Written by Joscelyn Ervin // Illustrated by Asha McClendon
A look into recent graphic novel adaptations on the small screen and why some work and others don’t.
Last semester, Fall 2019, I took a class called “Popular Culture.” I didn’t really know exactly what we would be focusing on other than writing about, you guessed it, pop culture. What I first imagined was journalistic papers that discussed current events, movies, shows, etc., that might fall under this category. Instead, this class highlighted something a little less broad - graphic novels. Similar to a comic book, graphic novels are a series of comics that create an in-depth and artistic story. Graphic novels tend to be longer than comic books, or even a collection of comics from a series.
Even though some people think comic books and graphic novels are childish, I tend to disagree. Graphic novels have always been a source of fun, beautiful stories that are sometimes simple, but often complex as well. I’ve always been a huge fan of most graphic novels that I’ve come across. This seems to be true for others as well. Graphic novels have become an obviously huge part of pop culture with various show and movie adaptations like the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes, “V for Vendetta,” “The Walking Dead,” and more.
In the past year or so, however, it seems to me that these have become a little more popular than usual - so of course, I made a list of some of the most recent and notable graphic novel adaptations.
Locke & Key
One of the most recent and prominent graphic novel adaptations that I’ve seen is “Locke & Key” on Netflix. I haven’t really heard much buzz about it overall, but it is one of the most binge-worthy shows I’ve seen in awhile.
Released in February of this year, “Locke & Key” is based on a graphic novel series of the same name, written by Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill. Although I have not read the graphic novel series, but have seen the whole show, it looks like the novels have a darker tone. This may not be entirely true, since I have not read the series yet. Even so, I can’t say I was disappointed with the show as a whole. This may change after reading the series, as it usually does when a book is made into a movie or show. The story is nail-biting, the characters are interesting, and it keeps you guessing until the very end.
“Locke & Key” takes place after the murder of Rendell Locke, father to three kids - Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode. The three kids and their mom, Nina, move into an old family home of the Locke’s. This house is home to not just the family, but also a handful of magical keys that each have different powers.
As the story continues throughout ten episodes, each about an hour-long, the siblings gradually find keys throughout the house and attempt to outsmart a supernatural being trying to obtain all of the keys. Described as a supernatural horror in most of the premises found elsewhere, “Locke & Key” feels like a twisted fantasy that keeps manipulating your perspective throughout each episode.
The End of the F***ing World
This Netflix show is one of my favorites from the past two years. It’s different, alarming, and gritty. “The End of the F***ing World” is a show based on a graphic novel of the same name, written by Charles Forsman, released as a Netflix show in October 2017. As was the case with “Locke & Key,” I did not read the graphic novel that this show is based on, so I can’t give a solid comparison between the books and the show - but I can say how much I love this show.
The story follows two main characters, James and Alyssa, who are both teens. At the beginning of the show, James confesses that he might be a psychopath. He kills animals for fun, doesn’t really have feelings, and decides he wants to try killing a human. Alyssa is his potential victim, but her rash, violent, and honest personality leads the plot in a different direction.
Before taking the Pop Culture course, I had no idea that this show was based on a graphic novel. I’m a little happy about that. When we were discussing various adaptations in class, a couple of my classmates had seen the show as I had, read the book, and basically said that the original novel was trash. This may or may not be true, but I still plan on reading the book to see for myself. Even if the graphic novel is awful, this show is fantastic.
If you’re already familiar with graphic novels, you might also know about this classic story written by Alan Moore. If you are familiar with the original book, don’t worry, this HBO show is not the same premise. Instead, it’s set after the plot of the original story - but I wouldn’t call it a sequel.
HBO’s “Watchmen” focuses on the aftermath of the original story’s plot, 30-some years later, but with different characters. The original book singled-out a group of American heroes from the 1940s to “present day” in 1985. Moore’s original story was already made into a movie adaptation in 2009. While including little easter eggs for viewers, HBO’s “Watchmen” follows the story of a Black policewoman named Angela Abar, who works to fight a white supremacist group trying to massacre cops.
Unlike the other two adaptations, I have read “Watchmen” but have not finished watching the entire HBO show. Even so, I can tell that it’s something I will rave about at the end. HBO’s adaptation takes the original story and elaborates on subjects that Moore decided weren’t necessary - specifically, racism. When we discussed this novel in class last semester, one of the major issues that was brought up was the lack of discussion about the racism of the 1940s and 50s - when a lot of the story is set. HBO does a fantastic job of tackling this subject in a way that gives more depth to the overall universe of the story and providing viewers with a diverse set of characters. I can’t wait to see where it goes from the first season. I highly recommend reading “Watchmen” if you haven’t already.
Other Notable Adaptations:
The Walking Dead
(show released in 2010)
(original story written by Robert Kirkman)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
(movie released in 2010)
(original story written by Bryan Lee O’Malley)
(movie released in 2010)
(original story written by Mark Millar)
V for Vendetta
(movie released in 2005)
(original story written by Alan Moore)
(movie released in 2014)
(original story written by Mark Millar)