Four Novels We’d Love To See As Graphic Novels

Posted by Julia McCarthy

We all know what it’s like to be wholly immersed in a book. Suddenly, words on a page become smells, sounds, sights—you can picture every scene so meticulously that you end up missing your stop on the subway or running late for work. Things, ahem, that I know nothing about…

You might find, however, that you’ll want to look beyond the confines of that space between your ears in order to deepen your experience of a story. Graphic novelizations of well-loved books can turn out to be the cherry on top of your literary sundae. For me, reading Hope Larson’s graphic novel of A Wrinkle In Time only served to enhance the otherworldly visuals which Ms. L’Engle first set up in the recesses of my childhood memory. When done well, the visual bonus of a graphic novel can be just as rewarding as the original manuscript.

Below are some additional titles that seem ripe for the illustrated picking.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: The design of this novel already feels like it’s inches away from turning into an illustrated masterpiece, so why not find a way to bring Morgenstern’s dreamlike imagery to life? This story has all the ingredients for a visual delight: a traveling Victorian-era circus that awakens in the gloaming, rival magicians on the cusp of romance, and more nocturnal wonders than you can shake a red scarf at.

The circus features physics-defying spectacles such as a crystalline garden made entirely of ice, a maze constructed of clouds that reaches endlessly into the heavens, and a tree hung with candles that grants wishes for patrons so inclined. The visual richness of this novel could only result in seriously good sensory overload on paper.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: With much of this novel taking place in the limitless reaches of a massive, multi-player online simulation game, Ready Player One is a digital illustrator’s paradise.

Already in the works to become a movie, the story and its myriad planets, avatars, and gadgetry (think mecha suits of armor and DeLorean-style transportation) serve as the springboard for the kinds of scenes that will prompt geeks far and wide to fist-pump in jubilation. Or, at the very least, reading a graphic novel like this might help to make you look like less of a n00b.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: Nowadays, dystopian graphic novels are par for the course in somber storytelling, and Brave New World would be an obvious addition to the bunch. This novel takes place in a future society unified under the World State, where children grown en masse are conditioned for their predetermined roles in society, adults are encouraged to endlessly consume (both goods and sexual partners), and hallucinogenic drugs are provided for religious and social events alike.

This story is primed for idyllic, sterile scenery and hauntingly empty eyes. Contrast that with John the Savage, a young man raised outside of the “civilized,” pleasure-fueled society, and you have a story that carries its struggles and soul-searching from type to illustration with ease.

Bonus: Check out this comic comparison between Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: Neil Gaiman is certainly no stranger to the graphic medium (we want more Sandman!), so this might be a bit of a no-brainer. While any of his novels have all the right qualities for adaptation, his newest story of childhood memory, magic, and the search for identity has a bittersweet longing about it that stands out among his adult fiction.

Gaiman’s ability to weave the otherworldly into seemingly mundane settings makes his quiet visuals all the more astounding, and to see reality-eating birds and monstrous caretakers fleshed out in drawings would be thrilling. It probably doesn’t hurt that the Hempstock family is my new favorite matriarchy.

Bonus Pick: Welcome to Night Vale, Podcast by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor: I know, I know, this is a podcast and not a bound-in-leather-and-smells-like-musty-old-book novel, but this nightmarish tale—presented as a radio show—is delightfully supernatural, kooky, and engaging. Night Vale is a desert town located “somewhere in the Southwestern United States,” and it brims with Lovecraftian occurrences and tongue-in-cheek commentary.

Pyramids mysteriously appear on the edges of town to deliver foreboding messages, the Sheriff’s Secret Police work tirelessly to deliver propaganda, dark hooded figures frequent the forbidden dog park, and adorable cats materialize to hover in the middle of the station’s men’s room. These oddities are just begging to be drawn.

Bonus Bonus: Check out Toril’s stunning drawing of a (hopefully) future comic for Night Vale.