Graphic Novels From Classic Stories
An Illustrated Panel is Worth a Thousand Words
Everyone loves books with pictures from young to old. With the rise in popularity of graphic novels, many designers are taking stories with tried and true plot lines and adding their own panels of illustrations. The plots are engaging, the characters lovable, and they have been tested by time; a novel is considered a classic when it manages to remain relevant beyond the age it was written in. While classics are a wonderful addition to your reading list, reading them in graphic novel format can bring a fresh new approach to a story for the modern audience. These graphic novels from classic stories are easy to read and a fun way to tackle some serious literary content. Librarians and teachers love using graphic novels as an educational tool to help students with comprehension and overcomes limited attention spans. When looking for graphic novels based on classics keep in mind that the term “adaptation” could mean the original story has been altered, while untouched prose will be described as “unabridged” or “unabbreviated.”
Some Successful Classics Made Into Graphic Novels
A Wrinkle In Time
A recent adaptation graphic novel was released for A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, featuring characters with expressive faces, colorful illustrations, and an impressive interpretation of some of the novel’s more imaginative elements. Tackling concepts such as time travel through tesseracts, flickering supernatural beings, and an ominous black thing, L’Engle weaves a story full of science fiction and mind-bending fantasy that is sometimes even hard for the reader to grasp with their own imaginations. Hope Larson illustrates this beautiful graphic novel with a wide-eyed, cartoonish style that makes the story even more accessible and possibly appealing to a younger crowd than would normally pick up the novel.
Sherlock Holmes: Hounds of the Baskervilles
Sherlock Holmes: Hounds of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle has captivated readers with its mystery and suspense, with a dash of the supernatural for generations. Adapted by Ian Edgington and illustrated by I.N.G. Culbard, this classic story can compete in a modern market with graphic novels such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which also has a turn of the century, British feel. The illustrated panels in this edition are especially effective when paired with the elevated tone and language we expect from Sherlock Holmes who is often underwhelmed by a situation, expressing observations with subtlety.
An especially good choice for those who are approaching classics for the first time, pictures go further to clarify what is going on in the story. This gorgeous panel of the hound from the novel is a perfect example of how this pair has added so much drama to an exciting scene without giving too much of the mystery away. No need to worry that Holmes’s subtlety will go over your head with illustrations like these!
With the recent trend of vampires showing up in literature, it would be nice to see a resurgence of elegantly written classics such as Dracula by Bram Stoker. This version, illustrated by Staz Johnson, captures the truly Gothic tone of the original story with its mostly black and white illustrations with their eerie, realistic renditions. Retaining Stoker’s unique writing style, this graphic novel version uses an abridged version of the original text to tell the story.
This means the story’s text is shorter than the actual book, but does not alter the author’s original words, making it ideal for those who want to read this classic, but do not have the time or inclination to absorb the slow-moving storyline in its entirety. Part of Dracula’s spooky, haunting quality is the slow and purposeful creep towards the inevitable horror that brings the infamous count to the crowded streets of Victorian London 1897.
Crime and Punishment
Speaking of classic with long page-counts, Crime and Punishment is a hefty read whether you opt for the market paperback at 448 pages or the Norton Critical Edition with nearly 700. While it may be an impressive boast for cocktail party banter, there are few readers who pick up the novel for recreational enjoyment. Streamlining the infamously convoluted text, David Zane Mairowitz and Alain Korkos collaborate to bring the classic of Crime and Punishment to readers in a modern setting. The contemporary twist on the standby classic may make the story more accessible to today’s readers, accentuating the faces and personalities found in the story in a murky mix of grays.
Readers who may not have the patience for all those literary criticisms will find this graphic novel easy enough to understand, laying out the story of a man who murders just to see if he can get away with it. Who knew there was such a marketable plot line underneath all that obfuscated language? With the feel and ease of a comic book, any reader can enjoy this classic story.
Fahrenheit 451 is a classic novel that answers the question of why we need classic novels. Published with an introduction from the original author Ray Bradbury, this graphic novel feels as though it were always intended for this medium. The bright, thought-provoking imagery will leave you with the same burning questions as the novel once intended the reader to have.
Memorable and done in gorgeous full color, Tim Hamilton does an amazing job of bringing more than just this dystopian classic to life by giving the characters expressive, intense faces. While Fahrenheit 451 is an adaptation as most of the others, it is considered an “authorized adaptation,” meaning Ray Bradbury himself has approved the altered prose and agreed that it continues to send the same important messages about censorship, freedom of information, and literature.
What’s your favorite classic story? What book woud you like to see made into a graphic novel?