Earlier this year, DC Comics unleashed Convergence — a weekly nine-part miniseries that brought multiple universes (and characters) together in one massive story thanks to the villainous Brainiac, who collected doomed cities and timelines in order to determine which ones should be given back to the DCU. But the two month event, co-written by accomplished television writer and producer Jeff King (White Collar, Stargate SG-1) was also an epic about family, and creating the book was just as much of an experience for King as much as it was for readers.
“I’d never worked in comics before,” King said to EW at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this month. He admitted that the trade was more challenging than he expected. “The first script that I wrote was 80 pages for a 30-page comic. I looked at the script and was given examples and thought, oh, this looks the same, I can do that.”
King quickly learned that the differences between comic writing and television writing were more fundamental than he realized, citing advice he received from colorist friend Christina Strain, who told him one emotion per panel. “What she meant was, some people say one action, but if I’m directing an episode of something, you can be happy, you can walk away and something can happen and you can come back and be sad, and that’s a process. But in comics, that could be two pages. That could be ten panels,” King explained. “So what I had to learn was how to talk to the artist in a way that would create the results that we wanted. And it’s part of what they talk about in sequential storytelling.”
Considering Convergence’s place in the DC universe, as well as the fact that it was a weekly book, it’s not hard to see why taking on the project was somewhat of a challenge. “I think what I focused on in the beginning was what I knew I could focus on: The six characters who I knew were going to survive,” King said. “And especially Dick Grayson, because I was kind of closest to him as a father. I knew what he was going through, so it was easy to write that inside out. Then Superman, because he’s not just an alien, he’s an outsider, he had a very specific kind of upbringing. For me, it was kind of focusing on the things I would normally do if it was a TV series or a TV script, which is find an emotional story for the characters but do it for comics.”
As the book expanded, however, that’s when King admits it got overwhelming. “That’s when I really had to rely on people like Scott Lobdell, or Dan DiDio or Jeff Johnson,” he said. “So at that point, I had a lot of pretty substantial support. A lot of the monthly books had already been written, so I had to make sure we didn’t undo anything that had happened in those books at the same time as trying to push my story forward.” While telling the story of Convergence eventually became easier, King admitted he never truly reached a level of comfort.
“I don’t think I’m ever 100 percent comfortable when writing something. I always look back at it. There were a couple of times when I had enough time to do more drafts of things than others, and those were probably the most satisfying experiences, because then I got to do what a lot of writing is, which is rewriting.” But when he started to receive specific fan response in regard to the stories he was writing, King said that made all the working stress worth it.
“I had a great experience with Father’s Day a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “I had a couple of people reach out to me on social media and say that the meeting between Bruce Wayne and Thomas Wayne was so meaningful and so personal. That was really powerful and so gratifying, because that was a lot of what really inspired me to write about those characters.” As King has said previously, despite the different characters that Convergence focuses on, the book hinges on the idea of family and togetherness. “That’s something I always look for when I’m writing a story. Whether it’s biological or family that’s made because you’re all together in a common endeavor,” said the writer. “Back when I was writing on things like Due South, we’d always find a way to make it about family. And Convergence turned into the biggest family reunion in a way, for all those characters, but it’s a family they never knew they had. So that extended family was something I knew was always out there and something I knew I could always rely on and go to.”
As for the things King takes to heart when he reflects on his work? “Seeing the art come in every week and then seeing the colored art come in every week and then seeing the book lettered…and just becoming real,” he said. “Because I was in a bubble for so long just writing them, and because art is magic to me. I can barely draw. So when I see that it’s like magic, I’m still a kid and I still find that inspiring.” Another part of the process that was gratifying to the writer was the response from younger readers, all of whom were finding themselves affected after reading King’s book.
“I’ve been to comic cons before for TV shows, but coming here to Comic-Con and meeting kids who remind me a little bit of me when I was that age and talking to them, nothing can replace that,” said King. “It’s lovely for me to see them have this kind of community, because I didn’t have that growing up.”
The next upcoming project on King’s agenda at the moment isn’t a comic, but an Amazon original series called Hand of God. And while the writer is excited for what’s to come, he’s also excited to see Convergence re-emerge on the scene when the collected trade is released in early October. “That’s when I feel like everything is going to come together,” he said, before teasing that, “it’s going to be full of cool, extra features. Some serious background. One unique element of that background material concerns the co-publisher of DC in a very conspiring moment.”