Antony and Cleopatra...IN SPACE

News on some future projects.

I know the British slave trade existed for over two hundred years, but even a hundred is too many, isn’t it?

Anyway, I’ve got other news to discuss today. Recently realized my best medium is writing comic scripts. It’s because I’m so visual. I think in pictures and I write that way too. Also, apparently, the novel is not a visual medium, but an intellectual one. This is a new concept for me, so I’m just beginning to understand the implications.

In any case, I’m much better at painting pictures than outlining plots or designing characters.

That said, I think I do have a good hook for a future fantasy novel. May start working on it today. It’s a generic fantasy world in which the hero’s quest is less than epic: Two guys need to pay the rent and so embark on a series of epic quests to gather enough scratch to get by. I’m hoping to provoke humor by this marriage of the mundane with the fantastical. Will let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I’ve finished the first draft of my space opera “A Race of Heaven.” It’s going to be a graphic novel adaptation of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. The script needs some polishing, then it’s off to find an artist. I want this to look professional. No drawing this one myself.

Of course, I fully intend to pay my artist. Long ago, I’d tried to find artists for Bubblegum-Man, offering to split any profits 50/50. It wasn’t until much later that I realized my mistake. I thought I was offering collaboration, but I wasn’t. Collaboration is coming up with stuff together. If I want someone to draw my characters, tell my stories, that requires I hire them. Which means payment. In money, not exposure. Yikes. People die of exposure.

Ironically, exposure is the way in for comic book writers. Once the tragedy is done, I plan to just give it away and hope it gets noticed by some bigwig. That’s the way to make money. Get my adaptation adapted into a film. Get someone to buy the rights. Of course, if it’s good enough, I’ll be happy to sell it as well. Probably charge around 20 bucks per book. We won’t start making money until we hit a certain point, but we’ll see. And of course, I’ll still split the profits with the artist. That’s only fair. If I expect royalties, the artist should receive them as well, no?

Now, since I’m using mostly the same dialogue as Shakespeare, you might think writing this adaptation is relatively simple. Why should I get paid for using Shakespeare’s words? Well, adapting a play for a comic book involves a lot more than just copy-pasting from a public domain site like Gutenberg. You have to adapt the stage directions, the scenes, everything. Change it from being dialogue-heavy to being art-focused.

A lot of Shakespeare’s plays — surprise, surprise — involve long bits of dialogue and monologue, often describing actions which have recently happened but which the technology of the times prohibited from being shown. Thus, in places where Enobarbus or another character would otherwise say “such-and-such battle happened” in the play, I’ve had to change that to actually showing the battle.

It’s also a no-no in comics to have your captions describing something the reader can already see. That’s more stuff to cut, as Shakespearean dialogue often describes action happening on-stage. This was essential for a medium where not everyone has a clear view of the actors. Shakespeare also repeats himself. Scene after scene. Act after act. You gotta cut that for the adaptation. You don’t need it for a medium where the reader can just flip back to a prior page.

I’ve been planning on doing this adaptation since first studying the play in college. Antony and Cleopatra is Shakespeare’s longest play. It’s rarely performed in its entirety, due to the quantity of scenes and characters involved. Heck, I’ve had to cut entire scenes that contribute very little to the story, and I may still remove a few characters who only appear in one or two scenes total.

The breadth of the action on stage makes it perfect for space opera. Some scenes take place in Egypt, others in Rome, Greece, or the Near East. There’s battles against the Parthians, sea battles with pirates, and plenty of good old-fashioned Shakespearean innuendo. Wouldn’t be Shakespeare without the sex jokes. Or the misogyny. Can’t believe they let kids read this stuff.

I’ve changed the place names and the action to reflect interplanetary conflict, rather than international relations, but the names of the characters remain the same. Perhaps this effort will be little more than novelty for some readers, but I’m hoping to ignite fresh interest in this fascinating play. The dialogue is beautiful. It is Shakespeare, after all. Even the title “A Race of Heaven” comes from a bit of Cleopatra’s dialogue in the first act.

Really, what I need to do before polishing my manuscript is watch the Richard Burton/Liz Taylor film. Or better yet, try and find a performance of the play. Maybe talk with some academics to see what they think.

In the meantime, Bubblegum-Man Volume One is available for purchase. Let me know if you’d like a copy, and I’ll send one over. I accept donations over Paypal at wbrust@gmail.com. I also accept coupons to Papa John’s. Whichever floats your boat.