Classic books are considered classics for a reason. Some are beautifully written, wonderful stories that withstand the test of time. Some convey messages so important that they continue to be relevant. Some break the mold and bring us something different. But classics aren’t always easy to read, whether they are too long, too descriptive, or the language is too old. Graphic adaptations change all this up. They cut out a lot of the things that make classics difficult, and boil them down to the important stuff, the story. They bring classics to life and make them more accessible and fun.
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, adapted by Ryan North & Albert Monteys – Billy Pilgrim is unstuck in time. He time travels around within his own life. One day he is a young soldier in World War II, the next a successful optometrist, living with his wife. It’s when he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore that he learns that all time exists at once. The weirdness of Vonnegut’s anti-war book is captured perfectly with Albert Monteys’ art, which resembles the pulp comic art of the 50s and 60s. With the visuals changing from page to page as he jumps around in time, it puts us in the same position as Billy, not knowing where he will be next, and each change jarring and unsettling.
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, adapted by Renee Nault – Offred is a handmaid living in the Republic of Gilead, a seemingly perfect society where women are reduced to performing certain roles. Handmaids exist for the sole purpose of bearing children for the rich commanders whose wives cannot have children of their own. Offred’s life is limited to spending time in her small room, going for walks to the market, and performing the ritual for conception once a month. But things are anything but perfect, and as Offred dreams of her past life and freedom, things begin to change. Renee Nault uses beautiful watercolors to bring Offred’s small world to life. With muted colors, except for the vivid red that Offred must wear, and the colors the other women wear based on their station, the restrictive world of these women is brought to the forefront and made clear.
Animal Farm, by George Orwell, adapted by Odyr – The animals of Manor Farm are fed up with living with the sole purpose of helping humans. They decide to take over the farm, and live life as they want to. The pigs nominate themselves as leaders, since they are the most intelligent of all the farm animals, and at first, things seem perfect. The animals adopt “Animalism,” and the motto “Four legs good, two legs bad.” Slowly, things change over time, and become less equal and ideal for all. Orwell’s satire of the Bolshevik Revolution and the birth of Communism is as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1945. Odyr’s hand painted adaptation is gorgeous, and makes the animals’ rebellion visceral, really illustrating the idea that even the best of intentions can go severely awry.
You can find a list with these three books and more fantastic adaptations by clicking here.