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Image courtesy of Dark Horse / Provided with permission.
Best-selling fantasy author Robin Hobb has found great success with her many (many!) books over the years. She has more trilogies to her name than perhaps any other living author. One can dive into her Soldier Son Trilogy from 15 years ago, or perhaps her many books from The Realm of the Elderlings, featuring such classics as Assassin’s Apprentice (itself part one of The Farseer Trilogy) or Ship of Magic (part one of the Liveship Traders Trilogy). With each new calendar year comes another epic work from this prolific writer.
Now Hobb is branching into the comic book world with the Dark Horse adaptation of Assassin’s Apprentice. Issue #1 is now available, with Hobb and Jody Houser billed as writers, and Ryan Kelly the artist. The colorist is Jordie Bellaire, and the cover artist is Anna Steinbaurer.
The story within these pages centers on Fitz, a young boy who is taken in by his uncle, Prince Verity. It doesn’t take long for Verity to take Fitz to the capital to meet the young boy’s royal grandfather, according to press notes, but what makes this trip truly remarkable is the unearthing of Fitz’ unique powers — powers that may upset and change the Six Duchies forever.
Recently Hollywood Soapbox exchanged emails with Hobb and Houser on the eve of issue #1 hitting comic book stores. Questions and answers have been slightly edited for style. Hobb offered these thoughts as a preamble to her Q&A: “I’m very pleased to see this adaptation of my novels to a comic book format. But the first thing anyone should know is that I did very little of the work, other than giving Dark Horse permission! I’ve been so pleased with Jody Houser’s adaptation, and the art work has been stellar. It’s been a new experience for me to see how much of the story can be carried by the illustrations and Jody’s deft insertion of dialogue.”
Where did the idea come from to adapt Assassin’s Apprentice into a comic book?
HOBB: I hope I’m recalling this correctly. I believe that Brett Israel of Dark Horse Comics contacted us to see if the rights were available.
HOUSER: The project was already in the works when Brett approached me about writing it. While I was the first member of the comics creative team on board, the plans for the book were already well on the way.
Will the comic book tell the same story as the novel?
HOBB: Well, as the author of the novels, I certainly hope so. Otherwise I anticipate a lot of snarky email sent my way from readers who are hoping to see a retelling of a story they enjoyed!
HOUSER: We’re definitely trying to stay as true to the novel as the comic medium allows! We’re not looking to reinvent anything, but rather show a new perspective with a visual medium.
How does the story’s impact change now that readers have a visual accompaniment?
HOBB: Some readers “see” images in their minds’ eyes as they read. But for other readers (such as myself), I rely on the word cues to know what the protagonist is facing. This meant, for me, that when I was a younger reader, I tended to just skip long paragraphs of description. It was probably the second or third time I read The Lord of the Rings that I finally slowed down and realized what an amazing world that wonderful story was set in. I think the team who created the art accompanying my story have done an extraordinary job of visualizing the world. It may not be exactly as I imagine the characters and settings, but I think that we always need to make room for other creators’, well, creativity.
HOUSER: I’m one of those readers who “sees” what they’re reading, but one of the joys of comics is seeing the world brought to life by artists with a far better visual sense than a writer with her nose in a book. When I write a script, I try not to picture the art as more than a rough sketch. It’s always exciting to see how the artists interpret different characters and moments. Ryan and Jordie are really creating a stunning fantasy world.
What’s ideal for newcomers to this saga? Read the comic book first and then the novel, or the other way around?
HOBB: I suspect that for some, the comics will be an enhancement for a book they have already read. Others may come to Fitz’ story for the first time in the comic, and then decide they want to read the novel as well. I think each of us has a preferred method of consuming story. None of them are wrong.
HOUSER: Whatever medium catch’s someone’s interest first is the best place to start!
How did you two divide responsibilities?
HOBB: In all truth, I did very little work. Dark Horse did an excellent job of keeping me informed and showing me how the comic was progressing. I made actually very few suggestions, as in, ‘Oh, that character’s hair is darker’ and things of that ilk. I am indebted to Jody Houser for how well she transformed my prose into dialogue and scenes.
HOUSER: I think it’s safe to say that Robin did all of the really heavy lifting when she wrote the novel! She’s been invaluable in making sure that we’re staying true to the story that so many love.
There are many more stories in The Realm of the Elderlings series. Do you envision the comic series becoming as epic as the novels?
HOBB: As the author of the novels, of course, I’d like to see that happen. But we all know that it will depend on the reader response and demand. We shall see!
HOUSER: Hey, I’m on board!
By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
Assassin’s Apprentice, written by Robin Hobb and Jody Houser, is now available from Dark Horse. Click here for more information.
John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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