Friends With Boys - Page 202

Oh dang you guys, the comic wraps up this week! THIS WEEK! I will probably do some blogging afterwards, and I’m hoping to maybe do a giveaway contest for a hardcopy of Friends With Boys (and maybe an original drawing), but I’m not sure yet what I want the contest to be. I want to make you guys work for your prizes! ;)

Anyway, this will probably be one of the last process blogs I’ll do. I’ve really appreciated the tremendous response I’ve gotten to talking about My Life as A Cartoonist, and writing down my work methods (and other thoughts on comics) have in many ways helped me clarify why I work that way. It’s weird, I feel so much more professional! Like my opinions are valid because I wrote them down. Weird, huh? Thank you so much for being a part of that.

Today I want to talk about adapting prose into comics, because that’s something I’m doing now, and something that seems to be … I dunno, popular in certain sections of the comic publishing world. I cannot say that I’ve read many prose-to-comics adaptations that are good (off the top of my head I can’t think of a single one I’d recommend). But I think adapting a novel to comics can be very rewarding, and also work very well, if it is done correctly.

First let me talk a bit about how I percieve a comic adaptation of a prose novel should go, using my old Hunger Games comic. Back in 2010 sometime I adapted the first couple pages of the first Hunger Games novel to comics, just for funsies. I was bored and unemployed, so I draw random comics. Here is the entire comic, 5 pages long, and it covers the first 4 pages of the book.

It seems like a stupid thing to say, but comics are a visual medium. They tell the story through pictures as much as they do words. Often when I pick up a comic adaptation of a prose novel, I am confronted by a huge wall of text, plastered all over the pages of the comic. The text is usually lifted straight from the prose novel. It seems that’s what people think a comic of a prose novel should be: an illustration with text slapped all over it.

I think it’s awful. I hate adaptations like that. Comics are visual. If you are a cartoonist translating a novel to comics, it is your job to take the words the author has written, and draw them. It is your challenge to make those drawings as evocative and moving as the prose.

In the Hunger Games novel, in the 4 pages I adapted, there is a section where Katniss talks about her relationship with her sister’s cantankerous cat, Buttercup. Katniss talks about how she tried to drown Buttercup when the cat was a kitten, and their relationship has never been good. But now, they are at least at peace, because Katniss’s sister loves Buttercup. I chose to illustrate those words on page 3, panels 5-7. We don’t know Katniss tried to drown Buttercup, or that her sister interceeded on Buttercup’s behalf, but we know Katniss and the cat have a bad relationship. I have drawn it there, in the way Katniss looks at Buttercup, in the way the cat flattens her ears at the girl. I could have had a big stupid wall of text in there, lifted directly from the book, but why? When you watch a movie adaptation of a book, does the director stick text from the novel right on to the screen? No, because movies are a visual medium. So are comics. You must convey the emotion, the setting, the relationships of the prose novel through your drawings.

I actually had a couple people email me after I did this little Hunger Games adaptation, asking me to “finish” the comic. They thought it was unfinished because there wasn’t text from the novel all over the comic.

Let me qualify this ramble against text-heavy comics by saying that there are times when a comic works brilliantly when it has a lot of text. I’m thinking specifically of books like Fun Home or Skim, which use a rich inner voice to paint very intimate character portraits. Seriously, those comics are so good. But they’re also very special, very personal stories told from a single character’s point of view. If you have a comic with multiple viewpoints and multiple plotlines that you’re all following, having a lot of inner character narration and walls of text is very tricky.

Anyway, I’m digressing. Point is, lots of text in comics: sometimes it works. But copying and pasting from novels on to a drawing and pretending that’s a legitimate comic makes me want to gnaw my arms off. BTW, feel free to recommend any prose to comic adaptations you think are good. I swear I cannot think of a single one … D:

And now … a peek into my current graphic novel with First Second, the follow up to Friends With Boys! Yay! And guess what? It’s an adaptation of a prose novel to comic form! Hurrah! Let’s put this behind a cut, because it’s getting long.

The graphic novel I’m currently drawing for First Second is called Voted Most Likely (I am about 70% sure that title will change), and is an adaptation of an unpublished Young Adult novel by a writer, Pru Shen. It’s about two guys in high school, one is a popular basketball player (who’s also depressed and struggling with his parents’ divorce) and the other is a robot-building nerd (who is aggressive and goes out and gets what he wants), and their weird, combative friendship. The story plays a bit with the Jocks/Nerd stereotypes, which I personally really appreciate, and really lets me stretch my comedy chops. It’s a funny, over the top story, and I’m having a lot of fun drawing it.

I had free reign to adapt the story as I saw fit. I was handed a 200+ page manuscript and told to go wild. I had my opinions on adapting a prose story, and told my editor up front that I didn’t plan to take a large amount of text from the story and paste it onto images; I wanted to adapt the story visually. My editor was all for it, and I think the book is going to be a lot of fun. I must admit, I really enjoy drawing all the boys! It’s been a while since I worked on a story that was boy-centric, and a great challange. I’m definitely going to come out the other side a much better artist and author.

Here is a section of the novel, followed by my adapted comic pages, so you can see what I chose to keep, and what to remove. Unfortunately the pages aren’t lettered, but you should be able to get the gist of the story.

Charlie looked apoplectic, on the verge of throwing an honest to God tantrum, a mangled HARDING FOR STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT flier still clutched in his left hand with the right fisting the collar of Nate’s shirt.  

“What the hell is this?” Charlie asked, voice rising with every successive word.

“I’ve always had political aspirations,” Nate stalled.

He tried to ignore the rapt audience of the rest of their AP U.S. History class, half of whom were crammed into the doorway of their classroom and watching in undisguised glee, enjoying the theater and waiting for Mr. Tisdale to make an appearance. Joanna–that traitor–hadn’t even tried to stop Charlie when he’d stormed into the room, grabbed Nate by the arm, and dragged him out. “And you’ve already got all those duties as captain of the basketball team,” Nate said, smiling brightly.

Charlie shoved Nate further into the wall, but before Nate could say, “Okay, ow! You realize I have a spine in there, right?” Charlie was in his face, furious as he shouted:

“I knew something was up yesterday! I should have seen it coming! Did you not learn anything from my 16th birthday incident?”

“I only rented that pony to make you happy,” Nate said feelingly.

Charlie let go of Nate to tear at his own hair. “I cannot believe you!”

Nate pushed him away, tugging at his shirt, trying to smooth out his ruffled dignity–which was hard to do when your entire fifth period class was watching in prurient interest.

“Before you go any more wronged princess on me here,” Nate warned, “let’s stop pretending that you care about me running for class president or lying to you–in fact, let’s stop pretending you care about the cheerleaders getting their uniforms.”

Charlie made a frantic shushing noise and looked around, pale.

“You are such a wuss,” Nate said, revolted. “They’re cheerleaders, not the KGB, and you told me that Holly’s spent the last eight months pretending she doesn’t even know you’re alive–God only knows why you’re so scared of her.”

Nate had spent a small fortune and more than a year of his life putting together The Beast, gotten burned and cut and accidentally glued things to himself and then burned and cut some more attempting to unglue things from himself. He and the rest of his team had literally shed tears and blood over their creation. Weighed against all the hours lost to the dank and mildewed corners of his basement putting The Beast togetherNate couldn’t give two shakes about screwing over the pom-pom brigade, if that’s what it took to get to the contest.

They spent the next forty minutes failing one of Mr. Tisdale’s legendary tests–a one hundred question fill-in-the-blank final average killer–and despite himself, Nate caught Charlie’s eye halfway through the period so they could share a moment of solidarity. Five minutes after the lunch bell and just after Tisdale had pried the last test paper from the last frantically scribbling student, Joanna fell into step next to Nate, radiating curiosity.

“Is Charlie Nolan seriously afraid of the cheerleaders?” she asked, eyes tracking Charlie as he was corralled by his teammates further down the hall–laughing and passing the basketball one to another, talking about their upcoming game against some other basketball team Nate knew nothing about.

And now my pages!

Page 1 / Page 2 / Page 3 / Page 4 / Page 5 /

The scene concludes with Joanna (curly haired girl) saying “Is Charlie Nolan seriously afraid of the Cheerleaders?”

Anyway, I hope you can see the choices I made to make the scene work, and work in a way that is not dragged out. I mean, it was a 200 page manuscript and ended up being a nearly 300 page comic. If I’d tried to pack in every single thing from this scene, it would have been a 1000 page comic. And there is no way I’d be able to make a living. I have to say, I’ve never felt so much like a director as I do when working on this comic. I’m literally taking someone else’s story and adapting it with my visuals … it’s pretty cool!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peak at Voted Most Likely, and that you’ll keep an eye out for it. It’s slotted to come out mid-2013, and right now I’m in the drive of my life to get it done. I think it’s going to be a comic that all of you can really enjoy … and just like Friends With Boys it has 1) underage drinking, 2) facepunching (the one part of the story I added! hahah!) and 3) people having meaningful conversations under a bed. Sadly, there are no ghosts or zombies, though. It’s actually the very first comic I’ve ever made without a supernatural/genre twist! I’m becoming a grown up comic book artist, I am.



28 Responses

  1. Cacy says:

    Your adaptations are great! The cat made me chuckle and I definitely got that they weren’t on the best of the terms from those panels. I’d urge you to finish Hunger Games, as in adapt the whole book…except that I know you’re all busy with drawing things that result in you getting paid. At least I have your next project to look forward to!

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      You’re not the first to suggest drawing the whole Hunger Games book, buuuut that won’t happen outside of any official capacity. Sorry!

  2. Angel says:

    I haven’t actually commented much (probably only once in one of your earlier posts), but I’ve been following FWB religiously since last month, and I’m now a huge fan of your work. :) I’ve already pre-ordered FWB (yay!) and, over the weekend, managed to get my hands on what I believe is the very last copy of Zombies Calling in my country.

    You’re probably the only comic artist whose work I’ve followed faithfully ever since I came across it. Of course, I’m always reminded of how great a choice I made when I see the other comic artists you sometimes mention in your posts, because they’re also artists I’ve come across in the past whose work I loved. I love how you gush about them as much as I do (mentally, at least).

    And you know what? I seriously can’t wait for Voted Most Likely to be released now. I’m quite sure I’ll buy it too. :) I just can’t stress enough how much I love your style of drawing.

  3. Alyssa says:

    I love your work so much. The Hunger Games adaptation is perfection. <3

    I can't wait to hold Friends With Boys in my hands. It's getting so close to the end! I'm so impatient.

    VML looks really interesting and fun! I will be looking forward to it. ^_^

  4. Andrew says:

    I will miss the posting of Friends With Boys. Your blogs about creating comics has been very helpful in my own work. I look forward to having the hardcopy in my hands.
    Thanks for your openess and willingness to share.
    Voted most likely looks like alot of fun.

  5. Julipy says:

    God… you’re such an inspiration (L)Your Hunger Games’ adaptation is priceless (those Buttercup’s panels are just perfection)

  6. Lee says:

    I like the adaptation of Coraline into a graphic novel. I think the author did a really good job of using the pictures to tell the story, as well as words. I used to read Coraline to my second graders, then we would look at the graphic novel and last, watch the movie. It’s amazing how well they were able to talk about the differences between the three mediums.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Yeah, I read Coraline and it wasn’t bad. I don’t really like Gaiman’s writing, though, so that’s probably why it didn’t click with me. I liked the movie better.

  7. Warren says:

    Hey … looks like Daniel’s putting in a cameo at that school! :D

    Let’s see. There’s Transmetropolitan, but I’m not sure how much of that was prose. Warren Ellis has been scripting comics for quite a long time now, so it might have emerged more or less as we see it in its final form, though it’s worth mentioning that the series went through several illustrators, inkers, and colorists…

    As for the Hunger Games set – have you pitched it to the publisher? Because you know, I think it might be a good idea. I liked the five pages you did, particularly the absolutely wordless way you approached it. In an era when content creators seem to feel that they need to hammer every single point home into the audience, it’s refreshing to see nuance, to see something that draws the audience into collaboration with the creators, letting us fill in the particulars of the narrative while presenting enough of a structure for the overall story to be shaped.

    I think those five pages demonstrate a real mastery of the craft.

    Oh. Oh hell, there’s already a graphic novel, isn’t there? Bah and fie.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Yeah, the Hunger Games pages were sent to Scholastic by my agent, and we heard nothing back. Not even a “nah, get out of here,” complete silence! I did the pages for fun, not to get a job, but that was weird. I’m guessing with the movie coming out there will be a “graphic novel” adaptation, either in amerimanga style or with movie likenesses, and I expect it to be horrible. :P

  8. Ed Sizemore says:

    First, that is only seriously pissed off cat.

    Second, I love the body language in Voted Most Likely. You can tell which one is self-confident and is really in charge of the situation. After reading those pages you see how the jock and nerd stereotypes are being flipped on their heads. Can’t wait to read more.

  9. GregC says:

    I think the Vampire Academy graphic novel does a great job of avoiding the “wall of text” syndrome. Whereas The Dark-Hunters definitely suffers from it because of trying to explain all the mythology. They forgot “show, don’t tell”. They even have a big fight “off-camera” but then talk about it instead. One problem with fantasy is that authors tend to think it requires more explaining than it actually does. And that’s whether it comes from a novel or not, but having all those words pre-written when there is a novel must be a great temptation to use.

    • Emily says:

      To be honest, the Vampire Academy one isn’t very good either. “the cat doesn’t like me much…” and “Lissa can control humans” is entirely unnecessary text in a comic. The art lacks expression as well, it’s quite dull, and I immediately get the feeling that the girls are just meant to look pretty and not be much else. Which is weird, because I looked through the artist’s work, and they’ve got some great expressive work in there, I just don’t see much of it in the VA adaption.

  10. Nojh says:

    I think you proved your point by sharing those five pages. I was laughing just by looking at the visuals without the dialog. Of course I knew the gist of the dialog from reading the paragraph before it but the expressions you gave the two guys is hilarious. I’m looking forward to reading the new comic.

  11. Maritza says:

    Does this mean Daniel and Mr. Mohawk-Doesn’t-Make-You-Good have buried the hatchet? :D gleeee

  12. Tim Lai says:

    Your Hunger Games adaptation is great. That’s almost exactly how I pictured it. It’s always struck me as odd that Scholastic has never jumped on doing graphic novel adaptations of their popular YA series, especially with their Graphix imprint. Harry Potter has been made into practically everything but a comic.

    In terms of good prose to comics adaptations, aside from Coraline, Ben Caldwell’s Illustrated Classics are pretty great. He’s done Dracula and The Odyssey. Rad Sechrist also did a Tom Sawyer adaptation in the same series.

  13. Cinders says:

    So sad that FWB will be ending, but glad to hear that there is much more in the works for you! Look forward to the full adaptation! Also, will you be planning to finish ICE now that FWB is done? Got really hooked onto the story line!

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      I hope so! But if I’m able to get around to finishing it, I won’t be able to until June. I’m in the midst of finishing Voted Most Likely and need to focus on that.

  14. mfisherart says:

    I’m sure somebody’s said this already up there in the comments, but I’m not going to lie: your comic is SO much better than that prose.

    I couldn’t understand almost anything happening in the prose. Your comic communicated quickly and well and told the story much better.

    Good job.

    • Ara says:

      I totally agree with this.

      I’m very excited for your new project Faith, while I was poking around on your site I saw the characters and really liked them, I’m stoked that there will be a whole comic!

      That Hunger Games adaptation was to die for as well.

  15. apocriva says:

    <3 Chronicles of Prydain. :)

  16. Brian says:

    I also agree! I can’t stand comic adaptations of books that have tons of text. Basically all of those Marvel adaptations had that problem. Except for the Ender’s Game adaptation.

    For the most part I have given up on comic adaptations, but if I see anything by Faith Erin Hicks, I’ma snatch that up!

  17. Matt says:

    The adaptation of the novel City of Glass by Paul Karasik and Dave Mazuchelli works really well as a comic.

  18. Damn, Matt beat me to it– I second the city of glass vote.

  19. staticgirl says:

    I agree about adaptations. The publishing houses doing the adaptations aren’t usually comics producers and I think they either don’t understand the medium enough or they don’t think comics are worth the effort.

    It’s a bit like adapting a book into a play or a film. It has to flow properly. Comics are are a sophisticated medium with their own rules which need to be obeyed in order to work at their best.

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Friends With Boys, webcomic edition!

Hello readers, new ones just discovering the comic and those who’ve been with it since the beginning. Friends With Boys is now complete online. You may read it in its entirety, all 200+ pages, for free, for the next eight days. Then the image files of the comic (except for a short preview) will be taken down. While the comic was being serialized online, I blogged a lot about my comic making process. I did write ups about how I make comics, what my opinions on what makes a good comic are, and pointed out various Easter eggs throughout Friends With Boys. That stuff will all remain up, so if you buy a hard copy of Friends With Boys, you can still read along with my thought process.

And now (today!), Friends With Boys is a published book! Yay! I hope that if you’ve read the web version and liked it, and want to support me as a creator, you’ll consider buying the book.

I’ve really enjoyed serializing Friends With Boys online. If you’re new to my work, I started out making comics online before moving into print. I posted the very first page of my very first online comic on my very first website back in August, 1999, and wow, was that page ugly. Here it is! Notice a weird similarity to the first page of Friends With Boys? Yeah, that was not deliberate, I promise. But look how much your drawing skills can improve if you draw thousands of pages of comics over a ten year period! Anyway, I’m really thrilled my wonderful publisher First Second Books has allowed me to return to my roots and put Friends With Boys online as a lead up to its publication. As a reader and purchaser of comics, I have bought quite a few hard copy versions of online comics, because I enjoy the reading experience of having the whole thing collected, and I want to support the author. I hope you will too. :)

Otherwise, there are a few upcoming events I hope to see some readers at:
Book signing! At my local comics shop Strange Adventures, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 3rd (Saturday), 2-4pm (EDITING TO ADD: The book launch has been moved to the following Saturday due to the books not shipping to Strange Adventures on time. The launch will now be March 10th from 2-4pm. Go here for info).
Comic convention! I’ll have a table at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, May 6th-7th. There are a few other conventions I am trying to attend, but everything else is up in the air at the moment. For updates, please follow my twitter or join my Facebook fan page.  I’m pretty good about updating those two spots.

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