Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, Vol. 2 #1 hit the shelves this week (click here to check out a preview), written by bestselling novelist Dean Koontz and comics legend Chuck Dixon, with art by Hack/Slash creator Tim Seeley. Following on the heels of the 2008 Dabel Brothers Press miniseries, Volume 2 is being released through Dynamite Entertainment.
Dean Koontz himself joined Newsarama to talk about the mechanics of adapting his novels to graphic novel form, as well as the difference between working in comics versus other forms of entertainment he’s had experience in, from bad attitudes and egos to changes in characters from novels to comics.Newsarama: Every format demands a somewhat different treatment of the original story. How different is writing for comics and graphic novels from writing a stand-alone novel? How does it change the beats and the cliffhanger pieces of the story?
Dean Koontz: Writing a script or a story outline for comics and graphic novels is a near-horizon job, whereas a novel's finish waits for you at a distant horizon, requiring greater perseverance and a HUGELY greater supply of caffeine pills to wash down with Diet Coke . The beats and the cliffhangers change rather substantially because the novel will be pretty much reduced to a novella by the adaptation process. If you tried to hit every beat in the original novel, you'd need at least ten graphic novels to do the job, which is too many when you're talking about a six-book series. For 60 graphic novels, we'd need to level a rainforest to make the paper. I'm no defender of rainforests, you understand; they're not only rainy and remote and hot, but they're also full of bugs, and I hate bugs. But there are people who love rainforests--and even people who adore bugs--and they would come after us in a kick-ass mood.
Nrama: How different was the process for you as the characters were brought to life visually?
Koontz: Very different. As a novelist, I have a mental image of every character, and the artist is going to have a different image partly because he is working from the script not from the novel. Even if he was working from the novel, my description might spark something different in his mind than I intended. At the start of this, I was asked if Michael Maddison could be African-American and if Carson O'Connor could be multi-ethnic, and I said sure, which changed them from the books. I thought that would give the graphic version a new and interesting feel. Generally, when I write about an African-American, I don't make his or her race the central issue of his story, because that's just boring and because it strikes me as a kind of bigotry to suppose that it has to be central to whom the character is. Michael's wit, intelligence, and passion are central to who he is, not his race; so it doesn't matter if he's totally whitebread or African-American, he could be either.
Nrama: What do you think is the most important thing for readers to know going to this second series of your Frankenstein story?
Koontz: You're talking about the second series of comics/graphic novel,
which is still dealing with PRODIGAL SON. My second series begins with the fourth novel, LOST SOULS, which makes me considerably more confused than I usually am! In either case, what I want readers to know is that nothing will evolve as you expect. One of the things I'm having the most fun with in these books is springing surprises chapter by chapter.
Nrama: What's the balance of new content and straight adapting in these comics?
Koontz: Mostly this is straight adapting, but the compression that occurs in transition from novel to graphic novel means that some major scenes become quicker moments.
Nrama: Many novelists and filmmakers work directly with editors or with their own "imported" collaborators when transitioning to comics. Instead, you've chosen to work with experienced and respected comics creators in Chuck Dixon and Tim Seeley. Why did you decide to approach comics in this way?
Koontz: I'm not too proud to admit I don't know what the hell I'm doing in the comics and graphic novel worlds. I feel more comfortable when my work is in experienced hands. If I were going to learn to cook--no chance--I wouldn't ask another writer-friend to teach me just because we hang out together. I'd want to take lessons from a chef.
Nrama: Do you think that decision (to work with seasoned comics creators) has improved the output?
Koontz: That's not for me to say. The fans have to judge for themselves. All I know is that I like what I see. You almost suckered me into responding like a critic. My mama didn't raise no damn critic.
Nrama: (laughs) Your version of Frankenstein has really reinvented him and placed him in modern times. What do you want readers to think of your Frankenstein monster character--Deucalion--who has now lived 200 years, much of the time spent in monasteries trying to become more human and good? How do you balance living up to reader expectations regarding breaking new ground with this character?
Koontz: Victor's hubris, his mad insistence on pursuing utopia, has corrupted him so completely in 200 years that he is now as insane as many of our own current politicians. Meanwhile, Deucalion's humility--once he overcame his initial rage--has given him the chance to become the hero of the piece. Not only that, but he has certain mysterious powers the origins of which we can as yet only speculate. In mythology, Deucalion was the name of Prometheus's son. My Deucalion would like to put out the fire lit by his "father" and save humanity from Victor's machinations. Beginning with the fourth novel, LOST SOULS, Victor's goals change rather dramatically and terrifyingly, and Deucalion must be willing to take ever greater risks to achieve redemption.
Nrama: You've said in the past that it has been hard to collaborate on some projects. In a novel, as author, you have creative control. That is much less true with a television series or a film. How would you describe the collaborative process for comics and graphic novels?
Koontz: Comics and graphic novels are much easier than TV and films. I've yet to meet a narcissistic megalomaniac in comics, whereas 53.3% of your collaborators in TV will be just that, and precisely 64.2% of your collaborators in film. (These are exact scientific numbers that I will defend to the death.)What novels would you like to see come to comics?