Straight out of Fan Expo Canada comes Marvel’s announcement of a brand new “Enders Game” adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novella “War of Gifts,” written by Ender veteran Jake Black (“Ender’s Game: Recruiting Valentine”). Due in December, the double sized one-shot will set its sights on pacifist student Zeck Morgan in a story that runs parallel to “Ender’s Game: Battle School.” CBR News spoke with Black to get all the details on the main story, Zeck Morgan and the challenges the character faces as Battle School opens for fall term.
CBR News: What is the central concept behind “War of Gifts?”
Black: Following a pair of devastating alien invasions, the nations of Earth have joined forces to prepare for the next attack. They carefully choose the smartest children on Earth, and send them to Battle School, a space station, where they are taught strategy and prepare for combat. It's hoped that the greatest military mind/leader in human history is among them. Because of the international nature of Battle School, religious observance is forbidden. "War of Gifts" focuses on a student who is chosen to go to Battle School yet comes from a very religious background and upbringing. This student, Zeck, starts a religious revolution at the school after learning that a couple of his fellow students secretly celebrated a Christmas tradition.
CBR News: Are you a fan of the Ender’s Game series?
If I wasn't before, I certainly am now! Just over two years ago, I was hired to write "The Authorized Ender Companion"--the encyclopedia of the Ender's Game series--which will be published by Tor Books on November 10. I have spent a lot of time getting to know the Ender Universe (or Enderverse as it is sometimes called) inside and out. I've really enjoyed the books and short stories.
CBR News: How much research did you have to do for War of Gifts?
I had just started working on the "Ender Companion" when "War of Gifts" was coming out. I'd gotten a copy of the manuscript to help me in my research for the encyclopedia. When I read it, it instantly became my favorite of the Ender books and stories. It still is to this day. By virtue of my writing the encyclopedia, I've been working as a story consultant on all of Marvel's Ender projects. I also wrote another Ender's one shot that came out back in June, "Recruiting Valentine." When Marvel wanted to do another one shot, and asked for ideas - mentioning that it was due for a December release - I immediately thought of "War of Gifts," given its holiday theme. When it came to actually write it, I went back to the original book to make sure I got the story right, but I didn't have to do much research since I'd done it previously for the other project.
CBR News: What are you hoping to accomplish with your adaptation of the novella?
I hope that readers enjoy the story. As with all of the books and stories in the Ender Universe, "War of Gifts" explores several aspects of human nature. Zeck is a really conflicted character. He really struggles with a lot. The humanity of Orson Scott Card's characters is so rich and deep. I hope the adaptation captures that richness, and that readers find a connection to the overriding struggles - very human struggles - these characters experience.
CBR News: How involved in the project is Orson Scott Card?
As with all things "Ender's Game" related, Mr. Card is very involved. He oversees everything as "Creative Director," and in that role makes comments/notes to help ensure the quality of the product. He also recognizes the unique storytelling devices of the comics medium, and encourages those of us working on the comics to utilize them to their fullest potential. Through the "Ender Companion" and several other projects (including adapting his novel "Wyrms" for Marvel), I've developed a very positive working relationship with Mr. Card. He's been nothing but supportive of not only my efforts, but everyone at Marvel working on "Ender's Game."
CBR News: Which characters are you most looking forward to writing?
I mentioned earlier that "War of Gifts" became my favorite of the series very quickly. It's primarily because of Zeck. He's so complicated for a six-year-old! I'm pretty sure that I didn't have the depth of thought or the commitment to a cause that Zeck has. But, again, he's so conflicted. He's a fascinating character. I'm really excited to wrap my mind around him and get to know him better.
CBR News: What do you think is the most challenging aspect to adapting the Ender’s Game universe for comics?
Without question, the biggest challenge in adapting the Ender Universe for comics is the economy of space. These stories are so full of philosophical ideas and strong characters that there's not enough room for it all in comics! "War of Gifts" is about 200 panels long, and that may sound like a lot, but you quickly realize that that's not a lot of space. It then becomes a bit of a wrestling match with the original source material, as I try to distill it down to key story points and developmental elements. I don't want to leave anything out of the adaptation, but because of space constraints, it becomes a necessity.
CBR News: What do you think fans of Ender’s Game and the other comic adaptations will enjoy most about this project?
Again, it's the humanity of the characters. I think that's what has drawn people to the Ender books from the very beginning, and I hope that translates in the comics. Even more than that, I think that's what attracts people to Marvel comics particularly. Even the most powerful superheroes in the Marvel Universe have a deep level of humanity to them, and it’s made them attractive and enjoyable to audiences for 70 years. Ender and Zeck may not have super powers, but they are interesting, engaging characters.