Wood, Water & Fire

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s shenanigans, there’s been more skiving off what I’m meant to be doing and knocking out Strange & Norrell fanfic art, I’m afraid. I’ll get back on the straight & narrow again this evening, but it’s been fun seeing how my cross-hatchery works with Beeb-quality photography as a starting point. Scroll down to the end for the teacakes.

Quick shout out to the late, great Sergio Toppi here, who’s graphical sensibilities and layout style definitely informed that “open plan” top panel silhouette. Toads by Google – during the scene of the recovery of the Moss Oak from the bog, there was a marvellous toad-based soundtrack going in the background – how to capture that on the page without being toooo subtle?!

Character piece showing the change in Jonathan Strange as the series progressed. I ended up re-watching most of episodes 6 & 7 – the acting in the scene where he’s begging the Gentleman to bring Arabella back was absolutely superb.

In terms of comic-book storytelling here, note the ever-so-not-very-subtle use of blue=rational, red=impassioned colour association, and the irregular panel layout to represent madness (and tie in nicely with the broken mirror motif in the later stages of the story).

No actual mirrors (or toads) were harmed in the making of these pictures.

Cast : Bertie Carvel, Mark Warren, Ariyon Bakare, Charlotte Riley.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell copyright Susanna Clarke
Images from the TV series used as starting points copyright BBC
This is non-commercial fan-fiction created purely out of enthusiasm about a great story. Thanks to both book & TV series for telling it so well.

On Adaptation

A few closing thoughts about adaptation here – the TV series and the book are quite different, in no small part down to the footnotes and depth in the book. The TV series creates it’s “immersion” differently, through lavish costumes and sets, and the universally superb acting. I haven’t seriously thought much about storytelling in these pieces or the ones I posted yesterday (even to the point of not leaving any space for speech bubbles, which in my usual workflow go in before any of the figures), but it’s left me wondering what a Strange & Norrell graphic novel adaptation might look like. I’d buy one – but what purpose would it fulfil? What purpose do adaptations fulfil in general? (I’ve asked this question in my art before, most searchingly here).

It’s an involved story, a very large novel (about 800 pages?), and 7 hours of TV. A straight adaptation of the whole story using pictures and speech bubbles to replicate the dialogue would be rather cumbersome, but I think it could be done as a single volume (rather than an episodic comic, which feels much less atmospheric) – say a weighty hardback tome of some 400 pages (with a cloth bookmark in the spine), to throw a figure into the air?

There’s a lot of fine dialogue in the TV series. The book often adopts a “report of events” style quite often (in the Jane Austen style). I think the latter could work quite well for a comic adaptation, helping to condense the storytelling into a reasonable page count, rather than a “cinematic” treatment following the TV series too closely.

And, as I noted yesterday, I’d like to pull the footnotes back in, as embellishments to the page – along with the other visual embellishment I’ve added (toads, candlesticks, quill, etc.)

Teacakes

Final thought – there’s a brilliant line in Episode 2 of the TV series, where Strange has just righted the beached boat with his sand horses of Horse Sands, and is striding up the beach while everyone looks stunned, and says “So, who’s for some teacakes and marmalade, then?”. I’d love to round that scene out with an embellishment of a teacup and plate of scones (nice wedgwood design, or similar, of course) – would that work better with or without the above line included as dialogue?

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