Thanos: Death Sentence – Making of an Audiobook

In his quest for omnipotence of the Infinity Gems, Thanos has been defeated again by a group of heroes intent on stopping him at all costs. Stripped of his powers and granted one final chance by his only love, Mistress Death, the Mad Titan sets out once more to assert his strength and influence across the Multiverse…

Witness the story of “Thanos: Death Sentence” by Stuart Moore, in ways you’ve never seen—or heard—before: available today, March 15, as an epic GraphicAudio production! Immerse yourself in the voices, sound effects, and music that bring this tale to life. For a special sampling of the audiobook, check out a scene from GraphicAudio now!

To learn more about “Thanos: Death Sentence,” we spoke to Marvel editors Sarah Brunstad and Jeff Youngquist, GraphicAudio Vice President Anji Cornette, and GraphicAudio Director Scott McCormick about the process of transforming the novel into a cinematic audio production.

Marvel.com: So, Sarah and Jeff, as editors at Marvel, how does a project like this start? We’ve rarely seen such an in-depth story about Thanos, so what made you want to explore the legendary Mad Titan this way?

Sarah Brunstad and Jeff Youngquist: In our prose line, we’re trying to appeal to dyed-in-the-wool fans as always, but we’re also looking for something that’s going to bring in the unfamiliar reader—someone who maybe knows a character from film, or TV, or has read a comic or two and just doesn’t know where to go from there. So with the success of “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy” film and all the buzz about this super powerful cosmic string-puller, we knew it was the right time for a Thanos novel.

We’d put out a Guardians novel by Dan Abnett in 2014, and had been lucky enough to snag up-and-coming author Corinne Duyvis to write a new Guardians novel to coincide with “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” film release. But we felt Thanos was a separate story—he needed room to develop on his own. He’s been around since 1973 and his history goes so much deeper than the Guardians team we’re familiar with. And one of the joys of writing—and editing!—prose is the intimacy of the story you can tell; this was an opportunity to really dig into a character whose motivations are often so abstract that they go beyond any conventional definition of “good and evil.” Thanos is so much more than “villain” or “hero,” and that makes for great story fodder.

Marvel.com: What made Stuart Moore the perfect choice to write this novel? What’s it like to work with Stuart?

Sarah Brunstad and Jeff Youngquist: Stuart has been working with us for a long time. He actually wrote our very first prose novel, “Marvel: Civil War”—an adaptation of the historic 2006 event—and he was the primary editor on several subsequent projects. It doesn’t hurt that the man knows comics inside and out; he’s been writing and editing comics for over 20 years. So there are a million reasons why he came to mind; in fact, he was almost too busy to write the book! But, lucky for us, he couldn’t resist the lure of the character. So he sent us a pitch, which we immediately loved, and from there, it was full steam ahead.

Stuart’s a consummate professional—a breeze to work with. So we knew from the get-go that we could trust him to tell an epic story. And man, does he—right from the start. The opening recalls all the best “hero vs. villain” moments from the classic INFINITY GAUNTLET storyline, but reimagines that DNA in a signature way. This is Thanos at the height of his power, larger than life—literally!

Marvel.com: What are the advantages—and challenges—of creating a prose novel versus a more traditional comic?

Sarah Brunstad and Jeff Youngquist: The biggest challenge is probably time. When you’re used to writing or editing 20-page single issues, staring down the barrel of 70,000 words is pretty daunting—and you only have about six months to do it. On the other hand, you have a lot more room to develop the story and put the pieces together. With comics, you’re writing one issue at a time, and sometimes you don’t recognize a story problem until it’s being drawn and the next script is due. Telling a Thanos story in prose really allowed us to dive into the character and use a close point of view to combine the epic scope you expect from a Marvel cosmic story with deep emotional moments that delve into Thanos’ whole oeuvre—the reasons for everything he is and does.

Marvel.com: So, now that the book’s written and is ready to enter the audio medium, what happens next? Anji, as Vice President of GraphicAudio, and Scott, as Audio Director, what about this novel made you want to pursue this project? What inspired you about this story?

Anji Cornette: Our listeners love to hear us produce Marvel stories in GraphicAudio® A Movie in Your Mind®. We have close to two dozen Marvel titles based on prose novels and a few directly from graphic novels. We were really excited to hear Stuart Moore was writing “Thanos: Death Sentence”; Stuart is also the author of the prose novel “Marvel: Civil War,” which is one of our most popular Marvel titles. We realized that this was going to be an awesome opportunity to get to learn more about one of the biggest baddies in the Marvel Universe.

Scott McCormick: There are very few opportunities to explore the story from the point of view of the villain, which makes “Thanos: Death Sentence” such an exciting opportunity.

Thanos was rejected by his mother and family, viewed as an abomination from the time of his birth and the one person he loves, Death, won’t even speak to him. In another life and in another world, Thanos would have turned into a poet; instead he murders billions.

There is a fascination that many of us have for evil. A need to understand where it comes from, perhaps in the hopes of being able to stop it in the future. Hoping that if someone like Thanos can find happiness, perhaps it is possible for anyone.

Marvel.com: How long did this project take to complete? How many people work on this kind of production altogether?

Anji Cornette: It takes approximately six to eight months for this type of project from start to finish. Each of our productions are slightly different, so it varies depending on the project. In this case, Scott was also the Script Adapter, and he worked closely with our Sound Designer Justin Wortz. Then Scott cast the script with voice actors—sometimes there are casts of over 50 actors and sometimes there are casts of 10 or 20. The cast for “Thanos: Death Sentence” includes 41 voice actors.

Marvel.com: So, Scott, how do you cast 41 actors for this story? What were you looking for in the voices of Thanos and the other main characters?

Scott McCormick: Outside of New York or L.A., Washington D.C. [where GraphicAudio is based] has one of the richest, most talented actor pools in the country. When folks find out that we are playing super heroes and villains over here, we have no shortage of performers beating down our door to audition.

Once we have worked with an actor on several projects—we also produce westerns, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror titles—we begin to know their strengths as a performer and know where they would best serve the story we are telling.

In the case of Christopher Walker, who plays Thanos in our story, we needed an actor who would be able to play Thanos in the various incarnations in which we see him throughout Stuart Moore’s story. A combination of vocal effects and Chris’ own vocal talent allow him to play the imposing, God-like Thanos, and Chris’ natural voice allows him to play the other facets of Thanos along his journey.

I am excited to be using some new voices in the book, as well as having the return of some old Marvel Universe friends, including Richard Cutting as Tony Stark and Eric Messner as Rocket Raccoon.

Marvel.com: What’s it like directing voice actors in this kind of story?

Scott McCormick: Our actors come ready to play. As a Director, I need [to] come ready knowing what I want and be able to convey that to them in as simple a manner as possible.

Usually, I will let the actor give me a read on the line, then give them any adjustments that I might need either for timing with another actor, or sound effect, or to help clarify meaning or intent. Most of the time, the actors will nail the line in the first take, but they are willing to give me an alternative take and surprise me, which can take me in a direction which I wasn’t expecting. These “aha moments” keep you on your toes and remind you that you don’t know everything.

Marvel.com: The final product is an epic, almost cinematic adventure. How do you harmonize all the different audio elements that go into a production like this? What’s the secret for turning words on a page into this huge, immersive experience?

Scott McCormick: The easy answer is movie magic. Seriously, if you have ever seen a behind-the-scenes “making of” documentary of a big budget Hollywood film, you know that there are Sound Designers, Sound Mixers, and Foley Artists all working with the Director to create the soundscape to support the visuals of the film. If you watch the credits of a film like “Captain America: The First Avenger,” this list can run into the hundreds. Our detailed script adaptation, direction, brilliant performances, and talented sound designers creating rich soundscapes—including sound effects and music—is what makes it a GraphicAudio® A Movie in Your Mind®.

As [Script] Adapter and Director, I turn the book into a script, which serves as a score for the engineer. Not only does the script contain lines of dialogue, but also cues for sound effects, musical suggestions, and timing for the sound designer. Changing what would otherwise be a boring single narrator audiobook into a cinematic GraphicAudio book experience.

Anji Cornette: We don’t want these prose novels to be your grandfather’s “read-to-me” [audiobooks]. These titles deserve more attention and our goal is to bring these words to life in a full blown audio entertainment production where the listener feels like they have been transported to the middle of the action.

Available today, March 15, the GraphicAudio production of “Thanos: Death Sentence” can be purchased in comic shops or ordered directly at www.GraphicAudio.net/Marvel!