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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Trendspotting - Graphic Novels & Urban Fantasy

Urban Fantasy Graphic Novels

In case you haven’t noticed, the Urban Fantasy genre is being inundated with comic book adaptations. For those in the know, these ‘comic books’ are respectfully known as ‘graphic novels’ and there are a ton of them coming out in 2010/11.

So, why all the adaptations? Well, for starts there has been a successful precedent set by Stephenie Meyer (surprise, surprise).

In March this year Stephenie Meyer released a graphic adaptation of the first book in the ‘Twilight’ saga, and it sold like hotcakes. It was pretty much a guarantee that any new book released by Meyer would have a receptive audience – but the Twilight graphic novel broke so many unprecedented comic-book records. The graphic novel's first printing was reported to be of 350,000 copies, which, according to USA Today, was believed to be the largest first printing for a graphic novel in the U.S. market. Yen Press announced that the graphic novel sold 66,000 copies in its first week, which it claimed was a record for U.S. sales of a graphic novel in its first week. And as of June 10, 2010, the Twilight graphic novel was at #1 on the New York Times best-seller list for hardcover graphic books.

Meyer’s success aside, graphic novels are an author-friendly adaptation. Movie and TV adaptations will often be written by screenwriters, and in fact once the author sells the rights to their work they have little control over the filming process. Graphic novels, by contrast, require a much higher amount of author-participation. Writers like Kim Harrison have blogged extensively on their adaptation work, and in Harrison’s case she has written every panel of her comic book. Diana Gabaldon likewise blogged quite a bit on her close work with Hoang Nguyen when it came to the picture representations of her beloved characters and tweaking her story.

Then there’s the fact that the Urban Fantasy genre is quite comic-book friendly. Most comics are fantasy/scifi based – so UF books are not such a stretch for the medium. Especially when Urban Fantasy books already have such strong visuals associated with them. Daniel Dos Santos’ gorgeous ‘Mercy Thompson’ covers are instantly recognizable and a benchmark of the UF genre.


When authors release a graphic novel adaptation of their established book series, they are often very explicit on whether or not the adaptation is ‘canon’. Canon refers to whether or not material referring to a fictional universe is ‘official’.

For instance, fanfiction is not canon – what EdwardsBabe1 writes about the novel ‘Eclipse’ is not officially accepted material of the ‘Twilight’ saga.
Though the term canon, with regard to literature, is defined only as the body of work written by a particular author, or on a particular subject, it has since been altered by popular culture to define various levels of how "official" a work is. Most graphic novel adaptations are considered to be canon, but not impacting of the book series.

For example, Patricia Briggs 2009 graphic novel ‘Homecoming’ was a prequel to the events of the first book in the Mercy Thompson series, ‘Mooncalled’. ‘Homecoming’ was the story of Mercy’s first days in the Tri-Cities area, her first meeting of Adam, Stefan and Siebold Adelbertsmiter. Patricia Briggs wrote the story of ‘Homecoming’, and it is officially the prequel to the Mercy series - it is ‘canon’. But it is not imperative that fans of the ‘Mercy Thompson’ books read ‘Homecoming’ to understand the series.

One book blogger's opinion...

I am personally loving all of these graphic adaptations. I’m Australian, so the whole comic-book phenomenon is sort of over my head... but I loved the Mercy Thompson graphic novel, ‘Homecoming’, and was an instant convert to the medium. In many cases I feel more comfortable with my favourite books being graphically adapted rather than cinematically adapted. So much can be lost in Film/TV – but I feel that author’s have more control over graphic novel adaptations, and the fact that most authors are the ones writing the graphic novel means that none of the book flavour is lost in translation.

I have my fingers crossed for a graphic novel adaptation of JR Ward’s ‘Black Dagger Brotherhood’ series - it’d be great to see the boys in all their muscled, leather-clad glory.

Urban Fantasy Graphic Novel adaptations, a list:

Stephenie Meyer

'Twilight' Vol 1.
Illustrated by Young Kim

Avaliable Now

Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson 'Homecoming'
story by Patricia Briggs and David Lawrence with illustrations by Francis Tsai and Amelia Woo, and cover art by Daniel Dos Santos.

Avaliable Now

'Alpha & Omega' Cry Wolf: Volume 1
story by Patricia Briggs and David Lawrence with illustrations by Jordan Gunderson and cover by Brett Booth

Avaliable Now

Charlaine Harris
'Grave Sight' Harper Connelly #1

Coming Soon

Melissa Marr
'Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales' Vol 1 & 2
Story by Melissa Marr, illustrations by Xian Nu Studio

Avaliable Now

Richelle Mead

'Vampire Academy' a graphic novel
Adapted by Leigh Dragoon, illustrated by Emma Vieceli

Coming August 18th 2011

Cassandra Clare

Laurell K Hamilton

'Anita Blake' series
Authors: Laurell K Hamilton, Stacie Ritchie, Jess Ruffner-Booth, Brett Booth. Art by Ron Lim.

Avaliable Now

Jim Butcher
'The Dresden Files' series
Authors: Jim Butcher, Mark Powers and Ardian Syaf

Avaliable Now

Kelley Armstrong

'Bitten' - Women of the Otherworld #1

online graphic novella


  1. My one big problem is that if i've already read the books i have a picture in my mind of the characters and no comic can ever match that picture, just as no movie can.

  2. I just can't get on board with this for some reason. Perhaps because like Sullivan McPig, I already have a picture in my head?

  3. I was never a big comic fan, so I can't get into the graphic novels. My husband has Stephen King's Dark Tower graphic novels and he'd probably like the Mercy Thompson ones as that's a series he likes too,but if he bought it I don't think I'd read it.

  4. Im kind of with McPig and FV on this one... but I do LOVE seeing so many books I love in GN format!

    I really liked the AB ones =D

  5. I adore this graphic novel phenomenon! A best friend of mine in art school begin adapting one of my unpublished works and it sort of helped me out as well. I was able to tell her how certain characters look in my own mind, not hers. Of course, this can conflict with the audience's views as others have said before me, but I'm still a huge fan of it.

  6. I know this comment is a year too late but I just heard that Anne Rice's Servant of the Bones will be joining the band wagon.

  7. @ Braine - never too late! Thanks for the heads-up :)


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