As is often the case, some of the most imaginative and fun television and movie offerings come from books or graphic novels. No matter how true-to-the-story or well done these are, they only tell part of the story.
February is “For the Love of Reading Month,” and for those who can’t get enough of some of their favorite stories and characters presented on screen today, now is the time to continue their journey through books.
Younger Readers and Young Adults:
Love A Series of Unfortunate Events? Read All the Wrong Questions.
The first season of the Netflix original series based on Lemony Snicket’s delightfully dark young reader’s books is one of the most faithful adaptations of a book or book series I’ve seen in some time. This is likely due to Daniel Handler (Mr. Snicket himself) handling the teleplay duties. Those who devoured the books will notice several little hints and foreshadowing of future “chapters” to come in the series. (Did you notice the Self-Sustaining Hot Air Mobile-Home in the window?) There are also a few hints into Snicket’s own past, including locations and references to Snicket’s four-part All the Wrong Questions “prequel,” featuring Snicket cutting his sleuthing teeth in the dying community of Stain’d-by-the-Sea. These books also contain Snicket’s knack for vocabulary, as well as those frustrating and infuriating situations we self-punishing Snicket readers crave.
Love The Jungle Book? Read The Jungle Books.
We’re between two of the latest big screen adaptations of Rudyard Kipling’s classic: Disney’s released last year and a Warner Bros. project delayed until 2018. Like many Jungle Book adaptations, these focus only one chapter, “Mowgli’s Brothers,” which ends when “Mowgli went down the hillside alone, to meet those mysterious things that are called men.” As exciting as this story is, it is just the beginning to these books. The Jungle Books consists of two books of 15 total stories, each originally written for magazines in 1894 and 1895. Yes, readers will meet Bagheera, Baloo… and Shere Khan… again. (Just because Mowgli has gone to live in the human village doesn’t mean the tiger has given up his chase.) These books also tell the story of other Kipling characters that have made their way into animated interpretations such as “The White Seal” and my favorite, “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.”
Love Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Read Quidditch Through the Ages.
Yes, J.K. Rowling’s first screenplay is available in book form, and the “textbook” written by Newt Scamander gives wizarding world fans a look a several more fantastic beasts not seen in the film. However, Hogwarts historians should look at Quidditch Through the Ages by self-proclaimed quidditch fanatic and expert Kennilworthy Whisp, as it is the most checked-out book in the Hogwarts Library. Those aspiring to be quidditch players (or just fans of the game) will learn some the history of the Golden Snitch, how the modern-day racing broom was developed, common terminology, and more. Those “numbskulls” playing around at Queerditch Marsh many years ago were onto something.
Love Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? Read Hollow City and Library of Souls.
Miss Peregrine is only the first book in the Ransom Riggs young adult series. It’s where teenage Jacob Portman discovers the truth behind his grandfather’s stories as well as his own place in the world of Peculiars. It also unapologetically leaves the reader hanging. Hollow City, which picks up right where the first book left off, and Library of Souls help complete this adventure. If you still want to learn more, Riggs released his Tales of the Peculiar, a favorite of the youth in Miss Peregrine’s care in 2016.
For Mature Readers:
Love Game of Thrones? Read A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.
When the HBO series Game of Thrones first came out, fantasy readers everywhere clamored to catch up on the George R.R. Martin series on which it was based. So much so, they devoted a considerable amount of fandom waiting for Martin’s own writing to “catch up” to their appetites for all things Westeros. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is Martin’s first three official prequels. The stories are set long before the first book in the Game of Thrones series, A Song of Fire and Ice, when the Targaryen’s had the throne. This October, Martin will release a new set of short stories focusing on the Targaryen family history, The Book of Swords. This anthology will be edited by Gardner Dozois and will contain works by Garth Nix, Robin Hobb, and others.
Love Jessica Jones? Read Alias and The Pulse… and the Jessica Jones reboot
Netflix’s Jessica Jones helped introduce people to a grittier side of the Marvel Universe, but to get the full effect of this smart and troubled ex-Avenger, you really need to read about her life and origins through the profoundly, and profanely funny, voice of this character’s creator, Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Michael Gaydos and featuring beautiful covers by David Mack. Jones was part of Marvel’s R-rated Max Comics first released in 2001, and it gives readers a much more complete look at what makes her tick.
To see a little more of “what happens next,” read Bendis’s The Pulse series, particularly is you want to see the happier days of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, as well as the new current Jessica Jones series by Bendis, Gaydos, and Mack.
Love Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency? Read The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.
When an “act of God” causes a check-in desk in at London’s Heathrow Airport to disappear, Gently wonders exactly which god. This book contains the humor and silliness fans of Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy enjoy, but even for those who have read through that entire series, this story can be a little hard to follow. The characters in it, including a more dysfunctional and kooky take on Thor and Odin, make it worthwhile.
Actually, I should say “Love Dirk Gently? Read Dirk Gently,” because the series, which is really fun, is pretty much nothing like the book. Catch up on the first of this two-book series from Douglas Adams before reading Tea-Time if you don’t want to be even more confused.
Love Gotham? Read Gotham Central.
The television series Gotham, set in the pre-Batman days of Bruce Wayne, is a hit because it lets audiences see how Gotham’s Finest handled the weirdness of their city’s villains before The Bat came to save the day.
The comic crime series Gotham Central by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, with illustrations by Michael Lark, ran from 2002 to 2006 and takes place while Batman is in full-on superhero mode. James Gordon makes recurring appearances, as well as Harvey Bullock, but readers can learn more about other GCPD (Gotham City Police Department) regulars like Renee Montoya and Marcus Driver as they do their best to maintain order in “the shadow of The Bat.” It isn’t easy, that’s for sure. This Eisner Award winner is available as an omnibus featuring the first 40 issues.
If you can find it, Chuck Dixon’s 1996 mini-series Batman: GCPD is also a good look at Gotham from the perspective of the police department.
This February, once the series have been streamed and the curtain closes on another the big screen adaptation, pick up a book or graphic novel and keep the adventure going. If you’ve fallen in love with these stories or characters, it’s time to fall between the pages of these books from which they were created.