Novels into graphic novels (and why I’m not sure they’re a good idea)

Pendragon: Book one: Merchant of Death by D.J. MacHale and Carla Speed McNeil

Books that are written as graphic novels from the very start use picture differently. It’s like the difference between a really, really good picture book and a good one. In a really, really good picture book like Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman the pictures don’t just mirror the words, they add a whole other dimension, like the mouse story. They make it better, they bring something to the story that the words can’t.

It seems to me that when someone sits down in front of a blank piece of paper and think “Today I think I’ll write a graphic novel” in their minds they already have ways in which the pictures are going to add something to the story, or they’d probably just write a novel. I mean, I would. Sure novels are hard because there are more words you have to fit together nicely and proof reading is exhausting but I can’t draw to save my life. I can’t even imagine how to draft a graphic novel. I’d have to collaborate with someone who could draw and collaboration is hard and time consuming and what if I hate breakfast meetings but my collaborator loves them? It could be a disaster!

So I’d rather just write a novel.

Which is why graphic novels, or even novels with pictures Diary of a Wimpy Kid style are so awesome. Because the pictures aren’t just part of the story. They are the story as much as the words are.

But when you have a novel that someone carefully sat down to write and went to a lot of effort to pick out just the right words and worked painstakingly carefully at the description so it would be informative but not boring and found the exact adjective to describe the heroes eye colour by the end of it all there just isn’t a need for pictures.

Merchant of Death wasn’t a bad graphic novel and I’m sure it’s a better novel. But there’s one frame that really made all this make sense to me. Bobby, the hero, comes to his friend’s bedroom, having just saved a world, he’s exhausted and he passes out on the floor next to the bed. In that frame the picture is prefect. It shows him landing, face on the carpet and sleeping while his stunned friends watch. See! Even my describing it with words is clumsy. The picture is funny and touching and adds to the story. It gives this information perfectly and succinctly. It’s beautiful.

The rest of the book isn’t really like this. Some of the pictures add to the story, most just illustrate it. This doesn’t really make it a bad book. I enjoyed it a lot (finally, a fantasy novel that recognized the serious medical implications of  loosing consciousness due to a blow to the head!). It probably makes Merchant of Death (novel form) more accessible for struggling readers but I think you can tell. It’s not really a graphic novel. It’s a novel with pictures.

Last movie I watched: Superman/Batman Public Enemies. Don’t judge me. IT WAS AWESOME.

Last TV episode I watched: Most of a Grimm. Hoping to finish it shortly. ‘Cause the suspense is killing me.


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