Tag Archives: fables

Editorial Edits: Fairest #1

Awesome Adam Hughes Fairest #1 Cover

Here at good ol’ MSU everyone is recovering from their undoubtedly awesome Spring Break shenanigans.  Me?  Well my girlfriend and I went down to visit my best friend and his wife and spent 4 days in a lake house in South Carolina.  It was a blast, but we’re not here to talk about the copious amount of beer I drank or the number of Yahtzees I rolled (3), not even how much I owned in Clash of Heroes.  No, we’re here to talk about comics, and more specifically, Editorial Edits!

This week I want to take a look at Bill Willingham and Phil Jimenez’s Fairest #1, edited by Gregory Lockard and Shelly Bond.  It was a great read, if not exactly what I was expecting with the gorgeous ladies of Fabletown adorning the beautiful Adam Hughes cover.  I’m not quite sure where the book is going after the first issue, but if you read the first page it lets you know that we’re not jumping right into the thick of things, “Prince of Thieves: Chapter One of Wide Awake, In which we inaugurate our bold new series of tales concerning the fairest flowers of many lands, starting with a small mystery and ending with a small miracle.”

Fables is quite honestly the most solid comic that I get each month, hands down.  I’m always excited when I see it on the shelf, a feeling that’s unfortunately passingly rare these days.  In this issue we follow Ali Baba, the Prince of Thieves as he attempts to find a way home after the Fabletown War.  He finds a fancy bottle and, well I bet you can guess what happens next.

Let’s take a look at the page in question shall we?  There’s no previous page that directly leads to this one here – What you see is what you get.  Can you spot a problem?

Is there a little hiccup here? BTW totally property of DC Comics.

The Edit
What do you think?  Did you spot anything that comes off as a bit unwieldy?  My personal problem is with the first 5 panels.  Here we have Ali Baba running away from something, and in the second panel it’s revealed to be a big terrible beasty.  Here I was initially confused by the depth of the image.  If you look at Ali Baba in the first panel he’s much higher up on the “ground” (indicating he’s farther away from the panel), while in the second panel the demon creature’s foot is almost flush with the bottom border.

Initially I thought that the monster was part of a stampede, but the third panel I think reveals that’s not the case.  Then in the fourth panel Ali Baba is back down off the high ground, much closer to the bottom of the panel and it sorta looks like he’s still running straight, which seems a bit strange considering that would mean now he’s chasing the monster that was chasing him!  Finally in the fifth panel we get a close up of Ali Baba, who I assume is still running, and then in the sixth the creature is somehow magically behind him again.

Upon my first read through this was my imagined sequence of events: 1) Ali Baba running from something, 2) Maybe running from stampede of weird beasts, 3) Hurdling a beast, wait he’s probably running from that thing, 4) Why are you still running?

However, upon closer inspection I think what happens is that in the fourth panel Ali Baba stops running after hurdling the monster and that the fifth panel is meant to show him taking off in another direction, possibly to his right, or straight at the reader, as indicated by the closeup.

PHEW!!!  Does that make sense?  I think that my own misunderstanding of this sequence arose between the fourth and fifth panels.  I thought that Ali Baba was still running straight, because even though now it looks more like he’s coming to a stop, the disappearance of his rear leg kinda threw me off a little.  Then we have a closeup of Ali Baba.  This is the problem, the closeup doesn’t indicate any change of direction.  Did he start running a different way?  Who can say?  I thought that maybe the camera had just panned to in front of the thief and he kept running.  Imagine my surprise when the beast was suddenly behind him again!

What do you guys think?  Did you come across any issues while reading this page?  If I were editor and I felt the same confusion while looking over the page I think first I just would have asked a question: What’s supposed to be happening here?  As an editor, as that first reader, I don’t want to assume anything.  Assuming is bad.  If he did start running another way, I might have suggested that the fifth panel possibly zoom out and show the beast scrabbling to turn itself around and continue the chase.  I honestly think that’s all it would have taken.

Ok… So I think that’s that!  Again, when it comes to the Editorial Edits series I’m not trying to throw anyone under a bus or call out anyone in a mean or disrespectful way.  I think as artists and writers, transforming something from words to pictures is an inherently difficult process and as editors we need to attempt to massage the fusion of the two into something that’s easily coherent.  Sometimes things fall through the cracks.  Those are the things that I want to talk about.

Until next time my friends!


Weekly Want List – August 17th, 2011

Hellblazer #282 - So creepy!!!

Lease for new place in East Lansing = Taken care of.  Rocket Raccoon UMvC3 post = Done.  Writing Center shenanigans = Taken care of.

I feel like a king!  Now it’s time to take care of my Weekly Want List and do some stuff for The Art of War… I can’t believe that school starts so soon!  Unbelievable!

DC Comics
Green Lantern: Emerald Warrior Corps #63 –  I’m not quite sure what the deal is with the rename but I’m still picking this bad boy up.

Image Comics
Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors #4 – Fun book.  Deserves a purchase.

Marvel Comics
Daredevil #2 – AMAZING first issue!  Cannot wait to see what Marvel has in store for Matt Murdock.

Hulk #39 – When did the Red Hulk take over this Hulk book?   Regardless, since then it’s just gotten better and better.

Uncanny X-Men #542 – Purchase it out of habit.  As long as Cyclops is in it being a bad ass I’ll be happy.

X-Men: Schism #3 – I’m not quite sure how I feel about this series.  I’m always a little put off by kid villains and even more so by kid villains who have no qualms with killing, but the art is so phenomenal I think I’ll overlook my squeamishness.

Fables #108 – I think you guys know what I have to say about this series by now.

Hellblazer #282 – Possibly might pick this up. It’s a one and done and it sounds pretty cool.

Weekly Want List – August 3rd, 2011

Nothing much to talk about today.  Going to be posting some cool MvC3 stuff in the near future as well as some of the Public Domain work I’ve talked about in earlier posts.

I’m just trying to get all my ducks in order for freaking grad school and with all this The Art of War work I’ve been doing, just trying to get people to review the book… BLERG!  40 hours a week plus the 10-15 hours I spend writing and preparing for school is starting to get to me.  But enough complaining and on with the comics!

Image Comics
Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors #4

Moriarty: The Dark Chamber #4

Severed #1 – I just might pick this up if I can find it.  Sounds very interesting.

Marvel Comics
The Dark Tower: The Battle of Tull #3

Herc #6

Hulk #38 – I love the Black Fog.  I think he’s such a cool looking villain and I’m totally digging the direction of this story.  Gotta say this is probably one of my favorite books on the stands today.

Scalped #51

Weekly Want List – July 27th, 2011

I honestly don’t have much to say today.  Found a place to live in East Lansing, which is wonderful, and picked up MvC3 again.  Still terrible.

The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde #4

Dark Horse Comics
The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde #4

DC Comics
DC Comics Presents: Shazam #1

Green Lantern Corps #62

Green Lantern: Emerald 12

Image Comics
Invincible #81

Super Dinosaur #4

Marvel Comics
Astonishing X-Men #40

Fear Itself: The Deep #2 

Incredible Hulks #633

The Mighty Thor #4

X-Men: Schism #2

Fables #107

Adapting Public Domain Literature to Comics: How it’s Done

Before I blast off into theoretical realms unknown I think it’d be beneficial to lay a solid foundation for the ideas I’ll be talking about later in the series.  First and foremost is the term public domain, which I’ll be throwing around a lot and transmuting into an acronym when I get tried of writing it (PD).  If something is in the public domain, and in our case we mean any literature in the PD, it is no longer under any sort of copyright protection.

So anyone that’d like to publish, let’s say The Art of War, can.  It being written over 2000 years ago puts it out of reach of even the most dedicated copyright lawyers of the period.  That isn’t to say that you can copy modern translations of the work though, present day lawyers will jump all over you for that.

Here’s another example: Let’s say you wanted to write a sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” in comic book form. Well Cole Haddon has done just that in his comic series “The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde.”  Seeing as the venerable author died in 1894, at the tragic age of 44, and over 100 years have passed since his demise, his work has fallen out of copyright protection and into the public domain and is now open for adaptation.

The same is true for other such masterful authors as Jane Austen, Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Bram Stoker; the list goes on and on.  Granted things get a bit trickier if you want to use works penned by the recently deceased authors of our age, what with copyright laws seemingly being pushed back to infinitum by our legislators, but that’s besides the point.  For the third and final time – Public domain literature is free of copyright restrictions and can be adapted and tweaked at will.

So how have comic books creators taken advantage of this phenomenon?  Over the past few years I’ve noticed 4 main classifications of adapted PD literature in the graphic storytelling medium: 1) Strict adaptation, 2) tweaked adaptation, 3) untold adventures, and 4) the patchwork universe.  Of course there are always exceptions to every rule and these classifications are by no means immutable, but I think they do a good job of setting up the ground work for discussion.

A strict adaptation is when a creator takes a novel and transforms it into a visual tale.  Here the writer must pick and choose which words to rip from the prose and feed to the reader while the artist must do their best to make sure that their every picture is worth a few hundred words at least.

This has got to be the most difficult PD adaptation a creator can undertake.  They hack and slash the time-tested work of a master, reassemble it into something that communicates the story visually, and then find an artist with the ability to make it look and feel right.

Unfortunately, unless the finished product is something of such surpassing brilliance that it outshines its progenitor, most of these graphic novels tend to be merely an introduction to their meatier original material.  Great examples of this type of PD adaptation can be found in the Puffin Graphics collection.

Tweaked adaptation occurs when a creator changes the events of the original work to suit their own creative desires.  That probably sounds incredibly vague but for those of you well-versed in mainstream comics think about Marvel’s “What If?” books.  There the writer changes an important event in the history of the Marvel U, e.g. General Ross originally becomes the Hulk instead of Banner, and then reveals an all-new aftermath over the course of the comic.  It’s still a Hulk story with the same events leading up to the Gamma Bomb explosion, but stars a different Hulk.

A good public domain tweaked adaptation is the Wachowski Brothers’ unfortunately unfinished Doc Frankenstein series.  In the comics Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s Monster is a super genius hounded by warriors of the Catholic Church.

Awwww yeah Doc Frankenstein!

The Wachowski’s utilized the classic origins of the motley monster (with one or two slight adjustments) to cement the foundations of their tale, but from there tell a decidedly different story in a completely different and original universe!

The tweaked adaptation is almost like a catch-all category for the comics that don’t quite fit into the other more defined classifications.  In the end, a tweaked adaptation stars characters from one specific public domain universe and can be subject to an almost limitless number of variations depending on the whim of the creator.  They can rewrite history, add new main characters, tell the tale from a different point of view, modernize the story, or take classic characters and put them into an entirely new universe, like the Wachowskis did.

Untold Adventures is a very common type of public domain adaptation found in comics.  As of right now I’m not quite sure if the Untold Adventures should be just a sub-category of Tweaked Adaptation, but bear with me.  By definition (my own of course) they’re simply stories about public domain characters that haven’t been told by the original author but are told in the original universe.  I’d also like to include a few small stipulations: 1) the PD character’s origins remain relatively untouched unless the tale takes place at an earlier date, 2) the setting remains true to the original and outlandish, non-genre events are kept to a minimum (no alien attacks or time traveling madness here).

Any of the recent Sherlock Holmes comics fit the bill for this one.  Tarzan comics, which usually begin as adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs original novels, inevitably become Untold Adventures once the creators have run out of material to adapt.

On an interesting note in Tarzan: Le Monstre by Stan Manoukian and Vince Roucher, Tarzan actually goes toe to toe with three other public domain characters: The Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein, and Jekyll and Hyde.  While I would consider this an Untold Adventure, it has elements of the Patchwork Universe as well.  There is bound to be crossover between the categories and this comic is a perfect signifier of that fact.

Finally we come to the Patchwork Universe.  These occur when creators combine different public domain characters and universes into one overarching narrative.  In these stories the Big Bad Wolf might fall in love with Snow White, or Sinbad the Sailor might meet John Carter of Barsoom in an attempt to expel H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds aliens from the red planet.

The first volume of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen combines elements purloined from such megalithic authors as Jules Verne, Sir Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells, and many many more.  Bill Willingham’s Fables goes even further, drawing from ancient fables, legends, folk tales as well as the public domain to tell his stories.  As I said above the Patchwork Universe contains elements from multiple PD universes and combines them into one narrative.  Simple as that.

How many Fables can you spot?

WHEW!  And there you have it, how public domain literature is utilized in comics today.  Obviously this is a constantly evolving phenomena, with new comics being written and published daily, but I think it does a passable job explaining just what a PD comic can be.  I hope this was informative and I’ve got more on the way so stay tuned!

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!

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!

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

Invincible #80

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever #5