Hey there, kids! Leigh Butler here. As I said, no Wheel of Time Re-read post today, but I DO have some yummy carbtastic WOT goodness for you to consume in the meantime. Behold!
So, as you may or may not (but probably “may”) have heard, the Dabel Brothers (the same guys who brought us the soon-to-be-completed comic adaptation of New Spring), have set their sights on bigger game, and as of this past Wednesday, May 20th, have released #0 of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time: Eye of the World, the comic adaptation of that novel series you may have heard me talk about once or twice. You know, in passing.
Accordingly, we thought it might behoove us, as people invariably interested in all things WOT, to ask Chuck Dixon and Chase Conley, the writer and artist respectively behind this ambitious project, some inane questions pertaining to, uh, it.
Thanks to all y’all, by the way, who helped me come up with the inanity, which as a result is actually not all that inane. I just really like the word “inane”. C’mon, it’s awesome.
Annnyway. Journey beyond the cut to share in my learnings re: this. Whoo!
First up we have Chuck Dixon, adapter/writer on the project:
Leigh: Were you a fan of WOT before coming on board to do New Spring, or is this relatively new territory for you?
Chuck: It was all new to me. I had read some of Robert Jordan’s Conan work but nothing else.
Leigh: Speaking of which, I understand that the last three issues of the New Spring adaptation are scheduled to be released in the next few months, followed by a graphic novel collection of the issues in November. Is that still the case? Are you working with the same artistic team as previously, or will Mr. Conley be involved in New Spring as well?
Chuck: All of that is true. I believe Mike S. Miller is the artist on New Spring.
Leigh: The Wheel of Time series is a rather… hefty amount of material, as you may have noticed. How are you planning to handle the pace of the story? Are you going for a chapter an issue, or more, or will it vary? How long do you think the entire run will go for?
Chuck: In some cases it will be a chapter-per-issue deal. But there will be a bit of condensing with the chapters that are exposition-heavy or particularly internalized. But we’ll be expanding the action in a big way. That’s the way good comics are paced.
Wow, I really don’t want to think of the whole run. We’re talking a decade or more of work there. It’s too intimidating to think about. I prefer to tackle each book on its own.
Leigh: Each medium for storytelling is different; a movie generally doesn’t have the same flow as a novel, so I assume the same applies to comic adaptations. What’s your approach? How is adapting a comic from previously written material different from writing an original one?
Chuck: Plot development and action are handled differently in prose. There so much of the internal working of the character that one can do so naturally in words only. But that becomes ponderous in a comic, which, in its purest form, should be a marriage of words and pictures. In the best comics we learn about the characters from what they do rather than what they say. But in prose we’re privy to what they think as well. So, presenting all that so that it makes for a good comic reading experience and gets across the sense and feeling of the novel is where my mutant abilities come in.
Sometimes I have to re-arrange events a bit to make sure there’s a balance of action and plot development. Thankfully, there’s plenty of room allotted for everything in this adaptation. When I adapted The Hobbit and Call of the Wild, I had to cruelly trim scenes and it just didn’t feel right. It broke my heart to have to cut all of Beorn’s scenes from The Hobbit. He’s my favorite character in the novel but there wasn’t the page count needed to include him. Same for the scene in Call of the Wild where Thornton bets that Buck can break the sled out of the ice by himself. Just sacrilege to have to trim such an incredible scene.
Leigh: How much liberty do you plan to take with the source material? Do you plan to condense the story? Is there anything only alluded to in the text that you actually plan to expand?
Chuck: I want to really expand on the action stuff. Comics are a great medium for eye candy and Chase brings so much of that to this project. The action’s where we can get cinematic. Brevity works well for the violence in prose. But in comics you want to block it out and make an impression.
Next up, Chase Conley, Le Artiste!
Leigh: Robert Jordan was a very descriptive author, as many have noted. Do you feel that to be an asset or a hindrance to creating your own vision of the story?
Chase: It’s definitely an asset to have thorough notes. When translating from written word to a visual medium, you can interpret things the wrong way. Being able to refer to those notes helps us nail it in as few attempts as possible.
Leigh: Is there an overall style or atmosphere that you’re going for, and if so how would you describe it?
Chase: I wanted it to be epic in scale. There are hundreds of characters, each with their own look and feel. I felt it was important to flesh out each character’s design and give them features that would help convey their emotions. The lighting and color choices are also key to establishing a mood. There are so many things going on at the same time in this world so I wanted each scene to have a nice contrast in color and lighting. The overall goal is to make it a very rich and hefty experience that reflects proper planning. If we execute it right, the look will establish itself.
Leigh: The preview panels we’ve seen are in black and white; are the finished comics going to be black and white, in color, or some combination?
Chase: This will be in full color. Color is vital to making this series work.
Leigh: I don’t know that much about comics, but I understand that the lettering is usually done by a different person than the artist. Do you have a letterer you’re working with, or are you handling that aspect as well?
Chase: No, we have a letterer that is handling the book very well. It makes it easier when translating the book to different languages when the lettering isn’t part of the original artwork.
Leigh: Are there other sources you are drawing inspiration from for the artwork (WOT-related or otherwise)? For instance, Jordan’s world draws from many mythologies and classic works; has that factored into any of your research for settings and/or designs of people or places? Do you plan to use any real world people as models for the characters as many animated feature films do?
Chase: I draw inspiration from so many different things it’s extremely hard to list them. I could be inspired by anything. I pretty much just reach from within when doing pages and designing. Of course I use a reference when I’m designing architecture and settings. I try to pull from life and then give it a twist to make it unique. We want the environments to have a hint of believability, so history is the best thing to reference. There are cases where I use actors as a model for a character. I like the pronounced features of some people and I use those as tools of expression. That helps to make everyone look different as well.
Leigh: What are your thoughts, if any, on the cover art for the novels as published? What about the art in The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time (the companion guide to the series)?
Chase: I love fantasy novel cover art, but I don’t let it lock me into a box. The companion guide cover doesn’t have much to it. You can’t really tell what the world is about from that cover. My job is to expand on the look of the world.
Leigh: How do you plan to visually portray some of the more esoteric concepts in WOT, like channeling, gateways, and so forth? How do you visually convey things that some characters can see and others cannot?
Chase: Well, the main thing is to make it unique. We want this to be unlike anything else ever seen before. I have a method I’m using to make use of elaborate patterns and brilliant lighting effects that the characters channel. When certain characters cannot see the One Power, you still draw the user as if the power is there. You just don’t show the actual energy effect.
Leigh: Jordan was very fond of describing clothes, in particular. Do you feel like you have a good handle on the many different fashions and styles of clothing worn by the inhabitants of WOT? Do you have a favorite type of costume to draw?
Chase: That is one thing I do feel extremely confident in. I just have a knack for fantasy/medieval clothing design. If I had the time, I would get ridiculously intricate on clothing design, but there wouldn’t be any way I could do that and keep up with a monthly schedule. I try to squeeze in more detail on the tighter shots of the characters and simplify as they get farther away from the reader. I don’t have a favorite type of design though. I try to make everything fun, though the more plain the clothing the more boring it is to keep drawing it over and over. There’s just nothing visually pleasing about some designs.
And now, some questions for both Chuck and Chase:
Leigh: How did you get into this crazy business anyway? What are your biggest creative influences?
Chuck: I really have no talent for anything else. I can’t play music at all or catch a ball to any amazing degree. But I can tell stories in a series of static images. Or at least, instruct someone else on how to do it.
My biggest influences are Archie Goodwin and Larry Hama. Both were fan favorites and then mentors and really helped me understand the medium as well as giving me my first big breaks in comics. I’m also an admirer of Frank Robbins and Steve Ditko.
Chase: Well, when I was in middle school, I use to walk to the gas station to buy comics. I was there one day and stumbled over an issue of Wizard Magazine. There were so many cool articles and it also had the Basic Training section. Wizard kept me in touch with the Marvel Universe and I was consumed by it at one point. I began to notice artists like Joe Mad and Mike Wieringo that had the same Eastern influences as me. I’m a huge anime fan, so eventually I began to drift more toward those kind of stories. I pretty much just kept drawing all through high school. I went to the Heroes Con one year and met a bunch of folks that said, “Dude, you are good enough to be working in this field now.” After that I just went hard at mastering my craft until I got noticed by the Dabels.
Leigh: What would you say to WOT fans who are not into comics to convince them they would enjoy your adaptation? Conversely, what would you say to comic fans who are not into WOT to do the same?
Chuck: Two words: eye candy. If you love the books why wouldn’t you want to see them re-told with these gorgeous pictures?
To comic fans? Give a really epic story a try.
Chase: I would suggest they pick it up simply to give their imagination more direction, and help expand on their vision. I always loved taking time to sit and visualize a scene after I’ve read a page in the novel. It makes it that much cooler when you have an idea what the characters will look like. As for comic fans who are not WOT fans, I would suggest they grab it just to come along for the ride. There aren’t many new titles these days that are running long story arcs and I always love knowing that a bunch of stuff isn’t going to be crammed into a small number of issues. It’s a great story and its in a traditional comic format, so it should be pretty easy to get involved with.
Leigh: There have been some issues with delays with some of the previous titles the Dabel Brothers have put out. How’s it all looking schedule-wise? Do you guys anticipate any similar issues with the Wheel of Time?
Chuck: Not at all. Things have been running smoothly from my end. A script a month.
Chase: I don’t anticipate any delays LOL. We are currently moving at a good pace and as long as nothing crazy happens we should be fine.
Leigh: The Wheel of Time has been published in over 20 different languages. Are there any plans to translate the comic series into languages other than English?
Chuck: I suppose so. It would follow that the comic version would be published wherever the prose novels appear.
Chase: I’m not sure at this time actually, that would definitely be cool though.
Leigh: Does the comic adaptation project have any connection or cross-pollination with the movie adaptation currently in the works?
Chuck: Not as far as I’ve been concerned. I’m sure, at some point, we’ll be converging.
Chase: No, but I’m down if they want to contact me LOL.
Leigh: Are there any particular scenes/sequences in the novels that you are especially looking forward to drawing/writing? Any favorite characters?
Chuck: Staging the action scenes is the most fun. From tavern fights to chases to epic battles. Blocking them out is challenging and a blast.
It always sounds corny but I like the character I’m currently writing the best. I’m into his or her head and seeing the story through their eyes. Right now, Rand has my full attention.
Chase: The fight between Rand and Aginor I really really want to make cool as hell. I love drawing the more menacing characters, they are just fun. But I always say, I try to make everything fun in some way.
Leigh: Jordan rarely (if ever) describes the exact same events from different viewpoints, but he does switch from one character to another in sequence, and of course once the main characters split up their separate POVs often cover the same time period in different locations (sometimes over and over again!). How do you plan to handle the many many different POVs throughout the story, both visually and from a story structural standpoint?
Chuck: I’ve done ensemble casts in the past. The trick is to give visual cues so that reader knows we’re in a new place and time. It’s as easy as using and establishing shot of their current location. But more artful segues can be used too. Jordan’s work provides most of these in the prose.
Chase: Visually, I try to find angles and perspectives that match the intensity of the event. I don’t really have any different approaches when it comes to characters and paneling unless it specifically calls for it. There’s a scene in Issue #1 that requires us to view the world around from a raven’s POV. That looks different from the norm of course. It also gives the pages more variety. The architecture is very important when showing the same place in two different time periods. The aging of the buildings and all of that ties into it.
Leigh: Anything else you’re dying for us to know?
Chase: This will be an enjoyable experience and a rich story to back it up. There are tons of visually pleasing settings and characters. Pick up a copy!
Leigh: Oh, and the most important question of all: who killed Asmodean? Kidding, kidding!
Chase: HAHAHA, I still don’t know.
Chuck: Can I say, we’ll all find out together?
So there you have it, kids. Pretty cool, eh? The first issue is on sale now, unless Forbidden Planet (the awesomest comic book store in New York) is lying to me, which I don’t think they are. Anyone who’s picked it up, I think we would all love to hear what you think in the comments. Share, dammit!
In the meantime, have a great weekend and a fabulous Memorial Day, for those of you nationally inclined toward Memorializing-type activities at this time. See you
Monday I mean Wednesday!