INTERVIEW! Top fantasy author Joe Abercrombie speaks to SFX about adapting his bestselling stories into digital and print comics
It's been formally launched today so we can finally talk about it - the bestselling First Law fantasy novels by Joe Abercrombie are being turned into a graphic novel series. Hooray!The entire first issue will be available from ComiXology for 99 cents from today, Wednesday 10 April. "We'll also be posting the first 12 pages of issue one at www.firstlawcomic.com ," adds project editor Rich Young.
The Blade Itself , the first in the series, hit bookshelves in 2006. A further five novels later, the universe Abercrombie created has earned him several five-star reviews and the handle "the next George RR Martin" around these parts . Writer Chuck Dixon is handling the script while Andie Tong is wielding the art cannon on this adaptation. Colours are by Pete Pantazis and lettering is by Bill Tortolini. But Abercrombie is personally overseeing the whole project so we spoke to him about how it came together:
SFX: Is it weird seeing your characters realised in comic form?
Abercrombie: It certainly is weird, and in a very good way. When you write you don't always have a definite notion of what the characters look like, what they wear, what the settings are, so seeing them precisely realised is quite a thrill. Andie's done a brilliant job with the design, I think, with settings and costumes, it has a feel that's all it's own, but he's got a distinct look to every culture as well. The first design for a lot of the characters was spot on, for others it took a couple of tweaks, but it was actually seeing them start to move, to talk, to act that was most impressive. If this was a film Andie would be doing the work of a casting agent, set designer, costume designer, and half the cinematography and direction but he'd also be doing all the acting, and I think he's done a great job in every area.
SFX: How much of a hand in the look of the characters and setting did you have?
Abercrombie: Someone has been foolish enough to give me total editorial control. So I've commented - often at horrifying length - at every stage, from giving some basic steers for the looks of setting and costume, to the character designs, the pages as they're drawn, the colours as they're done, and the letters when they're combined with the art. Plus I've worked a fair bit on the scripts too. Sometimes that's meant a little work, but generally, I'm very pleased and impressed to say, it's meant waving stuff through and saying, "brilliant," a lot.
SFX: Can you explain the publishing plan for us - it's on ComiXology right?
Abercrombie: What really excited me about the concept was that it's essentially a webcomic approach, so it will be available free online at firstlawcomic.com . We're releasing half the first issue on 10 April, then there'll be another page put up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and anyone can look at it at any time, for nothing. At the same time, we'll be releasing the individual issues in advance via ComiXology , with guided viewing and some bonus material, at between 99 cents and $2.99 an issue. Finally, we'll be collecting every four issues into one of those old-school paper books they used to have, with further bonus material. So you can get it free online, get a head start and guided viewing at ComiXology for a small fee, and then snap up a collectors hard copy later on...
SFX: There aren't too many fantasy comics out there. How would you characterise the style of The Blade Itself comic? Will it feel familiar to fans of 2000 AD , Marvel, DC...?
Abercrombie: I genuinely think the First Law has developed a very distinctive style. I think the look of the characters and the graphic arrangement is a bit more off-beat than you'll get in classic superhero fare. There's a certain sense of irony and humour in the books that has definitely made it into the look of the graphic novel. But when I think 2000 AD I tend to think black and white, and the colour is a really integral part of The First Law - Pete has given the colours a lot of richness and variety, different settings, different weathers, different times, all having their own feel.
SFX: Have you always been into comics? Any favourites?
Abercrombie: I have to admit I've never been a real devotee. Certainly I read 2000 AD a fair bit in my school days, and Watchmen and Preacher and a few other things later on, but generally I've always been more of a prose guy. Which is one reason why working on this and seeing how it ticks has been quite a buzz for me.
SFX: What's next? Do you see a future in comic adaptations for your other stories?
Abercrombie: Well this is going to be a pretty detailed and comprehensive adaptation, with The Blade Itself aiming for 16 issues and two more books after that. So there's a fair bit of work in front of us before we think about what might come next...
SFX: Thanks Joe!