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Old July 19 2009, 11:27 PM   #1
Mr Light
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DCU: Countdown the Novel

I just finished reading the novelization of the Countdown DC comics series by our very own Greg Cox. It was a good adaptation of an unpopular comic, though I do have some questions for our esteemed author if he's around! Obviously it cuts a lot out, and while I have some issues with that (see below), on the whole it was a good slice of the story. I definitely didn't miss the Amazons Attack crossover.

Now I've only read a smattering of the actual comic; what few issues I found in the 50 cent bin, and then the weekly Newsarama review and 5 page preview. And then the wikipedia synopsis. So if I speak from ignorance forgive me.

So Greg Cox I had some questions about your adaptation choices. As an amateur writer myself I'm very interested in this process.

1) Was the 320 page count your choice or the publisher's?

2) I realize you're extremely limited in what you can include, but why did you include the Holly/Harley storyline? It has almost no significance to the larger story. They contribute nothing to winning in the climax and their story has nothing to do with Darkseid's plot. Wasn't it just some side Granny Goodness plot? And it involves the Amazons even though you don't include Amazons Attack. Also, this ends up making the book predominantly starring women; not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just a funny result. You have Mary Marvel, Holly, Harly, Donna Troy... and Jimmy and Jason Todd.

3) Where is the Morticoccus story, the "Great Disaster" that they're trying to prevent in the book? Where is Karate Kid and Brother Eye? If that story doesn't exist in this version, what was the Great Disaster then? Darkseid taking over? Also, wasn't stopping Morticoccus the very reason they needed Ray Palmer? Wasn't the bit about taking out Jimmy's brain chip just secondary? Couldn't Ryan Choi have just done that?

4) Why did you cut out Kyle Rayner? He wasn't even a seperate story that was excised, he was part of the Challengers. Was it just to have fewer characters? Why did you cut Kyle but keep Red Robin? Surely Kyle is a more appropriate character for a cosmic storyline than Red Robin. Was it because Jason Todd is an "anomaly"? Wasn't Kyle considered one as well in the comic?

5) Why do you leave out the Death of the New Gods? I know it was a seperate mini-series but those events were more relevant to the story than the actual Countdown book was. I was looking forward to seeing how you reconciled the conflicts between Countdown, Death NG, and Final Crisis, such as The Many Deaths of Orion. As it is, events are a little confusing. You show the God-Killer and say that it's a male and that all the victims recognize him. Then, at the end of the book, Darkseid mentions in passing the killer was the Source, but this doesn't get explained beyond the New Gods being found wanting.

6) This leads to my one real complaint. You don't have Orion kill Darkseid! Why? This is the one moment that the Fourth World storyline has been leading to for decades, and you give the job to Infinity Man? Why? It's not like Infinity Man was a pre-existing character in the narrative, he appears out of the blue at the very ending to off Darkseid.

7) I really missed the Pied Piper blowing up Apokalips with the Anti-Life Equation. Seems like a pretty important event, plus it leads more to the "defeat" of Darkseid.

8) I could also complain about the lack of the Salvation Run storyline but I understand why that would be tangent to the New Gods / Darkseid thru line. And I don't mean including that entire mini, just the fact that the US Gov is rounding up super villains and teleporting them off planet. This only needs to be shown with the Piper on the run.

9) So in your mind what was the primary goal to tell in this book? Was it about setting up Final Crisis with the "death" of the New Gods and Darkseid? Was it just about the Death of the New Gods and defeating Darkseid? Was it about the Monitors and the Multi-Verse?

10) Why didn't you include any kind of lead-in to Final Crisis? If I read this book blind, I would not have guessed this was a prelude to a larger story or that Darkseid would come back for revenge.

11) I noticed every once and awhile you'd use a really big 'SAT word' Which lead me to wonder, what is your target audience with these types of books? Relasped comic fans now adults? Or any comic fan too cheap to buy the comic? Or even someone who knows absolutely nothing about the comic?

12) I'm sure you have no input on this, but these books always seem to scream for the need of more pictures of the characters. Try as I might it's pretty hard to materialize a visual picture of someone's multi-hued costume from a written description. The cover only shows Darkseid, Jimmy, and Donna Troy. Why not more? Why not show every major hero and every major villain, in a left/right squaring off against each other type pose?

13) I think I can guess why didn't you include the Monarch and his multi-versal army. This story initially seemed to be hugely important yet it just disappears into the ether after Superman-Prime blows up that one universe. Still, it was nice to have Prime in the mix

14) Why didn't you include more about the rivalry between the Monitors? Because it ended up being not very important to Final Crisis? And why did you eliminate Bob and switch him with Solomon, when we never see Solomon at work swaying his brethren? To save space?

15) Why didn't you include the revelation that the Eclipso Diamond is from Apokalips? As it is, there's no explanation why Eclipso would be loyal to Darkseid. There's connection between them explained (as I recall).
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Old July 20 2009, 12:47 AM   #2
Greg Cox
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Re: DCU: Countdown the Novel

Mr Light wrote: View Post
I just finished reading the novelization of the Countdown DC comics series by our very own Greg Cox. It was a good adaptation of an unpopular comic, though I do have some questions for our esteemed author if he's around! Obviously it cuts a lot out, and while I have some issues with that (see below), on the whole it was a good slice of the story. I definitely didn't miss the Amazons Attack crossover.

Now I've only read a smattering of the actual comic; what few issues I found in the 50 cent bin, and then the weekly Newsarama review and 5 page preview. And then the wikipedia synopsis. So if I speak from ignorance forgive me.

So Greg Cox I had some questions about your adaptation choices. As an amateur writer myself I'm very interested in this process.

1) Was the 320 page count your choice or the publisher's?

That's just a pretty standard length for a novelization. I don't think anybody wanted something the size of WAR AND PEACE! And since the original miniseries ran over a thousand pages long, I was constantly looking for ways to simplify and streamline the story to bring it down to a manageable length!

2) I realize you're extremely limited in what you can include, but why did you include the Holly/Harley storyline? It has almost no significance to the larger story. They contribute nothing to winning in the climax and their story has nothing to do with Darkseid's plot. Wasn't it just some side Granny Goodness plot? And it involves the Amazons even though you don't include Amazons Attack. Also, this ends up making the book predominantly starring women; not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just a funny result. You have Mary Marvel, Holly, Harly, Donna Troy... and Jimmy and Jason Todd.

Holly and Harley made it into the book because I knew their storyline was eventually going to dovetail with Mary Marvel's. Basically, I zeroed in on the Darkseid plotline and cut anything that wasn't going to lead to Apokolips. (Plus, I'm a big Marvel Family fan so no way was I not going to include the Mary plotline.)

I think it may have also occured to me that Harley Quinn is a pretty popular character, which could help sales!

3) Where is the Morticoccus story, the "Great Disaster" that they're trying to prevent in the book? Where is Karate Kid and Brother Eye? If that story doesn't exist in this version, what was the Great Disaster then? Darkseid taking over? Also, wasn't stopping Morticoccus the very reason they needed Ray Palmer? Wasn't the bit about taking out Jimmy's brain chip just secondary? Couldn't Ryan Choi have just done that?

The Karate Kid plotline had very little to do with the other subplots until the very end, so it was easy to cut out. Ditto for the Trickster and the Pied Piper story (even though I regretted cutting Black Canary's bachelorette party). And thank God for that scene in Jimmy's brain! That gave Ray Palmer something to do that didn't involve dragging in the whole Morticoccus story. Basically, I only needed one reason to find the Atom, not two. And the brain business was a lot less complicated.

Cutting Karate Kid and Una also spared me from having to explain what the Legionnaires were doing the in the twentieth century in the first place! I didn't want to have to tie in the whole "Lightning Saga" from JLA!

4) Why did you cut out Kyle Rayner? He wasn't even a seperate story that was excised, he was part of the Challengers. Was it just to have fewer characters? Why did you cut Kyle but keep Red Robin? Surely Kyle is a more appropriate character for a cosmic storyline than Red Robin. Was it because Jason Todd is an "anomaly"? Wasn't Kyle considered one as well in the comic?

If you look carefully, Kyle doesn't actually do much besides bicker with Jason and carry people around in green bubbles. I like Kyle as a character, but I didn't need him. And I was trying to keep the cast down to a minimum.

5) Why do you leave out the Death of the New Gods? I know it was a seperate mini-series but those events were more relevant to the story than the actual Countdown book was. I was looking forward to seeing how you reconciled the conflicts between Countdown, Death NG, and Final Crisis, such as The Many Deaths of Orion. As it is, events are a little confusing. You show the God-Killer and say that it's a male and that all the victims recognize him. Then, at the end of the book, Darkseid mentions in passing the killer was the Source, but this doesn't get explained beyond the New Gods being found wanting.

Again, I had a thousand-plus pages of comics to trim down just in COUNTDOWN alone. There was just no room for DEATH OF THE NEW GODS, too. That would be a whole 'nother book!


6) This leads to my one real complaint. You don't have Orion kill Darkseid! Why? This is the one moment that the Fourth World storyline has been leading to for decades, and you give the job to Infinity Man? Why? It's not like Infinity Man was a pre-existing character in the narrative, he appears out of the blue at the very ending to off Darkseid.

That was a judgment call. The Infinity Man was already in the book, killing off the New Gods on behalf of the Source, so it seemed to make sense to have him battle Darkseid in the end--instead of suddenly bringing in a new character, Orion, who hadn't even been mentioned in the book before.

(It worked in the comic books, because Orion had been all over the simultaneous NEW GODS miniseries, but I couldn't expect readers of the novelization to be familiar with a comic book series that had come out over a year before. My goal is always to make these novels more or less accessible to casual book readers, not just comic book fans.)

7) I really missed the Pied Piper blowing up Apokalips with the Anti-Life Equation. Seems like a pretty important event, plus it leads more to the "defeat" of Darkseid.

I regretted losing that, too. But the Piper and Trickster were mostly off in their own storyline, one that didn't really overlap with the others all that much. Cutting them out was a no-brainer.

8) I could also complain about the lack of the Salvation Run storyline but I understand why that would be tangent to the New Gods / Darkseid thru line. And I don't mean including that entire mini, just the fact that the US Gov is rounding up super villains and teleporting them off planet. This only needs to be shown with the Piper on the run.

Like you said, that was its own tangent. A fun story, but nothing that needed to be in the book.

9) So in your mind what was the primary goal to tell in this book? Was it about setting up Final Crisis with the "death" of the New Gods and Darkseid? Was it just about the Death of the New Gods and defeating Darkseid? Was it about the Monitors and the Multi-Verse?

At the time I wrote the book, I had no idea what was going to happen in FINAL CRISIS. That was still top-secret. So I just had to make sure that COUNTDOWN worked on its own as a standalone novel--and hope that I hadn't cut out anything that was going to be too important later on!

In my head, I thought of it as a novel about sidekicks coming into their own: Jimmy Olsen, Mary Marvel, Donna Troy, Jason Todd, Holly Robinson, Harley Quinn. It's a cosmic murder mystery starring a bunch of former sidekicks trying to forge their own identities and save the day on their own.

10) Why didn't you include any kind of lead-in to Final Crisis? If I read this book blind, I would not have guessed this was a prelude to a larger story or that Darkseid would come back for revenge.

Again, I didn't know anything about FINAL CRISIS back then. There were hints that Darkseid, Mary Marvel, and the Monitors were going to be involved, but mostly I wanted COUNTDOWN to stand on its own.

11) I noticed every once and awhile you'd use a really big 'SAT word' Which lead me to wonder, what is your target audience with these types of books? Relasped comic fans now adults? Or any comic fan too cheap to buy the comic? Or even someone who knows absolutely nothing about the comic?

Let's throw this one to the audience. What is the audience for comic book novelizations? Why do people buy books like this?

In general, I tried not to assume that the reader was completely up-to-date on modern DC comics continuity. I wanted the book to be accessible to people who maybe had read comic books once upon a time, or had seen some of the movies and tv shows, but didn't necessarily have the plot of INFINITE CRISIS memorized or whatever. So I always tried to throw in a paragraph or two explaining, say,who exactly Donna Troy was.

12) I'm sure you have no input on this, but these books always seem to scream for the need of more pictures of the characters. Try as I might it's pretty hard to materialize a visual picture of someone's multi-hued costume from a written description. The cover only shows Darkseid, Jimmy, and Donna Troy. Why not more? Why not show every major hero and every major villain, in a left/right squaring off against each other type pose?

This wasn't my call, but I'm guessing they didn't want the cover to be too cluttered or confusing. Me, I probably would've gone for Mary Marvel or Harley Quinn instead of Donna Troy, but I'm sure DC and Ace had their reasons for putting Donna on the cover. (And I've already met at least one Donna fan who is probably going to buy the book because of it!)

13) I think I can guess why didn't you include the Monarch and his multi-versal army. This story initially seemed to be hugely important yet it just disappears into the ether after Superman-Prime blows up that one universe. Still, it was nice to have Prime in the mix

Like you said, the Monarch story and the Superboy-Prime story cancel each other out, which made them easy to eliminate.

14) Why didn't you include more about the rivalry between the Monitors? Because it ended up being not very important to Final Crisis? And why did you eliminate Bob and switch him with Solomon, when we never see Solomon at work swaying his brethren? To save space?

Exactly, I suddenly realized I could get away with one character instead of two. And the conflict between the Monitors mostly tied in with the Monarch storyline, which I ended up eliminating anyway, so that all fell by the wayside,too. Thank God I kept Nix Uotan, the Monitor of Earth-51, though, since he ended up being such a big deal in FINAL CRISIS!

15) Why didn't you include the revelation that the Eclipso Diamond is from Apokalips? As it is, there's no explanation why Eclipso would be loyal to Darkseid. There's connection between them explained (as I recall).
Honestly, I can't recall. I think it was because that revelation didn't actually occur in COUNTDOWN, but in one of tie-ins instead. Maybe COUNTDOWN TO MYSTERY. I just didn't have room to bring in stuff from the various COUNTDOWN spin-offs and prequels.

Anyway, hope this answers your questions. Basically, it was all about structure; I kept looking for ways to simplify a very complicated, 52-part story. Glad to hear that you've read the book already. I haven't seen many reviews yet, so I'm dying to hear what people think of it.
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Last edited by Greg Cox; July 20 2009 at 01:04 AM.
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Old July 20 2009, 01:17 AM   #3
Hartzilla2007
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Re: DCU: Countdown the Novel

You know Greg I think you made the right call making Countdown a stand alone from Final Crisis, having read the summaries of both stories on wikipedia, and I founf Countdown to be the better story seeing as how it USED the multiverse for something more that a deus ex machina. Plus say what you will about countdown but this whole Final Crisis secret plot line crap turned it into a clusterf@#k of epic proportions.
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Old July 20 2009, 01:25 AM   #4
Greg Cox
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Re: DCU: Countdown the Novel

Well, I enjoyed adapting FINAL CRISIS, too. Not sure when that's coming out.
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Old July 20 2009, 02:45 AM   #5
Mr Light
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Re: DCU: Countdown the Novel

Thanks for the feedback! I've read and enjoyed your thus-far-trilogy of DCU adaptations and I've enjoyed them all. They're usually my first exposure to that particular story and it inspires to go on and buy the actual comic book. In this instance I wasn't interested in the comic since I'd a) read it was terrible and b) had already seen 1/4 of the pages on the free online previews and read summaries of the rest, so I was in more of a position to dissemble and anaylze I'll definitely get the Final Crisis one as well since I *STILL* don't know what the hell was going on with that story

It's too bad you couldn't put on another 100 pages or so to these things. Oh and about the visuals; how about just having a little illustrated page on the inside just showing all the various characters standing in a row with their costumes, a little visual cast list? I think that would help, though being on the inside it would be B&W unfortunately.

I don't see why the Mary Marvel story requires Holly/Harley. Mary gets her Black Adam powers, gets seduced by Eclipso, seduced by Darkseid... none of that needs Holly/Harley and their Amazonian adventures.

I could have sworn the Countdown series referenced Eclipso originating from Apokalips, but I'm certainly not an expert. It only would have required a single line of dialogue, though. When the three of them are in the same room, Mary asks why Eclipso brought her here, Darkseid says foolish girl! her diamond was mined in the slave pits of Darkseid! or something like that.
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Old July 20 2009, 02:58 AM   #6
Mr Light
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Re: DCU: Countdown the Novel

I think it may have also occured to me that Harley Quinn is a pretty popular character, which could help sales!
I'm sure you don't control this, but I just read the back cover of the book and nowhere does it mention Harley Quinn. And she's not on the cover, either. So you'd have to start reading it to know she's in there

Why did you choose Jason Todd over Kyle Gardner? Because his murderous nature gave better character conflict?
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Old July 20 2009, 04:50 AM   #7
Greg Cox
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Re: DCU: Countdown the Novel

Mr Light wrote: View Post
I think it may have also occured to me that Harley Quinn is a pretty popular character, which could help sales!
I'm sure you don't control this, but I just read the back cover of the book and nowhere does it mention Harley Quinn. And she's not on the cover, either. So you'd have to start reading it to know she's in there

Why did you choose Jason Todd over Kyle Gardner? Because his murderous nature gave better character conflict?

Mostly, because Jason was part of the quest for the Ray Palmer from the beginning--whereas Kyle just kind of shows up halfway through. As I recall, I was trying to figure out how to gracefully introduce Kyle into the book when it occurred to me that maybe I didn't need to. All I really needed was Donna, Jason, and the Monitor . . . .
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Old July 20 2009, 04:56 AM   #8
Greg Cox
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Re: DCU: Countdown the Novel

Mr Light wrote: View Post

I don't see why the Mary Marvel story requires Holly/Harley. Mary gets her Black Adam powers, gets seduced by Eclipso, seduced by Darkseid... none of that needs Holly/Harley and their Amazonian adventures.
Maybe, but who doesn't like Amazons? I admit the XENA fan in me enjoyed writing that plotline.

Ninety-nine of my decisions were structural in nature, but occasionally I made allowances for my own personal sense of what was cool. I liked the whole Holly/Harley business so I kept it in. Plus, of course, the whole Granny Goodness connection led directly back to Darkseid, tying everything together.
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