Dog Eaters

An Interview with Script Adapter Sean J. Jordan

Posted on 07.14.08 2:17PM under Interviews

Excited about DOG EATERS? So are we! So every day this week, we’re going to bring you interviews with members of the creative team!

Up first: Sean J. Jordan , the writer/editor who adapted the story for comics.

Black Dog Clan : How did you get started in comics?

Sean J. Jordan
: In 2001, I took a class in college on comic books as literature at the University of Illinois, under an instructor named Dan Yezbick. Dan worked really hard to make the class comprehensive, and he covered everything you could ever want to know about the medium — the roots, the history, the underground comix movement, the indy books, and so forth. We actually only read two superhero books — The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen . We used Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud as our textbook, and we read tons of articles from The Comics Journal . We also read through the works of creators like Carl Barks and Will Eisner, both of whom were absolute geniuses.

The class really opened my eyes to the medium, and what it could be.  It also inspired me to apply for a writing gig posted by an artist named Mike S. Miller for a book he was working on. Through Mike, I met the Dabel Brothers, and I worked with them for many years as a writer, editor, PR rep, and marketing manager.

Black Dog Clan : What are some of the books you worked on with the Dabels?

Sean J. Jordan
: I started out on an original book called Legacy as an editor, but then had to take the book over on issue #4. It wasn’t selling well, so I killed off all the characters in the fourth issue and ended the story. I think I’m the only writer in the history of comics who began his career by intentionally ending the book he was working on.

Later on, I worked on Dragonlance: The Legend of Huma , The Wood Boy, and The Burning Man . I edited for awhile, and then pulled back from production to focus on marketing, since they needed someone to fill that role as the company grew.

Black Dog Clan : How did you get assigned to work on Dog Eaters ?

Sean J. Jordan
: The Dabel Brothers decided to sponsor a prize at the Creative Screenwriting Expos 4 and 5, where they’d take one screenplay and adapt it into a comic book miniseries. I was invited to speak at both events to completely packed rooms where we had standing room only. I was so excited that I volunteered to become personally involved with each adaptation. Unfortunately, the winning screenplay from Expo 4 got tangled up in a conflict and didn’t get produced. But the winner from Expo 5 was Dog Eaters , and I had a chance to meet Malcolm Wong and present him the prize at he ceremony. He and I exchanged some ideas, and we started to work not long after on the script.

Black Dog Clan : How difficult was it to adapt the screenplay into a comic?

Sean J. Jordan
: From a structural point of view, it was very easy; Malcolm’s story had a lot of visual flair and action, and it translated well into panels and pages. But from a dramatic point of view, there were certainly some challenges — we had to tighten up the dialogue, combine some characters, and remove some scenes just to make the story fit. We had the added challenge of making the characters emotionally interesting, something that actors would have done quite capably onscreen, but which we had much less space and ability to do in the comic.

There was also the point that we had to really think through the action sequences and draw them out a bit. In the screenplay, they were described in a paragraph or two. In the comic, they take place over big blocks of pages. Thinking about technical details, such as the guns the characters were using, or how many Roaches we should have in a scene, involved a lot of discussion between us.

Black Dog Clan : Were there any challenges along the way?

Sean J. Jordan
: Absolutely. I was working on the final third of the script, and somehow lost the file during a computer crash. I didn’t realize this until later on when I went to turn it in, and had to go back and rewrite the entire segment. That was frustrating.

Malcolm and I smoothed out the second draft of the script by working on it together in a Google document. This allowed us to both make changes without having to send files back and forth. Malcolm focused on tweaking the dialogue and improving the character interactions. I focused on trimming down the monologues and fixing any grammatical problems.

Black Dog Clan : What do you think of the look of the series?

Sean J. Jordan
: Guillermo A. Angel has done an amazing job of bringing this series to life. When he started working on the project, he was really concerned not just with drawing the characters, but with understanding the world around them. He really tried to immerse himself in Malcolm’s vision of the story, and the resulting artwork is fabulous. I was particularly surprised that he was able to disentangle Tommy and Stevie — two characters who are almost always seen together in the script — and give them each enough individual personality that they each stand on their own in the comic.

Black Dog Clan : On your blog, you’re a pretty vocal about your feelings that the comic book medium can be used for more than just telling stories about superheroes. Does Dog Eaters help push the envelope?

Sean J. Jordan
: Absolutely. One of the interesting things about this book is that it’s done in a manga-inspired style; appropriate, I think, given its subject matter. In Japan, 60% of the population reads comic books, and the comics they read cover a huge range of topics. In the US, less than 1% of the entire population reads comic books, and at least half of the comics that you can buy in stores are related to superheroes. Clearly, the medium could be doing other things, but there’s a lot of work to be done in persuading the public to give comic books a second look.

Dog Eaters is fresh, and it’s unique. I firmly believe we’ll be seeing it as a summer blockbuster down the road, and it’s going to do its part to help people realize that you can tell some amazingly cool stories through comic books. I’m proud to have been a part of the process, and I can’t wait to hear what readers have to say down the road!

Sean J. Jordan is a comic book writer and editor. He currently owns his own publishing company, Army Ant Publishing, which creates educational graphic novels for children. You can read more about Sean at .

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