While I often have a bone (or several) to pick with film adaptations of my favorite books, I find that I am generally more forgiving of comic renditions of my favorite literature.
I get that this might sound a little ridiculous and/or biased (comic book fan here). In both movies and graphic novels, you are getting a visual interpretation of the written word. However, I feel that comic variations generally stay closer to their literary parent than movies do, and, when all is said and done, you’re still reading. There’s something to be said about absorbing words on paper.
Movies, on the other hand, no matter how close they stay narratively to the source material, add additional dimensions to their adaptations – overly dramatic or emotionally manipulative music, tonal inflection on the part of the actor, special effects. While reading the comic may visually bring a story to life, for the most part you still wade into your mind to interpret how deeply you feel, how sad, how angry, how joyfully connected you are to the story. Did she menacingly say the line, or did angrily she shout it? That’s up to you.
That’s not to say that you can’t connect emotionally with a film or build your own interpretations with the medium. Personal bias here, remember?
I found out today (albeit quite late – the graphic novel is already available for pre-order) that one of my favorite books, The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, is being adapted into a comic. This revelation comes hot on the tails of Neil unveiling some of the gorgeous artwork for the adaptation – including a beautiful cover drawn by P. Craig Russel. This is all entirely thrilling – for me.
Let me clarify. This book is a wonderful coming of age tale (I even reviewed it years ago for Racket Magazine). It follows Nobody Owens – Bod, for short – and his life growing up in a graveyard. He grows among ghosts and ghouls, and discovers mysteries of life and death, of friendship and the purpose of his being, and ultimately who he wants to be. The story is dark (it’s set in a graveyard for crissakes), but not overly scary, and twists in bits of folklore and the macabre as only Neil Gaiman knows how.
The Graveyard Book is a multiple award-winning children’s book. Would I encourage kids to pick up the comic over the book? Hell no. Bod’s experiences, his thoughts, his feelings all make for exceptionally inspiring and imaginative fodder – and it’s written at a level and from a perspective that kids (of many ages) can relate to. I say read the book first. Experience it, muddle through it and interpret it within the depths of your own fancy. Isn’t that what reading is all about – exercising and growing one’s imagination?
I think I’d argue the same point for an adaptation of any book – enjoy it in its originally intended medium. Experience it, embrace it, love it. And then decide, for you, if you’re eager to see how others interpret it.
As for me, I’ve already got The Graveyard Book on preorder, and I’m eager as ever to add it to my collection