Monday, February 21, 2011

High Literature meets Graphic Novels: Kill Shakespeare and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Graphic novels are a great format for exploring mash-ups and re-worked classic stories. Here are a couple of interesting examples of recently released graphic novels based on classics.

Kill Shakespeare by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col is an inventive comic in the vein of Bill Willingham's Fables. It is centered initially around Hamlet who mistakenly kills Polonius while attempting to avenge his father's death. As he flees his homeland, a pirate attack results in Hamlet being the "guest" of King Richard III. Richard is imploring Hamlet to join with him find and destroy the powerful wizard or god named William Shakespeare.

Richard and his men think Hamlet may be the Shadow King that is fated to kill Shakespeare. Shakespeare, however, has a horde of fanatical followers and there is much more at stake here than Hamlet realizes. Kill Shakespeare gathers some of the bard's most popular heroes like Othello and Juliet and faces them off against Richard III, Lady Macbeth and others.

Readers of Shakespeare will enjoy a lot of the literary references and the flurry of alliances, backstabbing and dramatic turns, but you don't have to be a fan of the source material to enjoy this. Kill Shakespeare is heavy on the action and Anthony Belanger's illustrations are as vibrant and colorful as the plot.

Fans of the graphic novels Castle Waiting and Fables will also enjoy this title.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: the graphic novel is a new version of Seth Grahame-Smith's take on the Jane Austen classic. There has been a lot of talk about these classics being re-worked to include zombies, androids, sea monsters, vampires and other fun oddities. Last year, the author released his second such novel with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

I love it when comic versions of novels that I should read, but will probably never fit in my reading schedule, are released. In this work, England is being overrun by zombies, or "unmentionables" as they are known, and it is up to citizens like Elizabeth Bennet to become warriors. As in the classic, Elizabeth and the pretentious Mr. Darcy flirt and banter continually with each other, though they also they fight zombies.

I haven't read Graham-Smith's novel, but Tony Lee's version of the plot seems to flow well without the awkward transitions you sometimes find in adaptations. The illustrations by Cliff Richards are in a different style than I expected and I would appreciate more detail, but the sketchy, black and white style works fairly well in this context. I grew a bit tired of the pattern of some romance then some zombie attacks which repeated over and over, but I imagine fans of the novel expect exactly this. I found it a light, enjoyable read, which was not really special in any way.

Besides the obvious zombie and Jane Austen books, I would recommend this to fans of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

1 comment :

Okie said...

It's been interesting to me over the past few years how many novels (classic and otherwise) have been adapted into a graphic novel format.

I wasn't really a fan of Pride & Pejudice & Zombies as a novel, but I suspect as a graphic novel it might appeal more to me.

As a Shakespeare fan, I was very intrigued when I saw the Kill Shakespeare graphic novel at my local bookstore. I still haven't picked it up, but I may read it eventually.

The same day I saw the Kill Shakespeare book, I looked around and was amazed at the number of graphic novel versions of other standard novels. I saw Moby Dick, a book from the "Ender's Game" universe, a graphic novel adaptation of Poe's The Raven, Stephen King, Laurell K. Hamilton, and on and on.

It's interesting to see the cross over from the market. I'm not an avid enough Graphic Novel reader to know for sure, but I suspect there are probably some Graphic Novels that have later become 'Written' Novels.

I might have to do a little research and see what may be driving this crossover (rather than just the simple answer of "make more money")