GrimBrother One: Can you talk overall about how the experience has been writing for Halo? What has made the experience unique compared to other work you’ve done?
Duffy Boudreau: First off, working with 343 has been great. Any time I have a question about some crazy detail—let’s say the top speed of a Harvester or something—they’ll have an answer for me. It’s also been fun working with them on big-picture story stuff, figuring out where each potential story fits in the overall Halo saga, what the implications are going to be on future events in the universe.
The most unique aspect of Halo, for me, is the massive amount of diehard fans. It’s a writer’s dream to have such an involved audience and I love the fact that Halo fans are split into these hardcore factions about how they feel about certain characters or major events in Halo history. That’s an aspect of Halo that really gets me going creatively.
GRIM: You’re absolutely right on the “die-hard fans” point, that’s for sure! So speaking of connecting back to the big picture, you’ve worked on four different story arcs for Halo: Escalation now, “The Janus Key” and “The Absolute Record” in particular have a special place in the fiction as they are in essence direct continuations of the Halo 4: Spartan Ops storyline. What type of preparation did you do to prepare for these specific arcs?
DUFFY: I revisited Spartan Ops a bunch. And with any story research, you start with the foundational material and you put on your viewer’s hat and ask yourself — “Where do I want to see the story go from here?”— and — “What questions need to be answered for all this great stuff to be paid off?” You start making a list, then you’re rolling.
I also took a look back at some Forerunner history, to cover The Librarian’s involvement in the story. Even though she’s not physically present, she’s the one who set everything in motion, so her intentions are definitely affecting the main conflict.
GRIM: I think that fans certainly appreciate the commitment to investing in the established fiction. On the other side of the coin, we see Halo: Escalation not just looking back, but looking forward. In “The Glass Horizon,” we got to experience the origin story of Spartan-IV Holly Tanaka, who players will become even more familiar with throughout Halo 5: Guardians. Can you speak to the process of helping introduce a character like that, helping to give a foundation for them within an entirely different medium?
DUFFY: It’s a big responsibility to introduce a character like Tanaka, but that’s the most exciting thing. Knowing fans of hers are going to go back and discover it—and it better be good, you know? Part of “The Glass Horizon” that’s interesting to me is that Tanaka is such a stoic and reserved person that she’s not going to be telling this story to many people, so it’s kind of like a secret history. Sure, in Part One she tells her colleagues part of the story — but that’s for a very specific reason, she’s trying to spur them to action. But she’s not the type of person I see telling that same story at the bar or something.
The medium part of the question is a good one, but honestly, I don’t really think of it being any different. There are some logistical differences, but I try to tell the same stories in the comics that we’d all want to see on the screen. Comics are a primarily visual medium, and the best of them—my favorites anyway—are the ones that are most cinematic in terms of storytelling. So that’s what we were hoping to achieve, that readers imagining “The Glass Horizon” unfolding in front of them in this epic way, because while the story is more intimate and personal, those landscapes are still vast and mythic.
GRIM: We can totally agree there! On the subject of interesting characters, many fans have actually started to latch on to the character of Ayit ‘Sevi, who we first met in the “Exposure” story arc, but has now become a pivotal character within “The Absolute Record.” Can you talk a bit about his development?
DUFFY: I’m happy to hear fans are latching onto him because developing Ayit has been one of my favorite parts of working with Halo. I was thinking a lot about Sangheili culture and how it manifests itself in these different post-war factions, how it’s coming to terms with its historically subordinate—relative to its real power and potential—role within the Covenant. Collectively, the Sangheili are asserting themselves… but what happens now if an individual Sangheili starts going down that road? Becomes a total mercenary? Of course, this individual has to be an anomaly within that culture, a real outlier. And Ayit, should his real character ever be known in that community, would be considered a sociopath by their standards—the very traits that make him more “human” are condemned in his native culture.
It’s for this reason—that nobody really knows what to do with him, or how to handle him—that he’s so fun to write. The idea of Thorne having to partner up with him so fresh off their tussle during “Exposure” entertained me to no end. We’ll see how long those two make it together…
GRIM: Heh, were it so easy! Changing gears a bit, do you have a favorite piece of Halo fiction other than what you’ve worked on? Is it a game, a book, something else entirely?
DUFFY: That’s a tough one. There’s so much Halo fiction out there that I dove into and inspired what I was doing, so it’s hard to single-out one work… Lately, I’ve really dug Hunt the Truth. It’s a really unique format—Ben Giraud’s audio journal combined with all this other media. The voice-work in there is amazing: Keegan Michael-Key, Cobie Smulders, Kumail Nanjiani, Phil Lamar, and, of course, Stacy Keach! Everyone needs to go listen to that.
GRIM: Couldn’t agree with you more there. One last thing, what is one thing you hope fans take away from your work in the Halo universe?
DUFFY: I just hope that the struggles and personalities of these characters that I’ve dealt with in my work on Halo—Tanaka, Ayit, Palmer, Jul, and Halsey—continue to resonate with fans as the story of Halo grows. And that new generations of Halo fans will come in to this world and connect with these characters. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.
GRIM: It is indeed. Thanks so much for joining us today, and for the passion you pour into the Halo universe!