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A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words: Novel To Comic Adaptations

In the realm of creative writing I am relatively new to comic books. At a young age I began reading novels, which jump started my obsession with reading and writing. Periodically, I dabbled in a graphic novel or two, but I didn’t really get started until I discovered that one of my favorite novel series had been adapted into a comic book: “Homeland” by R. A. Salvatore. The story follows the beginning of a legendary hero in the Forgotten Realms universe, Drizzt Do’Urden. I was pleasantly surprised to see that multiple novels in his legacy had been adapted into graphic form. I began to wonder if any other books had similarly been adapted into the comic medium. Lucky for me my long time friend, Lonnie (Lonmonster), has a unique obsession with comic books, and did me a huge favor by lending me the adaptation/prequel of Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series. After that, I was hooked. I quickly swooped to my local comic shop, searching the stacks for other novel adaptations. Low and behold, I found an insane amount, and I haven’t looked back since. Novel to comic adaptations are a dime a dozen, but the real question is how do they stack up against the source material?

My foray into comic culture occurred a few years ago, and subsequently I slowed down with graphic novels and returned to my first love, the printed word. My return to comic books came, once again, at the behest of my good friend Lonnie in the form of writing reviews for Bloody Disgusting (which I am still lucky enough to be doing). Coincidentally this happened at the same time that a few other of my other favorite novels were adapted; Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time: Eye of the World”> and George R. R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” (thanks Dynamite!). I quickly became entrenched into the comic book realm and sought comics that would hold nostalgic sentiment; “Transformers”, “Star Wars”, and of course so many other favourites in the Marvel and DC worlds began to fill my shelves.

Little did I know how all-encompassing the comic world is, which brings me to the point of this piece; recently a new Drizzt adaptation began, but, unlike in the past, this new story comes from a time previously undocumented by the author, taking place in between his recent novels, “Gauntlgrym” and “Neverwinter”. So the question I ask myself is which do I prefer: Comic writers taking old loved novels and bringing them to life before my eyes, or taking characters I know and spinning them off onto their own tale? Truth be told, I don’t know yet.

Sometimes it is quite difficult to imagine a world that is only described in words, for example, “Ender’s Game” has quite the unique story making it difficult to imagine just how the combat situations worked; thankfully the unique art style in its adaptation cemented my own interpretation of the environment. In such works as the “Wheel of Time series” the ‘magic’ users in the story describe how they witness different elemental threads to weave magic, this is a difficult concept to imagine but the comic artists do a mind blowing interpretation.

We’ve heard it a thousand times before, “adaptations are never as good as the book”. But I feel I must disagree. They’re just different (apple and oranges I say!). Books are able to describe using only words, asking readers to stretch their imagination, while comics take a different approach. Sure they lay it all out on the page for readers to see, but the reader must also imagine what events take place between the panels. Neither are passive forms of entertainment, they both require some sort of input from the reader.

As I said earlier about “Ender’s Game” and “Wheel of Time”, some concepts are hard to imagine and that is where the magic of comic books comes into play. The illustrations do for the reader what the imagination can’t always do when invested in a novel, so how can you say ones better than the other when they’re inherently different forms of storytelling?

Being able to visually recognize pieces of the plot allows your mind to develop the world even further in subsequent readings, so in fact comic adaptation compliment the novel. It helps you recognize a name, or a location when you return to the novels.

Comics also have a way of skipping over aspects of the story through visualization as opposed to a lengthy description of a long winding, and treacherous path up Mount Doom, for example. This allows the reader to focus more on the flesh of the story, leaving the visual descriptions to the artist’s interpretation. This, I believe, is true across genres. An author can take pain staking hours describing a situation to relay a specific mood, character emotions, situation, etc, while a comic can use one single panel to relay all of the above. It’s not only difficult, but it’s beautiful. As the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words”, especially when discussing novel adaptations.

Before I conclude, I’m going to be selfish and beg to the comic gods: Oh DC, Marvel, Image, Boom, Darkhorse, Dynamite and IDW, please for the love you bare your readers adapt either Bernard Cornwell’s Arthurian trilogy “Warlord Chronicles” or start his Saxon tales off with “The Last Kingdom”, they’re written perfectly for comic adaptation!!! PLEASE. Thank you.

Although I spoke mostly about fantasy novels, there are plenty of horror adaptations out there including the aforementioned Dark Tower series, countless Anne Rice stories, as well as classics like Dracula and Frankenstein. So here’s where I turn to you wonderful readers, what’s your opinion on adaptations? Have you read any you loved or hated? And finally what books would you like to see adapted to the comic medium?

Written by – GreenBasterd




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