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GRANT ALTER DARK SWAN GRAPHIC NOVEL & COMIC BOOK WRITER EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

by Dawn, April 14, 2011

As you may know, Richelle Mead’s Dark Swan is a recently adapted graphic novel by Grant Alter. OBS Staffer Rose had the opportunity to interview him in his VERY first interview ever!

OBS is the first site to have Page 9 showing the transition from written word to comic page.

1) What were your inspirations growing up that led you to become a writer?

I have always enjoyed telling stories. My parents used to joke that it took longer for me to tell you about a movie I liked than it took to just watch it.

A lot of times, I would go home and act out the movie I watched using my GI Joes as actors. So when I was old enough to write, I did so a lot. Professionally though, my inspirations were two men. Greg Rucka and Stan Sakai. Rucka because I read his comic book, Queen and Country, which is brilliant and I wanted to write just like him. Sakai because his comic book, Usagi Yojimbo, is the only comic book that I have loved literally from my childhood through today. Reading both of these books, led me to decide that I wanted to do this as my job. I had to tell stories like Rucka and
Sakai – and in truth, I have met both men and told them this and they couldn’t have been nicer guys.

2) Did you read the complete Dark Swan series before you agreed to do the scripts? How important is it for you to ‘like’ the book(s) before you come on board?

Actually, I had not read any of the Dark Swan books and had never even heard of them. Adapting is different enough from writing that it isn’t as important that the project is something that interests you personally. That said, the quality of the book you’re adapting is of serious importance as it determines how difficult it will be to turn it into comics. I knew that the book series had to be popular or Sea Lion wouldn’t be so interested in adapting it. I accepted the job sight unseen knowing only that I would do my absolute best (as doing any less is just a waste of everyone’s time). I
bought the book and read it through and knew it would make great comics. It’s well paced, the characters are interesting, and it was a different angle than I was used to. So even though it really doesn’t fall in the genres of books I tend to like best, the overall quality of the book has made my job easier and more fun than it sometimes becomes.
In short, it’s a good book that I enjoyed reading and it translates really well to the comic medium.

3) How closely did you work with Richelle Mead during the process?

I do my work alone. I take Richelle Mead’s book and divide it up and pace it for comics and then I write the scripts (there are a total of 8 issues in this series).

Once I have finished the script, I turn it in and everyone gets to look at it and mark it up and at this point, Richelle gets an opportunity to make notes or changes. It is intensely important that she is happy with my work. She’s been very gracious and kind, but her vision is everything. We all go out of our way to make sure that she’s happy.

At this point, I make any changes that need to be made. So my work mostly happens alone. That said, I have gotten to know Richelle over social media and this past weekend, we were both at the RT Booklover’s Convention in Los Angeles, where we signed together. She’s been easy to work with and I think she’s just great personally. This is the first time I have had an author be so accessible and it has been just great.

4) How do you get a feel for the characters, for their traits, as well as their look? Was it based only on what you’ve read?

The book is my bible for this job. Everything I need to know is between the covers of Storm Born. Richelle did such a good job creating pictures in my imagination that there have been but a couple of times I needed to look for additional information. She told me pretty much everything I need to know in the book. I mentioned before how easily Storm Born is translating to comics. This is one reason for this. As for their look, Dave Hamann, the artist, used the descriptions in the book to draw up some character models and Richelle guided him until he successfully captured her vision. I really didn’t have any involvement in this process. But I often find that between the two of them, the characters are pretty much how I pictured them.

5) Are you involved in the process of choosing the model for the covers?

For each cover, Dave Hamann draws between 2 and 4 cover ideas. He emails these to Sea Lion where the editor, Derek, and I look them over and make our suggestions as to which ones will most likely blow Richelle’s hair back. Which image is just jaw-droppingly awesome. He then draws it up and, as yet, there hasn’t been one that didn’t impress the hell out of me. So I think that’s a good sign. Dave is imaginative and he is such a fan of the books that he manages to impress us all every time.

6) How long does the entire process take, from draft to final sketches?

The first part of the process is my scripting. I generally script an issue every 2 1/2 to 3 weeks. At any one time though, I am at least one script ahead of Dave. I am about to turn in my script for issue 3 and he is working on the pencils for issue 2. From there, we go to approvals. This takes a different amount of time with each issue depending on how busy
everyone is. Richelle is an insanely busy woman and a soon-to-be mother, so it sometimes takes a little longer. But in general, it takes about a week or so. Then I get any corrections that need to be made and that usually doesn’t take more than an afternoon. Then the approved script goes to Dave. I am not sure how long it takes him to draw an issue, but he goes through a similar process to the one I do, complete with approvals.

7) What do you love most and the least about what you do?

I love seeing my scripts drawn. Hands down. It is the coolest feeling to sit there working, envisioning all of the scenes in my head and then get an email full of incredible art from Dave, depicting everything I envisioned. As I mentioned, I spoke with Richelle this last weekend and she told me that it was really exciting for her to see our interpretations of her creations. Actually, now that I think about it, this is something pretty much everyone I know in comics would echo. It’s just a fun thing to have happen.

8) If you weren’t being creative in this outlet, what else would you be doing?

I used to want to act. I even moved to LA when I was 18 to pursue it. But that had pretty much crushed my soul before I reached 20. So probably not that.

Honestly, writing about music is the only thing I have ever done that I liked half as much as making comics. So I’d probably be writing for Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly, wishing I was writing comics.

9) Who is your favorite artist?

I don’t have a favorite artist or writer. There are just too many great creators for that. Dave is one of the best artists I have ever worked with, which is far more of a compliment than it sounds like. As for comic book artists and writers whose work I enjoy reading, Darwyn Cooke, Stan Sakai, Mike Mignola, Warren Ellis, the list is ridiculous because I read a LOT of comics.

10) What are you currently working on?

There are a couple of creator-owned comics I am working on right now that I can’t reveal yet, but will come out in 2012. There is also another adapting job I can’t announce yet.

Other than that, I have 5 issues of Storm Born still to complete. So there is lots more Dark Swan goodness to come.

Below is the script and image for page 9 – it shows the transition from written word to comic page.

PAGE 9

Panel 1

At her desk, Eugenie works on a jigsaw puzzle. The picture on the puzzle is a kitten on its back with a ball of yarn. Eugenie has a peaceful expression on her face. This is how she clears her mind. She wears black silk pajamas, giving her “serious cleavage.”

Caption: The appointment with the distraught brother scheduled for tomorrow, I retired to my room and put on some silk pajamas. Weird though it might be, I allowed myself nice pajamas as the one indulgence in an otherwise dirty and bloody lifestyle.

Panel 2

A close shot as she fits a piece into the puzzle. We can see the cute kitty face as it takes shape.

Caption: I also loved puzzles. They eased my mind. You could hold the pieces in your hand and make them fit together, as opposed to the insubstantial stuff I usually worked with.

Panel 3

A smallish panel as she lies in bed, staring up at the ceiling. She is wide awake.

Caption: Despite my exhaustion, I couldn’t fall asleep. I could slide into a trance with a snap of a finger, but sleep was more elusive. And tonight, I suspected my insomnia had to do with a teenage girl.

Panel 4

A different angle, showing the stars glued to the ceiling. 33 of them.

Caption: I counted my stars like I had done many other sleepless nights. There were 33. Just like last time. But it never hurt to check.

Panel 5

At Wil Delaney’s house. He peers out of a partially opened door. Eugenie has her business face on.

Caption: The next day…

Eugenie: I’m Odile. Lara set up our appointment?

Wil: You’re younger than I thought you’d be.

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