Find a comfy reading chair and settle in because it’s time for “So You Want To Read Comics”, our weekly feature where we take a look at a single topic and then offer a couple of comic book recommendations for new readers, based on that topic. This week we’re taking a look at the world of classic literature.
There is perhaps no other medium that possesses the sort of immortality that classic literature does. Names like Bronte, Hemmingway, Alcott, Chaucer, Twain, Orwell, and countless others have been ingrained in our popular culture and in some occasions, have even become shorthand to convey complex ideas and themes.(i.e. Kafkaesque). These stories have gone on to help shape not only a group of people here and there, but modern society and culture as a whole. So, it might be strange to think that comic books and these titans of literature have anything in common. But, in reality comics and classic literature have a long running relationship going all the way back to the early days of illustrated adaptations and serialized novels featuring a unique illustration with each installment. Heck, there was a trailer for Deadpool 2 that contained an essay on The Old Man And The Sea.
But you all know that old books are cool, let’s get to the recommendations.
Pride & Prejudice
Writer: Nancy Butler & Jane Austen
Artist: Hugo Petrus
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Back in the early 2010s Marvel embarked on a quest to adapt Jane Austen’s Priderks into comic format. All done by Nancy Butler, Marvel managed to publish comic book adaptations of Pride & Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Northanger Abbey. All of these adaptations are well done, but it’s Pride & Prejudice that manages to capture the spirit of the original the best, while utilizing the comic book medium to emphasize the best parts of the book without taking too many artistic liberties. It finds a good medium between being a new interpretation and being a loving tribute while managing to act as a fun read for a fan of the original book or being a bridge to the original for a comic book fan who hasn’t read it.
The Great Gatsby
Writer: K. Woodman-Maynard & F. Scott Fitzgerald
Artist: K. Woodman-Maynard
So, there’s been a few comic book adaptations of this seminal piece of American literature and for the most part they’re all pretty good. I went with this one though because it’s 1. Newer (having come out early 2021) and a bit easier to come by and 2. It takes a more artistic approach to the events of the book. This adaptation puts the characters in a world of glitz, monochromatic color schemes, and abstraction. Realism is often thrown away in service to the tone and feeling of the scene in ways that only a comic book can do. Even more mundane elements like the word balloons and panel layouts are tweaked with in service of conveying emotion. This is one of the truest examples of using the foundation of a story as a springboard to greater expression and new interpretation.
So, will you be adding any of these to your home library? Do you have some suggestions of your own? Let us know in the comments section below.