Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game

Tuesday Q&A: Jake Black

The writer discusses his many contributions to the Ender universe

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By Kevin Mahadeo

This December, get ready for war. A war of...gifts?

The double-sized ENDER'S GAME: WAR OF GIFTS, written by Jake Black and Orson Scott Card and featuring art by Timothy Green, adapts the novel of the same name by Card. The issue tells a tale from the Ender Universe exploring the idea of religious freedom in a religion-less environment. The one-shot also serves as the latest in the line of comic adaptations of Card's Ender's Game series of books. Along with WAR OF GIFTS, Black also pens the "Ender's Game Companion," a veritable roadmap of everything Ender. The encyclopedic tome contains extensive details on the people and places of Card's popular sci-fi universe and holds tons of other goodies no Ender fan would want to miss out on.

Black managed to find his way out from underneath his countless sheets of notes to talk a bit about the "Companion," the upcoming WAR OF GIFTS one-shot and to weigh in on Marvel's old redhead versus blonde debate.

 

ENDER'S GAME: WAR OF GIFTS preview art by Timothy Green
Marvel.com: You've done a lot of work in the Ender Universe lately, but when were you first introduced to the novels written by Orson Scott Card?

Jake Black: In junior high, one of my best friends there was reading the Ender series, which at that point was only "Ender's Game," "Speaker for the Dead" and "Xenocide." He knew that I was into science fiction and shared it with me. I started reading it around then. I wasn't a huge fan of the Ender series. There are some really, really big Ender fans, but I thought it was good. I thought it was fun. I didn't really start getting into it until I started writing the "Ender's Companion" in 2006.

Marvel.com: What appeals to you about the series and the world that Orson Scott Card created with the Ender books?

Jake Black: I've always been into science fiction, like I said, and it's a very cool space odyssey. But one of the things I find intriguing about the Ender series is that the characters are so human. They're so identifiably human and relatable. They're emotional and they're really striving to do the best they can in the world in which they live. I think everybody can relate to that. I know that I certainly found elements of Ender and Bean and Graff and other characters that play a big part very relatable. I found a connection to them.

Marvel.com: Do you have a favorite character?

Jake Black: Probably Bean. Maybe Petra. They're so flawed, but they're so committed to what they do. I think that's the connection that I found because I certainly feel flawed and imperfect. Sometimes in literature of any kind, the heroes can be too perfect.

Marvel.com: You mentioned the "Companion" and how you started working on it around three years ago. That seems like quite the endeavor.

Jake Black: It was a huge undertaking. When I started it, it seemed like this insurmountable obstacle. There is just so much information. There [have] been 15 books and more than a half dozen short stories and then comics. I really wanted to be inclusive of everything that I could find in the series. My degree is in history, so I have a background in research and presenting the historical facts. I treated the "Companion" in a very similar fashion-like it was a historical research project. Even though it was fictional history and it was future history. [Laughs] I went through all of the books and short stories a couple of times before I started writing anything. The

ENDER'S GAME: WAR OF GIFTS preview art by Timothy Green
first time, I read everything in order just to get a sense of the universe. The next time I went through, it was to create a list of every possible character and location and everything we wanted to put into the encyclopedia portion of the companion. Then I went through again a couple more times and really, really, really was close in picking out the information and the summaries that I needed to do as I read each chapter of each book.

Marvel.com: I understand you were working with Orson Scott Card throughout most if not all of this

Jake Black: Yeah. I've worked with Orson Scott Card for a long time, actually. We started our collaboration a few years ago when I did the comic adaptation of his novel "Wyrms," which Marvel published. Through that relationship, we just built a collaborative understanding of how each other works. As I was doing the "Ender's Companion," I would do classification questions with him, get him to approve all of the lists and just make sure that everything worked well and was accurate. There were some inconsistencies in the books, which is why he wanted [the "Companion"] written in the first place. So, we kind of establish what the true story was and retcon, I guess, some of those inaccuracies. It was just little things. They didn't affect the telling of the story by any means.

Marvel.com: As a sci-fi fan growing up, did you ever think you'd one day be working with Orson Scott Card?

Jake Black: Not then I didn't think that, no. [Laughs] The whole way I got connected to him was through an ambitious contact that I set out to him. He was writing the first ULTIMATE IRON MAN series at the time, and I had written some comics and wanted to expand my resume. So, I tracked down his e-mail address and sent him a letter asking if he had any opportunities that he could help me find or if I could co-write something with him. It was just happenstance that he had licensed "Wyrms," and he got me in touch with the editors on that project. So, I hoped to work with him, but back when I was reading "Ender's Game" the first time, I never would have guessed.

ENDER'S GAME: WAR OF GIFTS preview art by Timothy Green
Marvel.com: Along with the "Companion," you've done work on Marvel's Ender's Game books-serving as story consultant, writing the RECRUITING VALENTINE one-shot and writing the upcoming WAR OF GIFTS. What's it like working in the comic realm compared to the novel world?

Jake Black: I've spent a lot of time in the Ender Universe for the last couple of years and I guess because of that they want to make sure the comics are as accurate as they can be. So, because I wrote the "Companion" they brought me on board to go over all of the scripts and all of the pages for the Ender's comics just to make sure they were right. Along the way I did the couple of one-shots and they've been fun. RECRUITING VALENTINE wasn't an adaptation of anything; it was an original story that Orson Scott Card and I conceived. We talked to Jordan White, the editor of all things Ender at Marvel, and it's an original contribution to the Ender canon and it's the first contribution not written directly by Orson Scott Card. So, that was cool and exciting. And WAR OF GIFTS, which is an adaptation, that's my favorite story in the whole Ender series. So, I had a great love for it to begin with. When I started working on it, I had to pull the most visually compelling points of the story and the main key points to move it along. There is not a lot of space in comics, so you can't waste panels or waste time.

Marvel.com: What about "War of Gifts" made it your favorite Ender story?

Jake Black: I think, again, it's because of all the human flaws and general humanity and cultural identity it presents. There are some really intriguing questions, like what do you do with the most religious people in an irreligious environment? Religion is not something you can just set on a shelf and take away from someone. At the same time, there are really strict rules at Battle School about religious observance. So, it's this really fascinating look into that kind of theory.

Marvel.com: You said you've been in the Ender Universe for quite some time now, but that being said, are there any Marvel properties you'd love you get your hands on?

ENDER'S GAME: WAR OF GIFTS preview art by Timothy Green
Jake Black: I really, really like Spider-Man a lot. I would love to do some Spider-Man family stuff. He's such a comic book nerd archetype. He's a science nerd and not great with the girls or anything. He's just a fun, human character. I like him a lot.

Marvel.com: Now the question must be asked: Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy?

Jake Black: Mary Jane. There's just something I like about Mary Jane more than Gwen. I can't put my finger on it. My wife's blonde, though. [Laughs]

 

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