WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?
Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.
HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?
Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!
(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)
THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:
What do you think of graphic novel adaptations of classic novels? What makes one successful? Or what makes one not work? Do you have any to recommend?
This week’s Classic Remarks prompt is really interesting to me because I think my answer would have been very different a couple years ago. Historically, a good deal of graphic novel adaptations of classic novels were, to be blunt, not very good. I suspect this is because creators and readers often saw these adaptations, not as unique works of art to be celebrated in and of themselves, but as tools for literacy. A number of graphic novels were clearly meant to lure in reluctant readers who could not or would not read the books they were based on. They were not considered “real” books, but rather bridges that could help a reader understand the main plot of a book that might otherwise seem too dense or intimidating.
Consequently, when one picked up one of these graphic novels, the experience was rather unpleasant. Illustrations were not always works of art. They might simply be static images meant to illustrate the plot so readers who “didn’t get it” could finally follow along. Additionally, text and dialogue might be changed in an attempt to “appeal to the youth.” Cringe-worthy modernizations might occur, or sometimes what appeared like a condescending “dumbing down” where beautiful prose or nuanced sentences might be shortened and flattened so kids could understand. These textual adaptations might illustrate the general idea of what was happening in the plot, but the more subtle connotations of the original work would be lost.
A lot has changed in the world of graphic novels, however. In the past years, there has been a real renaissance in the art form. And readers and teachers and librarians have responded. Educators used to argue that, “Comics aren’t really reading” (and, yes, some still do) and people might look down on others who read them. Now, however, graphic novels routinely appear on school reading lists, libraries love to promote them, and more and more readers and discovering–and enjoying the form.
I have to admit that, due to my earlier unpleasant experiences with graphic novel adaptations of classic works, I have only read one newer attempt–the recently released graphic novel adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches. I suspect, however, that this volume illustrates the new interest in joyfully adapting classics for young readers, not because those readers need an aid to understanding the original book, but because the creators truly love both graphic novels and the works they are adapting. With all the brilliant original graphic novels being released today, I believe that one can longer try successfully to release a sub-par adaptation just for the hope of getting some desperate teachers to buy it for the students who are struggling. Readers want good graphic novels–and they know now what to expect. I believe that the current market would have responded to that.
So, while I cannot adequately comment on the current state of graphic novel adaptations of classics, there are good reasons for me to believe that things have changed. I might just have to pick up a few to find out. I do not think I will be disappointed.