Adapting Public Domain Literature to Comics – The Introduction

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Reading Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for the first time was an enlightening experience for me.  I was still relatively new to the comics scene and at 16 years old I had just started reading and collecting, using the gas money my parents gave me to get to school to fuel my funny book obsession.

The League introduced me to an incredible new phenomenon far more stimulating than the super hero stories I normally read: it used famous characters from classic public domain literature in a totally original graphic narrative.

It wasn’t until maybe a year, a year and a half ago that I really started to take an interest in comics that utilized these classic texts for inspiration.  That’s about the time I started working with Kelly Roman on his on his graphic novel, The Art of War.  In The Art of War Kelly takes the ancient military document by the legendary Chinese general Sun Tzu and uses it to construct the backbone of his own original narrative.  His is a graphic novel that combines one of the most well read public domain works in history, one written as an instructional manual for waging war, with a unique tale from his own imagination, and the resulting synthesis yields something never before seen in comics.

There are WAY too many good Fables covers to choose from!

While doing some editing work on the book I started to think about the strengths and weaknesses of the public domain comics I had read in the past.  Things like The League and Bill Willingham’s Fables sprung to mind.  I wondered why someone would use characters created hundreds of years ago?  Why would they adapt a text without a narrative?  What are the benefits of adapting a work instead of creating something completely original?  What are the weaknesses?

Thus began an intellectual journey that’s taken me nearly a year to put to paper.  While some of the answers to the questions I’ve posed above may seem glaringly obvious, I think it’s an incredibly complex issue without a single easily explained answer. In writing all this I’ve found that I still don’t have the vocabulary to put everything I’m thinking into words, though I shall try my darndest.  My goal is to break down what I think are some of the strengths and weaknesses of adapting public domain work to comics and how creators might go about it successfully.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more updates, but as I’ve been writing all day my brain feels sufficiently drained.  Each subsequent word I type sounds less ideal than the last and so I leave you with the promise of genuine cerebral stimulation in your future, if you are but bold enough to read with an open mind.

Goodbye for now,

Ben

Weekly Want List – June 22th, 2011

Choker #6 by the Bens

Alright, so what the heck is coming out this week?

Image Comics
Choker #6 – I have nothing but good things to say about this series.  I adore Ben McCool and Ben Templesmith and not only because my name is also Ben.  Actually, that might be a big part of it.  I met these guys at Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn while I was living in NYC and got them to sign issue 1 for me. Gotta support the Bens!

Guarding the Globe #5 – I’m willing to follow this one to the end of it’s initial run but if I’ll keep buying after that I can’t say.  I’ve enjoyed it so far and I really like the blindfolded ninja guy, but I don’t know if I’ve enjoyed it enough.  Know what I mean?

Marvel Comics
Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #520 – I can’t believe that Kraven and the Black Panther haven’t met before this!  Again, probably in my top 3 favorite series coming out from Marvel right now.  Digging T’Challa and Liss and Bradstreet are bringing everything they’ve got to the book.  It shows.

Incredible Hulks #631 – What can I say?  I’m a fan of Pelletier’s Hulk stuff.  It reminds me of some of Dale Keown’s work and that’s a compliment!  Hulk vs. Wishing Well?  I’ve got a feeling that this isn’t going to have that nice and tidy happy ending we all want.

Iron Man 2.0 #6 – I could honestly care less about Jim Rhodes and the rest of the mechanized heroes of the Marvel U but team him up with the Immortal Weapons and Danny Rand and I’m all eyes/ears.  Can’t wait to see what happens next because issue 1 was a flipping doozy!

Vertigo
Fables #106 – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Fables is the most consistent comic hitting store shelves.  Every page is pure gold.  Get off your butt and start reading!

Marvel.com Fightin’ Game Fanatics: UltraDavid

The 4th interview in the Marvel.com Fightin’ Game Fanatics series is up today, this time starring UltraDavid!  In my mind UltraDavid, or David Graham irl, is very much the voice of the fighting game community, alongside his fellow commentator James Chen.  Luckily I was able to get a hold of him and we had a really pleasant conversation about Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Wednesday Night Fights, and some straight Marvel stuff.

Dear UltraDavid, you are a gentleman and a scholar and I hope I have the good fortune of talking to you again sometime.  Mean while, read the article below!

Fightin’ Game Fanatics: UltraDavid
 Fightin' Game Fanatics: UltraDavid

Weekly Want List – June 15, 2011

Eeeehhh! New Gladstone's!

Wow… So nothing’s really coming out this week besides X-Men stuff.  I think that definitely gives me a great excuse to either buy Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition or a big fat awesome graphic novel.  Skull Kickers vol. 1 maybe?  That Sean Murphy Hellblazer tpb?  We shall see!

Image Comics
Gladstone’s School for World Conqueror’s #2

Marvel Comics
Hulk #35

Uncanny X-Men #538

X-Men #13

X-Men: Prelude #3

Skybound
Invincible #80

Vertigo
Cinderella: Fables Are Forever #5

Weekly Want List – June 6th, 2011

Mighty pumped that there’s not much hitting the shelves this week… sort of :/  I don’t think I’m going to do much talking about these issues right now.  Here you go!

Image
Moriarty #2 – SOOO EXCITED!

Morning Glories #10

Marvel Comics
Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #519 – One of my favorite books coming out of Marvel right now.

Fear Itself: Fearsome Four #1 – Very very excited.  Man-Thing and She-Hulk?  Done and done.

Incredible Hulks #630

X-Men: Legacy #250

Vertigo
Scalped #49

My First Triathlon: A Harrowing but Extraordinary Experience

My girlfriend and I - Post triathlon

This morning my girlfriend and I woke up at 5:40 a.m. and got ready for our very first triathlon.  We cleansed our bowels, chowed down some heavy Cliff Bars, and drove to Hawk Island County Park in Lansing around 6:30 a.m.  There we received numerical permanent marker tattoos, were tagged like cattle, and forced to swim, bike, and run a total of 15.5 miles at the ungodly hour of 8 in the morning.

Yet harrowing probably isn’t the right word, a little too melodramatic, a bit too extreme, but I like the way it sounds and it almost fits.  It was certainly a physically taxing endeavor but I performed better than I expected, finishing in 1:16:13.  I finished my 400 swim in 8:37, which would have been laughable during my high school swim days, the 12.1 mile bike in 38 minutes, better than I expected, and ran a 24:59 3.1 miles, my most dreaded part of the race.  My girlfriend didn’t do too bad herself, finishing in an hour and 28 minutes.  Great for a couple of first timers if I do say so myself 🙂   Continue reading My First Triathlon: A Harrowing but Extraordinary Experience

Marvel.com’s Fighting Game Fanatics!

If any of you guys are frequent readers of this here blog, and if you’re not I won’t hold it against you, you know that I love comic books and I love fighting video games.  Can you imagine how happy I was when Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was announced and subsequently released to the teeming masses?  In short: very, but it also presented me with a unique opportunity for more freelance writing work.

As a fighting gamer and a comic lover I occupy a very special niche between the two media which has allowed me to write some very very fun articles.  You may have seen some of my Showdown Spotlight stuff up at Marvel.com or at Eventhubs.com before Marvel 3’s release.  The series pit one Marvel against one Capcom character and allowed the users to vote on who would win.  I was able to combine my two passions into one awesome series, hopefully for the benefit of fans everywhere.

Now I’ve come up with a new series that my editor’s have let me run with.  I’m interviewing some of the best and most visible members of the fighting game community and talking to them about Marvel and Marvel vs. Capcom 3!  Discover their favorite Marvel characters, learn some new tips and tricks, and figure out which super power they’d have if they fell into radioactive sludge!  This is just another fun way to combine the world of comics and fighting games, and I hope everyone enjoys the reads!

KeitsFightin' Game Fanatics: Keits

gootecks
Fightin' Game Fanatics: gootecks

Mike Ross
Fightin' Game Fanatics: Mike Ross

I’d just like to thank these gentlemen for their time and I had a blast talking with all of you!