Recently I have heard some advice for people who want to read classic literature but have trouble truly focusing on the story. I was told that these people should try the graphic novel version.

It’s true that many classic books that we all know (and of which we have, at least, seen the movies) have been reimagined in a comic book format at least once. Being one of those readers who often finds it hard to focus and who also loves comic books, I thought this option could be a really beneficial alternative.

frankensteinFor one thing, the art adds an extra visual feature to the storytelling that could potentially make it easier to follow along during those particularly wordy passages when it’s easy to get lost in the poetic prose — not to mention that these books tend to have innumerable characters who can be difficult to tell apart on name alone. This graphic form literally gives a face to the name.

I really wanted to give this style of reading classics a shot, but I was constantly worried that these graphic novels would not live up to their namesakes. After all, they all looked quite a bit thinner than the original texts. I was afraid I would only find abridged stories. While there’s nothing wrong with reading an abridgment, I didn’t want to miss any of the author’s original intent. I decided the best way to test out this style was to first read the prose book and to then try the graphic novel. So, that’s exactly what I did.

Having been swept up in the recent holiday’s spirit, I decided to finally read that copy of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley that’s been sitting on my shelf for years. Knowing that this beloved story has been reimagined by graphic novel authors and artists time and again, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for some comparison.

After finishing and thoroughly enjoying Shelley’s original story, I picked up Frankenstein: The Graphic Novel from Classical Comics (Script Adaptation: Jason Cobley; Art Director: Jon Haward). This particular adaptation was published in 2008, and the art is very much stylized in that mid 2000s look — which includes superhero-esque onomatopoeia — reminding me a lot of the Pirates of the Caribbean comics from my Disney Adventure magazines I used to get just a few years prior to this publication.

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While the art is certainly well done, it does feel a bit dated at times and almost cheesy. In fact, there were a couple of times when I thought, had I been reading the story for the first time, I would have been completely taken out of the seriousness of the plot over silly things that were capturing my eye over the text. Thankfully, these moments are minimal.

Most, if not all, of the narrations have been shortened — most noticeably the letters between characters. Though you’re not missing any crucial information, I felt it did take away from the story as plot points started to feel rushed. The first few chapters of the story take place over the course of a couple years, but with the text only highlighting the major points of each chapter, it seems that possibly only weeks have gone by. Some of the dialogue may have also been slightly altered to better fit the panels, but I don’t think it was truly enough to complain — at least for me.

In the end, though the graphic novel was not my favorite version, I think it definitely holds some merit. If you’re looking to get the accurate story in a more visual and easy-to-follow way, then this is definitely a good option. If you want the “full” experience of Shelley’s work, your best bet is in the original text.

Either way, I do think the graphic novel is a viable option. It all depends on the experience you want and are expecting to get out of it. For comparison, the prose novel took me several days to read whereas the graphic novel took me a few hours.

I think for me, personally, I will be more inclined to search out graphic novels of some of my old favorites — ones with stories I know really well. I would love to find a Little Women graphic novel, and I definitely think there would be a lot of promise in something with The Chronicles of Narnia.

What do you think? Are there any books in which you’d be willing to skip the prose and go for the graphics? Let us know in the comments!

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