Find out about the hotlyan­tic­i­pated adap­ta­tion of Neil Gaiman’s Amer­i­can Gods.

The Grave­yard Book artist tells Stephen Jewell about bring­ing Neil Gaiman’s Amer­i­can Gods to comics.

Comic Heroes - - Contents -

Comic He­roes: You first col­lab­o­rated with Neil Gaiman on Sand­man #50 in 1992 and have adapted sev­eral of his nov­els into comics. What do you like most about his writ­ing?

P. Craig Rus­sell: It’s damned good! For most of my ca­reer, I’ve been in­ter­ested in do­ing adap­ta­tions, merely from the point of view of find­ing a project that had lit­er­ary worth to be­gin with. I’m not a writer who gen­er­ates my own orig­i­nal sto­ries, so I re­ally like work­ing on that process of tak­ing a novel or a play and turn­ing it into a graphic nar­ra­tive. That’s where I work best, I think, in that tran­si­tion be­tween two dif­fer­ent forms. I also like work­ing with some­one who is con­tem­po­rary, as most of the work that I’ve done in

the past has been based on sto­ries by clas­sic authors like Os­car Wilde, Rud­yard Ki­pling and Edgar Al­lan Poe. So it’s been fun work­ing with some­one who is still at the point of their ca­reer when they’re re­leas­ing a lot of work. CH: How did you come to adapt Amer­i­can Gods for Dark Horse?

PCR: Neil asked me if I would like to do it, and my re­sponse was “sure”. I’d al­ready read the book when it first came out in 2001, and the rea­son I agreed to do it was that I would just be do­ing the script and the lay­outs. It’s a huge book – the 10th An­niver­sary Edi­tion, the ver­sion we’re us­ing, is around 650 pages long – and that means our graphic novel would have to be at least that long. At this point in my ca­reer, I don’t want to be spend­ing the next five years of my life draw­ing it, and Dark Horse don’t want it to take that long ei­ther. So it made more sense to work with one pri­mary artist, Scott Hamp­ton, and we’ll also be get­ting a se­ries of other artists in­clud­ing Walt Simonson, Mark Buck­ing­ham, Colleen Doran and Glenn Fabry to do some short in­ter­lude se­quences, so it has be­come more of an en­sem­ble piece than a one-man show. In do­ing it that way, we can pro­duce it in three years in­stead of five or six.

CH: You’ve pre­vi­ously worked with Scott Hamp­ton on The Grave­yard Book…

PCR: He did the long­est chap­ter of The Grave­yard Book, about 100 pages long, and he fin­ished those 100 pages while other peo­ple were still work­ing on their 30 to 40 pages. Not that speed is the only thing that counts – he also did it with such a high level of qual­ity. He doesn’t just do great fan­tasy: he is also re­ally good at show­cas­ing the ev­ery­day real world of mo­tels, cof­fee shops, buses and all those things that go into draw­ing 21stcen­tury Amer­ica. CH: How does the part­ner­ship be­tween you work? PCR: I’m do­ing the scripts and the

lay­outs, which means I sketch out the whole page and work out the let­ter­ing de­sign. I do rough break­downs, which are al­most like sto­ry­boards with close-ups, long shots and in­di­ca­tions of body lan­guage and com­po­si­tion. It’s sort of like what Har­vey Kurtz­man used to do at EC Comics back in the ’50s – I pro­vide a blue­print for the artist, who then does the fin­ished art­work. CH Are you also li­ais­ing closely with Neil?

PCR: He’s avail­able when­ever I have a ques­tion about the text – one of the big chal­lenges is that it es­sen­tially comes down to one page of art for ev­ery page of prose. That en­tails a great deal of con­fig­ur­ing and shav­ing away, and I’m al­ways wor­ried that some­thing I’m cut­ting out might be a set-up for some­thing else later on. If that is the case, I’ll send Neil an email or a text and he’ll usu­ally get back to me within a few hours. Other than that, he just leaves me to it.

CH: The se­ries will fi­nally span 27 is­sues in three arcs cor­re­spond­ing to the three parts of the novel…

PCR: It’s pretty much worked out that each chap­ter gets its own is­sue, but that’s not al­ways the case. There are eight chap­ters in the first part of the novel but our first arc, “Shadow”, is nine is­sues long, so there is one point where I have had to make an is­sue break be­fore there is a chap­ter break. That’s one of the unique chal­lenges of this project, that it’s be­ing se­ri­alised as op­posed to The Grave­yard Book or Co­ra­line, which I also did, which came out as whole vol­umes. So we have this sort of ar­ti­fi­cial con­struct where ev­ery 23 pages it needs to be rounded off, so that it feels like a com­plete piece unto it­self. CH The tele­vi­sion se­ries of Amer­i­can Gods will be re­leased

shortly af­ter the comic. Will there any kind of syn­ergy be­tween the dif­fer­ent ver­sions?

PCR: Ab­so­lutely not! My edi­tor, Daniel Chabon, sent me a link to a pre­view, but I won’t look at it. The same thing hap­pened with

Co­ra­line, when they were do­ing an an­i­mated film of it at the same time as I was do­ing the graphic novel. I don’t want any crosspol­li­na­tion be­tween them. If we both ar­rive at the same so­lu­tion for a sto­ry­telling prob­lem in­de­pen­dently of each other then that’s fine. But if I see them solve that prob­lem first, I would feel like I’m copy­ing some­body else’s work. But I can’t wait to watch the TV show once I fin­ish my part of the adap­ta­tion, al­though it will be a while longer be­fore all the art­work is done. I’ll hap­pily binge-watch it then.

Above: Glenn Fabry’s cover for is­sue 1 is as mind­blow­ing as any­thing he’s ever done.

Above: Rus­sell is tak­ing on script and lay­out du­ties on the en­tire se­ries, which means he be­gins with page de­sign and sto­ry­telling break­downs like these.

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