Generally, when you start off as a writer, visions of all your original ideas and properties being sold and produced (and now optioned by Hollywood these days!) fill up the dream space. Unless you’re an uber-geek and big fan of some particular property (say, like Star Wars or Walking Dead), you don’t dream of writing someone else’s work. The exception is for comic fans who desperately want to work on Batman or X-men…but that’s a little different…I think.
For those who aren’t quite sure, an adaptation is when one format presents a story previously presented in another format. So, if you buy the Twilight graphic novel, you’re buying an adaptation of the original novel. The graphic novel writer reads the novel, writes a script for the graphic novels based on the content of the novel and boom! Graphic novel adaptation. Adaptations can go all directions in the media: The Ender’s Game movie this past summer was an adaptation of Card’s novel of the same title.
So when I started as a writer, like many, I never said, “I want to be an adapter.” Over time, though, I see that I’ve done quite a few of them. It’s not difficult to see why companies want to do them; after all, what’s more recognizable, an original Roland Mann idea OR an adaptation of a classic Mark Twain book. Yeah—it’s about money. I get it and that’s one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed doing them—because I know folks love Huck Finn like I do!
My first adaptation job came from a time very early in my career. I had established a good working relationship with Tom Mason who was one of the top four dogs at Malibu. I called him and said I’d like more work if he had any. The answer he gave me—which I have since learned is THE standard answer when a freelancer asks that—was he didn’t have anything but would keep me in mind. A week or so later, he called me back and offered me to adapt a B-movie from the 60s into comic form. I jumped on the opportunity because I wanted the work. So, I watched the movie, broke it into three issues as requested—and there ya go! The odd part of this story is that a few months later, Tom called me back and asked if I wanted to do another one: “What?” I asked. “There were two of them?” There wasn’t…I got to make up an original follow-up! It was never published, but they paid me for the work. That work, for those who are deadly curious, was called She Devils On Wheels. Please don’t bother looking it up.
I later did an adaptation of Phillip Wylie’s 1929 Gladiator, which was the inspiration for Superman. Yeah, yeah, some argue that’s not the case, but I’ve read the actual novel and…well, yeah, clearly… Because the publisher wanted to reprint it in Europe, I broke in down in to eight page installments; three installments per issue for six issues. It also was never printed (though somewhere around here I have copies of the art for the first issue).
I did an adaptation for the PC video game Rocket Ranger, one of the coolest adaptations I’ve ever done. The publisher sent me the game and said “spend two weeks playing this and then send me a synopsis for a twelve issue series.” So…you know what I spent the next two weeks doing? Yup, playing Rocket Ranger. Interesting story on this one: I reached a part late in the game that I could not achieve. So I reached out to Chris Ulm (my editor) and told him. He called me back a day or so later and said the game maker also could not make it past that segment, so here’s what happens…and then he just gave me a summary of what happens after that point in the game. Issue #1 was published in color–the rest were black and white. Around my scripting issue 4 (maybe even 5), he called and said the series is now 6 issues, so wrap your story up now! YIKES! So I did…but the series was cancelled after issue #5 and #6 never saw print.
Not many years ago I did another film adaptation, this one for a Christian “horror” film called The Remaining. It’s the longest single script I’ve ever written, and probably the hardest, too, because they didn’t want me to actually watch the movie, wanted me to do the adaptation from the script alone. I did it–then they said, “oh no, we changed that all up.” One of the most frustrating experiences I ever had writing–they just didn’t know what they were doing.
Probably the most fun I had tends to fall under the adaptation category, but wasn’t really an adaptation. I did a Battletech mini-series back in the day, but it was original content. In a nutshell, FASA–Battletech’s owner–gave me a whole bunch of source material, told me to read it, then come up with my own story–to which I did and it was a lot of fun!
So yeah…I’ve done a few adaptations. Who knows…might do another some day…