When most people think of literary classics, they think of slogging through The Scarlet Letter in high school English class. And when most people think of graphic novels or comic books, they think of super-powered men wearing leggings as pants. But classic literature is much more than just a collection of stuffy old stories about boring people in uncomfortable clothing (except maybe The Scarlet Letter, that one's pretty hard to defend). And graphic novels are much more than silly drawings of spacemen beating up other spacemen (although there's nothing wrong with the occasional spaceman fight). Here are a few brilliant graphic novel adaptations of classic books.
After all, there's a reason that these books became classics in the first place. Something about the stories they tell resonates on a universal level, whether that story is told through words on a page, actors on a screen, or drawings in a comic book. These graphic adaptations breathe new life into some of the world's greatest works of literature. So, whether you're a classics junkie trying to read every last adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, or a comics fan who's looking for something a little different from the usual lasers and capes, here are some beautiful, hilarious, and all-around great graphic novels to check out:
1'A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel' by Madeleine L'Engle, adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson
Anyone who was every a nerdy middle schooler probably remembers the moment when they first discovered A Wrinkle in Time. A grand space adventure starring an awkward girl who loves math? Sign me the hell up. Hope Larson brings this classic adventure to life with her vivid, imaginative illustrations. It's a charming adaption for longtime fans of the book and new readers alike.
2'The Metamorphosis' by Franz Kafka, adapted and illustrated by Peter Kuper
You remember that one time when Gregor Samsa awoke to discover he'd been turned into a gigantic insect? Tell me you don't want to see that story re-imagined as a darkly comic graphic novel. Peter Kuper mixes his energetic cartooning style with German expressionism to bring this deeply disturbing, funny, Kafka story to horrifying life.
3'Pride & Prejudice' by Jane Austen, adapted by Nancy Butler, illustrated by Hugo Petrus
Yes, there is a Marvel Comics adaptation of Pride and Prejudice—and it's pretty darn faithful to the source material. Don't let the cover fool you: this isn't a modern spin on the story, this is straight up Pride and Prejudice with almost all the original dialogue intact, and lush illustrations by Hugo Petrus.
4"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, adapted and illustrated by Miles Hyman
Shirley Jackson's The Lottery is one of the most famous (and most disturbing) short stories of all time. Jackson's grandson Miles Hyman has adapted this eerie little story into a stunning graphic novel, which is every bit as creepy and expertly crafted as the original.
5'Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation' by Ray Bradbury, adapted and illustrated by Tim Hamilton
This adaptation is nothing short of haunting. I mean, sure, it's disturbing enough to read about burning literature in the original Fahrenheit 451, but Tim Hamilton's added illustrations are exquisitely beautiful. Seeing those twisting flames painted in such detail adds a dimension of horror to this masterpiece on the dire importance of reading.
6'The Book of Genesis' by R. Crumb
There is only one R. Crumb. If you're not familiar with his work, you owe it to yourself to check out his award-winning, word-for-word adaptation of the Book of Genesis (the Bible counts as a classic, right?). Crumb brings to life the Garden of Eden, Noah's Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the rest in his exhaustively detailed, wildly inventive visual style.
7'The Tale of Genji' by Murasaki Shikibu, illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano
The Tale of Genji is often called the world's first novel—it was written around 1000 CE, and mostly concerns an incredibly handsome prince named Genji sleeping with a lot of different women and having lots of spiritual adventures. Yoshitaka Amano has illustrated this classic tale with a series of stunning, surreal watercolors, capturing the otherworldly romance of Genji and his exploits all those centuries ago.
8'The Complete Don Quixote' by Miguel de Cervantes, adapted and illustrated by Rob Davis
Rob Davis illustrates the original buddy comedy with The Complete Don Quixote. The screwball tale of Don Quixote's quest for adventure is told with whimsical, vibrant artwork. We follow our favorite knight errant as he and his faithful sidekick Sancho rescue fair maidens, fight dreadful foes, and, of course, attack windmills.
9'Kindred' by Octavia E. Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings
Kindred is absolutely essential feminist sci-fi reading. A young woman named Dana is thrust back in time into the pre-Civil War South, where she must confront her complex family history. Butler's exploration of violence and humanity has been adapted into this stunning, unflinching graphic novel.
10'Masterpiece Comics' by R. Sikoryak
Who says that adaptions always have to be serious? Masterpiece Comics is a delightfully weird, hilarious mash-up of famous comics and famous works of literature: Crime and Punishment by way of Batman, Faust as Garfield, Wuthering Heights as an issue of Tales from the Crypt, and many more.