Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Awake. Seek Truth. Stumble. Begin Again.

From "Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment"

I love twitter. Because of twitter, I follow many random people I would have never thought of listening to otherwise, and I listen to what they have to say about 90% of the time. Also due to twitter, I have many links to click on so that I can procrastinate further on the many assignments and projects that are eating my life.

Today I clicked on a link that brought me to Deepak Chopra's Buddha. I looked at the gorgeous illustrations and was fascinated. There are comics about everything. And why not? I spent a whole thesis dedicated to why the sequential art genre is amazingly effective at displaying narrative. It is of absolutely no surprise to me that many books are being adapted into the graphic novel format. It is a completely different, yet valid way of portraying a story.

One person I follow on twitter, who is in fact one of my favourite people to follow, is Paulo Coelho, one of my most beloved authors. I found out through twitter that The Alchemist, a book I consider to be one of the best out there, is also out as a graphic novel. I'm ordering a copy as soon as I finish this post. When I heard of the news, I was so damn excited and thrilled that this existed. I cannot wait to see how this will work! Will I feel the magic I felt when I read the book? How will my gaze and the sequence of images change my emotional reaction to the events of the story? Will the still images and speech bubbles of the storyboard evoke the same questions and thoughts that the sentences did? 


I have to admit, like with any other person who is a fan of something that is very close to them, I am worried about beloved books translating to comics. It's like the book-to-movie transition - can it really work? What do they have to cut out? What will have to be added? How will the appearance of characters and settings match with my imagination?

However, I need to say that this isn't a book-to-movie transition at all. There are fundamental differences that make book-to-comics way more appealing to me than book-to-movie.

First of all, there is the lack of Hollywood. Oh my God, Hollywood! How you have destroyed many, many good narratives and characters! Look at that stupid Red Riding Hood movie that is coming out, for example. Pathetic. It is usually due to the Hollywoodisation of books that we are either bored to tears (those movies are usually better) or angry due to the complete distortion of canon (those movies are usually so much worse).

Sometimes, Hollywood can get it right. This is when the changes are subtle but necessary, the acting and screenwriting is superb, and most importantly, what I like to call the soul of the movie is unchanged. We are involved with the same characters we loved in text and the tone is perfect, matching that of the author and narrator. I like to think that The Color Purple and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest are good examples of this. However, most of the time these adaptations are just dreadful. Lots of money is spent on making a lot more money out of people like us.

Graphic novels, comics, whatever you want to call them do not have the pressure of Hollywood. From my own experience, they come in so many varieties that there is not need to glamourise the story at all. People who read comics tend to love books too, so while certain conventions do apply, the content of graphics do not need to differ greatly from that of a novel. Us book lovers are generally expecting the same things.

Obviously, the fact that there are images accompanying text (and some comics have no text at all) makes the type of narration dependent on different things. Therefore, the story will not be told the same way. This is a given. However, I feel that the medium can relate the story's "soul" more effectively because novels and comics are both forms of book arts. They involve the reader in a way that is similar to each other. Film and comics have something in common too, in terms of the movement of images - aren't strips reminiscent of film stills? I think so, at least. However, like with books, the reader controls the speed and movement of comics, whereas films are moved for you. It's a huge divergence.

Having said all of this, I need to note (so that I may remain honest with you all) that I view all three media with equal reverence. Actually, in order to be really honest, I need to use the word love. I love novels, comics, and film with all of my heart. There is something about narrative that means so much to me and all three of these art forms are effective in their own way. I like to view them as separate from one another and yet I cannot help but see them as extremely intertwined. Like life, it is complicated.

I wonder if I will be able to separate the novel from the graphic when I finally receive The Alchemist in the mail. Maybe the only way for me to enjoy the comic is to see it as its own thing, and let my eyes be led across the page. It is a narrative I know, but now it's time for me to see it differently.

At least the "different" way for me to re-experience The Alchemist isn't through some shitty Hollywood adaptation. Thank the LORD.

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