Hugo and Nebula Award—winning author George R.R. Martin is probably best known for his fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, a vast and intricate epic that hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list with its most recent installment, Feast for Crows.
Martin also happens to be a life-long comic book fan who served as both an editor and writer for the superhero novel and comic book anthology series Wild Cards, and has licensed his Song of Ice and Fire prequel novellas, The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword, for both comic books and graphic novels. The first issue of The Sworn Sword miniseries is currently on the shelves at stores from the Dabel Brothers and Marvel Comics.
PW Comics Week: I’ve heard that your very first appearance in print was actually in a comic book. Is that true?
GRRM: Yes, it was a letter in the Fantastic Four.
PWCW: What era of Fantastic Four are we talking about?
GRRM: Oh God... well, there were dinosaurs. I think it was around '62 or '63—it was a comment for the letters column. I think I said something like, “Shakespeare had better move out of the way, because Stan Lee has arrived.” I was a big fan of comics, of course, by then, [with] Spider-man and all that stuff.
PWCW: What kind of comic books are you reading these days?
GRRM: I follow writers, so anything Neil Gaiman does, anything that Alan Moore does. I love what Kurt Busiek is doing with his Astro City comics. Those are just wonderful, affectionate homages to the old style superhero story, but with a great emphasis on characterization.
PWCW: How did your Hedge Knight prequel novellas make the transition into comic books?
GRRM: Well, it was Les Dabel with his persistence. Les wrote me, and he actually wanted to option A Song of Ice and Fire, so he sent me some artwork and told me a little bit about himself and his brothers. It was a nice letter, but I didn’t like any of the artwork he sent me. As I looked at what Les was saying, they almost had no credits of any sort. A Song of Ice and Fire is my magnum opus, of course; it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done. I wasn’t going to license it out to what seemed to be a couple of kids with little experience, so I said no, as I’ve said no to other people who have occasionally written me with offers.
But Les refused to take no for an answer, and he came back a month later with another appeal and he sent more artwork, and more character concepts. I didn’t like this any better, so I said no again. We went back and forth for half a year, and he just kept not taking no for an answer. Finally, he sent me some artwork and character concepts that were actually quite good, that were much more the style that I like.[I said,]
“It seems sort of interesting, but I’m still not going to give you Ice and Fire; it’s too big. I tell you what I’ll do. I have a prequel to Ice and Fire, this little novella called The Hedge Knight that takes place in the same universe, but it’s 100 years earlier with different characters. I’ll license that to you, and we’ll see how you do with it.” And the rest is history, so to speak. They took that and ran with it, and we had various ups and downs along the way, but they produced a beautiful comic book.
PWCW: Do you have a third novella coming in your prequel series The Tales of Dunk and Egg?
GRRM: I have one that’s about three-quarters finished, but I had to put it aside to do [the next Ice and Fire book] Dance of Dragons. I’d been hoping to finish it before I really got into Dance of Dragons, after finishing For Crows, but there was my American book tour, and my British book tour, and my Canadian book tour [laughs]. The time I had set aside to finish the Dunk and Egg stories was all gone, and I said, I better wait on this one and just get into Dance of Dragons.
PWCW: Are you planning make that into a graphic novel as well?
GRRM: That would be my hope.
PWCW: What kind of response have you gotten about Hedge Knight from the fans of your Song of Ice and Fire series?
GRRW: They love it. They’re all very positive about it. That’s the care that [the Dabel Brothers] put into it. At one point early in the process, Les actually sent me four different writers doing the first four pages of the script, and I got to pick. They were all pretty good, actually, but Ben Avery’s was the best, and also the one that changed the least, so I picked him. It’s another medium, so you have to make certain changes, but at the same time he understood the spirit of the stories and he kept that.
PWCW: Les Dabel has described you as “hands-on” in adapting Hedge Knight to a graphic novel. What role did you play in that process?
GRRM: When Ben finishes a script, they send it to me for approval. I give him his notes, or things that need to be changed if there’s something that doesn’t come across right, and similarly I see the pencils when Mike Miller finishes them.
I do have to say though, that especially as we get deeper and deeper into the process—I’ve worked with these guys on Hedge Knight, and then on Sworn Sword—I hardly give any notes. It’s mostly just a matter of me reading the scripts and looking at the art and saying, “Hey, great job!”
PWCW: Now that you’ve gotten more comfortable with the Dabel brothers, would you be consider doing Song of Ice and Fire as a comic book?
GRRM: You know, I have considered it. I think there are challenges there that are formidable, and one is the simple size of it. I mean, this is a big story. Dunk and Egg is small and containable, with a beginning, middle, and an end. In Ice and Fire I’ve got a massively complicated plot, and it’s not very easy to cut anything. What seems to be an insignificant throwaway line in book one turns out to be a clue as to something that’s going to happen in book four, so you really have to reproduce most of what’s there. With 22-page comic books, it would take hundreds of them. And that makes me a little nervous.[In the second part of this interview in next week’s PWCW, Martin discusses Hollywood, Wild Cards and more.]