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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

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Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Sterling North
The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare And How It Changed America
Classics Illustrated
Classics Illustrated Junior
First Comics
Jack Lake Productions
Papercutz
Marvel Classic Comics #14: The War Of The Worlds
H. G. Wells
War of the Worlds
Yong Montano
Ray Bradbury
World Unknown
Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed
EC
Conan in comics
Robert E. Howard
DC Science Fiction Graphic Novel
Marvel Illustrated
Raymond E. Feist
Raymond Feist's Magician Apprentice
Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card at Marvel
Laurel K. Hamilton
Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter graphic novels
George R. R. Martin
George R. R. Martin's Hedge Knight II
Dabel Brothers Productions
Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: Prodigal Son
Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files
George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards
Del Rey
Dark Wraith of Shannara
Bookscan
In Odd We Trust
Outlander graphic novel
Del Rey manga
The Lone Ranger
City of Others
Biff-Bam-Pow!
Recent Books of Interest

The Lone Ranger by Brett Matthews (writer) and Sergio Cariello (artist) (Dynamite) The Lone Ranger
This handsome volume once again relates the origin of the famed lawman. Using ideas expressed in the 1990s Joe R. Lansdale-penned Lone Ranger comic, Matthews wisely views Tonto and not the eponymous hero as the brains of the duo. Cariello's art effectively captures the period in a realistic manner. Complete with gorgeous John Cassaday covers and designs, this book successfully introduces the mythic western hero for a new generation of fans.

City of Others by Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson (Dark Horse) City of Others
After a decade, the legendary horror artist, Wrightson returns to what his bio calls "his favorite medium." He co-creates (with writer Niles) and draws the adventures of the remorseless killer Stosh Bludowski. The protagonist encounters a race of vampires and zombies called the Other, who exist to defeat an even more nefarious immortal. Characters with no emotions are very difficult to write and Niles doesn't rise to the occasion. Thankfully, Wrightson's art, magnificently colored by José Villarrubia, screams off the gruesome, often blood-splattered pages.

Biff-Bam-Pow! #1 by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer (Amaze Ink/ SLG) Biff-Bam-Pow!
The husband-and-wife team, taking time away from their television-writing careers, produces some of the most entertaining and goofy comics being published today. With stories starring One Punch Goldberg, Kid Blastoff, Billy Vs. Super-Rad, and Nutsy Monkey, Dorkin and Dyer explore different aspects of comicdom and society, always with their tongues planted firmly in cheek. Rendered in an animated, almost classical cartoon style, the stories in Biff-Bam-Pow offer chuckles galore.


Of Adaptations and Mushroom Growth

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare And How It Changed America

On May 8, 1940, The Chicago Daily News published Sterling North's influential condemnation of comic books "A National Disgrace (And a challenge to American Parents)." As recounted in David Hadju's The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare And How It Changed America (Farrar, Straus And Giroux, 2008), North calls comics "a poisonous mushroom growth," calling upon parents and educators to "break the 'comics' magazines." And those who don't would be "guilty of criminal negligence." He claims that "the antidote to the 'comic' magazine poison can be found in any library or good bookstore." I wonder what North would think that in 2008 most libraries and bookstores gladly sell "these lurid publications" and that the line between prose and comics literature has never been closer.

The first and perhaps most famous line devoted to exclusively bridging the perceived intellectual chasm between prose literature and comics, Classics Illustrated produced graphic versions of classic stories. Published between 1941 and 1971,1 these graphic stories set the standard for comic book literary adaptation. A second title was spun out of the successful series. Featuring fairy tales and folk tales for younger readers, Classics Illustrated Junior ran for 77 issues from 1953 to 1971. Many of the top names in the field worked on these comics including Jack Abel, Dik Browne, Jack Kirby, Reed Crandall, Gray Morrow, Roy Krenkel, Graham Ingels, and Al Williamson. In 1990, First Comics, producing original adaptations, and then in 1997 Acclaim, reprinting the original series in digest size complete with reference notes, attempted to resurrect the long defunct Classics Illustrated. Both endeavors failed financially. Recently Canadian publisher Jack Lake Productions revived the Junior line and, in the US, Papercutz began producing original adaptations as pocket-sized books under the Classics Illustrated banner.

For me, the intertwining of the mediums began in 1976 when I bought Marvel Classic Comics #14, my first exposure to H.G. Wells' legendary novel The War of the Worlds. Attracted by the dynamic Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum cover, the Chris Claremont script, and outstanding Yong Montano art thrilled my eight-year-old mind. Even before I had read one of his prose books, H.G. Wells became and remains one of my favorite authors.

Of course not all comic adaptations fall within the so-called literary canon. The EC interpretations of classic Ray Bradbury tales leap to mind. As a teenager, I recall reading these versions even as I devoured his prose works such as The Martian Chronicles and The October Country. It wasn't until a few months ago thanks to Brian Cronin's informative column Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed that I learned the truth behind the EC tales. In the March 13, 2008 column, Cronin revealed all.2
The situation began in 1951, when William Gaines and Al Feldstein, in a rush to come up with an original story for one of their numerous magazines, decided to simply swipe a Ray Bradbury story.

The story, "A Strange Undertaking...," a swipe of Bradbury's "The Handler," appeared in Haunt of Fear #6.

Feldstein did a couple more swipes after that, but it was one he did in 1952's Weird Fantasy #13 that caught Ray Bradbury's eye (and, presumably, a bit of his ire). Bradbury, however, decided to play it a different way, by sending the following brilliant letter to Gaines in 1952:
Just a note to remind you of an oversight. You have not as yet sent on the check for $50.00 to cover the use of secondary rights on my two stories THE ROCKET MAN and KALEIDOSCOPE... I feel this was probably overlooked in the general confusion of office work, and look forward to your payment in the near future.
Gaines was no fool -- he quickly sent the money, along with a cordial response, and pretty soon, Bradbury was authorizing EC Comics to do OFFICIAL adaptations of his stories, and that became a draw for their science fiction titles, so long as they lasted.

Talk about a diplomatic way for Bradbury to handle a potentially ugly situation.
Conan the Barbarian
In Odd We Trust

Since the 50s, numerous publishers have produced science fiction, fantasy, and horror adaptations. Perhaps the best known and most successful prose-to-comics series was Marvel's Conan the Barbarian, which helped launch Robert E. Howard's legendary hero into the public consciousness. In recent years, Dark Horse acquired the license and rejuvenated the tired character. During the 70s and 80s, industry leaders DC and Marvel both offered lines devoted to sf and fantasy interpretations.3 Currently, Marvel once again publishes a variety of classic4 and contemporary5 prose works in comic book editions, though often with a new twist. Prose writers such as Laurel K. Hamilton and George R.R. Martin both contribute original graphic-only tales set in their individual established universes: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter and Songs of Fire and Ice, respectively.

Since 2001, the Dabel Brothers Productions (DB Pro) adapted literary works by Orson Scott Card, Raymond E. Feist, Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, Richard A. Knaak and Robert Silverberg, putting them at the forefront of the prose-to-comics business. Founded by four brothers, they hire creative personal and then use established publishers to distribute the material. In November 2007, the Dabel Brothers announced a distribution deal with Del Rey for three franchises: Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, and George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards.

This arrangement further established Del Rey's already prominent role as the sf industry leader in this regard. Editor-in-chief Betsy Mitchell described teaming up with the Dabels "as a natural extension of the many illustrated projects, Del Rey has already published and the graphic novel adaptations they currently have in the pipeline." Last March, Del Rey released their first original graphic novel, Dark Wraith of Shannara, written by Terry Brooks and adapted by Robert Napton.6 June will see the release of the Dean Koontz and Queenie Chan, manga-style prequel to Koontz's Odd Thomas series, In Odd We Trust. Future original graphic novels include a Diana Gabaldon-scripted Outlander tale and an adaptation that Mitchell couldn't announce yet but confidently promises that "it will blow you away." On top of that, Del Rey's manga line, in a joint venture with Marvel, is producing a manga-influenced original Wolverine graphic novel. Mitchell, a long time sf prose editor, views this next stage in science fiction story telling with optimism. "The graphic novel enable tales to be told in a new and exciting way. They appeal to those [book] fans who have always enjoyed comics and appreciate the visual method of storytelling."


1 Original material stopped in 1962 with #167 Faust.

2 http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/03/13/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-146/ Accessed May 29, 2008.

3 Most famously, Marvel's World Unknown (8 issues, 1973-1974) and Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction (seven issues, 1975-1976) and the DC Science Fiction Graphic Novel series (seven volumes, 1985-1987).

4 Under the Marvel Illustrated line.

5 Raymond E. Feist's Magician Apprentice and Orson Scott Card's Red Prophet and Wyrms.

6 Debuting at #5 on the Bookscan graphic novel bestseller list.

Copyright © 2008 Rick Klaw

Rick Klaw produced four years of the popular monthly SF Site column "Geeks With Books", and supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including, The Austin Chronicle, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews, and other things Klaw, Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century.

He currently blogs at The Geek Curmudgeon and Dark Forces.


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