Comic Book Resources, or CBR.com, had a great write up about the novelization of the film, The Return of Swamp Thing. Here is an excerpt from the author of the novelization, Peter David, talking about the challenges of writing a novelization of a movie that he knew was dead in the water before it was even released.
And I was supposed to try and turn this thing into a book. And I didn’t have a lot of time in which to do it.
There were two ways to go: the easy way or the hard way. The easy way, maybe even the smart way, was to stick to the script, do the best I could to make it read smoothly, and put a fake name on it so that I would not be associated with such a lousy work of fiction. The hard way meant doing whatever needed to be done to make it work as, not only a story, but a story that was going to be acceptable to those fans who were currently enjoying the Moore work on the comic.
Ultimately, I couldn’t bring myself to risk disappointing the fans. I didn’t want to turn out some thoughtless piece of hackwork. The result was a novel that bears almost no resemblance at all to the film.
I restructured the entire story, built in framing sequences, changed the order in which things happened, added entire backstories, put Alan Moore in as a character (why not?), restored the stilted speech pattern to Swamp Thing (as opposed to the rather avuncular manner in which Dick Durock spoke), restored the general horror comic feel, and completely changed the ending, directly lifting the climax from the Moore two-parter with the town of vampires wherein Swamp Thing basically becomes a mountain. I liked to tell people that the movie had a budget of $3 million, but the book had a budget of $53 million.
To the credit of the producers, they loved everything I did with it and didn’t change a thing, which was of tremendous relief to me.
So what happened? The film was poorly received, and virtually no one (if I’m to believe the Berkley royalty reports) bought the damned book. Apparently my name on the cover and eight pages of poorly reproduced, cheesy photographs on the inside were insufficient to entice people to part with four bucks. The only real compliment I ever got on the book was when Bob Greenberger, when asked by fans about the “Swamp Thing” movie, would reply tersely, “Skip the movie. Read the book.”