open the pages, read the words, savor the magic
When I heard that HarperCollins was planning to release The Graveyard Book in graphic novel format, I admit to having a huge dose of skepticism. I had thought it a marketing ploy to make more money out of rehashing old titles the way movie studios these days can’t stop churning out remakes after reboots after reimaginings and whatnot. But then one lazy afternoon at work – when I was stuck with one of my articles – I saw the two volumes of the graphic novels lying in front of me on my desk and I subconsciously picked it up to start reading. And as it so often happens in these cases, I’ve had to eat and swallow back my skepticism and shove it down my throat. Because The Graveyard Book in graphic novel format is GORGEOUS.
The story of an orphan named Nobody ‘Bod’ Owens who came to live at a cemetery with a family made of ghosts is already charming in its original form. Gaiman, as usual, has a way with worldbuilding that is both whimsical and yet feels completely grounded in reality. Bod’s world has always felt relatable despite its inhabitants being ‘creatures of the night’ but that is also perhaps the way Gaiman tells of extremely human problems in an ‘inhuman’ (as in, supernatural) setting. When I read the novel, I’ve had to rely mostly on my own imagination… so it was a little worrying that these graphic novels could intervene with my perception of Bod’s world. Fortunately, they didn’t. If any, they only enriched my already vivid depiction of this fantastical realm Bod and his friends and family lived in.
The first volume was jaw-dropping, with beautiful illustrations from Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, and Stephen B. Scott. Naturally they have different styles but Russell’s adaptation of the story into graphic novel format is so cohesive that it feels like they’re drawn by the same hand. Incredible in the details and subtle with the coloring, the environment of the cemetery really comes to life in Volume 1.
However, my favorite volume would always be the second one. The moment Gaiman ventured to swim in the depths of Bod’s past – with all of its twists and turns regarding Bod’s family’s murder, coupled with exhilarating action worthy of a blockbuster film – it became impossible for anyone to look away from these pages. The denouement and conclusion in Volume 2 remain just as thrilling as they were in the novel but, with the illustrations, the strongest part of the story became the chapter in Bod’s life where he had to deal with bullies at his school. It was brimming with emotional anxiety, heartbreak and eventually a clear sense of triumph that is irresistible in every way.
While Gaiman is the master of mixing real life’s bittersweet moral lessons with fantasy, P. Craig Russell is the master of interpreting Gaiman’s huge ideas. It wouldn’t have worked if the person doing the adaptation had no idea what Gaiman was talking about. Luckily, Russell does understand and along with that understanding, he takes us into a second wonderful journey of the life of a Nobody. I am utterly convinced that The Graveyard Book is only one of very few titles that manage to sucessfully transcend genres and formats. For that reason alone, this book and its graphic novel versions should grace every bookshelf in every home in the world.