Presenting an interview with Stuart Moore & Andie Tong, and a giveaway from Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Today we are delighted to present an interview and giveaway opportunity for the newest book from writers Stan Lee and Stuart Moore, with art by Andie Tong: The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence! Here’s what Moore, Tong, and Zodiac Legacy editor Nachie Marsham have to say about the background behind the project, the collaborative art and writing process, and diversity in this particular series.
Note that this interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.
On the creation of the Zodiac Legacy project:
Nachie Marsham: A couple of years ago, I think this might have been back at the beginning of 2012. My boss, who is the associate publisher here at Disney Publishing, Rich Thomas, handed me this proposal for this story.
That was from Stan Lee, through his company, POW! Entertainment. And he was like, “I think this is something that could come through Disney. And I think it’s something that could be really exciting. Can you take a look and see if this is something that you think could be an interesting book or a book series?”
So, I reached out to Stuart and Andie, who I had both worked with a little bit in different capacities in my previous life when I was working at DC Comics. And both of them have a lot of experience both with prose and with comics.
Stuart Moore: I’m happy people are finally able to read the book because we have been working on this for a long time. It’s been very exciting. One challenge of this book is because it is based on the Chinese Zodiac itself, there are a lot of characters. There were a lot of personalities we had to figure out. There were a lot of alliances we had to make sure worked between the villains and the heroes.
And a lot of that will shift in future volumes, too. Things will not stay the same. We wanted to keep everything very firmly focused on Steven as the protagonist, but it’s also a very large canvas with a lot of room for different stories. And that’s pretty exciting to me.
Andie Tong: When I was first approached, I couldn’t believe it because A, it was from Disney, and B, it was from Stan Lee. We’re working on a major project with a legendary creator.
So, the way I was first approached, the character was mentioned to me. I was born in the Year of the Tiger, and since Steven Lee also has the power of the Tiger, I thought this project was meant to be. So, I decided to try my best to create the characters and foresee them the way I thought would accentuate their powers.
The main character and the powers that he would have were already decided, but I had the leeway to choose ethnicity and sex of other characters, as well as which powers would go to which one. Essentially, I got to create the characters from the ground up and to bring forth the look and feel of each character, with the guidance of Nachie, of course, and Disney.
On the collaborative process (and prose versus sequential comics):
Stuart Moore: Over the last couple of years, I’ve had a lot of experience with superhero stories in prose form. It’s something I’m still learning how to do – you’re always still learning how to do this stuff. But I’ve gotten a little more comfortable. Fight scenes are tricky because what you can show in three panels in a comic book is tricky to describe sometimes in prose. It goes by much faster on screen or in a comic.
The other difference is, of course, that if you’re writing a lot of comics, and then you switch to writing novels, a novel is just a hell of a lot more words. So, it’s a lot more involved.
But, that said, you can spread out a lot more in a novel – you can get inside people’s heads more, you can take a lot more time letting a scene breathe. You have a lot more flexibility in terms of making certain scenes longer and other ones shorter. It’s a much bigger canvas, and I think we all tried to take advantage of that.
Andie Tong: At the time, I had a bit of experience in terms of working in comics, as well as working on illustrated children’s books. I drew on that experience as much as possible. I love telling detailed little things in the background when I draw an illustration – I love being able to tell one story within one image. And there’s so many things happening in the background, little small things. These things aren’t the main part of the story, necessarily – maybe it’s just a guy talking on the phone. Like the first scene of Convergence, with the characters walking into Hong Kong, basically I was trying to give the impression that everyone’s on their phone nowadays. In that scene, literally everyone’s on the phone. And everyone’s just talking and walking on their phone. That’s what I was trying to portray: the busy scene of today’s world.
Stuart Moore: And Andie’s illustrations were a constant inspiration too. It’s a nice back and forth. It’s not quite as quick a back and forth as you’d get with comics, where you write a script and get pages right away. But, it’s very inspiring to me as we go through the writing.
On the Chinese Zodiac and research:
Stuart Moore: I wasn’t terribly familiar with the Chinese Zodiac, so I did a certain amount of book research. I probably did more research, actually, on what it would be like to be an Asian American kid growing up in America in the Northeast because that’s absolutely crucial. I actually wound up with enough material from that to write a whole different kind of Young Adult novel if I wanted to, because this is at heart a superhero story. And Steven Lee had to be the main focus.
But, the Chinese Zodiac had to feel real and we had to draw on an actual tradition without insulting anyone’s culture. So, there was a certain amount of research.
Andie Tong: I tried to help out as much as I can. My family’s background is that we are Chinese and I was born in Asia. Then I moved into Australia, and west. So I had a little background, though I wasn’t too in tune with it. So, I would always go back and ask my mom, hey, is this right? There were certain things I remembered, and my mom would tell me, or my wife would tell me, as she’s a bit more in tune with the Chinese culture.
I’ve been told I’ve been westernized too much. So, there’s a lot of research on my part in the sense that I want to make sure the dragon elements were correct as well as the tigers.
On Diversity in YA fiction and comics:
Stuart Moore: The thing I always just try to make sure of when I go into a story is I want to be respectful, and I don’t want to be insulting or to get anything wrong.
Andie Tong: Similarly, when I’m character-designing, conceptualizing, I want to make sure there are a lot of multicultural and different ethnicities represented. I think early on in my first comic project, I didn’t realize. I mean I was brought up with a lot of American TV, and back then it was very one-sided racial TV. When I was working with Mike Baron on the comic book, I didn’t realize his character was meant to be a different race. And I drew him white. And I learned from that even though I’m Asian and I’m from a different race, I was quite naïve back then.
There’s so much awesome culture around the world, and I try to mix it all in there with the artwork. So when I approached the artwork that’s what I tried to do.
Nachie Marsham: And honestly, from my standpoint, when the pitch first came in, and the beats to the story and the beats to characters first came in from Stan, it was one of the things that excited me the most about The Zodiac Legacy. It was really exciting to me to help bring something to the table that would tap a world in this book that was more like the world as it exists.
Because if we’re trying to be more present with representation, this is super important. Beyond “here’s your team of six people, and here’s your one girl, and here’s your one person who’s not white” or something like that.
You can really kind of get into the story and have all these characters coming from different places. A lot of the fun with the character interaction with both heroes and villains in The Zodiac Legacy is that they clearly do have different backgrounds, which shows through their actions, the way talk, and the way that they’re actually doing things in the book – as opposed to something that’s more surface level.
I think that you only get that depth when you really start trying to mix up who all your characters are, what they look like, and where they’re coming from. This is starting to happen a little bit more regularly in pop culture and comics and YA – and it’s great to be part of contributing to that diversity in fiction.
About the Book:
Twelve magical superpowers
One sinister conspiracy
One unlikely hero.
Stan Lee presents a brand new, magical, super-powered adventure! When twelve magical superpowers are unleashed on the world, a Chinese-America teenager named Steven will be thrown into the middle of an epic global chase. He’ll have to master strange powers, outrun super-powered mercenaries, and unlock the mysterious powers of the Zodiac.
About the Creators:
Stan Lee is known to millions as the man whose Super Heroes propelled Marvel to its preeminent position in the comic book industry. His co-creations include Spider-Man, The Avengers, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Fantastic Four, as well as hundreds of others. He introduced Spider-Man as a syndicated newspaper strip that became the most successful of all syndicated adventure strips and has appeared in more than 500 newspapers worldwide. Stan currently remains Chairman Emeritus of Marvel, as well as a member of the Editorial Board of Marvel Comics. He is also the Chairman & Chief Creative officer of POW! Entertainment, a multimedia entertainment company based in Beverly Hills, CA.
Stuart Moore has been a writer, a book editor, and an award-winning comics editor. His recent writing includes Civil War, the first in a new line of prose novels from Marvel Comics, The Art of Iron Man 3 (Marvel, with Marie Javins); and THE 99, a multicultural super hero comic from Teshkeel.
Andie Tong has worked on titles for various franchises, including Tron: Betrayal, Spectacular Spider-Man UK, The Batman Strikes, Smallville, Wheel of Time, TMNT, Masters of the Universe, and Starship Troopers, working for companies such as Disney, Marvel, DC Comics, Panini, Dark Horse, and Dynamite Entertainment, as well as commercial illustrations for numerous advertising agencies including Nike, Universal, CBS, Mattel, and Habsro. When he gets the chance, Andie concept designs for various companies, and also juggles illustration duties on a range of children’s picture storybooks for Harper Collins. Malaysian born, Andie migrated to Australia at a young age, and then moved to London in 2005. In 2012, he journeyed back to Asia and currently resides in Singapore with this wife and daughter.
One (1) winner will receive a copy of The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence, plus an original character sketch by Andie Tong! The giveaway is open to addresses in the US only and will run until Sunday February 22 at 12:01am EST. To enter, use the form below. Good luck!
Prizing & samples courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.