The stories behind the stories

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull #1

“You’re not from around here.” — Indiana Jones

“Part One”

The adaptation of the fourth blockbuster Indiana Jones film, in comics form!
Published by Dark Horse • May 21, 2008
Written by John Jackson Miller

Based on the story written by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson and the screenplay by David Koepp

Art by Luke Ross

Lettered by Fabio Laguna

Lettered by Michael Heisler

Colored by Dan Jackson

Covers by Drew Struzan and Hugh Fleming

Edited by Jeremy Barlow, David Marshall, and Freddye Lins

This issue comprises the first half of the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull graphic novel.

Back in 2005, when I had been working for a while with Jeremy Barlow, then my editor on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, I asked a teensy favor. There hadn’t been an Indiana Jones movie in 16 years, there was no agreement yet on a script, and no guarantee that Dark Horse would do an adaptation or that Jeremy would be editing it. But, I begged, if all those “ifs” fell into line, I definitely wanted to write the comics adaptation.

I don’t remember if I had heard that Indy IV was a go by the time of Star Wars Celebration IV, Memorial Day weekend of 2007 in Los Angeles. I do know I was surprised — and honored — to be asked there by Jeremy to write the adaptation. All the pieces had fallen into place, and Jeremy was indeed editing the adaptation; now, the work really began, much of it in total secrecy.

So I won’t speak in specifics about the steps involved or the methods we used — nor will I get much into if or how the story changed along the way. This having been my first experience at adaptation, however, I can speak more generally about the challenges in transforming a movie script to a comics story.

One of the first things readers of my work may notice is the presence of an omniscient narrator. Believe it or not, I had never used one before in any of my comics writing — not even on Bart Simpson. Part of that comes from how I was instructed early on at Marvel; part of it’s a personal style. An omniscient narrator sometimes comes down like the “voice of truth,” where in a lot of my comics I prefer some ambiguity. You may not necessarily be able to believe your eyes, all the time. (Even in Sword & Sarcasm, we realize later on that our narrator is a character, whose word is not necessarily authoritative.) But there’s a reason that the vast majority of movie adaptations employ one: there’s often simply too much going on. You can’t show every scene, so the narrator helps get you from place to place.

It did take a draft to get the hang of — but I got more comfortable with it, though, especially as I gave the narrator an energetic, slightly irreverent tone. And since we added no dialogue on this project, that really is the one part of it that’s my addition.

More on the process in the second issue’s notes!

“What kind of name is Mutt?” — Indiana Jones

This story appeared both as a graphic novel and as two different 44-page comic books. Given the two-issue storylines for Marvel’s Further Adventures of Indiana Jones title, the issue count seems appropriate!

Readers of the prose novelization learn that Dean Stanforth’s children (who I think we see seated with him in the final scene of the film) are named Don and Maggie. This tickled me when I learned it, having worked with Don and Maggie Thompson, the George and Martha Washington of comics fandom. Almost certainly a coincidence — and sadly, I had no room for the reference in the comics. It seems not to have appeared in the film, either, but it is out there in prose.

It should be pretty clear to the movie viewer what elements differ from comics to screen, but the big elephant on campus would have to be the football game, which appears prominently in the comics but not on the screen. Another reason to buy the DVD, perhaps…

Two variant covers were produced for this half of the adaptation — painted cover by Hugh Fleming, movie poster cover by Drew Struzan.