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. – caedmonmills4 years ago
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 Dancy3 years ago
I’m fairly new to the world of comic books, and I’m really curious in the effect of distinguishing between graphic novels and comics. I have heard the suggestion that graphic novel is a gentrifying term that prioritizes one type of expression over another. Art Spiegelman, for one, dislikes the term graphic novel.
I’m wondering what people more knowledgeable than I am on this topic think about this suggestion.
Normally "graphic novels" nowadays are a series of comic books all in one that come out after the first part of a series has finished. So, Deadpool 1-9 would all be together in one huge comic book (hints, also, why they are 30-40$). Rather than buying the separate issues 1-9 for 3$ or so. I don't know if that is a millennial thing that changed it and made it like this. But, I mostly would buy it for that reason. A graphic novel could also be a longer version of a comic book as well, more novel formation rather also. But, I'm not sure what other people think about the topic. I know that comic books more so have issues that come out weekly or monthly. But the art style I assume is also different and etc., which can be explored upon as well. – scole7 years ago
I think graphic novel as a term also refers to the length as well as the binding of the book itself. Comic books have a kind of lighter and more fragile binding, and are more cheaply made which is how the cost can be as low as it is to sell them. Graphic novels are longer and are usually bound with a paperback or hard back cover in some cases. I think the Westernization of graphic novels is in some part of the influence of manga translations over to the Western world. Just my opinion though. – Nayr12307 years ago
A graphic novel may well have a beginning, middle, and end, just as most novels do. It is likely to have narrative completion. Comic books are more likely to have an open ended narrative when you take them as a whole. That is, they do not necessarily constitute a completed whole. It's not just a matter of which is longer (graphic novel versus a comic book or a series of comic books) or that X number of comic books might go together to make a novel. A series of comic books (about a given superhero, for example) could conceivably go on forever. The series may well end not because the hero's story is "finished," but because the artist died, the publisher dropped the series, or the public tired of that hero. – JWHorton7 years ago
The way I understand it graphic novels are comic narratives that reveal everything from the characters to the message of the story, while comic books use episodic segments to get their point across. – RadosianStar7 years ago
Over the last few years, I’ve been thinking about graphic novels and comics beyond a "medium." Last year, /Critical Inquiry/ released and issue dedicated to comics and media that include a variety of articles from academics and industry icons (e.g., Chris Ware) that are looking to push the boundaries of the art and aesthetics of the genre. For example, Ware has been pushing (and practicing) a view of graphic novels that plays with the idea of the physical object of a book containing the narrative–this, he notes, is something he’s been thinking about as digital comics have become more popular. One of the more interesting projects I’ve seen recently is by Özge Samanci: GPS Comics ((link) She’s also written an article for the International Digital Media and Arts Association exploring how to move graphic novels from discussions of medium to genre: (link) While I dig the idea of comics as a genre, I wonder if there would be a way that we might talk about graphic novels and comics as a aesthetic method rather than as a medium or genre. Thoughts?
I was about to say, "Hey, I took a class on this!" But then I realized. Hmm, for thoughts on how to approach this, maybe the post could start out talking about the concept of comics as a medium (there's also that article where the author examined comics as a language), and then go into why the aesthetic method may be more fitting. There's the GPS comics you mentioned above, as well as the "Building Stories" box of narratives we looked at in class. I'd be fascinated to see someone take this on. Also, there's Topffer's original goal of comics as an accessible education method to consider. – emilydeibler8 years ago
Thanks, Emily. I taught that class. :) – revfigueiredo8 years ago