Ray was only 91 . . . he thought he would live forever. And he will, in hearts and minds, in books and plays, in film and comics. Ray was a lifelong comic book fan, catching the bug as a kid when the masters were at work: Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, Milton Caniff, Will Eisner.
In the 1950s, EC Comics adapted at least a dozen of Ray’s stories (more likely dozens) in their sci-fi comics titles, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Incredible Science Fiction. Neither publisher Bill Gaines nor editor Al Feldstein ever got Ray’s permission or signed a contract or got a license. Ray, however, did not mind. He did not stop them. He was, in fact, tickled that his stories were being translated into his second language—graphic storytelling.
In the early ‘90s I had the pleasure to work on three 80-page anthologies of Ray’s stories—fully licensed and with Ray’s oversight—for Bantam Spectra Books. Ray wrote new introductions for each volume and approved the adaptations. It gave me a chance to meet and work with some of the field’s true talents, people like Dave Gibbons, Tim Truman, Steve Leialoha, Daniel Torres, Mark Chiarello, P. Craig Russell, John van Fleet.
My budgets were miniscule, but but every artist who knew of the books wanted to adapt their own, favorite Ray Bradbury story. And many would have done it gratis, just for that privilege.
More than a decade later I began working on the adaptations of Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and Something Wicked This Way Comes for Hill & Wang’s Novel Graphics imprint. I was thrilled to be working with him again, and Ray was quite pleased as well. He had stayed in touch over the years, putting me on his Christmas card list, always adding a personal note and one of his famous self-portraits.
I always had one simple rule about adapting Ray’s prose to comic-script format: never add anything. Only use Ray’s words. Because, when we tried to add new text it always stood out like a sore thumb. And that’s because his voice was unique. No one else could write or sound like Ray.
I miss him already.