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Monday, September 16, 2013

Richard Castle's First Graphic Novel?

When it comes to author Richard Castle, public opinion remains divided. People view him as either lazy or hard-working, childish or mature, naive or jaded.  Perhaps the largest argument concerns whether he is actually a real person.  We all know an actor, Nathan Fillion, plays him on TV. But Fillion's portrayal seems so real that some maintain that it was informed by the author himself, and the TV show is just an adaptation of his life story.  Let's face it: if you were a bestselling author, and you tagged along with a good looking homicide detective like Kate Beckett, you wouldn't want all your fans following you around all day, would you?

After all, every author loves to be complemented on his work.  But everyone is also entitled to a certain amount of privacy, and no one enjoys being stalked.

In the case of Richard Castle's Deadly Storm, readers are in no doubt as to the existence of its authors.  In addition to penning every issue of "Ultimate Spider-Man," and numerous other comic books, Brian Michael Bendis is an architect of the Marvel universe.  He heads up a division of Marvel, where he helps decide which storylines each title should pursue, and how the events depicted in each will interact with the others.  His co-writer is Kelly Sue Deconnick.  She's best known for writing Marvel's "Avengers Assemble" and "Captain Marvel" comics, but she also writes other titles and edits English language translations of Japanese Manga books.  Both writers are very real, and someday you might have the pleasure of meeting them at a comic book convention.  

Just as the TV show "Castle" is an adaptation of author Richard Castle's life, so Richard Castle's Deadly Storm is an adaptation of his first Derek Storm novel.  (Sadly, like many of his older titles, it's out of print, but perhaps publishers will take note of this post, and make it available again).  We meet Derek Storm in a trailer park, where he has tracked down Jefferson Grout, and is using his video camera to record the man having a fling with another woman.  

Despite his cavalier charm, and the way he rarely seems to take anything seriously, Storm is a sensitive man, and isn't looking forward to giving his client, Mrs. Grout, proof of her husband's infidelity.  Thus preoccupied, he inadvertently steps on a piece of litter.  Within seconds, lights switch on all over the trailer park, and Derek finds himself on the run from three men with guns, blasting away at him.  When he makes it back to his office, he finds people waiting for him.  They wear nicer clothes than him, ooze confidence, and exhibit capabilities far beyond him.  In other words: CIA operatives.  

As Derek Storm will later clarify, CIA stands for the Central Intelligence Agency, not the Culinary Institute of America.  (Just in case you were wondering).  They're not supposed to carry out missions on American soil.  But it seems that Jefferson Grout, the man Storm was following, is a former CIA agent who has gone missing (or rogue), and he's not the first one the agency has lost recently.  While Grout evaded the CIA operatives sent after him, Storm managed to find him (until he lost him during the trailer park shootout).  Well, the CIA want him to track down Grout again.  Storm is intrigued by the case, as well as the beautiful Clara Strike, who will be his handler for this mission.  

Heck, he'll even be paid for serving his country.  

So he ignores the warnings of his father--a former CIA agent--and continues pursuing Grout, this time for his government.  Doing so will land him in jail, under suspicion for murder.  Tracking down leads will take him to a certain Latin American country with a history of CIA involvement.  He'll get beaten, risk jail and imprisonment, even death. Yet he'll follow the clues where they lead, because he wants to know why Grout disappeared, because he likes Clara Strike, and because he believes that, even if solving this case means taking a few hard knocks, it will make him an infinitely better detective.

Plus, he might just get to play with some cool, CIA espionage devices.  

Richard Castle's Deadly Storm is a slim volume, but a fun one.  It's a novel that could easily be filmed as an hour-long TV show, and can be read in one sitting.  After reading it the first time, you can peruse it again later, and discover aspects of the story you might have missed the first time around.  And then there are the Special Features.  For three pages of the novel, readers get the authors' script, complete with their notes and suggestions.  Another page reveals artist Lan Medina's initial breakdown of the page in pencil, and further pages show how those pages were inked and colored.  These features might seem basic to the experienced comic book reader, but for those less well versed in such matters, they offer welcome insight into the process of creating a graphic novel.  

Sadly, this book may not dispel the controversy surrounding Richard Castle's existence.  Even Brian Michael Bendis has suggested that he was tasked with adapting a nonexistent novel written by a fictional character.  Perhaps this is taking Richard Castle's anonymity too far. For just like Bendis and Deconnick, Richard Castle has his own website. There you can learn about his life, read summaries of his books, and even ask him questions.  After perusing his site, why not visit the websites of Brian Michael Bendis and Kelly Deconnick, as well as the art page featuring Lan Medina's work?  For regardless of who exactly contributed what to this adaptation, Richard Castle's Deadly Storm is a fun read, and those who craft entertaining stories are well worth learning about.

Just don't stalk them, okay?  No one likes that.

Dragon Dave

Related Internet Links
Brian Michael Bendis
Kelly Sue Deconnick
Lan Medina

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