Chris Yost: Bringing Ender Wiggin to Comics

Chris Yost: Bringing Ender to Comics

Orson Scott Card’s work isn’t unfamiliar to Marvel Comics readers. The best-selling author of fantasy and science fiction novels has plumbed the depths of the Marvel’s own Ultimate Iron Man character and had two of his popular novels, Wyrms and Red Prophet: The Tales of Alvin Maker, translated into comics over the past several years. Earlier this year, Marvel announced that Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series would be adapted to comics form, following the works of Stephen King. The first book in the series, Ender’s Game: Battle School hits stores this week, and is translated by X-Force writer, Chris Yost, with artwork by Ultimate Iron Man II artist, Pasqual Ferry.

The five-issue miniseries that kicks off this week is just the start for the franchise in comics. In December, Marvel will launch a second five-issue Ender’s Game miniseries, Ender’s Shadow: Battle School by Mike Carey and Sebastian Fiumara. As Marvel is currently doing with Stephen King’s The Dark Tower and The Stand, the publisher will adapt both Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow as series of miniseries. Also, and notably, when Marvel originally announced the adaptation, it was pointed out that the design work for the comic book versions of Card’s novels will be the look for all intents and purposes, moving forward, with broad hints being made at the costume design made specifically so it can show an actor’s full face.

Newsarama contacted Yost to talk about his role in the translation of this modern classic sci-fi franchise.

Newsarama: First off Chris, you're adapting Ender's Game for comics--are you a fan of Orson Scott Card's work?

Chris Yost: I was really only familiar with Ender's Game, which I had read when I was kid. And it's a classic for good reason. By brother introduced me to it, and he had read the entire Ender Wiggin series. So I was a fan of the first book, but only recently delved into the entire Ender-verse.

NRAMA: What is your primary job as someone adapting something that is already written into a visual medium like comics?

CY: I would say the job is to make it work for the medium while holding on to the truth of the source material. In the case of Ender's Game, it wasn't hard for the most part. The book is very much inside one kid's head, which is hard to visualize in some respects... and the only real guideline that Card gave us was 'no narration.'

But the story is a visual one, and pretty easy to adapt and structure to a monthly comic book.

NRAMA: How do you decide what parts of a book are crucial enough to be included into an adaptation?

CY: Given this was my first adaptation of a novel, and a beloved one at that, I made it a point to get pretty much everything in. My analogy is that I'm not writing the 'movie,' I'm writing the ten part HBO mini-series. I'm being as faithful to the book as humanly possible. So for me, everything was crucial.

Except one bit, the Valentine/Peter (the main character's brother and sister) political rise, but there's still a chance that's going to be addressed at some point.

NRAMA: How do comics provide any easier mode of translating genre work like sci-fi and horror where films cannot?

CY: I think films can be pretty successful at translating work, but the problem is that there's so much money involved in the movies that things get meddled with. Multiple cooks get in that kitchen, and more and more 'visions' get thrust onto the source. With this book, it's Orson Scott Card and Pasqual (and me, of course, but as much as I love myself, I am simply a translator here.)

With the comic, it's probably the best chance that the source material has in getting out there in a visual medium. With this in particular, Marvel was very supportive of doing it 'right,' and giving it the space it needed to breathe.

NRAMA: What is the biggest challenge of adapting a project like this?

CY: Finding the visual solution for everything, most of which was very internal. There are long stretches of the book where the character Ender just doesn't talk. He analyzes things, he figures things out. Just not verbally.

And I don't want to put words in his mouth just to explain things to the audience. So where I do have to be creative is finding the visual sequences that explain what's happening, how things work, and what the characters are thinking/feeling without bizarre exposition and made-up dialogue.

NRAMA: How closely have you and Pasqual Ferry worked with Orson Scott Card on this project?

CY: I met Card once, but we didn't talk about the work, really. The book is my guide. Now, Pasqual's job here is a billion times harder than mine. My scripts say what happens, who's involved, etc... but they don't really say what things look like, really, unless there's a specific reason I need to describe something.

Pasqual has had to design a billion things - which aren't even described in the novel. This is the hard part. The novel is so loved, and everyone who reads it paints that picture for themselves, because there's not hard description in there for the most part. So Pasqual's vision is going to be the first visualization of the book, really.

NRAMA: Do these sorts of adaptations seem to prime Hollywood to take closer looks at pre-established popular books like Ender's Game?

CY: I have no idea. Ender's has been in stages of Hollywood development for a long time. Again, my job is to stay true to the novel, not make the 'movie' version. I don't think they're that different, though. But I'm not the one putting down 100 million dollars to make it, either.

The story is pure and good. I don't think it needs a lot of tinkering. But that's just me.

NRAMA: Ender's Game has been introduced in a lot of high school level reading programs as canonized genre literature--do you think that a medium like comics will one day find its way into schools?

CY: I read Maus in high school for a class, and that was late 80's. It depends on the right material, and the right teacher willing to put it out there.

NRAMA: What has been your favorite scene to adapt from the original story so far?

CY: The Giant's Drink. There's a virtual reality computer game that Ender plays in Battle School, where we really get to cut loose on the visuals. It's fun. But the Battle Room sequences are pretty cool. The Big Finale should be something as well.

NRAMA: Will there be other adaptations in the Ender's Game series? Is this just the tip of the iceberg?

CY: As you've already seen by now, Mike Carey is adapting Ender's Shadow. 'Speaker' seems like a no-brainer, but time will tell.

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