The 7 Best Graphic Adaptations of Classic Literature

After stalking the bargain shelves at Barnes & Noble, I bought A Tale of Two Cities. I like the beginning of Tale (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”) and I like the end (“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done…”), so I figured I’d like everything in between.

Unfortunately, I never stayed focused enough to read very far—and that seems to be my issue with most old classics. I want to finish them, but the distractions of modern life get in the way.

The solution for attention-challenged readers like me? Read the classic in graphic form.

Here are some of my favorite adaptations of classic works from the pages of ancient and not-so-ancient literature.

1. The Odyssey, adapted by Gareth Hinds. Rick Riordan called this “a worthy new interpretation of Homer’s epic,” and Rick Riordan knows just about everything there is to know about Greek mythology, so this one has our thumbs up.

2. Beowulf, adapted by Gareth Hinds. You’ve never seen Grendel so scary. The action in this series is so good, and so gut-wrenchingly violent, your eyes will be wide throughout the whole read.

3. Dante’s Divine Comedyadapted by Seymour Chwast. Chwast has done covers for Time, has been exhibited at the Louvre, and has work in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. He gave Dante’s masterpiece a Roaring 20’s look, drawing Dante wearing a trenchcoat and fedora and smoking a pipe as he traverses through hell.

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4. Paradise Lostadapted by Rebecca Dart. This piece is just 12 pages long, and it’s only available in the Graphic Canon, but it could be one of the best graphic adaptations ever. Every one of Milton’s heavenly or hellish beings is drawn as a mystical geometric shape, and the art just blows the reader away.

5. King Lear, adapted by Ian Pollock. A great watercolor adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, this full-length work has such lively caricatures you’ll feel like you’re watching the play live.

6. The Last Knight (Don Quixote), adapted by Will Eisner. The father of the graphic novel and author of A Contract with God does his usual magic on Miguel Cervantes’ classic satire.

7. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, adapted by Tim Hamilton. This graphic adaptation got the okay from Bradbury himself, so you know it’s great.

Bonus: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemenby Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. I know this isn’t technically an adaptation, but I couldn’t resist putting it on the list. Imagine if the Avengers was set in the 19th century, and every member was actually from classical literature. Irresistible, right?

  • Joanna Clevenger

    This is a great way to get a younger generation interested in reading the classics. When I start teaching I wouldn’t mind incorporating these into my lesson plan 🙂

    • Jason Handley

      Not a bad idea. Then again, I didn’t mind reading these when I was younger.

    • Isabel Herron

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  • The Little Bookroom

    We would add Nikki Greenberg’s ‘Hamlet’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’ 🙂

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