From Comics2Film to Comics: Rob Worley Gets Epic in 'Young Ancient One'

Thu, May 29th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

"Young Ancient One" Promo Art
As a rule, most of the Comic Book Resources contributors, past and present,

who also work in the comics industry are contributors because of

their comics industry ties. While the columns of Steven

Grant, Scott

Shaw! , J. Torres,


Ellis, Mark Millar and Larry

Young can stand on their own merits, it was their comics credentials

that got readers to check them out to begin with.

Now, with journalistic objectivity slipping just a bit for a moment, we

now are seeing the second time that the process is going in reverse.

Following in the steps of Gail Simone

before him, CBR's own Rob Worley is officially a comics writer.

His first comic, "Young Ancient One," will be published later this year

by Marvel Comics' Epic line.

"Hopefully a lot of people will be able to divine the concept of 'Young

Ancient One' from the title," Worley told CBR News on Wednesday, "But for

those that aren't Dr. Strange fans: 'Young Ancient One' tells the

adventures of Dr. Strange's mentor when he was a young man in 15th century


"Of course, he wasn't so ancient back then and he really didn't even

know anything about sorcery or the mystic arts. He is, however, a cocky

kung fu fighter with a cool costume and a town to protect. The villagers

are in awe of him but his wife is there to keep his ego in check and keep

his feet on the ground. In the story we are telling, Young Ancient One

encounters a dangerous sorcerer who opens his eyes to a world he never knew

existed, sending him (and wife) down the 500-year path that takes him from

a wise-ass fighter to a wizened mentor."

Worley's first time at bat will not come in the form of a one shot or a

story in an anthology, as is more typical in the industry when newcomers

first break in.

"This is a three-issue mini-series under Marvel's Epic imprint. I was going for a sort of 'Iron Monkey' meets 'Lord of the Rings' set in the Marvel universe with a little 'Moonlighting' characterization thrown in.

"Andy Kuhn and Bill Crabtree, both of 'Firebreather' fame are on board to provide the art and colors.

"The book has a lot of humor in it and I think Andy's style is perfect for it. His background is in animation, so it has a little bit of a cartoony vibe. But he's also able to draw really distinct and expressive characters, which is great for those 'actor moments,' as he calls them.

On top of that he's got these mad design skills, so I know he's going to make all the characters look cool."

If Worley talking in the future tense makes you suspect that the project is still at an early stage, you're right.

"I don't think it's been scheduled yet. [It will be published] as soon as possible, I hope. I'm still working on the scripts and Andy's just gotten started with the designs, but we're both eager to see this thing in print as soon as we possibly can."

Worley's steady output of Comics2Film stories for CBR News alone would keep most people busy, but submitting something to Epic was something he'd been planning on doing for some time.

"Well, 'Young Ancient One' was born specifically about my thinking about projects to pitch for Epic. I wanted to go off the beaten path and try to use a character that really hadn't had the spotlight before. By January I was already in progress on a different Epic script when this concept captured my imagination.

"After it occurred to me, it felt like such a strong concept that I

really had to stop working on the other script and go full tilt at 'Young

Ancient One.'"

The process was fairly straightforward for the first-time writer:

"I've always been a fan of Steve Ditko's Marvel work and in thinking

about Dr. Strange I realized that we had this fascinating character in his

mentor, the Ancient One. Here's a character with 500 years of history and

adventure under his belt, before we even met him for the first time in

Story continues below

'Strange Tales' #110.

"So I was intrigued by that, and by the notion of exploring the Marvel

Universe of 500 years ago. All that collided with my more recent addiction

to Asian martial arts movies (and American ones too) and I really just

thought 'Young Ancient One' would be a great story to tell.

"Very quickly I had written a one-shot script, which is what Marvel was

asking for in the Epic submissions guidelines. The script was totally

kick-ass and a sure-fire green light, or so I thought.

"Well, Marvel didn't green light that script. But they did see potential

and thought I was off to a good start. The Epic editors, Stephanie Moore

and Teresa Focarile, as well as Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada worked with me

to identify the strengths and weaknesses of what I had written. As a

result, I was able to expand on the story and add some depth and humor and

emotional components that weren't in the original.

"I also got some great input from some pros and I'd be remiss if I

didn't thank them. Keith Giffen has been awesome. He's really held my hand

through this and helped me understand the craft. David Tischman is another

person who's given plenty of great advice. Ross Richie too, got me thinking

about the story and concept in bigger terms than I had originally.

"After I got the high sign from Marvel we had to start looking for an

art team. Keith had been working with Andy on a couple of projects and

spoke so highly of him. He played matchmaker and put Andy and me on the

phone together. I feel like he and I really hit it off. We've been talking

about Ditko and Fin Fang Foom and whole bunch of other comic stuff, and it

turns out we have a lot of the same interests. He's a nice guy and a huge,

huge talent and I couldn't be more excited to have him doing the book."

Worley did have an advantage when it came to putting together a script,

but even so, there were still some surprises and new challenges to face.

"I've been writing spec screenplays for a few years now, so when the

Epic opportunity came up I really felt like I was ready for it. Of course,

writing movie scripts has some significant differences over writing comic


"Some of these will sound pretty obvious, but for me they were things I

had to work through. Like in a movie script you have a target length or

page-count. But that's flexible too. You can add or subtract a few pages

without difficulty.

"No such luck with a comic. 22 comic pages are 22 comic pages and, you

can't just go to 25 pages if a few of your scenes run a little long.

"Also, thinking in terms of pages and panels was a hurdle for me. With a

movie script you're mostly thinking about story structure, action and

dialogue. There some freedom in knowing that it'll be up to the director to

decide how things are framed and how to control the pacing.

"With a comic script that's all up to you. As a writer you're so much

closer to the finished product.

"So in both formats there's this war of economy, but I felt like it's

much more strict with comics.

"And, hey, those Marvel editors are tough! They're committed to making

sure we're putting out comics with substance. It's very easy for me to say,

'well there's this kung fu guy and there's sorcery and there's these

supernatural creatures and bam, bam, BAM,' but the editors hear all that

and say, 'yeah, but what is the story ABOUT?'

"So they definitely pushed me to do better work, and I think it'll show

in the comics."

And as with so many comic fans, creating them has been an aspiration for

Worley for some time.

"Because of my work with Comics2Film, I've had a lot of contact with

people in Hollywood: writers, producers, managers, etc. So, I've been very

focused over the past few years, on writing in that arena. I quit my day

job a little over two years ago so I could really turn my attention to

writing full time, really practice the craft.

"So I've been writing specs and getting feedback and developing myself

and when the Epic opportunity came up I really felt like I was ready for it."

And, of course, there's the inevitable question for the Comics2Film

writer turned comics writer: When can we expect the movie?

"Well, we'll just have to hope Hollywood gets interested in comic-based

movies some day. Then maybe it'll happen."

CBR News