NYCC 2012: MARVEL Prose - Like Comics, Without Pictures!?

Friday at New York Comic Con 2012 saw a different look at the superhero adventures of Marvel Entertainment, with Marvel's Prose panel, which focused on their recent line of prose adaptations of popular comics stories, which kicked off with an adaptation of Civil War. Hosted by James Viscardi, Marvel's Sales and Communications Coordinator, the panel featured writers Peter David, Stuart Moore, Alisa Kwitney, and Marie Javins, as well as Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso.

 

James Viscardi started the panel by showing the covers to a host of new novels, including Civil War, by Stuart Moore, Peter David's adaptation of Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men: Gifted, Alisa Kwitney's New Avengers: Breakout, and Marie Javins's Iron Man: Extremis, which was announced for the first time at the panel.

Axel Alonso gives credit for the prose idea to Marvel executive David Gabriel, who pitched the idea of turning popular arcs into novels, and helped develop the list of possible writers. Alonso said that they chose Civil War as the launch title due to the popularity of the Avengers, and that Stuart Moore was the natural choice due to his background in prose fiction, and Marvel editorial.

Moore said the biggest challenge of adapting comics to prose is that "the scope has to be narrowed, but you can't lose the vision of the original idea." Moore developed a list of ideas and tools that are being used as a guide by the other writers. Moore and Alonso are trying to build a Marvel prose universe with its own version of the continuity.

Peter David and Alisa Kwitney had varying degrees of difficulty straying from the original material, with David saying he had to be prodded to go outside the original concepts that were being adapted, and Kwitney jokingly saying she "changed characters just to piss people off."

The writers were given lots of room to experiment with the cast and story of each adaptation, with Kwitney's straying fairly far in terms of sub-plots and cast from the original "Breakout," such as the inclusion of Hawkeye, whom she has romantically paired with a version of Black Widow that is new to the world of the Avengers. "I just had to edit all the fun out of Hawkeye and Black Widow's sex scene," Alonso laments. Comparing comics to orthodox and reformed versions of a religion, Kwitney says, "You take the sacred text, and you reinterpret it." Kwitney also wanted to add in a second female character to "balance out the bromance," and to explore a female rivalry and dynamic. "There are pillow fights," Alonso quips, with David interjecting, "I've seen it!"

 

On her take on Warren Ellis's Iron Man: Extremis, Marie Javins explained that she sees Tony Stark as a combination of Warren Ellis and Robert Downey, Jr. "Good God!" Viscardi exclaimed, recoiling in feigned horror.

Viscardi asked the panelists if they had any favorite characters to write. Peter David said that he likes Kitty Pryde, and made her his viewpoint character because he relates to her Jewish heritage, and has four daughters.

"If there's anything I know, it's how teenage girls think!" he quipped. Kwitney likes Spider-Man, saying that, since their version of Spider-Man is unmarried throughout these stories, she used the premise of Peter being on a date that is ruined by the Raft breakout to set up her story.

 

The floor opened to fan Q&A, with the first question coming from a fan who wanted to know if Marvel will move into telling original prose stories in this version of Marvel continuity. Alonso says it's likely, but nothing is planned. It "depends on how fans receive the adaptations."

The next fan asked about the weirdest research the writers had to do for their adaptations. Kwitney explained getting advice on Hawkeye's archery style from a martial artist and archer, and trying to figure out which jobs S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents have by their uniforms. David said when he adapted a female version of the Punisher for Marvel's Manga-Verse, he made the mistake of googling "Japanese Punishment."

"What the hell is wrong with Japanese people?" he joked, to which Viscardi responded, "Your naiveté is stunning!"

Finally, a fan asked the panelists what their passion is for doing the adaptations. David said, "It seemed like a good idea at the time!" while Moore likes the challenge. Javins said that she feels like the right person for the job because of her background, and because she has Warren Ellis's blessing, and Kwitney summed it all up by saying, "My kids think I'm cool for the first time in a decade!"

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