When Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld came out in 2009, it probably wasn’t that common to have illustrations included in a novel that was obviously for teenagers. The publisher was afraid that the graphics would make the book too “immature” and “childish”. Perhaps they were forgetting The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005), and An Abundance of Katherines (2006)? Who knows. But Leviathan was definitely not the first of its hybrid kind.
Still I have to say it was Leviathan that introduced me to the graphic novel format—and I love it and I want to see more of it.
I used to think that with the added illustration, as a reader I would have less work to do. I don’t have to picture anything in my head since the image is already in front of me. In theory, that is. In actuality the reader has to do more work when there’s an illustration next to the text. Now it is up to the reader to check and double-check what the image conveys and how it is different or similar from the passage it is based on. It is, in short, a lot of work, and really, a lot of fun.
And when the style and aesthetics of the artist match in every way the essence and the central thought of the narrative, there is magic, glorious magic. As a literary genre steampunk heavily relies on visual descriptions of intricate clockwork and mechanical monsters. There is also a ‘nostalgic’ vibe to it. Keith Thompson managed to capture both.
So, thinking along this line, here are three collaborations to transform novels into graphic novels I would love to see but most likely never will. Some of them, like Westerfeld and Thompson, have ultra high compatibility, kind of like cinnamon and brown sugar. Others are more probably more like yoghurt and chips—you have to pretend a little for it to work, but once you’ve tried it you know they’re simply meant to be.
Amy Sol x The Little Women (1868) by Louisa May Alcott
This duo is probably what I mean by cinnamon and brown sugar. There is kindness in Amy Sol’s artwork. It’s more than the soft, comforting colours of wood and the gentle curves that tug at your heartstrings. She doesn’t pull you into another world. Instead she sits quietly, waiting for you to start the conversation. Gentle love. That is what I want to see in the art of The Little Women. Of course, because it’s Amy Sol, I expect to see some kind of Asian flavour to it.