Graphic Novels: Giveaway and review

by Ahalya on June 7, 2010

…”and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?’

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

I don’t think I am using Alice’s words out of context in a post on graphic novels. Because it is true, pictures make a book a whole lot interesting. And if the book is full of pictures…? Well then, that’s just wonderful.

A graphic novel, a novel that integrates images and text, is not a new genre. Even though bookstore chains are suddenly acting as though they just heard about them (and I suspect that’s because of the sudden interest Hollywood is taking in some graphic novels).

Are comic books part of this genre? Well, yes, they are. Although some people would say that graphic novels have images of a higher quality than, say, comic books for children. But then there are crudely illustrated graphic novel bestsellers, and extremely intricate drawings in comic books. So well, let’s just say that this is a fuzzily defined genre.

Moving on. I recently got my hands on a few graphic novels brought out by Campfire. Journey to the Center of the Earth, Kim, Houdini (amazing illustrations)! And The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (reviewed here).

I know that there is a whole deluge of graphic novels in stores these days about superheroes and vampires, these novels aren’t like that, they are based on classics and their primary audience is the young reader. (For those who are interested, Campfire also brings out a mythology series, biographies and a few original titles as well).

DrJekyll&MrHydeOften, the only way you can tell if a graphic novel is good or bad (apart from the story of course) is whether you will want to see the pictures again (and again). In a good graphic novel you will see a whole page worth of descriptions distilled into one fine picture.The one good thing (or bad thing, it depends on what kind of reader you are) about graphic novels is that you spend a lot less time imagining the book, and spend more time getting into the story. The illustrations in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are good. Consider the setting, London 1886, the architecture, the clothes, the mannerisms, the nightlife, all deftly weaved into the panels, and you can focus on getting to know the eccentric Dr Jekyll, and the hideous spooky Mr Hyde.

Maybe you are like me, flying through the speech bubbles and the narrative boxes, and reading the pictures later. Or maybe, you have the patience to take the story in one panel at a time. In any case, I must say that the illustrations do a fine job of bringing Jekyll and Hyde to life. And the story has been crisply edited. I think the young reader will, hopefully, like getting acquainted with lots more classics this way. And these books are quite affordable (Rs 150 approx.).

Now, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, one of my favourite stories, is slightly disappointing. There’s lots and lots of amazing things happening to Dorothy all the time in this wonderful story by Frank Baum, and this means that in a graphic novel she has to be in almost every single panel. So, while the illustrators do a great job showing us what Oz looks like, I didn’t quite like Dorothy. She did not look endearing enough. I know, I know… each reader has his/her own idea about what Dorothy looks like, and I am afraid mine doesn’t look quite like the Dorothy in this book. And Toto too, is not as cute as he could have been…

TheWonderfulWizardofOZBut wait,Β  the parts about the wicked witch, and the flying monkeys, the poppy field, and the shape-changing elusive Wizard of Oz? Good job there. And best of all, the story has been abridged for young readers really well. So you get to read the whole book in less than 70 pages!

What I like best about the books Campfire is bringing out is that they have quite a few Indian illustrators on their team (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is illustrated by an Indian)! I feel very patriotic about this. And the paper and ink are top-quality. There’s a brief biography of the author, and a dramatis personae at the start. And at the end of each book, there’s a pleasant surprise. In Dr Jekyll, the last pages have a brief bio of some real life mad scientists, and The Wizard of Oz ends with a couple of pages on witches, wizards, and alchemists. Already I wish I had all this when I was growing up!

And I really liked the printed label inside this book that says , ‘This book belongs to ___’. I know several kids who are crazily proud about stuff like this, good touch there. And look at this page where they share credit –Β  ‘Sitting around the Campfire, telling the story, were:…(names of illustrators, editors, wordsmiths, pencillers, and others)’, it’s details like these that make you appreciate the team work that is put into a book like this.

You can tell me what you think about the book, and you could enter this contest to win copies of these two books! Yes, you could do that! Simple question…

Which book (from any genre – children’s fiction, history, thrillers, etc) do you think would make a great graphic novel? Or,

Which is your favourite graphic novel?

There! Write in your comment, and I will announce winners on June 12! I have 2 copies each of the books to give away! So spread the word!

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Ladytink_534 June 8, 2010 at 6:27 am

I’m fairly fond of the Fables graphic novels.

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Ahalya June 9, 2010 at 2:38 pm

the one created by Bill Willingham? I have been looking for it in every bookstore I go to!

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Ramachandran June 8, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Thriller is the best for Graphic Novel
Favourite Graphic Novel: Sin City

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Ahalya June 9, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Yes, I agree. Somehow I don’t think romance as a genre is really right for a graphic novel.

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Puja June 8, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Of course graphic novels are not new! The rage may have spread in recent times but I remember reading quite a few of them as a teenager. Being a typical adolescent with a crush on eternal love stories and the like where the hero and heroine, in the end and after a plethora of misunderstandings, always had a carriage waiting to take them to the land of happily ever after, I remember devouring romance novels (graphic ones!) one after the other. Owing to the sensibilities of the time, one needn’t go far in realising that the only graphic indulgence they provided was a face to the beautiful heroine and the handsome hero;) And who’s complaining! Those were not the days you got to watch every Johnny Depp movie that released so imagining yourself in love was limited to the handsome hero in the graphic novel!

However, I did grow up, enough i might add to enjoy a graphic version of Dr. Faustus! Coming to the question of what I would have loved to see as graphic novels and may even enjoy now are the Narnia Series. Can you just imagine actually seeing the door in the cupboard open to a whole new world ? When I read the series as a child, I didn’t see, except in the mind, of course. And in a way, I think I missed that, the visuals of every thing that the children go through in the books.The movies based on Chronicles of Narnia are a good option but they are slow in the making. Quite understandable. But who’s got the patience!

So, though I realise nothing can ever come above books, for some stories, the graphic novel provides the icing on the cake:)

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Ahalya June 9, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Now where did you get your hands on these graphic romance novels? I don’t think I have seen them in my friendly neighbourhood library! A graphic version of Dr. Faustus sounds interesting. I once read a story about the play. When it had just been written, a group of actors were performing it on stage. And when the trapdoor opened to allow the devil to appear, the actor playing Faust had a heart attack and died. Goosebumps.

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Sonia June 8, 2010 at 11:40 pm

The earliest graphic novels I remember were Women’s Weekly romances that we dug out of my friend’s grandmother’s box when we were in the 9th or 10th (around 1984). So that would mean they were from at least 40 years before – around the 1940s! And man! Were they beautiful! Lovely stories with beautiful hand-done sketches of the heroes and heroines. In the past few years I have seen some Agatha Christie’s mysteries turned into graphic novels and some adventures of good old Biggles. Not bad, though I would think that they can not replace or recreate the joy of reading the original! The Wizard of Oz definitely sounds like a good choice!
As for which book would make a good graphic novel, I would vote any day for my all time favourite “The Little Prince”! Some of the graphics have already been done by the author! But I think that none of it’s appeal will be lost even as a graphic novel. In fact this classic can become accessible to the kind of reader who loves pictures more than words! Well, not me – but I guess many would benefit. As it has already been translated into the maximum number of languages, I guess this too should not be a difficult task!

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Ahalya June 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I would love to get my hands on one of those Weekly romances πŸ™‚
I don’t think I will ever forget the illustrations in the Little Prince. Especially the cover πŸ™‚ Yes, it seems like a good idea.

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Vishal Devgon June 9, 2010 at 9:28 am

Sir Terry Pratchett is my choice for graphic novels. The imagination, flow, rides he takes us through, the enchanted world, the creative genius that he is can be best complemented by equally vivid illustrations and make the best graphic novels.

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Sonia June 9, 2010 at 11:02 am

I agree with you Vishal! Terry Prachett as a graphic series would be great too. All the characters are worth depicting pictorially. This would probably be a good way of introducing good old Prachett to kids.

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Elephant June 9, 2010 at 2:23 pm

The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic fromTerry Pratchett’s Discworld have already been made into a graphic novel! It’s good stuff, though I felt the art didn’t do complete justice to Pratchett’s imagination, with panels too small to appreciate the scale of the imagery.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud is my pick for what I feel would look good in a graphic novel. Also the Broken Sky series published by Scholastic, though there’d be too many episodes. πŸ™

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Ahalya June 9, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Do my eyes deceive me!!!! A Terry Pratchett fan! here!! welcome welcome! I am glad to see you! I haven’t read the graphic novel (but the book covers itself are so fantastic!!!). The small panel is a bad idea, I completely agree. The Bartimaeus trilogy…. yes I think so too. But, I lost interest after the second installment. I don’t know why. I have only heard about The Broken Sky series… must look it up. Thanks.

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sonia June 11, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Wow! I haven’t seen the Prachett graphic novels yet. Will have to lay my hands on them. I can imagine, it would be tough to get all of his imagery down on paper.

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Ahalya June 9, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Sonia, I didn’t know you were a Pratchett fan too! I am so happy!

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sonia June 11, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Absolutely a Prachett fan. The only problem is once you pick up one you are so much in that world that it is touch to shift to any other! Received the Julie & Julia! Thanks a ton!

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Ahalya June 9, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Vishal, I must completely agree of course πŸ™‚

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Shravani Karve June 9, 2010 at 10:48 am

I think Roald Dahl’s books as well as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series would make good graphic novels. There is so much in them for one’s imagination as well as wonderful support by a good storyline. It would be a perfect title to read and re-read. Each time you could savour a different aspect of the book..
Also, The Narnia series would also be wonderful for children in this format.

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Ahalya June 9, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Yes, yes! What a fertile imagination he has!

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Sujatha June 9, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Fantasy stories make the best graphic novels…. my favourite graphic novel is my own copy of Sindabad. Its huge…. around two feet and has got excellent graphics…… But even better than this is Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of stories. The illustrations are simply awsome!!! and makes the book a complete delight. Its a pity Salman does not write so much for young readers.

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Ahalya June 13, 2010 at 8:38 am

Wow! I have got to see this book! It must be the envy of everyone who comes visiting your home and sees this book! Sounds perfect for ‘summer vacation reading’! Haroun and the Sea of Stories, is a great choice too!

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Naren June 10, 2010 at 11:07 pm

I love the graphic war stories the best… the grit, the blood, the pain, the tension, the spectacular explosions, the tight dogfights between the fighter jets. and the finally the homecoming of the victorious battalion… all this in gray scale… just awsome….
novel after novel, only one statement is apt…. “no victors admist the dead and the dying…. only survivors…”

the Battler Britton and the Commando series still give me the goose bumps…

umm… surprised that no one mentioned the war stories…. hope these can be classified as graphic “novels” as well….

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Ahalya June 13, 2010 at 8:37 am

Oh yes, now that you mention it, it’s a wonderful genre to explore, and like you said ‘all this is grayscale’…. that’s very interesting.

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Andy Dodd June 11, 2010 at 7:00 am

It’s great to see this kind of discussion taking place about the graphic novel medium.

I’m not posting this comment to try and win a copy of the books as I work for Campfire. However, I’d like to agree with a few other people who’ve posted comments here – the Chronicles of Narnia series and many of Roald Dahl’s stories would adapt brilliantly into the graphic novel format.

I can just imagine the excitement of a child as they explore the world of Narnia and experience the wonders of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Although there have been decent film adaptations of both these properties, I can’t help feeling that a graphic novel could achieve so much more, and inspire kids all round the world to pick up books for the enjoyment of reading rather than because their parents are standing over them demanding that they do it.

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Ahalya June 13, 2010 at 8:45 am

Hey, thanks for dropping by! I think it’s safe to say that it isn’t just the young reader who would benefit hugely by reading graphic novels. Most of us here would gladly slip between the covers of a graphic novel to re-read books we already have loved! Isn’t that amazing! πŸ™‚

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Kripa June 11, 2010 at 10:19 am

So far I’ve read only the Sandman and I liked it a lot. Especially Death. She’s bloody hot.

As for books that would make for a nice graphic novel…. I think Famous five and Hardy Boys. The genre would give the characters a hard, rough edge. Imagine how Frank and Joe would look. πŸ˜€

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Ahalya June 13, 2010 at 8:39 am

Good Lord! Frank AND Joe??!!! In full colour!!?? Too much! πŸ™‚ Oh ya, I know what you mean πŸ˜‰

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Andy Dodd June 14, 2010 at 11:19 am
Pratibha Jain June 11, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Wow Ahalya…you have got me totally intrigued! Enjoyed reading your post!

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Ahalya June 13, 2010 at 8:40 am

Hey Pratibha, glad to see you here πŸ™‚

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Soumya Rao June 12, 2010 at 10:50 am

Yes, I finally recall the one graphic novel I’d read a long time back. One of Feluda’s adventures, the name of which I remember not. Kept me glued to my seat/bed/whatever I was virajmaan on. I remember the edgy sketches, the night scenes especially gave it all a sense of urgency.

I do agree with Kripa that the children’s mystery novels will make for great graphic novels. My personal choice would be The Three Investigators. Just looking at the picture on the front cover of each of the books was so exciting when I was little, I couldn’t wait to get home and get stuck into them. Imagine what would have happened if I could get a graphic version. I’d spontaneously combust, I suspect.

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Ahalya June 13, 2010 at 8:43 am

Soumya, I forgot about Feluda, but yes, that is a great series of stories. I must admit that whenever I read a Three Investigators mystery, Fatty wasn’t really fat. I believed that he was just very good looking in a healthy way. And Bob, and Paul (was it?), which one was the library geek? I always thought we would end up together πŸ™‚ And the entrance to the club! I had all that imagined, down to the painting (Red Rover something??). Would love to see it all! But, I am really scared they won’t draw these guys well, and then my heart will break :/

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Ahalya June 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Naren! Sujatha! Winners!!! Am mailing you now πŸ™‚

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Naren June 15, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Hurray… thanks a ton… whoever said ‘boys prefer books with pictures’…

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Aditya July 8, 2010 at 1:49 am

hey… you have been busy, have plenty to catch up on, this is great. Not much choice in graphic novels here, and you can finish em off in the bookshop itself. I liked Watchmen, the story on that one was great, and the visuals really powerful.
also, http://www.nawlz.com/

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