Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Comic Geeking the Book Industry

I’m getting ready to rush out and grab some breakfast so I’ll have to keep this short. The other day I was talking with a friend in the comic industry about what literary works could be turned into a comic book/graphic novel (and by literary works, I mean anything fiction/mystery/scifi/fantasy, and in no way limited to the big names). Sounds fun, right? Imagine your favorite character in a visual format, dialogue in little clouds. It could be a chance for an author to hook an audience young, or attract a larger range of people by tapping into this other medium. The problem is that not many can be easily transferred to the comic medium, nor could you guarantee that the author’s existing audience would follow them there.

Of course, this hasn’t kept the comic book industry from getting into bed with publishers. Back in March PW reported that HarperCollins inked a deal with Tokyopop to collaborate on as many as 24 “book to manga” projects based on some of their top selling authors (Meg Cabot’s Avalon High as well as her Princess Diary books being among the first offerings from this joint venture). The books have yet to be released (Meg Cabot has blogged about working on her storyline for the Avalon High follow-up), so we’ll have to wait and see if they’ve targeted the right audience and found the right illustrator.

Meanwhile Harlequin partnered up with Dark Horse Comics to adapt six top selling Harlequins into two color-coded lines (pink for younger readers, violet for the more mature) under the Harlequin Ginger Blossom Romance heading. The decision to use much older titles for this line has hurt them (at least I feel that way), and I haven’t personally sold many to my customers. We’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the titles do after Harlequin decision to change their marketing focus.

According to Newsarama, the Dabel Brothers Production has approached (and signed a contract with) Laurell K. Hamilton for the rights to turn the first Anita Blake novel into graphic form. Whether this deal carries through for the rest of her novels (and their increasingly NC-17 content) is unknown to me at this time. If they decide to do so I ask that they please, please plastic wrap the suckers.

So let’s play pretend and imagine that we were the folks in charge of putting these “book to comic book” deals together. Here’s something to think about:

What books, if any, do you think could make the transfer to the manga format? Why?

(Do you think it is only a matter of time before we see a Fight Club (or any of Palanhiuk’s more visual works) graphic novel from Marvel or DC?)

Should we even bother or does it sully the purity of the original work?

C’mon, dream. Dream big. Don’t be afraid to argue or bring up odd choices, just be prepared to back up the thought. What author’s words would you follow into a picture format?


SteveInLA13 said...

I think this is a fantastic idea, BSC! I'm not a big fan of manga (the art, for some reason, annoys me), but grew up on Marvel & DC comics and still have a huge soft spot in my heart for well done comics and graphic novels.

One body of work I'd love to see put into comic form is George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice & Fire". The Dabel Brothers put out a mini-series rendition of Martin's short story "The Hedge Knight", which I that was fantastic. I wish they'd continue on to the greater work, though I realize that'd be a huge undertaking.

How about "The Chronicles of Narnia"? It seems like an opportune time to put that into graphic novel form, and we've got a couple of years before the next movie hits.

Alfred Bester's "The Stars My Destination" or "The Demolished Man" (I hear this one is going into productiona as a film) might be fun too.


lady t said...

A lot of Stephen King's work would translate well to graphic novel form(particularly the early works)and it could be a real boon to lesser known authors like Robert McCammon or Kim Newman.

For something outside of the box,why not a series of well known reading group picks(not just Oprah)-it would be something to see graphic novel versions of the likes of The Secret Life Of Bees,The Corrections and The Kite Runner.

Ms. Librarian said...

I know this dates me, but the idea sounds like Classics Illustrated Comics. I still remember Conan Doyle's "The White Company" in this series fondly - I liked the comic much more than I later liked the novel.

There's a great book on teaching reading using the "wrong" books, called "Why Johnny Can't Read," that was originally published in the 1960s. I think the research is still valid today. The author did a study in a juvenile detention facility. His goal was to teach the young men to read. They had no motivation to learn to read until they were offered books of interest to them. For instance, they would read James Bond, but not F. Scott Fitzgerald, and they would read comic books or books on cars, but not the Odyssey or the Iliad. When they were given books that they liked to read, they learned to enjoy reading itself, and began to read other books, even classics!

I think the point is to get people to read, whether or not the book they read is "literature," and if comic books/manga will promote reading, I'm all for it.

I think virtually any SF book would make a good comic, especially the Honor Harrington series by David Weber.

BuffySquirrel said...

I don't think I would follow any book into a picture format, if only because graphic novels and the like are indelibly wedded in my mind to kids' comics. I know it ain't so, but...well, anyway. Maybe if Revolver hadn't gone out of business I'd still be snatching it off the shelf.

I think Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels would make great graphic novels. Who wouldn't love those dragons?

starstorm said...

Buffysquirrel, there is a graphic novel of Anne McCaffrey's first Pern novel, Dragonflight, that was published by the HarperCollins imprint Eclipse in 1993. I don't know if they ever did any of the other novels... Dragonflight is the only one I have :)

Jennifer said...

With the right illustrator, I'd buy graphic novel versions of China Mieville's books. Also, following off Lady T's suggestions, what about The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold?

December Quinn said...

Ladyt, Marvel signed a deal with Stephen King to produce graphic novels based on the Dark Tower series a little while back. So excellent idea!

Kathleen Dante said...

I'd love to see Wen Spencer's books done as manga. Her style is easy to visualize.

Re Harlequin's decision to use older titles, it's not as straightforward as all that. IIRC, Dark Horse is translating manga titles that were released in Japan some years ago by a collaboration between Harlequin and a Japanese comic publisher. The art's already done and they're taking advantage of that.

BuffySquirrel said...

Cool, starstorm...I'm almost tempted to look for it. DRAGONS!