge, huge HLM fan to begin with. That's what brought me to contact Dennis Wedin around one month after the first game was released, we ended up talking frequently and one thing lead to another.
I think that the two Hotline Miami games are among the finest indie games ever released, they're incredibly stylish and they have the most compelling story I ever found in a videogame.
One thing that never stops surprising me is how important Hotline Miami is to so many people, the way the Dennaton guys were able to deeply connect with players and really touch them without any realistic graphics, acted cut scenes or other expensive tricks is really impressive and it says a lot about the narrative potential of videogames as a medium.
We wanted to try and capture the strength and themes of their work and turn them into a badass comic, which clearly took a lot of effort because different mediums require different narrative strategies and tools, but we hope we did a good job with it.
Alberto: Federico is the real hardcore gamer in our group, I'm more of a casual player but I also loved the games. I played them quite a bit, both because they're great and to familiarize with the atmosphere and the visual language of the series, but I never finished them because they're so damn hard and after a while I just lose my patience.
PREVIEWSworld: And this is a monthly, right? Looking forward, what can readers expect from Hotline Miami: Wildlife?
Federico: Yeah, the series is gonna last eight months and we're gonna take readers on a rollercoaster of violence, plot twists and more intimate story beats just like the games did. We tried to make our characters something more than a bunch of scary dudes shooting at each other, so if readers will come to love our cast of misfits as much as we do, then we'll consider this story a success.
PREVIEWSworld: In terms of audience, who is Hotline Miami: Wildlife for?
Alberto: People who loved the games, of course, but also anyone who enjoys pulp-y, visceral comics where over-the-top situations and violence are balanced by some introspection and feelings.
Most of our favorite comics are published by Vertigo (RIP), Dark Horse and Image so we're naturally drawn to create that same type of almost-mainstream-but-still-gut-punching stuff, hopefully people who like that approach will enjoy Hotline Miami: Wildlife, too.
Hotline Miami Wildlife is in comic shops right now!
The video game franchise has earned over 100 million in revenue for Publisher, Devolver Digital. Frequently featured on most "Greatest Indie Video Games of all-time lists".
Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comic book works include BAMN, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Awards nominated Magic Bullet.