Note: This post was used as a homework assignment and may contain spoilers.
This is the first time I’ve read anything by Neil Gaiman and I appreciated being able to read The Graveyard Book twice—once as a novel and once as a graphic novel. One thing that I appreciated about the novel in particular, was the light tone. One might expect the book to be scary since it’s about a boy living in a graveyard with a bunch of ghosts, but the tone of the book makes everything more whimsical. Even when Bod encounters the ghouls, the reader is never really scared. That translated somewhat into the graphic novels—none of the illustrations were particularly gruesome or frightening—but I do believe that it came across better through text.
One thing that I think the graphic novels excelled at was that it made it much easier to picture the characters. While reading the novel, I had a particularly hard time picturing the Sleer and the Ghouls, so having actual illustrations of those creatures helped me to better visualize the story. In addition, neither the novel nor the graphic novel ever says that Silas is a vampire. It’s perhaps implied in the novel, but in the graphic novel we can definitely see that, yes, he is a vampire which adds another layer to his character.
There were other ways that the graphic novel added to the story as well. First, the reader is able to see characters’ reactions to things that weren’t described in the book. In a novel, an author doesn’t have time to describe each character’s reaction to everything that is said, but the graphic novel does. In addition, I noticed some fun foreshadowing that was included by an illustrator. At this point in the book, Bod does not know that Miss Lupescu is a werewolf. However, the reader is let in on the secret if they look carefully.
In this picture, the illustrator has made Miss Lupescu’s shadow the shape of a wolf. At this point in the novel, it is not obvious that Miss Lupescu is anything besides an older woman. With this illustration, the reader of the graphic novel is getting an insight that readers of the novel do not have.
Another thing that I particularly liked about the graphic novel version of The Graveyard Book is that each chapter is illustrated by a different person. This is different than other graphic novels like the version of Twilight, for example, which just has one illustrator over two volumes. I feel that this was done on purpose to keep the story and the characters from feeling too concrete. Gaiman doesn’t write them as “solid” characters and that comes across in his writing. This feeling also comes across in graphic novels like American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Even though the illustrator is the same throughout, the storyline is split between a few different stories and that also helps to keep things from feeling too concrete.
Lastly, I felt that the different panes and placement of dialogue bubbles at times added something to the story that wasn’t apparent in the novel text. Take the picture below for example:
Having Silas’ response to Bod’s question in its own larger pane gives emphasis to it even though it’s just one word. In the novel, it truly felt like Silas was just answering Bod’s question. In the graphic novel, however, it feels like Silas is answering so much more than the one question that Bod asked.
After reading these books, I’m definitely more interested in reading some of Neil Gaiman’s other novels/graphic novels like Coraline. In the article “Graphic Novels and Multi-modal Literacy: A High School Study with American Born Chinese” by Heidi Hammond, she states, “[Graphic novels fuse] art and text, combining print literacy and visual literacy to present a multimodal literacy experience” (pg. 23). I believe this is something that the graphic novel version of The Graveyard Book truly excelled at.