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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:
Geek Confidential: Echoes from the 21st Century
Lewis Shiner
Joe R. Lansdale
Tom Foxmarnick
Atomic Chili: The Illustrated Joe R. Lansdale
"Bob the Dinosaur Goes To Disneyland" comic
Doug Potter
Mysterius the Unfathomable
Afrodisiac
Buffalo Speedway
Recent Books of Interest
Mysterius the Unfathomable Written by Jeff Parker, Art by Tom Fowler (Wildstorm)
Mysterius the Unfathomable During the past decade, mainstream comics have taken themselves way too seriously. Thankfully, Parker and Fowler put the fun back in funny book. The ageless Mysterius, stage magician/conjurer/sorcerer, recruits a young alt-week newspaper reporter as his new sidekick after things run a muck at séance. The duo journey throughout the planes of existence and the equally strange worlds of modern day New York and Boston. Fowler's Jack Davis-inspired art perfectly complements Parker's goofy, societal-mocking tale. Complete with the extant portion of the "lost" 1930s text adventure from Diabolical Tales.

Afrodisiac by Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca (Adhouse)
Afrodisiac Rugg and Maruca survey the decades long existence of the baddest, black hero of them all, Afrodisiac. By using a variety of art styles and storytelling methods, the duo provide a fascinating chronicle of the changing superhero and the black identity in comics. The gorgeous volume includes covers (with coffee stains, creases, and random pen markings), toy advertisements, and even a promo for the animated series. Some of the stories are complete, some not. Through frequent origin changes -- Alan Deashler gets his powers from a deal with the devil, nuclear waste, an old beat up stick (his "pimp stick"), and a top secret government program (he was a skinny white kid before the experiments) -- and a wide of range of genres from adventure to super hero to horror to romance, Rugg and Maruca manage to craft a cohesive story in this extraordinary graphic novel.

Buffalo Speedway Volume 1 by Yehudi Mercado (SuperMercado)
Buffalo Speedway Volume 1 On June 17th 1994, the Rockets battle the Knicks in the NBA Finals, America hosts the World Cup, and OJ Simpson leads the LAPD on a slow speed chase. These events combine to create the perfect storm for Houston pizza delivery. That one day in a city of over 3 million people, everyone stays home, watches the TV, and orders pizza. Accurately compared to Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Clerks, and Do the Right Thing, Buffalo Speedway chronicles the unusual tribulations of the delivery drivers from Turbo Pizza, Houston's last independent pizza place. The talented Mercado's humorous observations and insights are only marred by the fact that this volume ends mid-story.

  Things have been a bit busy here at the Texas branch of Nexus Graphica. Rather than leave you without a new column, I'm presenting the first digital version of an essay that originally appeared in my 2003 collection Geek Confidential: Echoes from the 21st Century.  

Dancing with Inflatable Dinosaurs

  adapt v.t. To make suitable to requirements or conditions; adjust or modify fittingly.1

adaptation n. Something produced by adapting.2

 

Lewis Shiner showed me how to write a comic book script, and I decided the best way to practice was to translate a story I knew and loved for comics. One of my first comic scripts was an adaptation of Ray
Modern Perversity
Atomic Chili: The Illustrated Joe R. Lansdale
Bob the Dinosaur Goes To Disneyland
Bradbury's "Homecoming." Don't go looking for it. My adaptation only ever existed in script form and was never actually produced as a comic story. It was an interesting exercise (and one I recommend to any fledgling comic book writer). I learned a lot about the difference between prose and comic stories. How the pacing and story structures are different, the rhythm of good dialogue, determining which dialogue to keep and what to lose. Since comics are a visual medium, comic stories flow from image to image. This presented an interesting challenge for a poetic writer like Bradbury. I didn't keep the script, but I remember being pleased with the outcome.

It wasn't too soon afterwards that I got the chance to edit my first adaptation. Carlos Kastro adapted Lewis Shiner's disturbing love story "Scales" for my anthology Modern Perversity.3 I had no money for the creators, and knew that Shiner didn't have time to produce something original for me. Using an existing story in a new format was the perfect way to involve Shiner. Luckily for me, Kastro nailed the adaptation and ten years later, I'm still proud of that one.4 I learned a valuable lesson: one of the best way to include "name" talent when there is little or no money is to adapt something that already exists.

Many years passed before my chance to write my own adaptation came. A small press in California was producing the second issue of their horror anthology System Shock, and they asked Joe R. Lansdale if they could adapt his story "Pilots."5 Lansdale agreed, but on one condition -- he was to pick the adaptator. You can probably guess where this is going.

I adapted the story in nothing flat, then it was illustrated by Tom Foxmarnick.6 Lansdale felt the comic version was superior to the originally story. Talk about your compliment.

Lansdale so liked my views of his work that I went on to adapt three more stories and to edit Atomic Chili: The Illustrated Joe R. Lansdale. This Mojo Press book contained all of Lansdale's adaptations up to that point including a new one produced just for that volume.

My latest adaptation was "Bob the Dinosaur Goes To Disneyland." Originally planned for a never completed anthology, Lansdale and the artist Doug Potter allowed me to run it online at RevolutionSF while I was the fiction editor.

Lansdale calls this one of his "popcorn stories." Apparently, there is this batch of "potent" popcorn that Lansdale's wife Karen makes.7 He thinks she whips it up special when he is stuck and in need of an idea. When he eats the popcorn, he gets some of the weirdest dreams. Many of these became some of Lansdale's oddest stories including "Bob."

I wanted to adapt "Bob" since the first moment I laid eyes on it.8 The idea of an inflatable dinosaur coming to life and demanding that it goes to Disneyland is... well... absurd. And ludicrous. And pretty damn funny. It lends itself to the illustrated form.

As far as the Lansdale stories that I worked on, this one was fairly easy. As I recall, I wrote the script in a few hours as compared to "The Steel Valentine"9 which took me over a week. "Valentine" is a more layered story and is a fine example of the Edgar-winning crime writer that Lansdale was to become. It was difficult to capture the nuances of the story on a comics page. Artist Marc Erickson and I did just that, but it wasn't easy.

When Doug Potter finished illustrating "Bob," Lansdale had only one request. He asked we add the last sentence from the story. I'm not quite sure why I didn't use it in the adaptation, but Lansdale was correct. It read much better that way.

Be it as an editor or writer, the idea of working with a writer I admire and respect to develop their works into an illustrated form is challenging and fun. In all but one of my previous comic book anthologies10, I had at least one adaptation. I imagine future ones will as well.


1 Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd ed., s.v. "adapt"

2 Ibid, "adaptation"

3 The first anthology I edited. It was published by Blackbird comics in 1992.

4 I don't like everything I've edited or written. There are many occasions when I looked at something and wonder what the hell was I thinking?

5 Co-written with Dan Lowry

6 The second issue of System Shock never came out, so "Pilots" eventually appeared in Atomic Chili.

7 Karen claims there is nothing special about the popcorn and it's all in Lansdale's head.

8 "Godzilla's Twelve Step Program" is another Lansdale that screams to be adapted.

9 A Lansdale adaptation for Weird Business

10 The Big Bigfoot Book


Copyright © 2010 Rick Klaw

Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current, 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 can often be found pontificating on Twitter and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.


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