Hidden Gems: Adaptations and Retellings

Introduction

Graphic Novels are a great way to make literary text more accessible and approachable, especially for folks who might otherwise struggle with a dense text. There are also a number of comics out there that put a new spin on a classic tale. Below are our picks of graphic novel adaptations or retellings that you may have missed!

Brave New World: A Graphic Novel

Aldous Huxley

Fred Fordham

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This adaption of Brave New World takes a dystopian tale that feels as prescient now as it did when Huxley originally wrote it and adds Fred Fordham's cinematic visuals to give this story new life. With an art style that feels like classic sci-fi without feeling dated, this adaption will appeal to both graphic novel fans and lovers of the original novel.

Appeals to

Sci-fi/dystopia fans looking to see this classic novel in a new light.

Content Notes

Violence. Nudity and sexual situations.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Dune: The Graphic Novel

Frank Herbert

Raúl Allén

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With Dune Part Two just released in theaters, this is a perfect time to check out the official graphic novel adaption. This adaption was done by Frank Herbert's son with the help of prolific SFF author Kevin J. Anderson. This adaption brings Herbert's vast deserts of Arrakis and water water-covered surface of Caladan to life, with a desire to keep to close to the source material as possible. The third and final volume of this adaption will be released in July 2024.

Appeals to

Those looking to revisit Hebert's rich world, or those looking to experience it for the first time will find something worthwhile in this adaption.

Content Notes

Violence. Depictions of war and political assassinations.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

M is for Monster

Talia Dutton

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Consider if Frankenstein was a story featuring a more diverse cast and did more to discuss the problems of holding on to the past and embracing change. Also, there's a ghost in this one. M wakes up not knowing she's supposed to be Maura, sister to the doctor who just revived her and fellow scientist. Unfortunately, M is not Maura, even with Maura's ghost following her and her sister trying to encourage old memories and habits to return.

Appeals to

This comic would be an ideal pick for readers who like a tinge of horror in their comics while also exploring topics of identity and expression, like Blackwater or Hollow, even readers of Nimona though of course there are minimal fantasy elements in M is for Monster.

Content Notes

Mild body horror

Creator Identities:

Chinese-American |

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

Assumed Asian |

Lesbian, Queer |

Nonbinary |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Poems to See By

Julian Peters

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In an unusual take on the idea of adaptation, Julian Peters tackled the task of taking poetry and creating comics from them. Each poem gets a distinct visual style to help tell the story, often pulling from the context of each poem (things like time period and poet's culture) to really cement the visual language being used to convey the text. It's a comic absolutely worth flipping through, picking a different comic/poem to study each time.

Appeals to

Poems to See By would make an excellent teaching text for parents or school librarians, since again there's so much to pull from to help students understand both comics and poetry, but it's also a great way to help introduce a child or teen to some of the great poets, using the visual element as a way to help understand some of the more difficult poetic language.

Content Notes

Some violence and blood, depictions of war and death

Creator Identities:

Canadian, Italian |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Prince of Cats

Ron Wimberley

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Consider if Romeo & Juliet was retold from Tybalt's perspective, and also set in a hip-hop-inspired 80s style backdrop. That would be Prince of Cats, a comic awash in pinks, purples, and blues, combining the original lines of the play with more modern references but keeping to iambic pentameter. Of course, because it follows Tybalt the story ends a bit sooner than the classic play, but giving Tybalt his moment in the limelight really brings perspective and sympathy to his role, and maybe explains more fully just why he's called The Prince of Cats.

Appeals to

Having context from reading and enjoying Romeo & Juliet or one of its many adaptations can help and would certainly make this comic a good choice for those readers, but the comic is enjoyable without that. The art and the way the lines interweave Shakespearean English with much more recent forms of the language make it a great choice for anyone who enjoys that kind of play in language or an unusual take on comic art.

Content Notes

Some violence and blood.

Creator Identities:

Black |

Main Character Identities:

Assumed Black |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Sapiens: A Graphic History

Yuval Noah Harari

David VanderMeulen

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In this graphic novel adaption of New York Times Best Seller "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind", author and historian Yuval Noah Harari becomes a character in their books, guiding us through the rise of Homo Sapiens as the only human species left on earth by explaining the big questions the book grapples with to his niece, with the help of other researchers who also appear in the book and more symbolic characters like Dr. Fiction and a "cave people" couple that show some of our false ideas about how early human's live. The third installment of this series will be released in October 2024.

Appeals to

Those interested in history, anthropology, or just wondered how humans as a race went from hunting large game in nomadic tribes to where we are today.

Content Notes

Brief discussion of cannibalism. Discussion of killing of the old and disabled, killing small children, ritual killings.

Creator Identities:

Israeli |

Main Character Identities:

Assumed Asian, Assumed Black, Assumed East Asian |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Slaughterhouse-Five: The Graphic Novel

Kurt Vonnegut

Albert Monteys

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In this humble features writer's opinion, there is not a book more ripe for a graphic novel adaption than Slaughterhouse-Five. With a main character described as "unstuck in time," it is easy to get lost in this non-linear narrative. See the juxtaposition of the different scenes of Billy Pilgrim's life smashed together on the page is a real delight, even if many moments of Billy's life are anything but delightful. Readers will experience time as Billy does as they make their way through this graphic novel.

Appeals to

For all Vonnegut lovers, an adaptation that the creator himself would have been delighted to see.

Content Notes

War and violence. Course language. Sexual situations. Discussions of death.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Hidden Gems: history

Introduction

In this latest installment of Hidden Gems, the Features Team has pulled together a list of history comics. We hope this list will introduce some unknown historical figures and titles that you may have missed.

Bomb: The Race to Build -- And Steal -- The World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Steve Sheinkin

Nick Bertozzi

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In this graphic adaptation of the novel of the same name, Bertozzi and Sheinkin work to emphasize the danger to all involved and the horror of so many parts of the process of creating the atomic bomb. The comic includes perspectives from other countries and breaks down some of the complex espionage that was so much a part of this story and includes a page at the end discussing where some of the major players went after 1950.

Appeals to

A recent movie release might be increasing interest in learning about the atomic bomb, and Bomb is a great way to start their research with something more simplified that still gets a lot of the story across effectively. It's also a good way to help younger readers start to understand the complexity of this moment in history; when they're ready they can then read the novel this is based on, which goes into more depth on aspects of the story.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Ms. Davis: A Graphic Biography

Sybille Titeux de la Croix

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In a saturated art style that harkens back to the golden age of comics, French cartooning duo Améziane and Titeux de la Croix tell the story of Angela Davis, scholar, and political activist for the rights of black Americans. They begin by describing Angela's roots, growing up in Birmingham, Alabama and the novel culminates with her wrongful imprisonment for her suspected involvement in the 1971 Marin County courtroom gunfight and the fight by her and other activists to get her out of prison. This graphic novel shows why Ms. Davis's name should be on the lips of all who want to discuss those who fought to bring about justice for Black America.

Appeals to

Fans of Améziane and Titeux de la Croix's Muhammad Ali will love this new addition to their chronicling of Black leaders.

Content Notes

Gun Violence, Racism, Discussions of conditions in the US prison system

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Queer As All Get Out: 10 People Who've Inspired Me

Shelby Criswell

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Cartoonist Shelby Criswell introduces the reader to ten queer historical figures that have inspired them. As they introduce the reader to more famous figures such as Pauli Murray and Dr. Magnus Hirschfield as well as individuals barely present in the historical record, Criswell reflects on their own journey and the state of queer rights.

Appeals to

Readers looking for an uplifting look at queer historical figures should pick this up. Another plus is that Criswell incorporates a range of nationalities and queer identities, so this is a great read for people who want to learn about non-American queer historical figures!

Content Notes

Mentions of trauma around racism, homophobia, and anti-queer bigotry come up, but Criswell generally keeps things positive and does not dwell on negative images. There is also some violence in some of the chapters and brief nudity intended to humiliate a queer person (although nothing is really visible).

Creator Identities:

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

African-American, Black |

Queer |

Trans |

First Nations or Indigenous |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History

Joel Christian Gill

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A Black Union soldier rescues his child from slavery. Bass Reeves was one of the United States' most skilled marshals. These are just a few of the stories from Black history that Joel Christian Gill covers in his collection, Strange Fruit. With humor and expressive, impactful artwork, Gill brings to life these relatively unknown stories of African American success and triumph in the face of great adversity.

Appeals to

Teenage and adult readers who are interested in lesser-known American history and positive Black representation will find much to enjoy here.

Content Notes

Racism; violence

Creator Identities:

African-American |

Main Character Identities:

Black |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler

John Hendrix

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In a dangerous and unjust situation, how should individuals of faith respond? That is the question German priest Dietrich Bonhoeffer must answer when confronted with Adolf Hitler and his atrocities. Vividly drawn and richly researched, illustrator John Hendrix traces Bonhoeffer's personal journey and eventual involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.

Appeals to

Readers looking for historical stories of resistance will find much to enjoy here.

Content Notes

Discussion of death and violence, but little actual violent imagery--Hendrix relies a lot on powerful symbolic imagery to tell Bonhoeffer's story and discuss the historical elements.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

This Place: 150 Years Retold

Alicia Elliott

Natasha Donovon

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Reconsider the last 150 years of Canadian history through an Indigenous lens with This Place, and not just one tribe but Métis, Inuit, Dene, Cree, Anishinaabe, Mi’kmaq, and Haudenosaunee perspectives. Each comic takes a different point in history and zooms in, focusing on a particular person or moment, whether external or internal, giving context the history books likely aren't. There's also a bibliography and works cited in the back of the book, for readers interested in taking deeper dives into these moments.

Appeals to

Readers who prefer nonfiction and are getting into comics may find this an approachable way to start, since it is an anthology so each story is told by a different author and artist or art style, so if they don't love one they can move on to another. Readers who already enjoy graphic memoirs will appreciate this entry into the world of nonfiction comics that while still giving a personal perspective, is less focused on one person's story and is instead the chorus of many voices on a similar topic. Also, feels like required purchasing for any school library in North America, to make sure students are getting as many perspectives on what they're learning as possible.

Creator Identities:

Anisinaabe, Cree, Dene, Haudenosaunee, Inuit, Metis, Mi'gmaq |

Anisinaabe, Cree, Dene, Haudenosaunee, Inuit, Metis, Mi'gmaq |

Main Character Identities:

Anisinaabe, Cree, Dene, Inuit, Metis, Mi'gmaq |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Tokyo Rose-Zero Hero: A Japanese American Woman's Persecution and Ultimate Redemption after World War II

Andre Frattino

Kate Kasenow

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If you were stranded in an enemy country, what would you do? Iva Toguri was forced to remain in Japan after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. She refused to renounce her American partnership, and she put a defiant spin on her role as one of the women known as Tokyo Rose, a radio personality intended to demoralize American soldiers fighting the Japanese. When she returned to the United States, Iva was tried for treason.

Appeals to

Readers interested in stories of ordinary people confronting injustice and difficult odds should pick up Tokyo Rose.

Content Notes

Use of a racial slur

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice

Tommie Smith

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This graphic memoir tells the story of Tommie Smith, who at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City decided to peacefully protest the treatment of black athletes and black Americans as a whole. This narrative covers Tommie's rise to fame as a track star, his path to the '68 Olympics, and the fallout from his discussion to protest.

Appeals to

Sports fans, young activists, and fans of graphic memoirs will find something to enjoy here.

Content Notes

Racism

Creator Identities:

African-American |

Main Character Identities:

African-American |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts

Rebecca Hall

Hugo Martinez

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In this compelling graphic novel, historian Rebecca Hall describes her experiences tracking down the history of women-led slave revolts. Readers follow Rebecca's journey as she struggles to locate resources and reconstruct these brave Black women's stories all the while wrestling with the slave trade's legacy.

Appeals to

Readers who are interested in "hidden" history and the process of researching and reconstructing history will be engaged with Wake. Readers who are interested in stories of Black resistance and the legacy of slavery will also want to read this as well.
Teaching resources and lesson plans are available on Rebecca Hall's website, https://rebhallphd.org/

Content Notes

Frank discussion and portrayal of slavery and the slave trade and the resulting emotional trauma; the portrayal of violence

Creator Identities:

African-American |

Main Character Identities:

Black |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

We Served the People: My Mother's Stories

Emei Burell

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Emei Burell's mother was sixteen when she was sent to the countryside as part of China's Down to the Countryside Movement. In We Served the People, Burell shares her mother's stories of life during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution--including working in the countryside before finally returning to her hometown, Beijing, to navigate complicated social pressures and work dynamics and fight for the education she desperately wanted.

Appeals to

We Served the People will appeal to teen and adult readers looking for stories about the Cultural Revolution and/or stories of women who overcame the odds.

Creator Identities:

Swedish |

Main Character Identities:

Chinese |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Yummy: A History of Desserts

Victoria Grace Elliott

Cover Image

Peri, a sprite with a passion for food and excitement for the history of it, guides the reader through the history of some of the most popular desserts with the help of some of her fellow sprites. They wander through each dessert, providing commentary and looking into myths surrounding the desserts, giving readers a wider perspective of where modern desserts came from and how things can happen simultaneously across the world. It's cute, fun, and even has kid-friendly recipes.

Appeals to

Yummy is such a fun comic for young readers, making history approachable and a little silly as well as hands-on since they can try making things they're reading about. This would be a great choice for school libraries, as it could be used in history and science classrooms potentially, or for in-library programs partnering with those classes. It's not comprehensive, but it doesn't try to be; Yummy is focused on a few iconic desserts, and it does that well.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop