Robert Jordan On Bringing "New Spring" From Novels To Comics

Tue, March 8th, 2005 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

Without a doubt Robert Jordan is the current reigning king of the fantasy publishing world. His series "The Wheel of Time," now with 11 volumes, has seen some 11 Million copies in print. Go to any Barnes & Noble or Borders book store and you'll see an awful lot of shelf space dedicated to his novels.

While the prolific author may have conquered the prose world with relative ease, he's decided his next challenge will be in bringing the prequel to "The Wheel of Time" series to comics. Red Eagle Entertainment, LLC, a brand management and licensing company, has formed a partnership with Dabel Brothers Productions to bring Jordan's "New Spring: The Novel" to the world of comics.

The comic book adaptation, tentatively titled "The Wheel of Time: New Spring," is co-written by Jordan and comics writer Chuck Dixon, with art by Mike S. Miller. The first issue is scheduled for release at Comic-Con International in San Diego this coming July, where Jordan is a Guest of Honor. This also marks the emergence of Red Eagle Entertainment in to the comics world with "New Spring" published under the Red Eagle Publishing banner.

With all that in mind, CBR News caught up with Jordan for a quick chat about "The Wheel of Time," on bringing his world to comics and his own life long appreciation for the art form. Jordan began by bringing those new to his work up to speed and pointed out that since "New Spring" is the prequel to "The Wheel of Time" series, the book is naturally new reader friendly. "New readers don't really need to know anything beyond what they will get in the comic," Jordan told CBR News Monday afternoon. "I will point out that this is not another psuedo-medieval world. I like to think of it as being the late Seventeenth Century with gunpowder as the guild secret of the people who make fireworks."

Gun powder is not the only fearsome weapon in Jordan's world. There is also a mysterious and deadly power. "The biggest single political power in their world is the great city of Tar Valon, home to the White Tower, which is the headquarters of the Aes Sedai, women who can tap into the power that drives the universe and turns the Wheel of Time, the One Power."

Men are not able to manipulate the power like women can, the dual nature of the power is often too much for them. "Men can't do that safely. A man who channels the One Power, which has a male half, saidin, and a female half, saidar, will eventually go mad and die," Jordan explained. "Only until he dies, he's a madman who can do horrific things with the Power. The fly in the buttermilk is this. Prophecy says that a boychild will be born who is humanity's only chance to win the Last Battle, when the Dark One breaks free of the prison where he was confined by the Creator at the moment of creation. And that boychild will be able to channel the One Power."

While "New Spring" may be the first book chronologically, it was the tenth book in the series written by Jordan. Jordan chose "New Spring" as the first book to adapt to comics because it's the shortest of his books, which Jordan felt would make it easiest to adapt.

Jordan and Dixon have found working together to be an easy and pleasant process. The duo pass the scripts back and forth making changes until they get to a point where they're both satisfied with the work. As readers might expect, bringing a novel to comics means some necessary story edits, but Jordan noted the format offers opportunities not available with straight prose. "There simply isn't room for the amount of internal dialogue that you have in a print novel, for example," said Jordan. "On the other hand, as in a movie, a few images can establish what it might take me several pages to show in print. Which is why I've developed a really close relationship with Mike Miller, the artist."

But why comics? Jordan's built a very successful career as a novelist, so why make the move to comics? Well, with a world of fantastic places and people like Jordan's built, the comics format presents a number of interesting opportunities for the writer to explore. "In truth, at first, I thought I really wouldn't be involved beyond approving artwork and scripts, but as that process began to unfold, I realized that I had to put a lot more time and energy into making sure that the comics showed my vision of the world as closely as possible," said Jordan. "That is the compelling factor to me. To try to show clearly the world that I envision."

As for how this all came together, the writer said the answer is a simple one. "I wrote a novella called 'New Spring' for the Bob Silverberg anthology 'Legends' and the Dabel brothers approached my agent about doing a comic based on that. They had already begun George Martin's 'The Hedge Knight' from that anthology -- the issues I saw looked spectacular! -- and signed to do Bob Silverberg's story as well. Meanwhile, however, my print publisher, Tor Books, had asked me to expand the novella into 'New Spring: the Novel.' So I told the Dabel Brothers that I wouldn't sell them the rights to the novella, but I would to the novel, if they were interested in doing something that much longer. It turned out that they were and we were off to the races."

Jordan's been a long time fan of comics and graphic novels, dating back to his early childhood when his family first exposed him to comics. "I learned to read early -- I was reading Jules Verne and Mark Twain at five -- and my Uncles went into their attics and gave me not only their old 'boys' books,' things like 'Jack Armstrong: All-American Boy' and 'The Flying Midshipmen,' but also old comics they had from the '30s and '40s. For a while, I had a fairly valuable collection, though I didn't know it then. None of the really rare items, but some that would have fetched nice prices. Though I have to admit that after all these years, I can't recall the issue numbers. I bought, too, choosing carefully because my allowance only stretched so far. My own purchases were pretty far ranging. For example, I liked Batman and Scrooge McDuck about equally. In any case, that ended when I went away to college.

"I came home for the first time to find out that my mother had given all of the comics and boys' books to various children because 'surely I didn't want those old things any more.' There's no way you can go to a ten-year old and tell him you want him to give back the comics he was just given. I mean, they weren't that valuable. But I still followed comics, and later graphic novels, which didn't exist when I was in college. It was really intermittent - 'Howard the Duck,' Chaykin's 'American Flagg,' a few others that I still have -- until Frank Miller got his hands on Batman. That brought me back on board, and I've been there ever since. I'm pretty choosy, partly as a matter of time -- most of my reading is print -- but when I see something that's new and interesting, I leap on it. And I buy compilations of older works that I recall fondly, too, for myself and as gifts. My wife doesn't know it, but she was a fan of Plastic Man as a girl, and she's getting six hardcover volumes of 'Plastic Man' compilations as soon they're delivered."

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