The folks at Disney Publishing hosted a panel Saturday at New York Comic Con to share some the benefits and hurdles of adapting fan-favorite franchises into graphic novels. Editors Nachie Castro and Christian Trimmer, along with a small group of writers and artists, were on hand to talk about the graphic novel adaptations of books like “Tron: Betrayal” and “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.”
Castro greeted the crowd and launched right into “Tron: Betrayal” written by Jai Nitz with art by Andie Tong. While Disney is publishing the complete, 128 page graphic novel in November, Marvel Comics is serializing the story with the first issue in stores now. Castro said that the goal of the book was to add to the overall continuity of “Tron,” and to not put out “something where we're holding a gun to everyone's head and saying 'You have to spend two hundred dollars if you wanna understand everything when you go to the movie this December!'” Instead, the creative team worked to develop “something that can hold its own weight and be enjoyed on its own.” Castro hopes that the book will “enrich the experience” of the new film.
“Tron: Betrayal” writer Jai Nitz then asked the audience to raise their hands if they were “here for 'Tron?'” A small minority of the crowded room raised their hands. “Who's here for 'Lightning Thief'?” he said, and the majority of the hands in the room quickly shot up. In a somewhat somber voice, Castro said, “We'll talk quickly.”
Nitz told the audience he wanted to assure fans that Disney was committed to telling a good story within the comic book medium and that the project was not just “a copy of a copy” and “a quick way to make a buck.” He then went through a brief overview of the history of “Tron,” starting with the plot of the original 1982 film, and then all the way through “Tron: Betrayal,” which serves as a bridge between the original movie and the upcoming “Tron: Legacy.” Castro jumped in to say that while he didn't want to give away too much of the graphic novel's story line, he would warn fans that “The book is called 'Betrayal.' So, as you might imagine, bad things happen.”
Christian Trimmer took over next to discuss his work adapting book series with huge, built-in audiences such as “Artemis Fowl” and “Percy Jackson” into the graphic novel format. “As opposed to Nachie, who is trying to tell a new story, we are trying to be very, very true to Rick's [Riordan, author of the “Percy Jackson” novels] vision and to capture all of the episodes from the book.” The graphic novel adaptation of "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” is being handled by writer Robert Venditti, artist Attila Futaki and colorist Jose Villarrubia, all of whom expressed their dedication to the original vision of the novels. Venditti said he was especially committed to properly adapting “Percy Jackson” since he had seen how quickly adaptations could veer off track when his own comic book, “The Surrogates,” was adapted into a film. “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” will be available October 12th.
Trimmer then gave a brief look at “Blue Bloods,” another novel series currently in development as a graphic novel, saying, “It's our vampire series; please don't groan. It's very different and really exciting.” Trimmer describes the books as “'Twilight' meets 'Gossip Girl'” and notes that what sets the adaptation apart is the artwork. Artist Alina Urusov is working on the book and the editors proudly showed off some of her works. Trimmer said that she is “killin' it” and that her style is “a little more feminine and a little more delicate.”
The panel then opened up to questions from the crowd. An audience member asked the "Tron: Betrayal" creative team if they were worried or hesitant about working on a property with such a long history and devoted fan base. Writer Jai Nitz responded by the telling a story about seeing a “Tron” super fan, who had the words “Tron” shaved into the side of his head, and knowing if he screwed up the comic book said super fan would hunt him down. This fear, along with their deep desire to meet Jeff Bridges, helped the “Tron” creators produce the best book they possibly could.
Castro closed out the panel by stressing Disney's commitment to making all their books available in a digital format. “Moving forward from here, we are looking to make large portions of our backlist and everything we release from now on, available digitally," he said.