Orson Scott Card's 6 reasons to read his Ender's Game prequel comic

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Dec 14, 2012

Whether or not you're a fan of Orson Scott Card's classic Hugo and Nebula award-winning Ender's Game series, Card wants you to check out his new Ender's Game comic-book prequel series, Formic Wars: Burning Earth.

The new seven-part series, which has its second issue, Formic Wars: Burning Earth #2, coming out tomorrow, is only the beginning for Formic Wars, promises Card and his comic-book co-writer Aaron Johnston. They are also working a series of novels to go with the Formic Wars: Burning Earth series, which comes from Marvel Comics.

In an exclusive interview, Card and Johnston revealed six reasons you'll want to read their comic-book series, and below you'll find an exclusive first look at pages from the upcoming Formic Wars: Burning Earth #2.

Formic Wars: Burning Earth is not about Ender Wiggin, but it is about the Enderverse

"What's always fascinated me about the novel Ender's Game is where it begins. It's brilliant," says Johnston. "The story of Ender Wiggin is the story of the Third Formic War. So from page one there's this incredible backstory that haunts the entire world. The formics have nearly destroyed the human race twice before, and the whole world has changed completely because of it. The Formic Wars comics, and the novels that will follow, is that backstory brought to life. How did the human race win two wars we should have lost? Who were the men and women who made the pivotal decisions and took the necessary action that saved the world?"

"I'd go further, Aaron," said Card. "I think it's a story of heroes. Not superheroes—you know I'm not much of a fan of superheroes with magical powers. In the Formic Wars we have heroes of another kind—ordinary people leading ordinary lives, who, when faced with a terrible problem, step up to do whatever they can, at great risk, to prevent or overcome it. Heroes like these can be emulated by the readers of these comics; their deeds are within reach. That's a kind of literature that I think is good: It encourages readers to imagine themselves at their best."

Why a comic-book series is the perfect format for an Ender's Game prequel

"Comics are cheap movies, in a way—movies with a freeze-frame feature that keeps kicking in," said Card with a grin. "But, unlike movies, the dialogue is spoken inside the reader's mind. The reader is the voice actor performing all the lines. It's a unique art form that is especially suited to adventure and hero stories. Where Ender's Game consists primarily of Ender's internal monologue—his motives and evaluations—the Formic Wars is about dealing with an emergency, a time when individual motives become relevant only as they are expressed in action. Think of 9/11. Think of the heroes who ran up those stairs to try to rescue people, knowing that the buildings might collapse before they got out again. There might have been hundreds of different motives; certainly there were hundreds of different backstories. But for everyone who went up those stairs to do his job, the backstories and motives became irrelevant. All that mattered was what they were DOING. That's what comics are so good at showing, and why the Formic Wars stories were well suited to existing first in comic-book form."

However, Card and Johnston are taking things a step further. "Scott and I are working on the first of several novels right now," says Johnston. "As far as I'm aware, this has never been done before: an epic story released first in comics and then expanded further in novels. Usually it's the other way around, comics being adapted from a novel."

Why you don't have to have read Ender's Game to enjoy the new series, but if you are a fan, it's a bonus

"You don't need have read Ender's Game to understand Formic Wars," said Johnston. "The events in the comics take place long before Ender is born. So even if you're new to the Ender universe, I think you'll still enjoy the story. It's an action-packed adventure. There's weird alien technology, super Special Ops soldiers, asteroid miners and a lot of do-or-die fighting. Everything that makes comics an exciting medium."

"I always try to make my stories stand alone—that is, you don't have to have read sequels or prequels for a story to be worth reading. But if anybody fancies that they'll see Ender Wiggin or Bean in these comics, I must disabuse them: Ender and Bean aren't even born until decades after these events," said Card.

"No, these stories are worth reading for themselves. The fact that readers of Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow will recognize how these events influence the things that happen in the later books is merely a bonus for them," he added.

"If you are an Ender fan, this is the story you've been waiting for. How did we first contact the formics? Why did they come to Earth? How did we defeat them? How did Mazer Rackham become the man and soldier he is? Throughout the Ender novels there are references to events in the past. Like the Scouring of China or the Battle of the Belt. Now, Ender fans will finally get to see those events unfold," said Johnston.

The artwork is awesome

"Marvel wanted this to be a collaborative process from start to finish." said Johnston. "All the credit for the art goes to Giancarlo Caracuzzo and Jim Charalampidis, who did the art and colors respectively. Giancarlo has such an amazing style. The characters, the ships, the environments. It's incredibly imaginative. He really breathed life into everything. And what Jim does with light is just amazing. We'd get colored pages in, and it was like, 'Wow.'"

"I don't think visually," said Card. "It's one of the reasons Aaron is better at comics writing than I am. So often I'm surprised when the pencil drawings come in to realize: Uh-oh, I didn't explain that concept clearly, so the artist saw this when it has to be like that. Doesn't happen often, fortunately, but when it does, then I can correct the visual impression. Far more often, though, what happens is the artist not only gets it, he vastly improves on my vision, and I then pretend that I intended it that way all along. Makes me look so smart."

Why Card and Johnston became the perfect team to tell this story

"The coolest thing is that making the comics work—fitting this great story into those 22-page units—is entirely Aaron's problem," said Card. "Having dealt with the problem myself in the Ultimate Iron Man series I wrote, I know exactly how hard it is, and Aaron's better at it than I am. It's like he is composing sonnets, which must fit within exactly this number of lines, with rhymes at exactly these points. He is a master at it."

"What's great about working with Scott is that he truly is collaborative," said Johnston. "He not only embraces your ideas that he thinks work well, but he also gets excited about them and enriches them and makes them a thousand times better. What kills me, though, is how easily it comes to him. I'll pound my head against a wall trying to resolve an issue, and Scott will have the solution two seconds after I explain it to him. He'll say, 'Oh, well, let's do this.' And it's always brilliant. It's exactly the solution we need. It drives me insane. I'm still trying to figure out how to harness his brain and turn it into a lucrative business.

"To have the opportunity to work in the universe with Scott has been amazing. It's an incredible honor," he added. "I mean, take the character of Mazer Rackham, for example. Here's a guy I've grown up idolizing. He's always been like a Greek god to me. He's this mysterious, brilliant warrior. So to have the opportunity to help shape his past and create the events that defined him as a soldier and human being is pretty dang cool."

"I admire Mazer Rackham, too. I wish I could grow up to be just like him. But at my age, it's probably too late. I'm just glad Aaron reveres the characters—but still tells me when I'm wrong," said Card with a grin.

But this is only the beginning

"The Formic Wars has enormous potential," said Card. "There are a lot of heroes in these events who don't even enter into the comics or the novels. Lots of room for expansion. I can see potential for a long-running TV series, for instance, with characters we haven't even thought of yet. As long as I can think of stories that are worth telling, and as long as there's an audience who wants those stories, I'll keep playing around in the Ender's Game universe; I just hope I can hang on to Aaron for a long time to come!"

"What's great about the Formic Wars is that these are events that affected the entire world. It's an alien invasion. Everyone's life is disrupted. This isn't something you would read about at and say, 'Gosh, that's too bad about those people over there in China being killed by those aliens. What a shame.' When something like this happens, the whole world is in turmoil. Everyone suffers. Everyone is afraid. Everyone responds somehow," added Johnston.

"History is full of instances of normal men and women who rise up together and fight back. United Flight 93 springs to mind. That to me is an amazing example of raw human courage. Here were ordinary men and women doing an extraordinary thing. They weren't just going to sit there and let their world be taken from them," he said. "That's what Formic Wars is. We beat back an alien race that should have defeated us easily. We won when the odds were all against us. Twice. So for me, there are as many stories for the Formic Wars as there are people in the world."

Formic Wars: Burning Earth #2 is available tomorrow at local comic-book stores or on the Marvel Comics app at for iOS devices. Here's an exclusive peek at the issue.

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