Gareth Hinds is the author and illustrator of critically-acclaimed graphic novels and picture books based on classic literature and mythology. Through his work he shares his love of literature with readers young and old. His adaptation of THE ODYSSEY received four starred reviews, and he is the recipient of the Boston Public Library's "Literary Lights for Children" award. He lives in New York City with his wife. When he's not working on a book he enjoys painting landscapes and practicing aikido. Your work combines classic literature with a more cutting-edge art form, the graphic novel. What initially inspired you to join the two?
When I first began making graphic novels I was more confident of my abilities as an illustrator than as an author. I knew I wanted to work with really great stories, and classic works in the public domain presented me with that opportunity—the chance to collaborate with amazing authors from the past, on stories that I knew had staying power. So I don't have to worry about the quality of the story, I just focus on trying to do that story justice in the way I adapt and illustrate it. Your latest adaptation, ROMEO AND JULIET, will be released in September of this year. What twists, beyond the graphic novel format, can readers expect on the classic tale?
My adaptation is set in historical Verona of Shakespeare’s time, but it features a multi-racial cast. The older characters are dressed correctly for the period, but the younger characters’ costumes show them rebelling in contemporary ways—the men wear their jackets open, Tybalt has tattoos, the girls have cut their dresses to knee-length, and so on. I've also played up the swordfights and the humor (as I think a good stage performance should). How is a reader’s experience enhanced by encountering a classic story in one of your graphic novels as opposed to a more traditional format?
I hope the visual storytelling brings the story to life and really puts the reader in the setting of historical Greece, Italy, etc., and I hope it gets them past the potential difficulties of archaic language and lets them see what's cool about the story.
That's really my goal, to share of my own love of these works with kids (and adults) who might have trouble with the original text. Graphic novels are beginning to be fully embraced in the classroom. How would you describe the current relationship between graphic novels and the academic/classroom world?
I used to hear from teachers at conferences that they’d never think of using a graphic novel to teach the classics, but in recent years that has changed completely. Graphic novels have proven themselves to be a great bridge into content. Now I hear all the time from teachers who find my books to be a terrific jumping off point to their study of a text. Or from teachers who have their students read the full, original version then read my graphic novel and have robust class discussions about my interpretations, visual choices, etc.
Graphic novels are also a great example of “multi-modal” learning, which helps kids not only understand but retain the information. Graphic novel adaptations have a pretty obvious application for teaching the classics, but graphic novels are now also being used as primary texts for all kinds of subjects. It's very exciting. Your interpretation of Homer’s THE ODYSSEY is massive by graphic novel standards (almost 250 pages!). Why did you choose to undertake such a lengthy interpretation and illustration of the tale as opposed to a summarized version?
Well, I think part of the point of the Odyssey is that it's an epic journey. If I just said “Odysseus went from A to B to C,” that's not very interesting and you don't feel like you went on that journey with him. I wanted the reader to experience that journey. I think it's an awesome story, and summarizing it would not do it justice.
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