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Archie's Metroid Comic: What Could Have Been, and What Should Be

Samus is a troubled character in more ways than one. How should she be depicted in a comic?

Opinion by Nadia Oxford, .

The video game business is an industry of "What Ifs" and "Maybes." Interesting ideas get flung into the ether all the time, and we only get to catch a faint scent of them years down the line.

Here's a recent example: Comic artist Steven Butler shared a few concept sketches he did for a Metroid comic six years ago. The series, which was proposed by Archie Comics, never made it beyond these sketches, and Archie opted to make a Mega Man comic instead.

Butler's sketches reflect the more modern interpretation of bounty hunter Samus Aran, i.e. "Zero Suit Samus" from Metroid: Zero Mission and the smaller, more delicate Samus who featured in Metroid: Other M.

Obviously, if these phantom Metroid comics ever materialized somehow, Samus' personality would be much more integral to drawing in readers than her looks (well, theoretically). That's not to say I'd be excited to Other M's waif-Samus in a Metroid Comic. The Samus who starred in ye olden days of the Metroid franchise was a bit of an amazon, and I think that's awesome. Outside of Metroid: Other M, she clocks in at 6 feet, 3 inches, and nearly 200 pounds without her Power Suit. When Solid Snake professes his, let's say, interest in Samus via Super Smash Bros Brawl's supplemental codec dialogue, there's a good reason why Mei Ling essentially tells him "She'd break you, little boy."

Metroid Prime Fans Are Still Discovering Awesome Details 15 Years Later

Have you ever seen Samus' easily-missed weapon-changing animation?

I doubt Archie had much planned for the Metroid comic pitch beyond "Hey, we want to do a comic with Samus in it." It seems the idea was shot down early, and Archie quickly moved on. Given how nicely the publisher's Mega Man comic expanded on Capcom's established universe, though, I'd love to get a peek at the alternate universe where Archie does indeed print and publish a Metroid comic.

Maybe we'd get something akin to the Nintendo comics Valiant published in the late '80s and early '90s. Kevin "Captain N" Keene featured in several of these funnybook adventures, and so did a certain female bounty hunter who never appeared in the animated Captain N series. Valiant's Samus was pushy, large, and wholly in charge. Good stuff.

Also, she was an unashamed cougar.

Valiant's "Nintendo Comics System" isn't perfect, but for something forged during a time when supplemental story and character information wasn't widely available to English-speaking audiences, the comics' stories really aren't too bad. I still like how the Valiant comic portrays Samus as a money-hungry bounty hunter. Sure, she has a sense of justice – but she's also motivated by greed. Even female game characters who are celebrated for their strength aren't often allowed to single-mindedly seek profit. It's a refreshing take, and it pairs well with Samus' imposing size and strength.

That's not to say I necessarily dislike modern Samus, either. In fact, I understand what producer Yoshio Sakamoto was going for with his half-helpless depiction of the space huntress in Metroid: Other M. In the early aughts, Nintendo published an official manga that illustrates Samus' childhood, including the death of her parents at the claws of Ridley, and her tutelage under Commander Adam Malkovich. Part of the manga is dedicated to her suffering and overcoming the post-traumatic stress her parents' death inflicted on her. Sakamoto likely wanted to distill some of the manga's drama into Other M, but unfortunately, the delicate story points that had time to grow in the manga wound up a half-baked mess in the game.

Good thing this rivalry never came to blows. I'm pretty sure Samus would've planted Lana.

Nintendo seems to have a hard time drawing a bead on Samus' personality, a problem it doesn't appear to have with its other popular characters. Link's a quiet hero, Mario's a steadfast everyman, and Luigi's a well-meaning coward – but poor Samus gets pulled in every direction.

Maybe that's not so bad; it means the bounty hunter has a lot of potential as a complex hero. Regardless of whether we meet up with Samus again in a comic book or an actual game, I'd like to see a melding of her confident and "damaged" personality traits: A towering woman who doesn't hesitate to do what must be done, but also reflects on her past and confronts her demons (i.e. Ridley) when it's necessary.

If that means getting a Samus who leans a little closer to the one we saw in the Valiant comics, yeah, I'm OK with that. Um, minus her undisguised lust for teenage boys. Seriously, the way she just kind of picks up and handles Kevin Keene like a kitten when they're together is unsettling.

(Take me instead.)

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Comments 15

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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #1 Monkey-Tamer A year ago
    Samus always worked best as the silent protagonist, and the games were better for it. If it ain't broke . . .
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  • Avatar for Lonecow #2 Lonecow A year ago
    @Monkey-Tamer She isn't really a silent protagonist. Metroid I and II are the only games she doesn't say anything... well, I guess the Prime games....

    But by your logic you would be cutting out Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion, and Metroid Zero Mission all games in which she talks and has a personality.

    Yeah Other M's dialog, story and acting sucked, but it doesn't make the case that Samus should keep her mouth shut.

    The major problem I have with the Prime games is that they completely gutted her personality. If they are working on a new Metroid game I hope they have figured out a way to make her more of a character than a blank slate which she was never intended to be.
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  • Avatar for aett #3 aett A year ago
    I had most of the Valiant comics as a kid, and I always really liked their version of Samus too, minus her obsession with Kevin. The taller the better, I say.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #4 donkeyintheforest A year ago
    There is a comic coming out right now called Sun Bakery (up to issue 3 i think this week) that is a collection of stories by the same artist-writer and one of them is a real fun and stylish Metroid rip-off/homage.

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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #5 LBD_Nytetrayn A year ago
    @lonecow In fairness, Nintendo doesn't make it easy. Retro wanted to play up the bounty hunting aspect in one game, and Nintendo was like "What? Samus wouldn't do what she does for profit!"
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #6 CK20XX A year ago
    @lonecow Actually I'd say the Prime games were fully consistent with her personality as it had been established at that point. The trick is to look at the game design and see what it suggests about her, from the way she logs information about native species and ancient relics, to the way she rides elevators with her canon at the ready instead of lazily at her side. She's been round the block a few times and knows that something could leap out at her at any moment.

    And really, that's how all games should strive to be. Let the game itself fill in the blanks whenever possible. Even Super Metroid did that when we annihilated Mother Brain with the Hyper Beam.
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  • Avatar for gadgetssai #7 gadgetssai A year ago
    samus is a silent guy and he is performing better than previous game. ha ha ha
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #8 NiceGuyNeon A year ago
    Samus doesn't need an overt personality and giving her one was the biggest mistake the series has made. Having her primarily as a silent protagonist with a few bits of character growth in Zero Mission and Fusion was fine, but Metroid 1-3 and the Prime trilogy did fine without her character constantly yapping about her feelings. I mean, there were things that came up in them from time to time, but what really makes Metroid tick?

    Exploring a vast alien world/space station (this is why Prime 3 sucked for focusing on twitch blasting) at your own pace. Samus needs to shut-up, be an Amazonian badass, and explore these alien worlds.

    I'm not saying all characters need to be like that, but that's what works best for Metroid. I don't want to see a comic, i don't need them to expand on her personality, just let me jump around in these worlds and discover nooks and crannies and secrets and giant bosses.

    Metroid 5 needs to happen before Prime 4, also, but I doubt we'll see another 2D Metroid.
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  • Avatar for PreposterousWhitey #9 PreposterousWhitey A year ago
    Great write-up, Nadia. I doubt I'll soon be able to stop thinking about the possibilities lost when this Archie series failed to get the green light. I don't personally like the mainline Mega Man games, but their comics for that franchise really captured my heart; the writing team showed a fantastic aptitude for fleshing out the barebones story aspects of the games. They even managed to keep the material kid-friendly, while throwing in enough easter eggs to keep the hardcore crowd satiated (so many deep cuts that made for great Wiki rabbithole sessions afterward).

    My heart flutters when imagining what they could have done with a series that has a more mature tone baked right in. And don't even get me started on how great it would have been when the eventual Sonic/Mega Man/Metroid crossover came to be. Might we have been graced with the glorious image of Ridley riding a three-seat tandem bike alongside Wily and Eggman?
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  • Avatar for yuberus #10 yuberus A year ago
    Thank you for reminding me that Valiant had such a great and uh, unsettling take on Samus.
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  • Avatar for Wellman2nd #11 Wellman2nd A year ago
    Samus can and should have a personality, it just can't be such a bad one we saw in Other M that takes away from the badass credentials she earned in previous games. She doesn't need to behave like a clone of Bayonetta or Dante cracking jokes or bitter and gruff like the various protagonists from Metal Gear Solid games, just be enjoyable to be around.
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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #12 KaiserWarrior A year ago
    @lonecow Samus had TONS of personality in the Prime games. It was just subtle and tastefully done. It was in the body language, in the way she carried herself -- the way she checked around rooms with the cannon up, ready for anything that might be lurking. The way she left the Luminoth at the end of Prime 2, with a confident stride and an afterthought-ish, "Eh, no big deal" wave on the way out.

    The reason a whole lot of people ascribe the same sort of personality to her is because that's the personality that was presented. It just wasn't outright stated with a text box.
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  • Avatar for Thad #13 Thad A year ago
    I'm a few years late to the party, but I've been checking out Tomb Raider '13 and I think it's a good example of what Other M was *trying* to do. It's possible to take a badass, loner action heroine, put her in a group setting, and depict her as scared, vulnerable, and uncertain, and have it come out as a positive, strong depiction that's consistent with her previous characterization -- but it sure isn't easy. Rhianna Pratchett and the rest of the TR team deserve a lot of respect and credit for being able to pull it off -- and I have some sympathy for the Other M team attempting something similar but coming up short.
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  • Avatar for Lonecow #14 Lonecow A year ago
    @KaiserWarrior Eh I can agree with that on Prime 3. I'll admit they gave her a little more personality because you got to see her out of the suit more, but I think you are looking into her animations way too much.

    If you want to see how to give a personality to a character who doesn't speak, look at what Nintendo does with Link in each game. In the Prime games, she mostly has as much personality as Gordon Freeman, which is zero.
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  • Avatar for Lonecow #15 Lonecow A year ago
    @LBD_Nytetrayn In all honesty, we can probably blame Miyamoto for cuts in Prime, since he hate that shit and he had more of a hands on with Prime than he usually does with Metroid. Hopefully they have more control now.
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