Dabel Brothers’ adaptation of Dean Koontz’s Frankentstein: Prodigal Son has begun at the publisher, making up half of the acclaimed novelist’s current foray into comics. Together with In Odd We Trust from Del Rey’s manga line, the two titles mark a decisive step into comics by Koontz (who’s seen 350 million copies of his novels sold world-wide).
Prodigal Son, as those who’ve read the novel know isn’t a straight-ahead retelling of the Frankenstein story. Adapted by Chuck Dixon and Brett Booth, the story is set many years after Dr. Frankenstein and his castle. As the publisher describes it:
In the 19th century, Dr. Victor Frankenstein brought his first creation to life, but a horrible turn of events forced him to abandon his creation and fall away from the public eye. Now, two centuries later, a serial killer is on the loose in New Orleans, and he's salvaging body parts from each of his victims, as if he's trying to create the perfect person. But the two detectives assigned to the case are about to discover that something far more sinister is going on...
We spoke with Koontz about the adaptation and working in comics.
Newsarama: First off Dean, what got the ball rolling with bringing your version of Frankenstein to a comic format?
Dean Koontz: My respect for the Dabel brothers and the quality of what they produce. It's always more exciting to work with talented people who have taste than with--say--the average Hollywood producer with which I've had experience.
And, of course, the Dabel brothers had to want to work with me. I was prepared to hold them at gunpoint if necessary, but it never came to that.
NRAMA: In the larger view of your works, many of your novels contain genre elements. Were you a comic book reader as a kid or did they or their stories influence you at all?
DK: I was never into superhero comics. I was fascinated with Tales from the Crypt and that sort of thing, and also with Scrooge McDuck and his endless battle with the Beagle Boys. Once I began having success with novels, I really had to restrain myself from building a giant money bin, filling it with coins, and driving around in it with a bulldozer.
NRAMA: That said, you're Dean Koontz - was this the first time you were approached about adapting one of your works to comics?
DK: No. I'd done a couple of small things, but I didn't care for the resulting product, and I was wary. It really does come down to seeing in the Dabel brothers and in Del Rey's manga program a sensibility and a commitment similar to my own.
NRAMA: As you mention, you now have both Frankenstein and Odd Thomas (at Del Rey Manga). Is this just coincidence or a planned move into the medium on your part?
DK: I've felt for a while that this would be fun if I could work with partners who set high standards and who would, therefore, not suck me down into a black hole of creative disagreement.
NRAMA: Let's talk about Prodigal Son. For those who are familiar with the novels, how would you describe the story of the comic? Straight-ahead adaptation? An adaptation with expansion?
DK: It seems to me to be a combination of a faithful adaptation and an oblique interpretation. These books are crammed full of funny dialogue, and if this were preserved in detail, we'd need maybe 886 issues to tell the story!
You'd have to start buying one issue each month in childhood and continue well into retirement to finish the run, by which time the onset of Alzheimer's would leave you unable to comprehend the conclusion for which you had waited all your life.
NRAMA: What kind of oversight do you have with the series? Did you, for example, have say on Brett's designs?
DK: I had approval of script and art, but everything sent to me was done with such thoughtfulness and such a high design sense that I had to give very little feedback. I am always aware that I do not have a deep background in comics and that my opinions might more likely be bone-headed than not, when dealing with partners as skilled as Chuck Dixon and Brett Booth.
NRAMA: The comic format is obviously different from that of novels, so how was it decided what would make it into the comic book, and what wouldn't?
DK: You're asking the wrong guy. My trust in Chuck, Brett, and the Dabels was absolute.
NRAMA: This is the second time Prodigal Son has moved into a medium other than the novel, and while you wrote the screenplay, what's it like to see others interpret your work? To put words in the mouths of your characters?
DK: With the TV movie--which was conceived to be the start of a series --it was excruciating. I discovered I was in business with people who wanted to strip away the humor, the philosophy, the eccentric characters, and load it up with grunge and gore. My lifelong ability to be able to avoid committing homicide was sorely tested. With the comics world, the experience has been far more intelligent and satisfying.
NRAMA: As the series progresses, are you thinking of doing some expansion on the main story? That is, step in to write a side story that didn't make it into the novel?
DK: There's already a side story approved, created by Chuck. If I decide to do a side story, I will have to restrain myself from giving Victor Frankenstein a giant money bin full of coins through which he drives in a bulldozer.