Waxing uncomically about comics

This has been a graphic year for me, and I'm not just talking about when I'll be giving birth in August. 2011 will see two of my series transcending mere words and becoming comics and graphic novels. My Dark Swan series, starting with Storm Born, will be released in single comic issues before eventually being bound and sold as a set. Issue 1 comes out next Wednesday, May 18, and I'm pretty excited.

The first book of my Vampire Academy series is also being turned into a graphic novel and will be released as one complete book on August 23. Subsequent books in the series will be released later, and in that crazy way publishing works, we're already developing and adapting Frostbite (book 2) before book 1 is even out.

I've done a lot of interviews for both of these projects, and I'm constantly asked about any problems or difficulties along the way. I don't know if it's just something crazy and unique to me, but everything's been great. I've had no drama to report and always end up turning the interviews into big ol' lovefests.

I can definitely see the potential for problems, though. In both cases, I chose not to write the scripts. It just wasn't anything I had time for, and I was sure there were others who could do a better job than me. What this means is that both books were left in the hands of others to adapt, and as we all know, adapting requires cutting. It's a fact of life whether you're turning a book into a comic or into a movie or into some other medium. It simply isn't possible to include every single detail from the original novel. As an author, you have to let go of the idea that every word, every aside, and every quirky description you've created is golden. The story will go on without those things. You also have to keep track of the balance of action and exposition. Too much of the latter doesn't work in comics. That being said, there's also the danger of wielding the adaptation knife so fiercely that key things get slashed--like seemingly innocent comments and moments that are clues to huge plot developments later in the book (or series).

I've been fortunate with both projects to have good script writers who read the books with a careful eye and did a great job in assessing what stayed and what went. Going along with that, I was also able to see the scripts along every stage of development. So, in the rare times something was erroneously deleted or added, I was able to point it out and get things fixed. Everyone was very easy-going and open to feedback--and the same was true for the art as well. See? Didn't I warn you about the lovefest?

What's been truly fascinating about all of this is seeing what a different art form the comic/graphic novel genre is. A picture really is worth a thousand words. I can spend an entire paragraph describing how someone thought a particular comment was ridiculous, emphasizing his sneer and "look of disbelief" in his eyes. Then--an artist can convey that exact sentiment with one small panel. It's amazing and beautiful in its simplicity.

As a professional writer and lover of language, I of course think nothing will ever truly replace the original novel. Those long paragraphs of description can convey beats and emotions that pictures can't. And that's why it's so cool to have all these adaptations. Each version offers something amazing. At heart, I'm a storyteller, and every new format gives a new perspective into that story and the characters. A graphic novel version makes the story more multidimensional and more accessible to those who might have shied away.

Also, it just looks really cool.

Volume 1 of Storm Born goes on sale May 18 and will be available through comic book stores or in very limited quantities at University Bookstore. The bound edition will be sold in regular bookstores this fall. The Vampire Academy graphic novel goes on sale August 23 and will also be available through regular bookstores.


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