With a deceptively light touch and a kaleidoscope of colors, Overwatch delivers a vision of a future Earth that’s uneasy about the heroes it’s created. And although Blizzard’s already massive new shooter takes a bright and breezy approach to competitive play, beneath the surface is an underlying tension about technology, violence, and how they shape the world.
Blizzard has explored some of these themes in a series of comics that help to flesh out the game’s lore. The studio’s animated short films are a must-watch for new players too, as they touch on the history, politics, and personalities of some of the game’s colorful cast. In many ways, the Overwatch heroes are comic book characters that players get to inhabit.
In this edition of ‘If you like…’ we take a look at other animated films and comics that examine heroes, machines, and their often complicated role in maintaining order—or destroying it.
The Incredibles, directed by Brad Bird
In a world where superheroes have been deemed too dangerous by the government, the now-retired superhumans of the Parr family have adapted to the quiet life of suburbia. But the father, Bob, can’t seem to get used to the new order. Eager to flex his muscles again, he starts taking on covert missions in an attempt to rekindle his heroic past. But when his family gets caught up in his secret life, everything changes. There are villains, giant robots, and even some subtle digs at the nature of pop culture fandom.
The 2004 Pixar film is now an animation classic, and shares a graphical sensibility with the look and feel of Overwatch. Its director, Brad Bird, first came to prominence for his work on another animation touchstone, The Iron Giant. At its core, The Incredibles is one of the best expressions of a key superhero mantra—with a strong team, you can do anything.
Crisis on Infinite Earths, written by Marv Wolfman, illustrated by George Perez
When a mysterious, destructive force begins annihilating the parallel planet Earths, superheroes gather to put a stop to it. It’s a winding, visually-stunning narrative, and Perez’s strong style perfectly suits Wolfman’s epic storyline. The art direction brings to mind other classic 1980s comics such as Watchmen or Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil. All in all, Crisis is a complex take on the idea of superheroes that Overwatch players will want to spend some time with.
In its original 12-issue run in 1985, Crisis on Infinite Earths worked to streamline the DC Universe where there were multiple earths and often multiple versions of each hero. Series writer Marv Wolfman thought this reality, while understandable for long-time readers, might make DC books hard to pick for new comic fans at a time when the medium was gaining in popularity. His solution was the Crisis storyline.
R’ha, created by Kaleb Lechowski
This sci-fi short film—written, directed, and animated by Lechowski—features a character with an especially personal connection to the chaos that can erupt between machines and their creators. A pilot by training, the film’s protagonist recalls the downfall of his alien civilization during a menacing interrogation.
As in Overwatch, the character hints at a much deeper—and indeed darker—backstory that I’d like to see told. And if the film’s setting and characterization peak your interest, you’ll want to keep an eye out for more from Lechowski. His concept for a feature film version of R’ha was recently Kickstarted as an independent production. Given that he completed the initial short film entirely on his own, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
Astonishing X-Men Motion Comic
Based on the original comic run written by Joss Whedon with art by John Cassaday, the motion comic version of their Astonishing X-Men is a unique, and for me definitive, way to experience the series. In the first volume, “Gifted,” the X-Men struggle to cope with how to define their role in the world. Are they heroes, or simply mutant outsiders with nothing to offer the rest of humanity? It’s the classic X-Men story so many of us know, but the quality of writing, acting, and unique animation of the motion comic make it a nice pairing for fans of Marvel as well as players who enjoyed the lore presented in the brilliant Overwatch animation shorts. It shares a similar tone with the story presented in another great motion comic from Marvel, Iron Man: Extremis.
Patrick currently works as web editor for Hinterland Studios, which is making The Long Dark. For more installments of ‘If you like...’, check out the other games he's covered in this series below:
- If you like Tom Clancy's The Division
- If you like Metal Gear Solid 5
- If you like Dead Space
- If you like The Witcher
- If you like Dishonored
- If you like Mass Effect
- If you like Skyrim
- If you like Fallout 3
- If you like Deus Ex
- If you like Company of Heroes
- If you like STALKER
- If you like Her Story
- If you like American Truck Simulator
- If you like Rainbow Six Siege
- If you like Far Cry Primal
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