The best graphic novel adaptations

Who am I?

I’m a graphic novelist and designer based in beautiful Minneapolis. I tend to be varied in my artistic style and medium, moving between comics, illustration, design, and occasionally animation. Having created a graphic novel adaptation of The Great Gatsby, I feel very passionate about the subject of graphic novel adaptations. One of the most important things is that there should be a compelling reason for it to be a graphic novel in the first place; the graphic novel should do something that a prose book cannot. For my adaptation, that was the visual depiction of metaphors, the ethereal character designs, and the lush jewel-colored watercolor. The books I recommended add to the original story in unique and compelling ways. 


I wrote...

The Great Gatsby: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

By F. Scott Fitzgerald, K. Woodman-Maynard (illustrator),

Book cover of The Great Gatsby: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

What is my book about?

My book is a graphic novel adaptation of The Great Gatsby, the classic Jazz Age story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. My version is a faithful, yet modern adaptation meant to appeal to fans of classic as well as those new to the story. I painted it in lush watercolors and tried to emphasize the extravagance, beauty, and mystery of Fitzgerald's world.  

I had particular fun with Fitzgerald’s descriptive language and beautiful metaphors which I took to their literal extremes. For instance, when Fitzgerald described a party guest as resembling an orchid, I drew her as a blossoming orchid. Party guests flit around on wings with trays of champagne floating through the air.

The Books I Picked & Why

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Neil Gaiman's Snow, Glass, Apples

By Neil Gaiman, Colleen Doran (illustrator),

Book cover of Neil Gaiman's Snow, Glass, Apples

Why this book?

Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s retelling of Snow White, Colleen Doran’s gorgeous and complex art, with heavy uses of black and ornamentation, is the perfect pairing for this dark story. I found Doran’s page compositions particularly inspiring as she largely avoids traditional panel borders while still keeping the story easy to read. This graphic novel inspired me to be more fluid and abstract in my own page spreads in The Great Gatsby. 


Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel

By Mariah Marsden, Brenna Thummler (illustrator),

Book cover of Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel

Why this book?

I’m always a fan of graphic novels that capture the mood of the book, rather than trying to make everything perfectly accurate to the original. Mariah Marsden’s adaptation of Anne of Green Gables perfectly captures the magic and beauty of one of my favorite childhood books.

I mentioned how much I enjoyed this adaptation to a friend who’s also a fan of L.M. Montgomery. However, my friend hated this adaptation (especially how Anne’s nose is drawn!) which I actually found very liberating as I considered adapting The Great Gatsby. I’d been concerned about how people who loved Gatsby would view my adaptation, but this made me realize that some people would love my book and some people wouldn’t—and that was okay!


City of Glass: The Graphic Novel

By David Mazzucchelli (contributor), Paul Auster, Paul Karasik

Book cover of City of Glass: The Graphic Novel

Why this book?

City of Glass: The Graphic Novel is the adaptation of a Paul Auster novella about a man who receives a call meant for a private investigator and is pulled into an existential mystery. I’ve long been a fan of film noir and the mystery genre, and I like how this adaptation handles these themes in more unusual and modern ways, as well as Paul Karasik’s thoughtful page layouts. The Great Gatsby also has many noir themes which I tried to hint at in places, although I resisted going full-out noir, since that wouldn’t have been appropriate for the book. 


The Iliad

By Gareth Hinds,

Book cover of The Iliad

Why this book?

Gareth Hinds is a prolific adapter from Beowolf to Poe to Shakespeare. He doesn’t shy away from a momentous task like adapting The Odyssey or The Iliad which I find quite inspiring. At times, I was overwhelmed at the idea of drawing the elaborate party scenes in The Great Gatsby, but then I reminded myself that it was nothing compared to the epic battle scenes that Hinds had to draw. What I enjoyed most about Hinds' adaptation was how it elucidated the often bizarre relationships between the gods and mortals and helped me understand The Iliad in a new way. 


Yvain: The Knight of the Lion

By M.T. Anderson, Andrea Offermann (illustrator),

Book cover of Yvain: The Knight of the Lion

Why this book?

Ideally, the style of art in a graphic novel should reflect the story being told. Yvain does a beautiful job of capturing this Arthurian myth set in the 12th century with drawings that feel appropriately medieval while the sketchy and gestural line art keep it from feeling heavy. I’m a bit obsessed with the idea of the style matching the story—I developed a whole new style and learned watercolor for The Great Gatsby—which is probably why I appreciate it so much in Yvain.


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