By Kiel Phegley
Orson Scott Card's award-winning science fiction novel "Ender's Game" has earned legions of fans from its 1985 publishing right up through the present, including X-FORCE writer Christopher Yost. Of course, loving the book and adapting it to comics can be two very different things as Yost learned when he sat down to set the story of an outsider boy's struggle to survive in a future military training facility in space to fit the comics medium.
"I read the book in the 80's, and then when I got the assignment I probably read it three or four times," recounts Yost. "I literally sat down with a highlighter and pen and paper and broke it down into a structure of 10 issues, and really coming up with a serial structure for the story that gave you great moments in each issue."
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The writer explains that the majority of his job involves pacing Card's original story to fit the format of 10 22-page installments-being published as separate five-issue limited series-and ensuring that each new issue highlights something that fans of the novel love while introducing it to new readers in a clear way. And in the coming issues, the writer strives to serve both audiences.
"Issue two is the very first time you go into the Battle Room, and you see the Flash Gun and how it all is supposed to work," the writer reveals. "In the book, this is just something that Ender figures out in his head. A large part of the book is him being isolated and not having any friends and having to work through all this stuff on his own. And visually once we get in there we can show this stuff, but unless you want the kid sitting there talking to himself, it's harder to get the information across.
"In issue three, we're introduced to the Mind Game, which is a little game the kids play that's more of a psychological tool for the teachers. So you're getting these incredible visuals of Ender battling a giant or flying through these magical valleys, and this is all kind of in Ender's head. It's just a matter of trying to find a way to marry these incredible visuals to information that let's you know what's going on."
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That marriage of visuals and text proved to be a higher hurdle to jump than expected as the novel places a huge focus on the emotional state of lead character Ender Wiggins and his most inner thoughts on Battle School.
"The novel is pretty internal," Yost notes. "Most of it is what's going on in this kid's head. There's a ton of stuff to visualize and a lot that goes on, but at the same time the emotional aspect and just the flat out explanation of things make it challenging to get across. Really the goal is to make it 'The Book' - the truest adaptation you could possibly get. And so far, so good.
"Orson Scott Card really felt strongly about having no narration [captions], because the original first draft I did was fully narrated. It had an omniscient narrator going through and explaining things. So as [editor] Nick Lowe and I started going through it, it just felt a little more natural without. There would be places where it'd make it a lot easier to have captions, but it's on us to find the right way to get that information across."
Yost admits that breaking the story of "Ender's Game" into chapters and finding ways to push its plot up into a more action-filled area proved a walk in the park compared to the hard work series artist Pasqual Ferry had to put in.
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"He definitely got the harder job of the two of us," Yost laughs. "Something Nick and I realized and that Orson Scott Card said flat out is that the novel does not have a lot of description. It doesn't have a visual description of pretty much anything. So where as I'm really just laying out a structure of what happens in the book, Pasqual has to come up with a design for everything, and I know that Orson Scott Card has been working with him more so than me because this is establishing for the very first time the look of all these things and people. Designing this world has been more of a Pasqual thing."
Overall though, Yost takes pride in the work so far completed on ENDER'S GAME: BATTLE SCHOOL, both from a personal standpoint and because he's heard good reviews from fans of the novel:
"In my day-to-day life in the animation and movie [industry], everyone there is pretty excited about [BATTLE SCHOOL] because they all love 'Ender's Game' and it's exciting to see it visually. People in the comics world, they love the novel, and they've got this image in their head of how that universe is. So as fans of the novel, they want to see it expand and go on, but at the same time they don't want to see it messed up. I think when they first issue came out, there was a tremendous sigh of relief because it was so true to the novel."
ENDER'S GAME: BATTLE SCHOOL #2 hits stands on November 12. For more on the ENDER'S GAME comic book series, visit the Marvel.com hub page.
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