Sunday, September 29, 2013

A New Frontier for Comics: Paradise Lost as a Graphic Novel

So if you didn't know already, I'm a bit of a comic book nerd. I'm also into the new style of adapting classic stories into graphic novels. I think it's a great idea and can add so much more depth. I know some people protest it and say it detracts from the book, but I think it can add to the story, creating a visual effect along with the influence of words. On that note, I think adapting Paradise Lost into a graphic novel would actually be a really good idea. I know they're doing a movie of Paradise Lost but I don't think that would work very well. As far as an alternate medium goes, I think the graphic novel medium and not a live action film medium is the best choice for Paradise Lost. Here's why:

The first reason is that a graphic novel is more suited towards long stories. There can be multiple volumes and so one can take their time with the story and get a lot more detail in while still keeping the reader interested. This way, the whole story can be told and not have to be condensed to under three hours. Paradise Lost is a long epic poem with eleven books. It would be difficult to fit all that into a movie that would keep the audience engaged, but a a series of graphic novels would work really well for the length.

My next reason is that graphic novels work better with elements of a fantastic nature. Paradise Lost has a lot of elements and themes that could be rather bizarre if they were done in a live action movie. The suspension of disbelief would be easier in a graphic novel since we're dealing with art work, or a stylized form of a story. For example, graphic novels would make it easier to see the visual representation of Sin and Death.  I feel that whole scene would be just bizarre in movie format, but I could see it in a graphic novel. They can get away with more strange visuals than movies can.

Another reason is that the possibilities for the artwork would be incredible. I've seen a lot of the artwork that people have done for Paradise Lost, and some of it is rather breathtaking. Imagine if someone could create such beautiful artwork, such as this:

or this: 

 and put it into story form. There are also a lot of scenes that have massive amounts of angels and devils, which could become a beautiful picture. Graphic novels not only deal with the story itself but add a whole new level of complexity with the visual aspect. For a book as complex and intriguing as Paradise Lost, adding a visual aspect would give some phenomenal new opportunities to analyze why an artist interpreted that scene in that particular way.

Finally, there's just the sheer amount of complexity and layers of meaning to Paradise Lost that I think a graphic novel would portray much better than a movie. A movie version would have to be simplified a bit to keep the audience interested. But in doing that, I fear the whole and true meaning of the text would be lost. There's just so much going on in this poem that I feel a movie really couldn't do it justice. But a graphic novel could delve into that complexity and not have to worry too much about simplifying. It's perfect.

Now there is news that there will be a graphic novel adaptation of the movie adaptation of Paradise Lost. I'm not really excited about that idea because if the movie doesn't capture the theme and greatness of Paradise Lost, than neither will the graphic novel. Also, adaptations of adaptions are rarely very good. I think it would be better to do an adaption directly from the text. What do you guys think? Would a graphic novel form of Paradise Lost work, or would it just detract from the complexities and style of the poem?


  1. I think you would have to disassociate the poem from the graphic novel to some degree to have it work. And while there would still, obviously, be text, it would have to be adapted to a more modern form, and the images would have to do most of the storytelling. Also, that'd be an awful long graphic novel. I mean, V for Vendetta was a longer graphic novel, but it was telling a story a lot shorter than Paradise Lost. Length may pose a problem unless it was made to be more like a comic book and come out in multiple issues. Which, I suppose some graphic novels do. I just haven't looked that deeply into it, I suppose.

  2. I'm going to invoke Plato for a moment to note that in making Paradise Lost into a novel, we experience another degree of mimetic separation (i.e. a work that was originally created in oral form is constrained to a visual format) and thus lose some of the original meaning and feeling. It seems like graphic novels would allow for some really beautiful artwork, but would it be any different than if that artwork were published independently with PL as its inspiration?