In Renegade Rule by Ben Kahn, Rachel Silverstein, and Sam Beck, with letters by Jim Campbell and logo design by Tim Daniel, the four queer gamers who make up the Manhattan Mist team will get the chance to compete in the national competition for the ultimate video game: Renegade Rule!
The Beat caught up with Kahn, Silverstein, and Beck over email to find out more about how Overwatch influenced the comic, how a scene was acted out in order to ensure verisimilitude, designing real-world clothes versus in-game outfits, and what it is about it is about doppelgängers that makes them such an effective narrative tool!
AVERY KAPLAN: What was the genesis of Renegade Rule?
BEN KAHN: The original genesis was that I really wanted to work with Rachel on a book together, and then it all became a situation where friends were making a book about friends. I know Rachel was big into Overwatch at the time, and I love sports movies and anime, so combining them seemed like a fun angle on the genre.
KAPLAN: Did any of the four main cast members present a particular challenge during development? Was there a particular character class that you were especially excited to include?
RACHEL SILVERSTEIN: The most challenging part coming up with the ladies of the Manhattan Mist was creating their diverse classes for their in-game characters. We wanted to make them distinct and relatable to the typical first-person shooter classes a reader would understand. For example, we knew we wanted Jessie to be in the sniper class, but wanted to make her the polar opposite of what is expected of a typical sniper. Thus, we made her hilariously distracted by anything and everything possible.
KAPLAN: Were there any particular real-world video game inspirations for Renegade Rule? Have you had any remarkable personal experiences with VR?
SILVERSTEIN: My biggest real-world inspiration for Renegade Rule was my favorite video game, Overwatch. I always loved the team dynamics and having to make sure everyone was in sync to succeed. Of course, there are times when teams are crazy discombobulated and yet still win, and that’s where I felt the idea of the Manhattan Mist girls could shine. As for VR gaming, it’s not something I’ve ever tried. I get motion sick easily, and would probably hate wearing those goggle doodads.
KAHN: I experienced VR back when I was working in the games industry, and it is wild. It really is immersive on a whole other level. I was picking up objects in a game and then trying to drop them as if they were real and in my hand. Overwatch was for sure a huge inspiration. For me when it comes to shooter games, I always go back to Halo. I spent what feels like all of middle and high school playing Halo with friends, and Renegade Rule is in part a celebration of all of those times playing video games with buddies.
KAPLAN: Why are doppelgängers such an effective narrative tool?
KAHN: Doppelgängers are great because they’re instant foils. Anything the doppelgängers do or how they act, it instantly becomes a reflection for our main characters. They either serve as what our cast could be if they overcame their flaws, or embody a cautionary tale of what the main characters should avoid. Dopplegängers are just a great way to reveal more about your characters in a less direct way.
KAPLAN: I understand you acted out a scene (by dragging one another across the ground) to ensure it made sense in the narrative? Can you tell us a little bit about that?
KAHN: Absolutely! That was at Rachel’s house, because I live in a tiny shoebox apartment that does not have proper dragging room.
SILVERSTEIN: That was a hilarious experience! My favorite part about writing this comic with Ben is that we did the entire thing either physically together or on video chat. It was always a treat writing in person together because we got to do crazy stuff like dragging each other across the floor! We wanted to get a feel for what it might actually look like so we could better explain it to Sam in the script.
KAPLAN: What was it like developing the look for each of the characters? How did designing their in-game outfits compare with designing their “real world” aesthetics?
SAM BECK: Designing their in-game outfits was the easy part, surprisingly! Ben and Rachel had really clear descriptions for them and there were very few revisions for those outfits. The most challenging part was actually sticking to a color scheme and having that work across wildly different settings.
Thinking about everyone’s casual outfits was a ton of fun. It was a journey, discovering these characters while drawing them and figuring out their different aesthetics and taste. I tried to incorporate their personalities into their everyday wear. The best example is when they meet their doppelgangers, because you can clearly see the reflection of their clothing and personalities in their counterparts.
KAPLAN: Have there been any comics (or stories in any other medium) that have been particularly inspirational to you lately?
KAHN: I recently picked up the trade collections, and I’ve been loving Invisible Kingdom by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward. A sci-fi thriller with great worldbuilding and queer romance is everything I could ask for.
SILVERSTEIN: I recently bought one of those “500 writing prompts” books and took a stab at coming up with ideas for some of them. Who knows, maybe one of them will be something you’ll be able to hold in the future!
BECK: I read all of Vinland Saga over a couple weeks recently, and the action and draftsmanship of the comic is totally inspiring to me. It’s a manga that looks astounding, but also has such a deep level of character-driven story that’s really something I strive for in my own work.
KAPLAN: Is there anything else you’d like me to be sure and include?
KAHN: For future books, you can check out Immortals Fenyx Rising: From Great Beginnings, the new OGN tie-in to the Ubisoft video game out this September from Dark Horse Comics.
BECK: Verse Book One: The Broken Half comes out this September! It’s written and drawn by me, and is a fun YA fantasy story.
Renegade Rule is available at your local comic shop or public library today!