Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The adaptation of the fourth blockbuster Indiana Jones film, in graphic novel form!
This volume collects the two-issue Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull adaptation that I wrote for Dark Horse Comics.
Back in 2005, when I had been working for a while with Jeremy Barlow, then my editor on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, I asked a teensy favor. There hadn’t been an Indiana Jones movie in 16 years, there was no agreement yet on a script, and no guarantee that Dark Horse would do an adaptation or that Jeremy would be editing it. But, I begged, if all those “ifs” fell into line, I definitely wanted to write the comics adaptation.
I don’t remember if I had heard that Indy IV was a go by the time of Star Wars Celebration IV, Memorial Day weekend of 2007 in Los Angeles. I do know I was surprised — and honored — to be asked there by Jeremy to write the adaptation. All the pieces had fallen into place, and Jeremy was indeed editing the adaptation; now, the work really began, much of it in total secrecy.
So I won’t speak in specifics about the steps involved or the methods we used — nor will I get much into if or how the story changed along the way. This having been my first experience at adaptation, however, I can speak more generally about the challenges in transforming a movie script to a comics story.
One of the first things readers of my work may notice is the presence of an omniscient narrator. Believe it or not, I had never used one before in any of my comics writing — not even on Bart Simpson. Part of that comes from how I was instructed early on at Marvel; part of it’s a personal style. An omniscient narrator sometimes comes down like the “voice of truth,” where in a lot of my comics I prefer some ambiguity. You may not necessarily be able to believe your eyes, all the time. (Even in Sword & Sarcasm, we realize later on that our narrator is a character, whose word is not necessarily authoritative.) But there’s a reason that the vast majority of movie adaptations employ one: there’s often simply too much going on. You can’t show every scene, so the narrator helps get you from place to place.
It did take a draft to get the hang of — but I got more comfortable with it, though, especially as I gave the narrator an energetic, slightly irreverent tone. And since we added no dialogue on this project, that really is the one part of it that’s my addition.
The big challenge, of course, is indeed in selecting in advance what scenes movie viewers are going to expect to see in an adaptation. Sometimes that’s easy; you can often tell what’s going to be the iconic shot, or the oft-quoted line. But then you also have to look at what space is involved, and how much of a scene you have to depict to carry through on the idea. You don’t need every soul that was on camera to carry through on a scene (note how we went from two FBI guys to one); nor are you going to be able to convey every line exactly where it took place (much of the Dean Stanforth material was shifted in location).
So while we’re not creating new material here, we are, in a sense, restaging the film for the “comics camera” — not adding scenes, but reimagining shots from different perspectives, so as to make their staging work for comics. It really helps to have detail-oriented artists who can visualize scenes in that way — Luke Ross and Fabio Laguna were definitely up to the challenge!
Perhaps in keeping with the cinematic aspect of the events, most of the panels are page-width horizontal. I tend to imagine in more traditional grid layouts, but the “letterbox” is certainly more appropriate here!
- The cover was Drew Struzan's variant from issue #2.
- This story appeared both as a graphic novel and as two different 44-page comic books. Given the two-issue storylines for Marvel’s Further Adventures of Indiana Jones title, the issue count seems appropriate!
- Readers of the prose novelization learn that Dean Stanforth’s children (who I think we see seated with him in the final scene of the film) are named Don and Maggie. This tickled me when I learned it, having worked with Don and Maggie Thompson, the George and Martha Washington of comics fandom. Almost certainly a coincidence — and sadly, I had no room for the reference in the comics. It seems not to have appeared in the film, either, but it is out there in prose.
- It should be pretty clear to the movie viewer what elements differ from comics to screen, but the big elephant on campus would have to be the football game, which appears prominently in the comics but not on the screen. Another reason to buy the DVD, perhaps…
- Much of what I knew of Nazca came from my reading of Chariots of the Gods, back in middle school. That was assigned reading then — I didn’t know it would be training for later work!
This volume is available from Amazon.