The Adaptation Process
By Wade Carney
Warhawks was originally written as a screenplay. Jason Coffee had envisioned that his tale of clashing cyborgs would thrill moviegoing audiences as a major Hollywood studio release. Sadly, this was not to be during Jason's lifetime. When we, his friends, embarked on this project, we took as our mission statement what had been his: to have his voice be heard. We read the dozens of completed screenplays Jason left behind and faced the sad reality that producing any of them as films in his name was simply not feasible - being visual effects epics, they were just too costly. So, we decided that the other medium he loved so much would proudly give breath to his voice: comic books.
The adaption process was both tricky and rewarding. Any work of art being translated into another medium has to change in some respect, but we wanted the process to be as close to the way Jason himself would have adapted it rather than simply acting as new writers taking on his story. The story structure of the series follows the screenplay's structure. We broke the three-act screenplay into six acts, making each new act an issue in a six-issue run. Luckily, the story and tone of Warhawks was easily inspired by Jason's love of comics, so the process felt very simpatico. We wanted to retain the purity of Jason's voice as much as possible, so the themes, actions and resolutions of the story were not altered in any way, and the vast majority of the dialogue is verbatim from the original screenplay. When we felt we were forced to rework, add, or omit anything from the source material, our first question was always: "How would Jason feel about that? Is this something he would agree to?" This was HIS story, after all. So we always imagined we were working with him on this adaptation. We would debate the issue, and each time one of us would argue for what he felt would have been Jason's position. Having had so many discussions with him about stories, narrative theory, and movies, we could easily sense him pushing us toward his preferred outcome.
On a personal note, I think the most memorable and rewarding aspect of the adaptation process for me was isolating the main themes of his script. Reading Warhawks, I saw a peaceful man wrestle with the efficacy of peace. Will those who refuse to kill their opponents always lose to those who would? Is it their "good" qualities that hold them back from being effective at eradicating the evil of the world? And would a world without those qualities be one worth living in? Jason's story confronts these questions head on, forcing the team's leader to deal with them, all the while trying to square his love of intense action in his chosen form of entertainment with his pacifist heart in real life. I identified very strongly with Jason's quandry, and that was where all of my decisions and debate points would stem from; as that was where I felt the presence of my friend Jason Coffee the most. And once we crystallized for ourselves the themes which he was writing to convey, for all decisions, the correct path was clear.