A Scary Trio: Dean Koontz, Frankenstein, and Fear Nothing
Master of horror Dean Koontz is embarking on a new career: comics. With new stories based on his Fear Nothing series coming from Dynamite in August, as well as the second volume of the adaptation of his Frankenstein series coming in November, he talked to GNR about the world of comics and how it fits in with his frightening creative vision.
This isn’t your first graphic-novel adaptation, since you’ve also had the Odd Thomas series from Dynamite. What appeals to you about working in the graphic-novel format?
The Odd Thomas mangas actually aren’t adaptations of the novels. They’re new stories set in the Odd Thomas world, prior to the first novel. Prequels, more or less. Why do I like the format—because you get to see your stories rendered visually without having to go through a TV or film-studio executive. Consequently, my blood pressure remains 116 over 76, and I don’t start having homicidal thoughts.
How did you come to work on a modern retelling of the Frankenstein story in prose?
With a coproducer, I did a pitch, got a cable-TV deal, wrote a script, expanded it into two hours when they said they wanted the pilot that long, and felt we were on our way to a hit when Marty Scorsese, also a partner with us, said that if he were directing (he was executive-producing), he would shoot it scene for scene and word for word. But then my coproducer and the network decided we had to drop the humor, drop the love story between the two cops, drop all the nuance, and go for grunge and gore. I had to take my name off as creator, producer, and writer—perhaps the first time anyone has been able to expunge all three credits, even “created by,” according to Writers’ Guild rules. The TV pilot was a hopeless mess, and I wanted to see the original concept properly done, so I turned to the novels to realize it. Readers responded strongly, and I had great fun doing it.
How would you describe the series for readers unfamiliar with it?
It’s a noir-suspense-adventure-fantasy-comic-police-procedural thriller with monsters. The inspiration was only in part the Mary Shelley novel. Equally influential, thematically, was C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, which is why each of the first three novel opens with a quote from that book.
Will there be graphic-novel adaptations of all your Frankenstein series?
If they sell, I would guess the answer is yes. If they don’t sell, then we have to find an insane billionaire to publish them anyway. Although there aren’t many billionaires, a significant minority of them appear to be insane, so we might have a good chance of finding a sugar daddy.
Is it interesting to see your work represented in this format? Do you find it captures the vision in your mind the way that you imagined it would?
As a stone Scrooge McDuck fan when young—and still—I wish there were a way to work ducks into the Frankenstein graphic novels, but given how many genres are already crossed in the books, perhaps that would be one web-footed creature too far. Otherwise, I think the writer and artist are doing a bang-up job. It’s not the same as the novels, but then it’s not possible that it could be. For one thing, doing an entire novel would take maybe 10 graphic novels instead of two or three. For another thing, the comic dialogue works best in a novel, where there’s room for it to breathe, though Chuck has captured some of the flavor of that.
What is the collaborative process on the graphic novels like? How are you and Chuck Dixon working together, and in turn how are you working with artist Scott Cohn?
Chuck writes the script, and I read it to approve. I seldom find anything to question. Scott’s drawings come to me at each stage, and I can approve or disapprove. But, look, these guys are the best at what they do, and I am a newcomer to this format. It would be absurd for me to think I can improve on what they do. I’m best served if I watch, learn, and keep my mouth shut.
Will there be any plot surprises (that you can reveal) for readers already familiar with the prose books?
I’m sure no one who’s read the books will expect SpongeBob SquarePants to make an appearance as a villain, but I’m hoping we can make that work.
What future plans for graphic novels do you have?
I’ve seen much of the work on the first graphic novel adapted from Fear Nothing, and it’s quite wonderful. And we’ve signed to do two more Odd Thomas mangas following In Odd We Trust and Odd Is on Our Side. That’s enough for now. I’ve got novels to write, after all.