It's starting to become obvious that adapting popular prose novels into graphic novels must be working. By attempting to attract a "fandom" that already exists into the world of comics, these adaptations get audiences who might never have bought a comic to try them out.
The latest? Cassandra Clare's City of Bones, the first part of the best-selling The Mortal Instruments book series that's already being filmed for a movie release in 2013. The first issue of City of Bones was released digitally on comiXology last week by Th3rd World Studios, with plans for a print collection to be on shelves before the film hits in August 2013.
Based in modern New York City, the novel-to-comic version of City of Bones is being adapted by Mike Raicht with art by Nicole Virella. It tells the story of a hidden world of demon-hunters, portals and mystical creatures who exist beyond the perception of mere humans. Marketed in prose form as a "young adult" title, the series doesn't back away from the darker side of fantasy-fiction as it features battles among the warlocks, vampires, demons and faeries who inhabit the streets of New York.In fact, Th3rd World publisher compares its dark, mythical creatures to Supernatural and its demon-hunting characters to Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
The comic's digital release is a little different strategy for a novel-to-comic adaptation. But the series joins a growing list of adaptations that are getting attention from mainstream audiences lately. From DC's upcoming Girl with the Dragon Tattoo graphic novel to Marvel's publication of their Oz comics, the release of adaptations by comic publishers appears to be reaching for the lucrative numbers racked up when the Twilight graphic novel broke sales records.The City of Bones adaptation was announced three years ago by Th3rd World. But its biggest marketing push has come in the last few days, as Clare's fan websites have been abuzz about the release, and even MTV's "Hollywood Crush" blog is touting the series to its celebrity-obsessed teen readers.
Newsarama talked with Th3rd World Publisher Michael DeVito about the choice for a digital release and marketing plans for the book's collection and The Mortal Instruments film next year.
Newsarama: Michael, what are your hopes for this property now that it's finally being published?
Michael DeVito: It’s been a long road for this series. Much longer than we anticipated it was going to be, but [Th3rd World co-founder] Jon [Conkling] and I could not be happier with how the final product has turned out. Everyone on this series has done — and continues to do — an amazing job.Now that it is out there in the world, the most important thing to me is that it is well-received by the fans. We kept Cassie’s fans in mind for pretty much every decision that we made on this series, staying as true to the source material as possible. The Mortal Instruments is a series that really blows away genre expectations. There truly is something here for everyone. Our hope is that people who haven’t heard of it check it out so that they can see that for themselves.
Nrama: Our Newsarama audience may never have heard of this novel series, but it seems like the subject matter would appeal to a wide audience. The books are marketed as "YA," but I know how dark they get at times — from the eerie, self-mutilated Silent Brothers to the violent vampire/werewolf battle. How would you describe the comic and to whom would it appeal?
DeVito: I have said it so many times, but really it’s more of a “who wouldn’t this appeal to” series. You have the demon-hunting, mystery, adventure of the show Supernatural. You have the mystical quest story of Star Wars, the epic fights between monsters and demon hunters, romance and a good old-fashioned dose of humor ala Joss Whedon’s Buffy.Nrama: It's unusual to see a comic go digital-first, and then be a graphic novel. What was behind this decision? And is it going to be monthly going forward?
DeVito: The series is going to be released digitally via comiXology on a monthly basis culminating in a collection by Simon and Schuster spring/summer of 2013. It should be out a little before the film is released. We had planned to just go right to trade with the adaptation, but after seeing how well some of our other properties performed digitally, it felt like a great fit to release the individual issues on comiXology prior to collecting them. The fans of the series are very Internet and tech savvy so it really is the ideal platform for the series, allowing us to put the product directly in their hands to spread the word of mouth.
Nrama: I've noticed you guys showing up on fan sites for the series. Have you been working in conjunction with Cassandra's fan base to market the comic series?DeVito: We are working with some of the fan-sites like “Mundie Moms” and “TMI Source,” who have been fantastic. They are tapped into the community as fans themselves, so they have been a great sounding board for us. They have been nothing but helpful, doing digital giveaways, sneak-peeks and keeping the series on fans minds despite the lengthy delay in release.
Cassie herself has been great to work with as well. A simple tweet or Facebook post from her and you have reached a huge portion of her fanbase.
I have to say that the fans and sites dedicated to the series have been incredibly welcoming. We weren’t sure initially if that would happen, but it has blown away our expectations and we count ourselves lucky to have met so many people online and at shows.
Nrama: Will there be a similar marketing push upon release of the movie?
DeVito: The collected adaptation in trade form is being released next year by Simon and Schuster, so there will certainly be a push there. It’s nice because we will get to do that again for the film that will debut later in the year.Nrama: As the artist created the supernatural world described in the novel, did you coordinate it with the author and get her approval on the way everything looks?
DeVito: We worked very closely with Cassie to ensure that the world she envisioned was brought to life as she imagined it. It was a collaborative process between everyone and it was really cool to have Cassie so active in the process.
Nrama: Then will we see her version of the Institute, the Silent Brothers, Magnus' house, etc.?
DeVito: I would say if it’s in the book, you will, for the most part, see it in the adaptation. Very little was left on the cutting room floor. Nicole has done an amazing job bringing all of the sets to life and Jeremy [Mohler] has complemented her work wonderfully with his colors striking a nice mood.
Nrama: I know they're filming the movie now. Is there any coordination between the comic and the way things look in the movie? Or were these designs independent from the movie version?
DeVito: Our designs were totally independent from the ones in the film. Most of the characters and creatures were designed several years ago for the comic, so we didn’t even see any of it to affect our decisions.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell potential readers about the City of Bones comic?
DeVito: Our hope is that first time comic readers enjoy the series and come back for more. We are giving away a free previews of other books with each issue of the series as it debuts. There is a huge potential for fans of this series to experience their favorite characters in a brand new way as they anxiously await the release of the movie. We also hope to drive some of Cassie’s fans into comic shops once the collection comes out and maybe create some new comic readers!Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!