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Graphic novel versions of literary works

Increasingly, classic literary works are being reinterpreted in graphic novel format. William Shakespeare’s plays have been reimagined as graphic novels, as have famous novels like Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and even some nonfiction such as Machiavelli’s The Prince or the diary of Anne Frank. What might be some factors driving the current trend in graphic novelizations of literary classics? Does the graphic novel format provide any benefits that an ordinary book would lack, and, conversely, what might be some unique challenges these graphic-novel adaptations face? Are there any literary works that might lend themselves particularly well to the graphic-novel format, or any that would be particularly difficult to adapt?

  • I recently had a conversation with a colleague of mine on this topic. The discussion bled into the realm of film remakes as well. I have a lot of appreciation for the graphic novel medium as well as the notion of retelling a classic tale for a contemporary audience, however I cannot endorse it because I feel a sense of discredit towards the original work and creator. For example, Metropolis is a foundational film for the modern world, however I believe a remake of Metropolis would be abominable. Similarly, if you read a graphic novel of The Odyssey or The Faerie Queene, then you did not read those books nor do you know the importance of and literary impact of that work. The writing and original wording in conjunction with the imaginative medium of the novel is lost when a graphic novel adaptation is made. The plot and contemporary imagery does little to keep a book alive. – caedmonmills 2 years ago
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  • I have my students read Octavia Butler's novel "Kindred" and then read the graphic novel. It's powerful! The graphic novel's Illustrator (John Jennings) and Adapter (Damian Duffy) had to take creative liberties in how they portray the characters visually, but they stay true to the text. The story is definitely told well; all of the dialogue is present, but the pacing is FAST. Also, we, as readers, are supposed to question Dana's husband's race in the novel, but immediately, we see the color of his skin in the graphic novel. I absolutely love using graphic novels in the classroom to help students see these differences and compare/contrast text and visuals. – Morgan Dancy 1 year ago
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