| Week two
Books Who do you think is the weirdest literary character? 1. Peter Stillman in City of Glass (part of Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy). Literally a still man, he was locked in a basement for most of his life by his father and speaks in cryptic glassy-eyed monotone. Creepier than a tiptoeing millipede. CALLUM MCLEAN
2. Gollum from Lord of the Rings, a creepy, demonic, almost hairless hobbit that whispers to himself about a piece of jewellery. Plus, he lives in a cave, the nutter. I suppose you can’t really blame him for ending up a bit crazy... TOM BOND
3. Definitely Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events. His character metamorphosises from book to book, all of them as convincing as a cardboard cutout. Most importantly, no matter how much his appearance changes, he’s evil every single time. CLARA PLACKETT
4. Lieutenant Scheisskopf from Catch 22. No man should love military drills that much. So much so that he really doesn’t seem to care that everyone’s had his wife. And I mean everyone. LOUIS DORÉ
5. Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s because she’s... well, not mentally unstable, but pretty odd. She lives a kind of double life leaving a husband back home whilst she swans around Europe, the poshest nomad in existence. EMILY TANNER
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Has Dave Morris created a monster?
Tom Bond and Emily Lunn, Books Editors, interview the writer of a new interactive Frankenstein app on graphic novels, the classics and the merits of mash-ups DAVE Morris is a writer of novels, comics, and the co-creator of the gamebook Fabled Lands series. He also designs computer games, role-playing games, and has penned several TV and movie novelisations. This year, he published an interactive reworking of Frankenstein in the form of an app. We spoke to him about his latest work, graphic novels, and why Shelley’s original needed an update.
appoint. If I’m going to pick my desert island read it’d be Neil Gaiman’s tourde-force run on The Sandman.
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We notice that you studied Physics at Uni: how did you go from that to what you are doing now? 0 I’d have done an English degree too if I’d had the time. I’ve always been on that cusp between art and science, which probably explains why I’ve ended up gravitating towards the games industry, where I can indulge my passions for storytelling, visual design, logic, physics and maths all at once.
“Critics view graphic novels with the classic cocktail of fear, loathing and fascination” What attracted you to graphic novels? What do they give writers and readers that traditional books don’t? If you look at it from a practical point of view, some stories are easier to tell visually. At the same time, you might not want to do it as a movie because your story needs more space and depth than you can fit into two hours. Or, of course, you might not have a quarter of a billion dollars to spend. In fact, though, I just start working on a story and you either feel it’s right for prose or you start blocking it out in comic panels in your head. Your muse decides for you whether it’s going to be a graphic novel. As for what graphic novels have that traditional books don’t – they’re different, both equally to be cherished as modes of expression. Do you have a favourite graphic novel? If so, why? I like the works of Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Alison Bechdel, Posy Simmonds, Matt Kindt, Alan Moore… A bunch of diverse comics creators who don’t have anything much in common, except that they rarely dis-
Do you think graphic novels are taken seriously enough as a form of literature? Not in the UK, that’s for sure. Here, a graphic novel has to be freighted with literary significance for critics to get past their aversion to the medium. UK critics don’t have a cultural lineage to fit them into, so they view them with the classic cocktail of fear, loathing and fascination. The only graphic novels they review seriously are the ones that fit in an illustrated literary tradition rather than being unashamedly comics. Britain punches way above its weight in comics. You’ve got Gaiman, Moore, Ellis, Millar, Ennis, Quitely – too many to list, and many of them among the most successful in the profession. But they’re all working mostly outside the UK because comics here are barely a cottage industry. It makes it difficult to get a British voice and sensibility across in comics. It’s very different in France, where four out of every ten books sold are graphic novels. There’s a nice an diverse range of genres: thrillers, romcom, whodunits and science fiction. You often work in collaboration with other writers and artists, what do you enjoy about these collaborations and what do you find more challenging? Has there been a collaboration that has been particularly interesting for you? My name may be alongside somebody else’s on the cover, but I rarely collaborate that closely. Comics like Mirabilis are the exception. Those are interesting precisely because the creative collaboration is so challenging. Sometimes it feels like we’re coming from opposite ends of the
spectrum. I go for sexy, dark, dramatic with close ups, upshots and wide angles; but the penciller Leo Hartas goes for funny, sweet, diagrammatic with medium shots, flat/diorama staging, and so on. But that cycle of thesis, antithesis, synthesis can throw up some nice creative surprises, I think. A lot of your work makes literature an active experience, and puts the reader in charge. What do you hope to achieve by giving the reader a central part? What any writer wants – a connection. That’s why the interactivity in Frankenstein isn’t about solving the plot, it’s about the relationship you develop with Victor and his creature. The choices you make affect their degree of empathy, alienation and – most importantly – the extent to which they trust you. Do you think it is difficult to adapt such a well-established story? Has it been well received? Very well received, especially among younger readers who probably wouldn’t crack open a 200-year-old novel if they’re not doing an Eng Lit course. Frankenstein is one of the modern world’s defining
myths, a story that everyone thinks they know but is rarely read in the original. I hope my version will encourage more people to take a look at it. Now the but: it was well received for a book that was only released on iPad and iPhone. I’m working on epub3 and Kindle versions but it was a big mistake not to bring those out at the same time.
“Frankenstein is pretty much the worst classic novel ever written” The adaptation wasn’t hard because, seminal work though Frankenstein is, it’s pretty much the worst classic novel ever written. I should qualify that. Mary Shelley was eighteen years old when she wrote it, and I certainly don’t want anyone seeing my teenage scribblings. I felt completely free to take liberties with the text in a way I wouldn’t have done with Austen or the Brontës, for example. My version is much more modern. There’s a lot of Mary Shelley’s prose still in there, but I fleshed out the characterisation and the relationships as we’d expect in a novel these days. A large part of that is because I cut all Shelley’s travelogue stuff. Boy, she really padded that thing with chunks of a Grand Tour guide book... Turn over for the rest of our Dave Morris interview...
Published on Sep 30, 2012
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