Adaptations? Yep, I’ve done those…

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…


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Guilty pleasure: I kinda like reaction videos

My daughter turned me on to “reaction videos” a few years back. I don’t remember the first one, but I remember it was so that I could laugh at the reactions of the person making the video. Truth be told, I did laugh…and then we laughed at a whole bunch more of them.

If you don’t know what I mean by reaction videos, they are short videos of people’s reaction to things they’ve never experienced before. Mostly, you’ll find someone in a demographic that doesn’t stereotypically listen to a certain style of music—they’ll listen, and you’ll see their reaction caught on video. I’ve seen kids listening to Led Zeppelin, black folks (who would normally listen to rap) listening to things like Metallica, some Appalachian banjo pickers listening to Rap… I’ve even seen reaction videos of Indian men reaction to foods (usually junk food) from the U.S. they’ve never tried before. Often, they’re pretty funny.

I watched a bunch with my daughter…then I didn’t really think much about them for some time. But I’ve recently started watching some again, but this time with a slightly different lens. Y’see, one of the draws of the reaction videos is that the person in the video has never experienced whatever it is. But then I realized… I’m witnessing someone listen to a song/music that meant so much to me at some point in my life.

I will never be able to listen to Queen’s SOMEBODY TO LOVE again for the first time, or Aerosmith’s SWEET EMOTION, or Led Zeppelin’s STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN. Sure I can listen and appreciate them, but never again, for the first time. I realized I was watching these people experience something—for the first time—and…well, my mind was a bit blown and…if I can be honest, a bit emotionally moved.

But then I thought about a period of time when my daughter was in college and she’d pop by my home office—probably on her way to bed—and then three hours later would she finally head that way because she’d just let me spend those three hours sharing music and videos with her—for the first time.

Yeah. It was pretty special.

Yeah. I’m a sap. So sue me.

But I do look at those reaction videos just a little bit differently now.

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Not all bad tropes are bad

In my class, students read a lot of comics. A goodly portion of them are superhero comics. Super HERO comics. Of those that aren’t “superhero” comics, they often still have “heroes” though not so super. “Heroes” do heroic things. A lot of those heroic things include SAVING PEOPLE.

So I laugh to myself when I read a student write about some comic they’ve read: “oh, hero saved the damsel in distress. I hate this trope, therefore I hate this comic.”

I get it. No really, I do. You’ve been told this for years—that women don’t need to be rescued, women are tough, they don’t need a “man” to rescue them, etc., so the story is old and therefore you should hate it.

The problem (often) is, it ain’t about the person being rescued being a woman. I mean, heroes can save THE WORLD (which includes men and women) like the Avengers do in the movies…but that, too, can get old after a while. No, it’s about the hero doing something heroic, saving SOMEONE in need of saving.

If heroes are saving people, they’re either going to save a damsel in distress or a dude in distress. You’ve got a 50/50 chance of either of those. I guess you COULD make it 33/33/33 and make it a “kid” where it doesn’t really matter if they’re a boy or girl, they’re a kid.

But…I dunno, people need saving sometimes. Sometimes that person is a man, sometimes that person is a female …let heroes by heroes. Let them save people. Let them save kids. Let them save dudes. Let them save damsels! I WANT to see my heroes doing heroic things!

And PS. For the uninitiated, “heroes” can be a male or female. It’s not about their biology, it’s about what they do with the power they have.


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