And now…back to our regularly scheduled program.
Working on the second issue of FF Tales right now, with solicit copy due on Monday, and really need to get some of my thoughts down at this point. The phrasing “recorded for posterity” is incredibly cliché, but I’m hoping it ultimately applies here, because the last eight weeks have been an absolute whirlwind, ranging from complete and total frustration, to its polar opposite that has two Marvel minis hitting in February, with my name attached to them. And a collection of the Youngblood: Genesis series from Arcade, with more supplemental material than the law allows. Not to mention that my mother’s birthday also falls in February. What is it called when a bunch of really cool stuff happens to you all at once?
Hard to believe that two months ago, I was nursing some post-convention scarring and talking that crazy talk about giving it all up, or putting it all on hold, or whatever it was I said in Resolve. But now, I’m figuring out how much Dr. Strange magic the kids can handle in one 22-page installment, before their little heads explode. This is after I’ve had the opportunity to introduce them to the Black Panther, mind you, which the index will tell you, that I’ve had an almost unhealthy fascination with over the last few years. There’s also a strong chance that I’ll have a shot at adapting a classic throw down between The Thing and the Hulk, before I’m through.
When an editor from Marvel first e-mailed about this, asking for samples from a group of prospects, I was sure it’d end up in someone else’s hands, mostly because of the actual scripts I sent in, that were quite a bit contrary to the Marvel Age mandate. They requested “most recent” and for me that meant creator-owned stuff, and a great possibility that the content and language were a bit unrestrictive. But thankfully, they got back to me, and asked that I hook up a small Spidey/Human Torch six-pager as an exercise. Seeing how this was the first time I’d “adapted” anything, I was very conscious of how much I’d be allowed to alter, but after running across this little Marvel Age Halloween Special, that contained Todd Dezago’s run at the same story, my notes didn’t look quite so “drastic.” Knocked it out, and crossed my fingers that I wasn’t pitching for something like Marvel Age Luke Cage, and on a Friday night after getting home from B Noble, there was an e-mail from the editor, offering me Marvel Age FF Presents The Thing.
It was another week before I found out that the origin of the Black Panther was slated as my inaugeral issue, and subsequently had a very sudden, yet potent, fanboy moment. An undeniable sensation of coolness that extended throughout the actual “adaptation” of the original Stan and Jack classic, and likely won’t wear off anytime soon.
No idea how everyone else handles these, but the initial concern was fitting two issues’ worth of story, into a much smaller 23-page frame, and obviously the first thing I did was read over the original two-parter several times, absorbing the nuances of the story, picking out what could remain as is, and what could stand some editing or revision. Similar to working from Busiek’s original plot for Genesis, it’s a balance between preserving the intent of the work, and injecting enough of myself in there to make it personal on some level.
Cut some scenes, dropped some characters, and wrote myself a little cheat sheet, drafting out the story’s main emotional beats into a two paragraph guide to keep it focused. Then got in there and expanded the scenes, scribbling everything into the notebook, pacing it out along the way, going as fast and as tight as possible. Still ended up writing over a little bit, and it’s always surprising just how quickly twenty-some pages can fill up, especially at the beginning, when it looks like there’s so much room.
Something I’m always trying to improve on is the economy of the page, because if there’s anything I’m overestimating, it’s exactly how much complicated action can fit on one page. With Marvel Age, that’s an even greater concern, because most of the books are designed to go directly into a digest format, that significantly decreases the amount of space allowed on any given page. So, while laying the story out, I’m trying to pare things down to essential actions and dialogue, because the typeface on the Marvel Age books is also larger, for those little impressionable eyes. This turns into a very detailed walkthrough, which describes the main actions on each page and clearly defines the scene breaks and transitions. At this point in my development, I always make sure that I’m doing this, especially when I’m working under deadline, because it allows me to go faster, and stops me from getting lost in the story.
I can do final scripting completely out of sequence, and know where and how everything fits together, but have enough room to change things on the fly. Getting a little more specific, the origin of the Black Panther had to be dispensed into a tiny 3-page scene right in the middle of the book, and it was giving me problems every time I sat down to script it out. Because of the notes, I was able to skip ahead and flesh out the final battle, and spend a little more time with the Panther, getting a better handle on his voice, which made it easier to write his narration over the origin scene. And I cheated little bits and pieces of the origin into the surrounding pages, to help some of the congestion.
Shades of Priest’s approach to the character are naturally all over the place, with T’Challa always six steps ahead of his opponents, a hyper developed and almost utopist Wakanda, and I even snuck a Marvel Age version of the Dora Milaje in there too. Can’t wait for the pages to come back, and hopefully come February, it’ll be a nice intro for some new folks, while still remaining enjoyable to those that have read the original stories. Chances are this isn’t the last I’ll mention of this here; but, you know, getting to handle the Black Panther in my first full size Marvel gig pretty much demanded some additional mention, even though I’m being careful not to give anything away. Right now though, I should get back to Dr. Strange before he gets too lonely…
As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll be back soon.