Adapting to Comics with Richard Fox
Late last year, fellow sci fi writer Jon Del Arroz approached me about adapting my Ember War novel into a comic book. He’d picked up one of my books after IRON DRAGOONS won the Dragon Award for Best Military Sci Fi novel, and noted that THE EMBER WAR was structured in a cinematic fashion and lended itself easily to the comic book medium. I was inclined to say yes, as Jon had a distributor lined up and knew how to write the script for the artists. But what was I to do? I’ve sold almost 90,000 copies of that story across all mediums…would it translate to comics?
And did I want to step into the comic realm? While I was mulling the offer over, I went to the graphic novel section of my local Barnes and Nobles, looking for a military science fiction or space novel type story like The Ember War and I didn’t find a thing. Mostly super heroes and Anime. Why not bring my kind of a story to the shelves?
Now, I’ve read comics since I was just a lad. I grew up on Wolverine and X-Men. The Age of Apocalypse books were some of my favorites. But did reading a lot of comics mean I knew what went into making a comic?
Nope! My sum total of knowledge of how a comic got made revolved around what I remember from Chasing Amy (Tracer!)
I started my writing career off with movie screen plays, and when Jon sent over the first script, I was a bit surprised. Comics are a visual medium. Novels are prose that plays out in the reader’s mind. I expected it to be done a lot differently than what I wrote. Entire chapters went by in a few pages. A long space battle was done in a few script panels explaining how the battle flowed.
It was then that I realized just how vital the artist was to the process. How was the artist going to faithfully recreate characters like Hale and Elias and the strike carrier Breitenfeld? Then I realized just how long it takes an artist to draw an issue (and the Ember War comic will be 5 issues). Then it has to be inked (tracer!), colored, then someone ads in all the dialog bubbles and POW! KA-BLAMS!
There are many more hands that work a comic than one of my novels. My books are me, the cover artist and 2-3 editors. I have the final say to every proposed change. What people read is exactly what I want out there.
The comic…the comic is different. Jon Del Arroz had to talk me off the ledge a few times about why a book scene had to get changed or dropped because we ran out of pages that issue. Or why that awesome bit of dialog I wrote had to get chopped down because comic dialog bubbles are only so big.
Then I described how characters look, how the Armor is designed, the bad guy Xaros drones and what came back was a pleasant surprise. Good thing, as I don’t know how to draw. An editor can try and re-word a passage and I can fume about how I meant it that way, darn it. But if the artist gives us something that isn’t the way I envisioned it…tough luck. If I want it just the way I want, I better learn to draw. So the transition from prose novel to graphic novel involves a degree of letting creative control go. There are incredibly talented individuals out there who can do a complete comic all on their own. I’m not one of them.
I haven’t kicked my feet up onto my desk during the process of bringing The Ember War to the comic medium. I’ve had extensive back and forths with Jon over scripts, often explaining why a certain thing has to be just so because of what will happen six novels later.
Things have progressed to the point where the comic is humming along. Now we’ve started an IndieGoGo campaign to bring the finished product to market with some truly awesome perks:
Readers can get the graphic novel in digital, softback, hardback and in an illustrated version of the novel.
Posters and prints of exclusive art from Batman artist Graham Nolan.
A Breitenfeld challenge coin.
And much more! Take a gander at the IndieGoGo campaign, see the art for yourself, and back the project if it’s something you’d like. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-ember-war-graphic-novel