Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Big Boys Don't Fly: Making The Cape

The CapeI was at the beach with my two sons in late July of 2010 when I got a call from Joe Hill:

“Hey, you feel like adapting my short story, "The Cape," for IDW?”

And that was it. More was said, but that’s basically how it all got started.

To be honest, I hadn’t even read the The Cape when Joe asked me to adapt it. In fact, I skipped over it a few times for no particular reason while reading 20th Century Ghosts. When I finally did, I could see why this was the story IDW wanted to have adapted. It had memorable characters, a shocking twist, and wrapped up nicely at the end--perfect for a 22-page one-shot. After reading the story a few more times, though, I realized the job in front of me: there was no way I’d be able to script the story exactly how it was written. One stressful week later I had the story cut down to 5 key scenes I knew would look great visually, while still keeping the feel of the original work. This was the toughest part. When you start cutting major scenes from a story, and then attempt to stitch them back together, things can get muddy real quick.

20th Century GhostsI finished the first draft of the script while on vacation in Maine a few weeks later. An artist hadn’t been assigned to the book yet, so I still had plenty of time for rewrites, which I agonized over for what seemed like forever. In the end, the final draft wasn’t much different than the first. I replaced a couple scenes, a few panels were cut to smooth out the pace, my terrible grammar corrected, and that was that. I was happy with the outcome, feeling like I’d done the short story justice while still allowing my minimalist style to show through.

When Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel’s artwork started to hit my inbox a few months later, I was blown away. I couldn’t believe the quality of the work. Zach and Nelson are master storytellers, and the most professional artists I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Their attention to detail, the care they put into every scene --it’s all immediately noticeable, and their interpretations of Eric and Angie were so perfect you felt like you knew the characters, like they could be friends of yours. Everything was coming together.

"The Cape" was released on December 23rd, 2010. On December 26th I got an email from IDW Editor, Chris Ryall, congratulating Joe and me --"The Cape" had sold out in just 48 hours. My exact response to that was:

“Well, no shit. That’s great news.”

I knew the issue was special, we all did. The creative team poured their hearts into it, and the end result was something we were all proud of. Something unique. While I was writing the script for the one-shot, I mentioned to Joe that I felt like there were more stories to be told about these characters. What was next for Eric and his magic cape? Well, after the issue sold out it was a no-brainer to pitch the idea for a miniseries. IDW agreed, and we were off and running again.

That was back in January. I got started on the new scripts right away, but I knew I had a lot of time on my hands because Zach Howard was busy finishing up an obligation he had with DC, and there was no way we were doing this book without him and Nelson. I had just wrapped up the final draft on the first issue of the miniseries when I got another memorable call from Joe:

“So how’s it feel, you bastard?”

I laughed, waiting for a dick joke or some other jab.

“How’s it feel to be nominated for an Eisner on your second comic?”

It’s hard to explain how I felt once I realized he wasn’t busting my balls. I got a little choked up, and I remember feeling very nervous, like I was talking loudly at a party, and someone shut the music off mid-sentence, and now everyone was looking at me. An Eisner nomination? Really? Do they know I’m from Brockton? That I once wore purple polyester overalls with pleats? Aren’t those last two truths reason enough to disqualify me from any prestigious award consideration?

I was (am) honored and humbled to be put on a list with a group of creators I idolize. Guys like Jason Aaron, Mike Mignola, Fabio Moon, and Gabriel Ba. These guys have all inspired me, and continually set the standard for quality artwork and good stories. I know how rare moments like these are, and I’m not taking any of it for granted.

Is someone chopping an onion in here?

Writing this, almost a year after that fateful call from Joe, it’s hard to imagine that what was originally supposed to be a little one-shot to fill in a production gap has turned into such a wonderful surprise for everyone involved. The Legacy Edition of the one-shot hits shelves on June 15th, and includes Joe’s original short story with my handwritten notes from the adaptation. Shortly after, in July, the first issue of the miniseries hits, and if you thought the one-shot was good, brothers and sisters, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. So, whether you’re a fan of "The Cape," or just stumbled across this and took time out of your day to read it, thank you, you’re all tops in my book.

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