Are the graphic novels of Dark One still supposed to be prequels to the eventual television series? Or will the television series be an adaptation of the graphic novel?
If I get my way, television series is an adaptation of the graphic novel. Let me talk you all through the long history of Dark One. I, as you might know, I really like to take sort of modernist, deconstructionist looks at the epic fantasy core idea, the Hero’s Journey you might call it, the epic fantasy of it. And in a lot of ways, you might call this my foundational myth. The idea of the young man born to a peasant family who has a noble heritage, who goes on a question, becomes a king, gets magic objects, saves the world. Like, this is the story of the David Eddings, The Wheel of Time, Memory Sorrow and Thorn, Sword of Shannara. I read a ton of these works when I was a young man, and it is kind of the core fantasy myth of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Fantasy really doesn’t do as much of that anymore, ‘cause it was done quite a bit and quite well. But I really like looking at that and deconstructing it. It’s not religious, but it’s very similar to that for me, the thing that kind of is my origin as a writer.
So, like you see authors deconstructing, in the Middle Ages or even the Renaissance and later, the Adam and Eve story, you see me deconstructing the heroic journey in fantasy. Mistborn was doing this to an extent. And after doing Mistborn, I found that I really wanted to explore another version of this, and it started to take shape in my mind as just being called Dark One. Obviously a nod to The Wheel of Time, but also a nod to a lot of these stories that have the Dark Lord who is the antagonist of this sort of monomyth. And I really wanted to do a story about, “What if you found out that instead of being prophesied to be Harry Potter, there was a prophecy that you would become Voldemort. And how did you deal with that? And what did that do to your life?”
Well, I tried this story multiple times until I cracked it. The first version I can remember writing was in its own complete fantasy world, and was a Young Adult/Middle Grade attempt at it. This is because Harry Potter was one of the inspirations for it, so it had a very Harry Potter-esque sort of… I was kind of using some of J.K. Rowling’s prose constructions. Not, hopefully, plagiarizing them, but looking at how she wrote and trying to do something a little more light-hearted and whimsical, like hers. And it just did not work. Just completely flopped on its face. Though, it’s the first place that Pattern, that eventually ended up in Stormlight Archive, showed up. Something like Pattern. And I set that aside and left it for a few years.
A few years, I came back to it and said, “What if I did this as a portal fantasy?” Fantasy where you start on Earth, and then transition to the fantasy world. And I tried it again, and I got, like, two or three chapters in, and it still was not working. It felt better. I felt like it made a step forward, but I had not cracked it. It was still a Middle Grade story; young YA, old Middle Grade, kind of like where Alcatraz sits.
I left it alone again. Years later, this would be, like, 2014 maybe, I thought, “What if I tried setting this in the cosmere?” I moved it to the cosmere. Go three or four chapters in. And it still didn’t work. This is not unusual. I mean, this is the most unusual one for me in that it’s gone on the longest. But a lot of times, you try something and it just doesn’t feel right, doesn’t work. So I set it aside yet again.
And when I came back to it, the big change I made in my brain is that I’m like, “I think that the problem is that this is a book for someone who grew up reading these stories, but who is not still themselves a young person who hasn’t experienced these stories.” This story works way better if you share, kind of, in this foundational myth that I love so much. So that you can understand how it’s kind of trying to deconstruct it. And I realized I needed to write this as an adult property, not a Middle Grade. Or, if YA, it had to be old YA.
And that’s when I sat down and I wrote this treatment that really, finally, worked. When I say “treatment,” it is the plot outline, pretty detailed plot outline. And at that point, I decided it would probably work best as a television show. And I outlined it episode-by-episode. I went really into detail on all the characters and things, and it just sang to me. It worked; it really clicked. And that’s when I said, “Let’s try to get this made.”
So I took it to Hollywood, and there was a lot of excitement immediately surrounding it. Didn’t go anywhere, didn’t go anywhere… then, some things happened with Random House, my publisher, and one of the people that worked in their film department got ahold of the treatment and was like, “Wow, this is amazing. Let’s do something with this.” And then it just started to go “Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam.” That is when I decided to do the graphic novel.
So, the graphic novel is taking my original outline for the TV show, which does include chunks of dialogue and things like that, and doing it as a graphic novel format. Meanwhile, the television show started to take on a different life. This was when Joe Michael Straczynski was brought on, and he had some things to add that are very cool. But the television show really started to drift away from the original property. So we’re still kind of in talks about how much this will look like the graphic novel. But the graphic novel kind of turned into the way to express my vision for what this would be.
I don’t know what will happen with the TV show. I honestly can’t say. Joe is great to work with. I really like Joe. I am hopeful that something very cool will come out of it. It might look completely different. And in fact, there’s a chance we will rename the project property Joe and I are working on into something else, and call it something else. Who knows. Hollywood is weird, as we probably all already know.
Regardless, this is my vision. Graphic novel is not the prequel. Graphic novel is the actual outline that I wrote, taken and adapted really faithfully. They did a spectacular job with this. They focus a little more on Mirandus. The actual outline has more with Lin, Paul’s mom, and Mr. Caligo. And they focused their attention a little more on Mirandus. It’s not like they added anything; it’s just that there was too much there, I think. (Because it was meant to be a full season of a television show.) And so they focused their attention there. But Lin is still in it. There’s still plenty, and the scenes that are still there are all ones I had in the outline.
If I do a novel, it would be the prequel to this. Because the prequel, not giving any spoiler stuff, would be the thing that would work in an epic fantasy novel sort of form.
There’s the short version of the long history of Dark One.