Literary Adaptations into Comic/Graphic Novel Form

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Download PDF Save to Bookshelf Tweet Report an Error
Svenn-Arve Myklebost (Volda University College)

The adaptation of literary fiction into comics, manga and graphic novels occupies a vast creative field, in the consideration of which one must include the history and development of this form of intermedial, transpositional activity. An article of this size and nature cannot claim to cover the field exhaustively, but will introduce it in a general way and dwell on a small set of cases to exemplify the variety of ways in which graphic sequential art has engaged with works of literary fiction. The present text discusses some theoretical implications of adapting what is essentially a verbal form into the multi-modal, verbal-visual form of graphic sequential art, “comics” or “manga”; it then moves on to outline the history of comic adaptation, through presenting and discussing a selection of examples in chronological order. The handful of examples discussed in this article are English-language comics, manga and graphic novels; foreign language examples are only mentioned briefly.


Literary adaptation is a contentious, complex and difficult topic. At times considered unworthy of scholarly attention, its popularity in the academe has increased over the past few decades, in tandem with postmodernity’s heightened interest in recycling, sampling, fragmentation and recombination. The study of adaptation is closely related to studies in intertextuality and intermediality, genetic criticism, meme theory, and poststructuralism, but the history of art imitating art goes back at least to Ancient Greece and probably much further. In fact, it is possible that much of the current nomenclature, including the word adaptation itself, obfuscates some simple truths about the processes of literary transmediation that were obvious to the ancients but largely forgotten in our post-romantic age, where imitation is a negatively charged term.

It is a common misconception that adaptation changes and alters the original work, heard in such complaints as “they changed the ending”. The notion of change is born out of the fact that as a result of adaptation having taken place, two art works have come to exist where there was previously only one. The mere existence of the new work, which has been produced under different temporal, geographical, political, philosophical, intellectual and material circumstances, naturally sheds a new light upon what we, for simplicity’s sake, might call the original work, but – unavoidably functioning as interpretation and commentary – it does not alter the old work as much as influence our perception of it. An even stronger force, perhaps, is the old work’s ability to dictate our reactions towards the adaptation. Adaptations are more often than they probably deserve viewed as derivative and thus inferior. This has very frequently been the case with literary comic book adaptations, whose material and formal identity has been placed in the realm of low or popular culture.

If a perceived negative shift in value is one problem that plagues the field of adaptation, another is the ambiguity and polysemic nature of its terminology. Some understand adaptation as the transposition of a work into another medium. For others it may well retain the medium, but change something else instead, like the theme, the setting or elements of the plot. This is why both film versions of novels and Restoration stage versions of Shakespeare’s plays are called adaptations, despite their clear dissimilarities of form and purpose. Many scholars apply supplementary terms to denote variations in kind, degree and intention. These terms include appropriation, (re-)configuration, salvaging, (sustained) allusion, repurposing, refitting, recycling, recombination, transmediation, transposition, remake, spin-off, re-version, revision, homage, parody, imitation, intertext and many, many more (see Sanders 2006, Hutcheon 2006, Elliott 2003, Stam 2005). This article uses the word adaptation throughout, for the sake of convention, not of accuracy.

Comic book artists face many challenges when adapting literature. To a large extent, these challenges are similar to the ones faced by, say, filmmakers, but comics is a medium in its own right, with its own limitations and potentials, and should be considered apart from film and other media. Comics almost always need to produce works which contain fewer words than their literary models. This initiates a process of selection. What words does one reproduce? Can one provide different dialogue? To how large an extent can or should the visuals “replace” the verbal content? How does one represent interiority? Does one use “thought bubbles” or narrative captions? These are choices that do not only relate to the process of adapting and representing the so-called original work; their realisation will determine the stylistic nature of the resultant comic book.

Other stylistic choices include narrative pacing, drawing style, colouration, graphic design, settings and the design thereof, and many other things that together make up the aesthetic identity of the adaptation. The creators of the comic book, graphic novel or manga must judge, not only how these things are capable of telling a story, but how they tell a story which has already been told before.

Another difference between comics and verbal fiction is the way in which the comics medium handles time. This difference can be a challenge, as well as something that creates a potential for creative temporal play. For most traditional literary works, the reading process is linear. This means that authors of prose narratives can supply information at their discretion. In comics, time is a visual-sequential matter. The panel you see in the lower-right hand corner of a comics page comes later in the sequence, but it is also visible at the same time as all the other panels. One may, accidentally or on purpose, scan or read comic book panels in any order. The left-to-right, top-to-bottom reading pattern usually applied is a matter of convention (a convention whose first part is reversed in many Asian countries, where one reads from right to left). This kind of temporal representation, with its potential for chronological displacement, is significantly different from verbal fictions, as well as from film and live theatre, all of which are comparatively linear.

Yet another difference relates to the panels and word balloons themselves. Comics are not purely visual. Rather, it is a medium in which printed pictures and words interact more intimately than in other media. The words printed on a comic book page do not only tell a story or provide information about what the characters are saying. Their placement on the page is a deliberate and central narrative principle in that the words, more than the pictures, guide the pathways of the eye across the page. Word balloon and caption placement thus become narrative and visual-rhetorical devices. The spoken word cannot guide the narrative process in precisely this manner, nor can the picture-less printed book do anything along these lines. Again, comics are unique.

There is another aspect to the way words and images interact in comics that is especially relevant for how sequential art configures verbal fiction, and this is the relationship and tension between what is being shown and what is being told. According to Scott McCloud’s survey of picture-word combinations, found in his Making Comics (2006), there are seven different ways in which words and pictures combine in this medium, that is, when both words and images are present. Word-specific panels are panels in which the image illustrates aspects of the text, while picture-specific panels contain words that illustrate aspects of the pictures. Duo-specific panels contain “words and pictures both sending roughly the same message” (McCloud 2006; 130), while intersecting panels contain words and pictures that both work together and contribute information independently. Interdependent panels contain “words and pictures combining to convey an idea that neither would convey alone” (ibid.) (this is illustrated by a woman crying on the phone, uttering the words “I’m so happy for you”) and parallel panels contain “words and pictures following seemingly different paths without intersecting” (ibid.). Finally, the montage contains words that function as graphic elements, “words and pictures combined pictorially” (ibid.). These concerns are important, yet again not simply on account of stylistics, but because the words in question are modelled on an external source or verbal fiction – they come from a book. Hence, the coming together of words and images in comic book adaptations features an additional dimension: the verbal content of one text is brought into the verbal-textual weave of another. This is an especially salient aspect of comics that adapt theatrical plays, such as the Shakespeare adaptations discussed below.

Comics are not traditionally on the receiving end of the adaptation process. On the contrary, original stories, characters and concepts from the world of comic books have tended to be the models from which other media configure new works. In the parlance of translation studies, they are source texts rather than target texts. Hollywood has been especially prolific in adapting comics, and above all superhero comics, to the big screen. In recent years, the “comic-book movie” has very nearly become the dominant genre of mainstream American cinema. A peculiar side effect of this is that sometimes the industry produces comics based on films based on comics, as a further, slightly bizarre, attempt to profit from the franchise.

Early Literary Adaptations, 1941-1990

Comics, graphic novels and manga modelled after verbal fiction, or literature, are much rarer occurrences, but the genre seems to have been growing over the past few decades. Why aren’t comics as frequently engaged in adaptation as films? One possible answer to this may be the delayed discovery of comics’ cultural worth. Graphic sequential art was considered a childish and bastardized form, fundamentally incapable of performing adaptation with sufficient fidelity. Creators of comics, moreover, may simply not have been very interested in recycling already established stories, but aimed instead to create original material in the medium’s own idiom. Also, a marketplace for adaptation had to be created. When literary adaptation started appearing, its purpose was – symptomatically – not to “do the originals justice” or to push the envelope on what comics could do. Instead, comics were used as a tool to dumb down and make accessible a number of ostensibly essential, classical works (and, for commercial reasons, some very popular ones). This started in the USA in the early 1940s, in the shape of the Classics Illustrated series, which ran from 1941 to 1971, over an initial run of 169 issues. The publisher – Gilberton – was established by the Russian-born Albert Kanter (1897-1973). The series included adaptations of seminal and popular novels such as Moby Dick, Gulliver’s Travels, Oliver Twist, Ivanhoe, Lés Miserables and many others. Every issue had the same epilogue, revealing its didactic purpose: “NOW THAT YOU HAVE READ THE CLASSICS Illustrated EDITION, DON’T MISS THE ADDED ENJOYMENT OF READING THE ORIGINAL, OBTAINABLE AT YOUR SCHOOL OR PUBLIC LIBRARY”. Classics Illustrated completely dominated the field of comics adapting novels in the period from WWII up to the 1980s. It was accompanied by other publishers doing largely the same thing, but the quality tended to be even lower than that of Gilberton’s somewhat cheap comics. Our first example of a comic book adaptation is one of Classics Illustrated’s five reconfigurations of William Shakespeare: Hamlet.

At this early stage, adapters of literary “masterpieces” struggled with opposing demands of fidelity and simplification. The didactic and partially altruistic purposes of Albert Kanter dictated that no free interpretation be allowed, but at the same time the goal of the enterprise was to make the stories in question accessible for young, predominantly male and not too bookish readers. This complication is not always untangled with elegance. Hamlet (#99, September 1952), illustrated by Alexander Blum, utilizes a number of the techniques outlined previously to reconfigure the play in a visual-verbal, sequential format. On the first page, text boxes are used for expository narrative: “Hamlet was called home to Denmark from Germany by the sudden death of his father, the King. On his return to the Royal Castles at Elsinore, Hamlet was shocked to find that his mother had waited only a few weeks before marrying again… this time to Claudius, the late King’s brother” (Blum, first page; n.p.). The comic keeps using a mixture of text boxes and dialogue throughout. A great deal of dialogue in the play does not appear in the comic and is instead either replaced by explanatory text boxes of this kind, or simply does not feature.

This technique has two effects: it introduces a diegetic layer not present in Shakespeare’s play, that of a narrator; and it guides the reader’s interpretation of the story. We learn for example that Hamlet is “deep in thought and is contemplating suicide”, before his “To be, or not to be” soliloquy, and after the performance of the Mouse Trap we learn that the “the King suddenly becomes conscience-stricken”. The reader is not allowed to figure this out for himself. The dialogue of this comic book greatly resembles that of the model play; it is a word-for word copy, but does not copy all the words. In fact, less than half of the play’s nearly 4800 lines are used in the Classics Illustrated Hamlet. When characters speak in verse, the speech bubbles and the text layout is made to accommodate theatrical speech. While later Shakespeare adaptations sometimes break up the text to make it resemble ordinary speech, no such liberties are taken here. There are moments, however, when the duty to remain true to the original turns the comic book into something more akin to an illustrated book. Two of Hamlet’s long soliloquys are present in their entirety: “That this too, too solid flesh would melt” and the aforementioned “to be, or not to be”. The latter, covering 34 and a half lines, fill up one gargantuan word balloon that in its turn takes up more than a quarter of the splash page where it resides. It threatens to overshadow, as it were, the visual contents of the page. But while it may not function exemplarily as an element of a comic book, the composition of the image remains interesting. Hamlet stands, hand on heart, in the middle of the room, at the base of a staircase. Ophelia stands to the left, somewhat closer to the front, with her back to Hamlet who watches her. He is in turn watched by Claudius and Polonius, spying on the pair from a doorway near the back, on the right-hand side. The motif of watching and being watched, seen in many other productions and adaptations, also features here. This reveals an awareness of theatrical tradition and, perhaps, of some of the deeper-seated themes of the play.

In the next panel, overleaf, Ophelia has turned towards Hamlet. The caption in this panel is worth noting: “As Hamlet ends his soliloquy”, it says, “Ophelia approaches him …” (n.p; ellipses in orig.). What is interesting about this is the use of the word “soliloquy” – a theatrical term. There is no attempt to mask this as a story taking place in the real world, where people tend not to speak in this manner when they think themselves alone. This is unequivocally a theatrical world; the constructed and artificial world of the stage, put down on the page. Naming Hamlet’s speech thus is a way of addressing the problem of how to treat the theatrical monologue in a comic book setting. Soliloquys can be seen as expressions of deep emotion and thought, in the same way as Arias in operas. But the comic book Hamlet does not think these lines. He speaks them, thus making insistent the question of how other characters respond to them. Ophelia, Claudius and Polonius are present during the “to be or not to be” speech, but the degree to which they pick up on all that is said remains fruitfully ambiguous. When Ophelia approaches Hamlet after he is done speaking, nothing suggests she has heard him, even though she appears to have been present.

Shakespeare’s works have been reconfigured in comic book, graphic novel and manga form on multiple occasions and in many countries, from the US and the UK to Italy and Japan. Some of the later attempts are very similar to the Classics Illustrated series in scope and intention, whereas others are much more ambitious and sophisticated. Of the latter type ought to be mentioned a series of graphic novels issued first by Oval Books, Workman Publishing, and then later by Can of Worms Press. This series, named Cartoon Shakespeare, started with a handful of plays in the early to mid-1980s and was enlarged by one play, Oscar Grillo’s The Tempest in 2010, after a commission by the series’ most recent editor. An artist who only goes by the name of Von illustrated Macbeth in a full-text version that was picked up by the publisher in 1982. They then went on to commission further adaptations from a number of artists, including Oscar Zarate’s Othello and John H. Howard’s Twelfth Night. These are complex works, rife with visual symbolism and accomplished art, and are worth the time of the serious Shakespeare and graphic novel aficionado. Shakespeare was also adapted in Japan in the 1970s. These Japanese-language manga are difficult to get hold of today, and in the main they have not been translated. This early phase of Japanese Shakespeare adaptation is covered in a separate chapter of Shakespeares after Shakespeare (Burt 2006), a useful resource for anyone interested in the dissemination of Shakespeare adaptation.

Outside the realm of superheroes, comics in the 50s, 60s and 70s retained a close connection with pulp, noir and fantasy literature. In this environment we find such series as The Savage Sword of Conan (1974-), based on Robert E. Howard’s books about Conan the Barbarian, and Guido Crepax’ adaptation of the erotic novel The Story of O (1981).Beyond the worlds of pulp and cult, the 1980s were a time during which comic books established a very strong identity of their own. This is when the “graphic novel” became a mainstream term, and hailed as the next big thing in publishing. (Will Eisner’s A Contract with God from 1978 was the first comic book to popularize the term. In the mid-1980s, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Art Spiegelmann’s Maus consolidated the concept.) Serious comics for adults were no new thing, of course. The Spanish, Italian and French language album tradition had already existed for decades, as had the American underground, or “comix” scene. Nevertheless, this was a time during which the main concern of sequential art was to present original stories on the art form’s own terms, as well as taking earlier franchises (mostly superhero comics) and sending them along new, often grittier and more cynical trajectories. Straightforward adaptation, where one novel is the model for one graphic novel, did not occur very often. A much more common sight, yet by no means prolific, was the sustained appropriation (Sanders 2006, p.32) – intertextual and intermedial games where pieces of literature became building blocks and references rather than something to be imitated in their complete form. It was the dawning of a postmodern age in the world of comics and graphic novels. Recycling, imitation, allusion and adaptation were about to become much more common indeed.


While the notion of adults reading comics (recast for respectability as “graphic novels”) was introduced in the 1980s, the ensuing decade is the one in which the practice became properly ensconced in the public consciousness. This is in part because of the comics that came out in this decade. It saw an influx of formally and artistically ambitious, self-aware, cerebral, sometimes controversial and often accomplished new comics and graphic novels on the Anglophone as well as the world stage. Adaptation was still not as common as it was about to become after the year 2000, as comics were still in the process of asserting themselves and their own aims, possibilities and stories, but there are some highly interesting cases of comic book adaptations in this decade. That being said, they still existed outside the realm of the best-seller. Even in the nineties, adaptations tended to be reprints of Classics Illustrated issues or additions to this series (it was – and is still – often picked up by new publishers who sometimes would commission new adaptations), or of similar series, sometimes made for pedagogic purposes.

The main example this section discusses first came out in 1996. Martin Rowson’s configuration of Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a fairly loose adaptation of Sterne’s novel whose nine volumes came out between 1759 and 1767 before it was collected as one volume. This looseness, however, makes it a very interesting case to discuss, because it questions what it is about a so-called original work one would attempt to preserve or recreate in a new version, in a different medium. Sterne’s novel is more than anything a story of digressions, to the extent that Tristram Shandy’s tale of his own life takes three volumes to get to the moment of his birth. Tristram Shandy is also a meta-novel and a (mostly) fictional meta-autobiography, which discusses the notion of writing a life while at the same time living it. In the same vein, Rowson’s graphic novel discusses the act of adaptation, and frequently digresses from the task of adaptation into wholly different, yet curiously connected storylines.

Rowson’s Tristram Shandy is an adaptation on more levels than one. The graphic novel frequently displays pastiches of well-known images, many of which are roughly comparative with Sterne. A splash page contains a send-up of William Hogarth’s print The Reward of Cruelty, with persons and narration (in a word balloon) added. Isaac Cruickshank and especially James Gillray are also notable models for Rowson’s visual style. Some sequences, like the opening, seem to parody Gustave Doré, and there are traces of Dürer, Bosch and Brueghel. The most striking example of visual borrowing comes from Rowson’s retelling of Shandy’s retelling of the fictional scholar Hafen Slawkenbergius’ De Nasis, a treatise on noses, their history and importance. In Rowson’s abbreviated account, this originally rather lengthy narrative is represented in the form of five “plates”, containing illustrations taken from a range of prints and reprints of De Nasis. This book is of course as fictional as its purported author, Slawkenbergius, and Rowson’s plates are naturally all his own work. The first is “an anonymous German Woodcut for the popular vulgate edition of Slawkenbergius, printed … [in] 1658” (n.p.). The second plate parodies Dürer (again). The third is another parody of Hogarth, “with verse by Colley Cibber(?)” (1735). The fourth is ostensibly by Aubrey Beardsley (1894), and the fifth and final plate by the Dadaist and expressionist George Grosz (1922).

By engaging with this range of visual allusion, parody, intermediality, reconfiguration or adaptation, Rowson extends Sterne’s conceit of digression and absurd fantasy into an even bigger world of reference and outrageous suggestion. Sterne cites, parodies and plagiarises previous authors. Rowson perpetuates Sterne’s literary fabrications, but does so while adding a larger historical scope and intermingling it with multiple media.

Rowson does not only imitate Sterne’s method. He also looks to the illustrations Sterne himself provided for Tristram Shandy. These include a set of squiggly lines, meant to illustrate the disordered progress of the narrative; a non-illustration in the form of a blank page, where the reader is encouraged to imagine a portrait of a lady; “marbled” pages containing a sepulchral stone pattern meant to evoke death (Tristram Shandy is a very serious novel despite its apparent silliness); and a number of other devices. Simply pasting these directly into the comic would not do. Something more interesting needed to happen, so Rowson turns these devices into elements of his own design rather than mere copies. In the comic, the narrator arranges a race through a maze of garden hedges, in the shape of Shandy’s squiggly lines; it is a race where many of the contestants are lost along the way. The blank page looks decidedly odd next to so many illustrated pages; the effect is quite different. The most striking use of a Sternian visual device is that of the marbled page. In Rowson’s book, the same pattern appears as a threatening, swirling fog that appears every time death becomes an issue for the characters; it is uncanny.

Ultimately, Rowson’s configuration of Tristram Shandy finds itself skipping whole volumes of Sterne’s novel. It, too, has let itself be distracted by its own inventions and asides to the point where it is starting to run out of space. As adaptations go, it is not exactly “true” to the story of the “original”. But that is in a way the whole point. As mentioned, Rowson’s graphic novel questions what it means to adapt someone else’s work. Maybe the essence of the other work is not its plot or its characters, but its ideas, its form and its themes. Or maybe it simply demonstrates that adaptation is in fact impossible – that an alleged adaptation is in fact always fundamentally a new and different work, produced under historical and material circumstances so removed from the original work that it can never be anything but novel, in the sense of new. And maybe that is a good thing. (See also the 2005 film, directed by Michael Winterbottom, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.)


As we move on to the most recent decade and a half, we may note something of an explosion of adaptations of novels into graphic, sequential form. As always, Classics Illustrated and similar series keep being reprinted, but now they are accompanied by a very large and varied selection of adaptations of all kinds of literary models, as well as any other type of source material imaginable, from video games and board games to TV shows and films. Compiling a list of literary comic book adaptations after the year 2000 is very nearly impossible, as they now count in their hundreds.

This decade saw an influx of postmodern pastiches, in which multiple works of literature were blended into comics series and graphic novels. The most salient example is Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999-present), which started out by assembling a team consisting of Mina Harker (née Murray, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Captain Nemo (from Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island), Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde (from Robert Louis Stephenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde), the invisible man (from H.G Wells’ The Invisible Man) and Allan Quatermain (from H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and its sequels). This team would then go on to fight villains such as Professor Moriarty (from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventure “The Final Problem”) and the aliens from H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. A similar type of amalgam was the basis for Bill Willingham’s Fables (2002-present), using fairy tale characters and events for similar purposes, and Anthony Del Col, Colin McCreery and Andy Belanger’s Kill Shakespeare (2010-11), featuring Shakespearean characters and plot points.

Like the aforementioned Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft’s stories have always had a close affinity with the world of comics, role playing games and horror film fandom. Often, Lovecraft’s literary world acts as a point of departure for spin-offs, but I.N.J Culbard’s 2010 adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness (1936) is one out a handful of examples of a full-on adaptation of one particular story. This is included here because it is a pertinent example of how graphic style is utilized in the adaptation process. Culbard plays on nostalgia to create a 1930s atmosphere, by adopting the ligne claire style of drawing pioneered by Hergé (of Tintin fame) in the 30s and 40s. This drawing style does not employ hatching or rely on strong contrast, but aims instead for simplicity and clarity. Culbard combines his version of the ligne claire with other “old-fashioned” techniques to create a particular atmosphere; it combines with the somewhat stilted verbal narration and dialogue (taken verbatim from Lovecraft’s story) to form what is a period piece rather than an effective horror story. This adaptation also demonstrates how Lovecraftian monsters tend to be more horrifying when left to the reader’s imagination than to the artist’s pen – something which would have been a deficiency if the purpose of this adaptation was to scare and shock the reader, but it probably is not. For a more disturbing, modern take on Lovecraft, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Neonomicon (4 issues, 2010-11) comes highly recommended.

Coming full circle from the Classics Illustrated take on Hamlet, the final case to be discussed in this article is the Manga Shakespeare series of 14 issues published by SelfMadeHero from 2007 to 2009. Here, Shakespeare is treated in a way which is both similar to and very different from the Classics Illustrated approach to adapting Shakespeare. The similarity is in the intended audience: young readers for whom Shakespeare is perpetually on the school syllabus. The difference is in the form. While reading Shakespeare may not be appealing to all schoolchildren, the increasingly popular Japanese type of comic known as manga often tends to be (see Haley, 2010). The Shakespeare mangas, however, are not in fact Japanese, but made in the UK. At this stage, the amalgamation of forms and stories has gone global; Manga Shakespeare is a double form of imitatio, mixing four hundred year old theatre plays with Asian sequential art to frequently surprising and unexpectedly sophisticated effect. Even though they have kept the original language, no exaggerated fidelity hampers the unfolding of the stories in this series. There are no long soliloquies, and the number of words carried over from the originals is fairly low. Instead, the mangas’ visuals tend to perform tasks erstwhile performed by the plays’ verbal dimension: a reference to Queen Elizabeth I in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is gestured towards in graphic terms (an elaborate collar in lieu of a footnote); a verbal allusion to an emblem is replaced with a glimpse of a statuette in Twelfth Night; Shakespearean characters are “acted out” by manga archetypes (experienced manga readers will instantly recognise that Antonio in The Merchant of Venice may be gay); and Shakespearean gender-bending blends with similar-yet-different conventions in Japanese visual culture. All in all, the medium of manga is well-suited to address and bring out Shakespearean themes in manners which make the Manga Shakespeare series transcend its seemingly immature and opportunistic base.

The field of literary adaptation in sequential art is clearly of thematic and formal magnitudes far beyond what it is possible to address in such a short space. And it is a field in vigorous growth. But even though the present article has only scraped the surface of its subject matter, it is to be hoped it has gone some way towards demonstrating that there is nothing – or at least very little – that comics cannot do in terms of literary adaptation.

Works Cited

Appignanesi, Richard. Othello. By William Shakespeare. Illus. Ryuta Osada. Ed. Emma Hayley. London: SelfMadeHero, 2008. Print.
---. Twelfth Night. By William Shakespeare. Illus. Nana Li. Ed. Emma Hayley. London: SelfMadeHero, 2009. Print.
Blum, Alexander A., adapt.(?) and illus. Classics Illustrated #99: Hamlet. By William Shakespeare. New York: Gilberton, 1952. Print.
Burt, Richard., ed. Shakespeares After Shakespeare: An Encyclopedia of the Bard in Mass Media and Popular Culture (2 vols.). London: Greenwood, 2006. Print.
Culbard, I.N.J., adapt., illus. At the Mountains of Madness. By H.P. Lovecraft. London: SelfMadeHero, 2010. Print.
Elliott, Kamilla. Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003. Print.
Eisner, Will. Comics and Sequential Art. Expanded Edition. Tamarac: Poorhouse, 1985. Print.
Gravett, Paul. Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics. New York: Collins Design-Harper, 2004. Print.
Haley, Emma. “Manga Shakespeare.” Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives. Ed. Toni Johnson-Woods. New York: Continuum, 2010. Print.
Howard, John H, adapt. Twelfth Night. By William Shakespeare. Illus. John H. Howard. London: Can of Worms, 2005. Print.
Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.
---. A Theory of Parody. New York, Methuen, 1985. Print.
Kidnie, Margaret Jane. Shakespeare and the Problem of Adaptation. London: Routledge, 2009. Print.
McCloud, Scott. Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels. New York: Harper, 2006. Print.
---. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: Harper, 1994. Print.
Rowson, Martin., adapt., illus. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. By Laurence Sterne. London: SelfMadeHero, 2010.
Stam, Robert and Allesandra Raegno, eds. Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation. Malden: Blackwell, 2005.
Von. adapt. Macbeth. By William Shakespeare. Illus. Von. London: Can of Worms, 2006.
Zarate, Oscar, adapt. Othello. By William Shakespeare. Illus. Oscar Zarate. London: Can of Worms, 2005.

5435 words

Citation: Myklebost, Svenn-Arve. "Literary Adaptations into Comic/Graphic Novel Form". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 05 May 2014 [, accessed 07 February 2023.]

19356 Literary Adaptations into Comic/Graphic Novel Form 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

Save this article

If you need to create a new bookshelf to save this article in, please make sure that you are logged in, then go to your 'Account' here

Leave Feedback

The Literary Encyclopedia is a living community of scholars. We welcome comments which will help us improve.