Some characters from comics get novelized (Superman, Batman, Hellboy) some characters from prose fiction get the four-color treatment (Anita Blake, Harry Dresden). Which characters who haven’t crossed over from one of these medias to the other would you like to see make that jump?
I think the really obvious answer for crossing from novels to comics would be to bring in properties like Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Not only would it be very fun to see those beloved characters and fascinating and expansive worlds in the hands of some talented comic book creators but adaptations with fan bases that large could potentially bring a ton of new readers to comics. Comics are such a brilliant medium, and having more people discover that by following a property they already love is a great way to expand our readership base and encourage a real love of comics. Not everyone that picks up a Harry Potter comic would branch out and try other comics of course, but that’s a huge audience and you’re going to pick up a percentage. I’m all about expanding the comics readership!
I think the less obvious answer, but books I’d personally be super invested in would be Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Both are super creative and wonderfully weird with incredible world building and characters and would make great graphic novels, with the right creators of course.
Comics to prose is honestly a stranger question to me as it somehow feels less natural — perhaps because I feel the same way about novelizations of movies? But there have certainly been some great ones (Greg Rucka’s No Man’s Land novel is brilliant). I suppose the comics I’d be most interested in seeing make that leap would be less direct adaptations or novelizations and more spinoffs that could make the best use of underused characters. Saga would be a great example of a comic that would be ideal for that. Saga is a magnificent comic book but it’s also got so many rich unexplored characters simply due to panel time constraints. I’d read a novel about almost any of the fantastic characters Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have created in Saga.
I’d also read the hell out of a modern/updated “Nancy Drew” style of book staring Gotham Academy’s mystery-solving maps-loving Mia “Maps” Mizoguchi. Yeah, sign me up for a whole series of those. Even better if they can use a choose your own adventure format and a couple illustrations of some of her maps that relate to whatever madcap crime-solving adventure she’s on. In fact, someone call me to write this book!
COMICS TO PROSE – From comics to prose, I can think of no more interesting character than Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. This comic series from Vertigo Books (DC Comics) follows the trials and tribulations of Morpheus and his siblings, Destiny, Death, Delight, Destruction, Delirium, and Despair, collectively known as The Endless. This family is charged with administering the workings of all existence. But even the all powerful have to contend with those who find loopholes in the rules of creation. The Endless are a pantheon unto themselves, the stuff of legend, and as we’ve seen with the novel American Gods, Mr. Gaiman handles mythos in prose as well as any writer today.
Dream is top of mind these days because of the brilliant Overture series that recently concluded, and though I love the art work that comes with a great Sandman graphic novel, I think the character has enough depth to transition to prose.
PROSE TO COMICS – From prose to comic I would love to see Glen Cook’s Chronicles of the Black Company illustrated. I envision a dark and gritty drawing style similar to Neal Adams’ and John Buscema’s black and white work for The Savage Sword Of Conan Magazine in the 1970s.
The Chronicles of the Black Company follows a group of dog soldiers, the very ones every despot hires to fight his enemies and clear out villages. The Black Company is the last of the Free Companies of Khatovar, a group of sell-swords that rent themselves out to the highest bidder. Now, they’ve fallen into the employ of The Lady, a sorceress of great power bent on dominating the world. Except, some of the leaders of the company have developed a conscience, and they secretly decide to aid the rebels from right under The lady’s nose. The villains are a gaggle of powerful sorcerers called The Taken, under The Lady’s control. With names like: The Limper, The Howler, Soul Catcher, The Dominator; this story is packed with the kinds of classic battles and exotic locales perfect for a visual four-color epic.
Well from Comics to Prose I’d love to see a good novelization of Jean Grey/Marvel Girl. I was a huge X-Men fan as a kid and Jean Grey was my absolute favorite character. You could say, in a way, that her story is really the backbone story of all the X-books. She starts off as one of Professor X’s original students, if not the inspiration for the school in the first place. Then we go from a teen girl’s romance with Scott Summers/Cyclops, the more mature woman’s love triangle with Cyclops & Wolverine, into the entire Phoenix/Dark Phoenix story arc, her sacrifice to save the universe, then the fact that while she was “dead” Cyclops married her clone and had a child with it! Then she pops out of a pod in the sea (the first of a dozen or more resurrections to come) and immediately looks at how screwed up the world has become and tries to carry on Xavier’s mission with X-Factor. She faces down the clone, saves Scott’s child and adopts it — a stepmother story in a way only the X-Men could do it — then spends a lifetime in the future raising it. Then she gets zapped back to the present. After all this, after all this service and dedication and putting others in front of herself, Scott has a traumatic possession experience and then can’t deal with how strong and moral and just plain good his wife is, so he starts cheating on her with Emma Frost. And she doesn’t even get a chance to process it, immediately she’s dragged down into the fastest death/resurrection loop in the history of comics (I mean really, Marvel, annual Jean Grey resurrections are a bit too much, give the girl a break. Trot out a Phoenix storyline once every 5 years, make us wait for it.)
That’s enough material for a dozen books, yet throughout all this, you really don’t get a lot of Jean’s internal thoughts, her motivations, her personal philosophy. What keeps her so dedicated to Xavier’s cause even beyond Xavier’s own dedication. What did it feel like to deal with so many copies of yourself running around – how the hell do you wrestle with defining your own identity? That’s depth you can only get in prose.
As for a Prose Character I’d love to see adapted to Comics I have to say I’d love to see Georgia and Shaun Mason from Mira Grant’s “Newsflesh” books in sequential treatment. The pacing of those books is so fast, and an inventive artist would have a field day with breaking down the scenes into panels. Meanwhile the whip-smart political commentary would be fabulous as a more serious graphic novel. Almost a cross between Transmetropolitan and The Walking Dead with a little Mad Max thrown in. The author already writes fantastic snappy dialogue between the characters, especially Georgia and Sean, and it would be interesting to see the blog posts translated into graphic novel treatment. Man, now you’re killing me, I really want to buy a FEED graphic novel now.
My answer is ambitious in scope because I’ve always been jealous of Star Wars fans who have the entire extended universe of novels in which to immerse themselves, an entire franchise made up of writers imagining all the forgotten nooks and crannies of the worlds through which the Force pervades. I long for an equivalent franchise for the magical world of the DC Universe (though Cosmic Marvel runs a close second in my list of imaginary franchises). Even though Neil Gaiman and Ed Kramer have already edited a collection of stories entitled The Sandman: Book of Dreams (1996), one anthology does not a franchise make. This franchise I am imagining would take its lead from this one Sandman anthology and would include countless novels and other anthologies in which the world of the Sandman is explored as thoroughly as the Star Wars Universe has been. And along with these Sandman books being dropped as if they were a pebble in a still pond, I imagine further fictional realms rippling out ring-like to include titles about the Swamp Thing and John Constantine; Madame Xanadu and Merlin; The Spectre, Dr. Fate, and the Phantom Stranger; Jason Blood and his demonic self, Etrigan; The Houses of Mystery and Secrets, as well as their Biblical owners, Cain and Abel; Raven and Etrigan; the Wizard Shazam and those with whom he has shared his power, Shazam! and Black Adam; and an entire host of other characters from Deadman, Zatanna, and Zatara to Eclipso, Felix Faust, Wotan, and Klarion the Witchboy. No character would be forbidden a creative and ambitious writer’s plans for her fiction: She could have the Endless from Sandman deal not only with an AWOL Lucifer and the chain-smoking Constantine, but also with Nightshade and Black Alice. Ragman would be as likely to show up as Circe from mythology, Merlin from the tales of Camelot, Titania from the world of Faerie, or the angels from Christian theology, all characters who have graced the pages of DC in the past. And through it all would run the Lords of Chaos and Order that already have been liberally borrowed by DC from the worlds of Elric and other eternal champions created by Michael Moorcock. In fact, I think Moorcock should be selected to team-up with Neil Gaiman to start the franchise. Gaiman could pen the tales of Dream and his siblings while Moorcock, who might be begged if necessary, would include Elric and company in this new magical DCU franchise! One can dream, can’t he?
From prose to comics:
- Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther (from the “Berlin Noir” trilogy and its follow-ups) would make a great noir hero, drawn by either Michael Lark or Steve Epting. Probably interiors by Lark, covers by Epting. Gunther is a hardboiled Chandleresque Nazi-hating good-guy German cop doing his best to remain ethical in Nazi Germany and its aftermath. Ed Brubaker could write the adaptations.
- I’d love to see Gene Wolfe’s Latro from the Soldier novels rendered by either Eric Shanower or J.H. Williams III. With Grant Morrison adapting.
- It would be great fun to have Melinda Gebbie portray Jherek Carnelian and the other denizens from Michael Moorcock’s End of Time in a series of new stories. With Moorcock himself on scripts.
- I’d be thrilled to see Kim Newman tackle comics, with a series focusing on his pulp-fuelled, politically problematic (intentionally so) Dr. Shade, who appears in several of his stories and novels in various incarnations. With David Lloyd on art.
From comics to prose:
Here I’ll take an even more personal approach. As a writer, which adaptations would I like to tackle? (Outside of the ones who have already been done … for example, I would love to write either Batman or Superman and put my stamp on the mythos, but they don’t quite fit the brief of this Mind Meld.)
- The Legion of Super-Heroes. I’d skew them young – from twelve to fifteen – and emphasize the political issues of agency and childhood. And then go crazy with weird powers and even weirder planets and completely outlandish alien cultures.
- Hawkeye. He’s always been my favourite Marvel character. I feel great affection for Clint, not the bland Ultimate or MCU version, but the real, original self-destructive rebel without a cause Clint Barton. One of the few people (and the one who does it best) able to stand up to Steve Rogers and call him on it when he’s wrong – and be right about it. (Which is saying a lot, because one of the characteristics of Steve Rogers is that he’s always right.)
- The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. I’ve always been intrigued by Wally Wood’s ill-fated superhero UN task force from the 1960s. There’s great potential for a Mad Men-flavoured, politically charged, and utterly gonzo conspiracy thriller with this material.
- 1970s Jack Kirby. Give me the New Gods, Kamandi, The Demon, O.M.A.C., Manhunter, Kobra, Black Panther, Devil Dinosaur, The Eternals, and Machine Man to play with – and I will have the time of my life. There are more ideas to riff of off in any 1970s Kirby comics issue than there are in most people’s entire series of novels.
First and foremost, I’d love to see Black Widow (Natalia Romanova/Natasha Romanoff) transition from comics to prose; I know Margaret Stohl wrote a YA novel recently which features Natasha Romanoff as a secondary character, but I’d like to see a novel which places her front-and-center and explores her background, her motivations, and all the complicated issues which make her so fascinating. There are a lot of factors that inform her as a character: Cold War politics, modern espionage, and the cultural divide between the U.S.S.R./Russia and the U.S.A.; current comics writers have been exploring her agency as a woman who historically has been sidelined in favor of her male counterparts. I’d love to have the chance to pick up a novel and immerse myself in her head.
Second, though she’s already made the transition from prose to comics, I’d like to see Red Sonja make the transition back to prose. Gail Simone, in particular, has proven that Red Sonja can be written in a way which doesn’t solely rely on her identity as “belligerent lady in a sexy chainmail bikini,” and the character’s origin in Robert E. Howard’s short story “The Shadow of the Vulture” leaves much to be desired in so many respects. I think it would be refreshing to read a collection or anthology of short stories which honor the intended fun of swords-and-sorcery and feature a take-no-prisoners heroine while updating and modernizing the elements of that genre.
As far as prose-to-comics goes, I’d nominate any of Ursula Vernon’s short fiction: “Jackalope Wives,” its sequel “The Tomato Thief,” “Wooden Feathers,” etc. She writes with a tremendous gift for description which doesn’t bog down the narrative, and the small details she includes in her prose help to create fully-realized worlds. Best of all, she’s an excellent artist, and could draw the panels herself!
(Had anyone asked me this question a year ago, I’d include Lois Lane on the comics-to-prose list, but Gwenda Bond’s doing a great job of filling that niche!)
There have been a few exceptional cross-medium transplants, like John Shirley’s Hellblazer books, and Kevin Anderson’s Last Days of Krypton. It could be argued that the benchmarks are the assorted adaptations of the Elric, including the spectacular one by Julien Blondel and Robin Recht for Titan Books.
A close second would be the DC adaptations of SF classics like Merchants of Venus, Sandkings, and Nightwings.
Graphic adaptations of long-lived series like The Dark Tower and Song of Ice and Fire suffer from trying to cram the scope of the story into monthly installments. I would love to see comic versions of Peter Hamilton’s Commonwealth series, or S. Andrew Swann’s Apotheosis trilogy, but such sprawling tableaus with that many characters would not translate well in a monthly format. The only feasible way to keep up narrative momentum would be to do it as a weekly e-comic (which DC has gotten pretty good at), or to produce a whole line of crossover titles. The investiture of talent and effort might prove prohibitive. Remember Crossgen’s attempt to build a universe from whole cloth? All it would take is one late-running storyline for the whole thing to unravel.
Jenn Bissette’s Elysium would make an interesting comic. Its tight focus would benefit from a visual layer to illustrate the subtle changes the characters, and the city, go through during the course of the story.
Mike Resnick’s Santiago stories would make an excellent anthology comic with a variety of artists and writers. The same goes for the Stainless Steel Rat.
The comic-to-prose translation is tougher, because it can only work if the story is improved by the subtraction of visuals. Imagine the challenge of writing, say, a Plastic Man story complete with descriptions of the shape-shifting visual puns. Similarly, so many comics rely on grand vistas and illustrative kinetics to provide eye-candy. I would posit that there are no prose equivalents to the page-turn reveal, or the splash page.
That leaves us with more character driven tales, such as the aforementioned Hellblazer. Both Fables and The Unwritten might work. I would be curious to see prose versions of comics known for their relative wordlessness, like Moebius’ Arzach, or Koike and Kojima’s Lone Wolf & Cub.
Now, if anyone can think of a way to use prose projects to severely reduce the number of future comics drawn by Greg Land or Rob Liefield…
There’ve been a few comics already give the novel treatment, such as Wayne of Gotham, by Tracy Hickman, which explores the relationship and ties between Bruce Wayne and his father, Thomas, and really what it means to be a Wayne in Gotham. Peter David wrote several novels using Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Wolverine throughout the years. And who could forget the august and award worthy novelization of Howard the Duck (movie, not the comic) from 1986? Other than those, I have a few thoughts…
First – Larry Hama’s Snake Eyes from the 80’s G.I. Joe comic. Hama is a master storyteller. His run on G.I. Joe remains one of the highlights from Marvel, in my humble opinion. I think a true prose exploration of the character would be fascinating – and challenging for the writer given that Snake Eyes does not speak (due to vocal chords that were damaged saving Scarlett from a crashed helicopter). How would it work? Would it be a first person narrative where the main POV character doesn’t speak, but we still ‘hear’ the words in his head? Would it be from the POV of Scarlett? Whom Snake-Eyes loves and would do just about anything for? Or, what if it were turned on its head, and the entire thing took place from the point of view of Storm Shadow, Snake’s pseudo/adopted brother. Tons of possibilities there for a great read.
Second – Saga. Imagine Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ masterpiece as a sprawling, massive space opera novel (or series of novels?). Alana and Marko on the run, chased by both the Wreathers and the Landfallians. I’d buy that. ‘Nuff said.
Third – you tend to have very similar characters across different comics publishers who pop up. This is based solely on the idea that stealing is the sincerest form of flattery (please don’t steal other people’s characters). It’s why we have both Superman and Captain Marvel, for example. With that in mind, there are a lot of characters who follow the same sort of detective models or molds, where they feel quite the same except for this one thing. Some have super powers, some don’t, but they’re all driven by this insatiable need to find the truth. The Question (Denny O’Neil version) comes to mind. I could see a noir-esque novel, following the exploits of investigative journalist Vic Sage turned obsessed vigilante as The Question, really striking a chord with readers, especially if given a modern-day facelift to include Anonymous-like groups out there in the world, hacking the web and feeding him information and his need to find the truth…