Marvel is debuting a new line of novels this year, adapting some of their most famous comic book stories into prose. First up in June 2012 is Civil War by Stuart Moore, based on the top-selling Mark Millar-written, Steve McNiven-illustrated event series.
Moore, a comic book veteran who also has experience writing and editing prose, is also serving as editor of the line. He says that while novel adaptations of comic books is nothing new — both Marvel and DC have done it in the past — this is unique in that the content is actually coming from in-house.
"Generally these things are licensed out," Moore said in a phone interview with Newsarama. "The content is always approved by Marvel or DC, but sometimes it's produced by the book publisher, sometimes it's produced by a packager in between. But this is something that's actually being handled directly out of Marvel. "
Given the novel format, the intention is to appeal not only to existing comic book readers, but also people who are only familiar with Marvel's characters from movies like last year's Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor."I'm not sure we could have done this 10 years ago," said Moore, a former editor at both Marvel and DC. "But now, at this point in time, even casual readers who might pick this up know who Captain America is, or who Thor is, because there have been so many movies out over the last 10 years."
Moore said that while he's still careful to introduce characters in a way that doesn't assume any institutional knowledge, he's in an advantageous position given current mainstream awareness of much of Marvel's properties. It's part of why Civil War was a natural starting point, since it focuses on an ideological and physical battle among Marvel's heroes led on opposing sides by Captain America and Iron Man — two of the main characters of the Avengers feature film, out in May 2012.
Naturally, there are necessary changes to be made in moving from one format to another. Moore said that he's writing an unmarried Spider-Man in the novel (since that's the current status quo in both the comic books and movies), and focusing on only four point-of-view characters: Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man and a fourth he declined to reveal, calling it a bit of a surprise.
"If you wrote it out as an outline, beat for beat, it's not that far off from the comic book, but each individual scene is very different," said Moore, who recently wrote the ongoing series Namor: The First Mutant for Marvel. "I'm not quite done with the first draft yet, but so far there's been exactly one scene that worked and paced itself out roughly the way it was in the comic book."When Civil War was originally released in comic book form in 2006 and early 2007, Thor was off the table due to his apparent death, and his only presence in the story was in the form of a robotic clone named Ragnarok. Since Thor is a major character in Avengers and starred in his own film last year, Moore said that things play out a little differently in his book, without going into specifics.
"If we're adapting a comic book that was originally written in a particular period in Marvel's history, and because of something that was going on in Fantastic Four at the time, Reed Richards is an orangutan, should we write him as an orangutan, or should we write him as classic Reed?" Moore said, recalling a question asked at the early development stage of the novel line. "We all agreed that he should be his classic self. "
As discussed by Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso when the line was announced in December, the plan is for Marvel's novels to interlock in the similar way the Marvel Studios movies have connected. Moore calls the intersection between the novels "very loose but cohesive."
"We want to set up certain rules for where the characters are," Moore said. "I don't want that to ever become a straightjacket for the writers, but I don't think it will."
Alonso told Newsarama in December that he knew he had to go outside Marvel's full-time editorial staff for the novel line, and that Moore was a natural choice to oversee the project and write the first book.
"We needed an editor who knew comics and knew how to edit prose," Alonso said. "Mark Millar is very happy that Stuart’s doing this."
Past Civil War, three more Marvel novels are planned, scheduled for one each quarter and adapting as-yet unannounced stories. As editor, Moore will work with other writers on the other three, but says it's "entirely possible" that he'll write another one himself down the line.
Moore says it's also possible in the future that Marvel might expand to publishing original stories in the novel format, calling it a "natural extension."
"We haven't talked about it yet, but it this line does well, I don't see why not," he said.
Beyond Marvel's novel line, Moore is keeping busy busy with work on multicultural superhero team The 99, plus he's written a two-part Spider-Man comic book story that he says should be out some time in the next year, and a Transformers story for IDW. He's also got another prose adaptation coming: a novelization of Disney's forthcoming John Carter movie, scheduled for release on Feb. 7.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!