Could graphic novels potentially be the next condensed text solution for students who loathe reading required texts? While I wouldn’t recommend relying solely on a graphic novel in lieu of the original work, each graphic novel on this list is worth reading; and some even include the original works in their entirety, making them twice as awesome.
Crime and Punishment – This classic Russian tale of murder, guilt and redemption is adapted to the modern world in this graphic novel illustrated by Alain Korkos. The prose of the original version was cut significantly in this adaptation, making it difficult for those unfamiliar with the unabridged version to understand. Stark black and white illustrations capture the inner struggle between Raskolnikov’s pious guilt and his murderous elitism.
Frankenstein – One of the most classic horror stories of all time, Frankenstein confronts issues of acceptance, tolerance, understanding and the need for love – as shed in the murky light of obsessive scientific tinkering. Dead body parts, rotting corpses and many a moonlit scene make this story a perfect adaptation for the graphic novel.
Dracula – The story that begat the vampire genre has been reimagined since its first telling, serving as inspiration for many books and movies, permeating society so effectively that even a Sesame Street character reflects its influence. Unlike the book, which is written in epistolary form from the viewpoint of a variety of characters, this graphic novel adaptation follows the plot through dialogue between characters, making it much more action-packed than its progenitor. With red eyes and bulging biceps, Count Dracula is a formidable and frightening antagonist. Those who long for a refreshing dose of the bloodthirsty vampire will enjoy this adaptation.
Fahrenheit 451 – It’s a story that makes each booklover tremble: a dystopian society where books are burned as vehicles of dissention. Perhaps it is ironic to experience this story as a graphic novel, seeing that one of the forecasts Bradbury made in Fahrenheit 451 is that stories would become abridged to accommodate new forms of media. However, the artistic interpretation of this futuristic story is beautifully rendered through muted colors and a golden-yellow tint. It is almost as though something is always burning … somewhere.
The Picture of Dorian Gray – At the center of this tale is the painting of the beautiful and shallow Dorian Gray. By selling his soul, Dorian deflects the human aging process to the painting and embraces a hedonistic life that rapidly tumbles into debauchery and finally crashes into madness. The graphic novel adaptation is illustrated in a whimsical and twisted manner, giving an air of playfulness to an otherwise gloomy Faustian tale.
Macbeth – Something wicked awesome this way comes! Shakespeare’s Macbeth boasts quite a few graphic novel adaptations, one even created by the Spark Notes editors. However, I’ve opted to put the original text version on this list, mostly for the sake of pomposity. Oh yeah, and because the illustrations are awesome. Creepy maniacal witches, bloody battle scenes and red-handed murder make this play-to-page adaptation pretty epic.
I am Legend – Revisit the story that gave vampire lore a modern tone and inspired the emergence of zombies in pop culture. As if the plot isn’t heart-stopping enough, the graphic novel portrays the story through black and white frames that evoke the feeling of static and shadow through a range of gray tones.
The Jungle – Historically, The Jungle is a perfect example of how books once affected popular opinion. Though Upton Sinclair wrote the book to reveal the struggles of immigrant life in America, readers were most appalled at the conditions of Chicago’s meatpacking industry as described in the novel. Sinclair learned the insides of the stockyards in person, as he worked undercover for weeks to research the story. The Pure Food and Drug Act was passed in response to the criticism that resulted from the book.
King Lear – This adaptation makes the list, not for the story, but for its artwork. King Lear, though a prized role for many an actor, is rather tedious in its back-and-forth plotting as it follows the king across his daughters’ kingdoms. The art of this graphic novel drapes an odd and whimsical portraiture over the kingdoms and the characters, inspiring an adventure of the imagination that coincides with the underhanded and mocking attitude of Lear’s two eldest daughters.
Jane Eyre – Perhaps the most traditional of all the stories on this list, Jane Eyre is radical in its own right as a proponent of proto-feminism and an exploration of sexuality (all under the radar, of course). Though it contains no paranormal elements, the story is drenched in hauntings. Jane, an orphan, is abused and alienated before emerging into some semblance of normal adulthood. Even then, she’s a victim to the expectations of marriage and her limitations as a penniless woman. Ironically, the happy ending arrives when the wife of her beloved escapes from the attic and dies. Oops, should I have mentioned there was a spoiler? Even after, like, 165 years?
(Angelita Williams is a freelance writer and education enthusiast who frequently contributes to www.onlinecollegecourses.com. She strives to instruct her readers and enrich their lives and welcomes you to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments.)