Just because it is 200 year old romantic literature doesn’t mean it can’t be represented in a graphic novel.
Recently, Marvel Comics put out several graphic novels with stories that don’t have superheroes. At least not in the traditional sense. Two of them are the Jane Austen novels, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice. (They also put out some The Wizard of Oz books, for those of you playing along at home.) I was so excited when I saw these that I bought them for myself for Christmas.
Naturally, this kind of format can’t delve as deeply into the story as the original books, or even the many movie adaptations, but they are long enough to capture the storyline and the characters. Distilling stories down into their most important parts has got to be difficult, especially when original quotations from the books are often used. Like with the movies, entire stretches have to be skipped over, but the challenge is how to do that and not ruin the overall picture.
Sense and Sensibility was adapted by Nancy Butler and beautifully illustrated by Sonny Liew. The art is soft and delicate. It’s almost like the story is a backdrop for the art. But while there are some pages and frames with plenty of action or a tone-setting drawing, the graphic novel is very text heavy. And as with Austen’s original books, it helps to know the storyline before reading. There are a lot of characters and details to keep track of and Regency era traditions and etiquette to be baffled by.
Pride and Prejudice, also adapted by Nancy Butler but illustrated by Hugo Petrus, has a completely different feel from Sense and Sensibility. The art inside is more harsh, the drawing more clearly delineated, and if I didn’t know better, without reading the text I would think it was a vampire story or a book about characters that drink ink (most of the characters’ lips have strange black markings on them). I don’t care for Petrus’s style, but I’ve not let that stand in my way of enjoying the adaptation. The story of Pride and Prejudice is fantastic, and Nancy Butler does a nice job telling it in this new format. If you’re familiar with the original book, you’ll spot where Butler goes off script to summarize some parts, but that’s obviously necessary in such a short work.
Both of the books have the original comic book covers in the back. If you see the covers for Pride and Prejudice and are confused, it is because Sonny Liew also did some of the artwork for the Pride and Prejudice covers. I’m glad to have the full books and not to have to wait for new issues to come out. Having them in hardback is a better way to go, in my opinion!
Marvel’s Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice each retail for $19.99, but are cheaper on Amazon. I recommend them to anyone who appreciates Jane Austen or is interested in seeing classic works interpreted in a new way. The books are also a very good way to get people who aren’t traditionally comic book readers exposed to the format.