Classics tell a graphic taleAug 19th, 2009 | By Editors | Category: New Launches
Source: Times of India
The cover says, The Time Machine alright but it is hardly the version H.G. Wells intended. Much of the science has been expunged from the science fiction. Most of the social commentary too is gone. The Time Traveller’s opening lines on time have been pared to what a speech bubble can accommodate. You will miss out a lot but the 68-page ‘graphic novel’ still tells a tale that is recognizably H.G. Wells’ 1895 sci-fi classic.
Here’s another way of getting acquainted with classics: snazzy illustrations on glossy paper and an eruption of speech bubbles. With publishers finally warming to the form, a slew of graphic-novelled classics have entered bookstores.
Several series, including those illustrated by Indians, are available. Illustrated Classics series of 45 titles from Supernova and Saddleback, includes graphic-novel versions of A Tale of Two Cities, The War of the Worlds and 12 plays of Shakespeare. Puffin has published graphic novel versions of Satyajit Ray’s Feluda series in English. “They’re like primers for children and help kindle interest in literature,” says Supernova’s Udayan Singh.
“Graphic novels enhance visual literacy in a way text-only books cannot and encourage young people to think creatively themselves,” observes Andrew Dodd of Campfire Publishing. They’ve put out 19 titles including Treasure Island and Moby Dick, since their first in December, 2008. Om Books International joined in with 12 – Alice in Wonderland and Treasure Island included – in July 2009.
Prices are reasonable. Once rendered in ‘graphic’ form, they compete with other comics rather than originals. Each title from Supernova is priced at Rs. 95; a Campfire one at Rs. 150. A Euro Books Agatha Christie is Rs. 199. “Big chains have room to stock and display. Smaller stores stick to staples like Asterix. These are still not mass market books,” he adds. Ajay Mago and Mou Sen Chatterjee of Om Bookstore and Oxford Bookstore concur. “Graphic novels in bookstores is not even 1%,” says Mago.
Target readers are tweens and teens. But popular children’s fiction of the Hardy Boys-Nancy Drew variety too is available as comics. These and titles in Biggles and Agatha Christie’s novels, are published by Euro Books.
Labelling is tricky.
While for Singh the term ‘graphic novel’ dignifies an artform that was confiscated in schools even a few years ago, Orijit Sen, arguably India’s first graphic novelist, maintains it’s not the same as comics. The term helps “get past the negatives associated with comics,” he says. His River of Stories (1994), published with NGO funds, was certainly no Tinkle. While involving the same skills, ‘graphic novel’ was a label reserved for more serious and often lengthy, illustrated work. The Pulitzer-winning Maus by Art Spiegelman, for instance, is a graphic novel, a tragic one to boot. The re-branding has big publishers interested. Penguin published Sarnath Banerjee’s Corridor in 2004 and more recently, Parismita Singh’s The Hotel at The End of the World.
Market performance has varied. Encouraged by sales, Eurobooks prints an average of 3,000-5,000 sets every year since they started three years ago. Supernova has sold about 52,000 copies of all its 45 titles over the last two and a half years. With better positioning by bookstores and competitive pricing, those numbers should soar in coming months.