EuroBooks might not be a familiar name for followers of comics in India, but even accidental visitors to book stores across the country are sure to have seen the company’s latest releases. The company, part of EuroKids International Pvt. Ltd, which runs a chain of pre-schools, is the Indian publisher of the Biggles and Agatha Christie comics that have flooded bookstores.
Biggles comics aren’t new. I read my first one—Biggles and the Sargasso Triangle by Bjorn Karlstrom—and my eight-year-old head was impressed enough to read two more whose names I cannot remember and then get started on the Biggles novels by Capt W.E. Johns that had inspired the comics.
I prefer what I can recall of the old Biggles comics to the new ones, which seem just a trifle shallow (and even I felt this, although I know better than to look for “depth” in a comic book). This piece isn’t about either Biggles or Christie though. It is about books that become comics.
There have always been such books.
Around the same time I discovered Karlstrom’s Biggles, I realized that almost two entire rows at the library I frequented were taken up by classics that had been interpreted as comics. My first encounter with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped and, if I remember right, Lousa May Alcott’s Little Women were all with the comic book versions.
Since then, I’ve read comic book versions of some Ray Bradbury short stories, the Bible, the 9/11 report (I kid ye not, constant reader), Kafka’s Metamorphosis, and several Raymond Chandler books.
A well-meaning friend who believes my economic views are much too focused on free markets and free people recently gave me a comic book rendition of Marx’s philosophy, although this might have been his attempt to get back at me for presenting him with a copy of The Capitalist Philosophers (by Andrea Gabor).
Apart from the Bradbury, my favourite book-turned-into-a-graphic-novel has to be The Hobbit. Every time I read the book, I wonder why someone hasn’t bothered to turn The Lord of the Rings trilogy into a comic.
Are there other books I’d like to see as comics? Sure, and a partial listing would include Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, William Burrough’s The Naked Lunch, J.G. Ballard’s The Unlimited Dream Company, and Paul Auster’s Mr. Vertigo. Each presents its own challenges to illustrators and writers and it would be interesting to see how they cope.
P.S: The most difficult thing to find in used books stores would appear to be Indrajal comics, especially early Phantom ones.
Write to Sukumar at email@example.com