Archive for the ‘Marvel Comics’ Category

5 Things You May Not Know About The Loki Little Golden Book

4/16/21

The Loki Little Golden Book is my most recent children’s book project. It was published by Penguin Random House on January 5th, 2021, and it was illustrated by Hollie Mengert. This book was great fun to write. But every book tells two stories: the story of what the book is about (in other words, the plot), and the behind-the-scenes story of how the book was written. Here are a few things you might not know about The Loki Little Golden Book:

1) In the book’s opening scene, Loki is in Asgard, fooling a palace guard by conjuring a hologram-like image of Thor. Meanwhile, the REAL Thor looks on, annoyed, in the background. The original version of this scene was quite different: the guard is eating a sandwich, and Loki fools the guard by making it appear that his sandwich has COME TO LIFE. The sandwich had a face and everything! (At least, that’s the way I described it in the manuscript’s art notes, aka stage directions.) But I think that version of the scene was deemed too surreal, so I changed it to the one you see in the book. And that’s fine. But still, part of me longs to visit the alternate universe where Loki’s “sandwich-with-a-face” prank made it into the book.

2) This is a book for very young children, and so the idea that Thor and his family are basically deities is one that I can’t explore in a book for this age group. How do you describe what a god is without getting into thorny concepts like “worship” and “religion”? That presented me with a challenge: how would I describe Asgard, commonly known as the realm of the gods? I brainstormed a few different ways of describing it before I came up with one I was happy with: “Asgard, a mythical city of heroes.” Which is appropriate for the target demo of this book, and also accurate!

3) I wanted the dragon in this story to resemble dragons from Norse mythology. So while writing this book, I found several images of dragons from ancient Norse sculptures and paintings, and I included links to those images at the end of the manuscript, for Hollie’s reference.

4) There’s a double-page spread in the book that shows Loki skulking in the shadows as Thor hangs out with the Avengers. The narration in that spread talks about how Thor “sometimes sneaked to Earth to play pranks on Thor.” Originally the art notes for that spread showed Thor hanging out with the Avengers (on the left page) and Loki using his powers to make himself look like Captain America (on the right page). That was, of course, a reference to the scene in Thor: The Dark World where Loki does the very same thing. However, I figured that the “Loki impersonating Cap” image might be too confusing to small children who most likely hadn’t seen Thor: the Dark World.

5) Most Little Golden Books are either “meet the characters” books or “plot-driven” books. In “meet the characters” books, you meet the main character of a well-known IP and his/her/their supporting cast. The first Little Golden Book I ever wrote was The Doctor Strange LGB, which was a “meet the characters” book. It’s an introduction to the world of Doctor Strange, where you meet Stephen Strange, Baron Mordo, the Ancient One, Clea, Wong, Dormammu, Nightmare, etc. I also wrote an Avengers LGB called The Threat of Thanos, which was a “plot-driven” book: it was a simple plot with a beginning, middle, and an end. Thanos comes to Earth to find one of the Infinity Stones, the Avengers try to stop him, he defeats them using the Infinity Stones he’s already collected, and then when all seems lost, Thor outwits Thanos. It didn’t introduce the Avengers to the reader. Rather, the reader is seeing one of their adventures play out. BUT The Loki LGB is that rarity: a mash-up of both types of LGB. The first half is a “meet the characters” narrative, and the second half (with Loki bringing the dragon statue to life) is a “plot-driven” narrative.

I Can FEEL Your Anger! It Gives You Focus! Makes You Stronger!

5/23/19

You know what? As a writer, often I really try to get into the heads of my characters. And sometimes, I take it too far. For example…

Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s a couple of announcements (and THEN, as usual, I’ll tell you an embarrassing anecdote from my writing career).

  • MAD Magazine: I wrote a humor piece called “The Bad Roommate,” which was illustrated by David DeGrand. It appears in MAD #7, on sale now!
  • Last month my Avengers Little Golden Book The Threat of Thanos (illustrated by Shane Clester) appeared in a Barnes & Noble ad in celebration of the film Avengers: Endgame! (Click on the thumbnail to see the whole ad)
  • Hungry Shark: The Official Shark-Tastic Guide, written by yours truly, comes out on June 25th, 2019 from Scholastic. Barnes & Noble included the book on their list of “Guides & Novels for Your Gamer.” (Seriously, what’s with Barnes & Noble hyping all of my books lately? Not that I’m complaining…)
  • Star Wars Adventures: Recently I wrote a Tales from Wild Space comic book story called “Majordomo, Major Problems,” which was illustrated by Drew Moss. “Majordomo” is an 8-page backup tale in Star Wars Adventures #23, which comes out on June 26th, 2019 from IDW Publishing.

Now that that’s out of the way, I believe you’re owed a humiliating anecdote about my writing career. And you shall have it:

As a writer, often I really try to get into the heads of my characters. For example, when I was a staff writer on the television series TruTV Presents: World’s Dumbest, I found that in order to write jokes for Gilbert Gottfried (who was one of the cast members), you had to yell the jokes out loud AS Gilbert Gottfried. In other words, you had to do an impression of Gilbert Gottfried, to figure out how he would say a particular joke.

And that’s something I’ve done quite a few times in my career. When I was writing the scripts for the House M.D. video game, I did an impression of Hugh Laurie, in his “Gregory House” voice. As “Hugh Laurie,” I acted out each scene, talking into a digital recorder. Then I played it back in order to see if it sounded like something the character would actually say.

When I used to write Bart Simpson comic book stories for Bongo Comics, whenever Krusty the Clown was in a story, I found that it was really helpful to brainstorm one-liners for Krusty by doing a terrible Krusty impression and ad-lib some jokes while talking into the digital recorder. More recently, when I wrote my LEGO Star Wars books for Scholastic, I liked to put a few Emperor Palpatine jokes in each book. And sometimes the jokes were written IN Palpatine’s voice, especially if Palpatine was narrating a section of the book. That meant doing a really terrible, over-the-top Ian McDiarmid impression, and it really helped make the Palpatine jokes and Palpatine narration even funnier.

But what I’m really getting at is that – as I type this – there’s a digital recorder right next to my laptop. On that digital recorder’s files there’s hours and hours of audio of me doing the absolute WORST Hugh Laurie, Krusty the Clown, and Ian McDiarmid impressions. And when I was writing the House scripts, I was also doing impressions of the OTHER House cast members. So there’s audio of me doing awful Omar Epps impressions, awful Lisa Edelstein impressions, awful Robert Sean Leonard impressions. Oh, you have no idea. And you WILL CONTINUE TO have no idea. Because nobody will ever hear those audio files. I guess this isn’t really a humiliating anecdote as much as it’s a POTENTIALLY humiliating anecdote.

But if you ever need something to blackmail me with, just steal the digital recorder, okay?

 

The Worst Voicemail Message In Human History

2/2/19

This is my first blog post of 2019, and I’m trying something new: I’m going to end each blog post with an embarrassing anecdote taken from my long and storied writing career. But first, a blatant plug of a new project. To wit:

Over the past few years, I’ve written three LEGO Star Wars books for Scholastic. I hope that I get to write more at some point. My third LSW book, The Official Force Training Manual, came out in October 2018. Recently, Jonita Davis over at the Black Girl Nerds website interviewed me about the three LEGO Star Wars books I’ve written.

Also, here’s an appreciation piece I wrote for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about the life and legacy of Stan Lee, shortly after Stan died in November. I knew Stan a little bit (I interviewed him for my book From Krakow to Krypton). Also, I’ve written several children’s books featuring characters he co-created, like Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, The Avengers, and so on. So I think I have a unique perspective on Stan and his work.

And now, my embarrassing anecdote: When I was first starting out as a freelance writer, I was an entertainment journalist for Primedia Youth Entertainment Group. They published various teen and tween magazines, like Teen Beat, Tiger Beat, and BOP. I wrote for all three of those publications.

At a certain point, I discovered I was pretty good at wangling interviews with pop stars (e.g. Justin Timberlake). Because I knew quite a bit about hip-hop and R&B, I interviewed a few rappers for those magazines as well.

And somehow, I got Timbaland’s phone number.

If you don’t know who Timbaland is, well, he’s a rapper, songwriter, and music producer. His real name is Tim Mosley. I think I was trying to interview him for an article I was writing on Destiny’s Child. (Remember, this was a long time ago, when Destiny’s Child was still a thing.) Anyway, I got Timbaland’s phone number. I didn’t know any of Tim’s “people” (e.g. his agent, his manager, his personal assistant). So I had no choice. I just had to call Tim DIRECTLY. Which you’re not really supposed to do when trying to get a hold of a music-industry celebrity. But I had no other choice. So I called him. He didn’t pick up. And I left him the following voicemail message:

“Hi, Tim? Uh, I mean, Timbaland? This is Arie Kaplan. I’m an entertainment journalist and I’m trying to reach Timbaland. Timbaland, I don’t know if this is your direct number or if this is your assistant’s number. But if it’s not Timbaland’s number, I’m trying to get in touch with Timbaland. So if Timbaland could please contact me, I’d really like to interview Timbaland for the cover story I’m writing on Destiny’s Child for Teen Beat. Anyway, if this IS Timbaland, I hope you’re doing well, Timbaland. Thanks for your time, Timbaland!”

Wow. Think I said the word “Timbaland” enough during that painfully long, rambling, awkward, insane voicemail message? BTW, if you’ve never met me and you don’t know what my voice sounds like, please realize that as I kept saying the word “Timbaland” on that voicemail message, I was acutely aware that I sounded about as cool as Larry David would’ve sounded saying it. As I said, Tim never responded to that message. I bet you’re not surprised to hear that.   

Thanos Demands Your Silence (Because He Needs A Nap)

7/17/18

Last year, I wrote an Avengers Little Golden Book, titled The Threat of Thanos, which is out now. The Threat of Thanos was illustrated by the incredible Shane Clester, and it was published by Penguin Random House.

The Threat of Thanos features Thor, Black Panther, Iron Man, and The Wasp. Oddly enough, those are the main characters in the last four MCU movies (Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and the Wasp). But seriously, that’s just a coincidence.

I should mention that The Threat of Thanos has a totally original plot, and it’s not an adaptation of the Infinity War movie. This was a fun book to write, and I’m really proud of it. If you look at the book’s cover art, you’ll see that Thanos has the Infinity Gauntlet and all of the Infinity Stones. The biggest challenge in writing the book was figuring out how to explain what each of the Infinity Stones does on a level that a 2-5 year old kid could understand. For example, how do you explain the Mind Stone (or the Reality Stone, for that matter) on a kindergarten level? But I think I pulled it off.

Whenever I write a Little Golden Book, I have to write the art notes as well as the text. (Art notes are notes to the artist, telling them what to draw on every page.) So as I’m writing the text, I’m usually drawing up really rough thumbnail sketches to try and figure out what the art might consist of. Then in the art notes, I describe what I’ve drawn. I usually don’t show the thumbnail sketches to anyone, even my editor. They’re just for my own reference. But they really help in terms of figuring out which specific images will help to tell the story, which images will complement the text, and how many of those images can comfortably fit inside a book with a very specific page count.

I don’t know if other authors draw thumbnail sketches while they’re typing up the art notes, but for me, it’s a vital part of my process. So is listening to the right music. While writing the Threat of Thanos, I listened to Alan Silvestri’s score from the first Avengers movie.

Oh! And as of this writing, The Threat of Thanos is the #1 New Release in Children’s Superhero Comics on Amazon

PS – Back in April, I was interviewed by AJ Frost, Staff Writer for the “geek culture” site The Beat. During the interview, I talked about The Threat of Thanos, as well as some of my other recent children’s book projects. You can check out the interview here.

Please contact me if you want to use this for any reason. arie@ariekaplan.com