Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The same unit of story twice—once in words and once in pictures

First Second's recent release Refresh, Refresh is a graphic novel adaptation of a rather short prose short story. Or, to be more accurate, it's an adaptation of the screenplay adaptation of the original prose short story.

I read the graphic novel version, which is written and drawn by Danica Novgorodoff, first, and then eagerly sought out the Benjamin Percy story it's based on. I did so not simply because I was reviewing the graphic novel, and being familiar with its source material seemed like something that would be do more good than harm in reviewing the adaptation, but because the way in which Novgorodoff ends her version was such a strange, such a visual, such a comic book-y way to end the story, that it was hard to imagine how it would have been accomplished in prose, and, if it was an invention of hers, how Percy originally ended the original.

I was more than a little surprised by how different the two versions of Refresh, Refresh are (You can find Percy's version in a 2007 short story collection of the same name, by the way). His story, as it was printed in The Best American Short Stories 2006 is only about 12 pages long, while the graphic novel is 138-pages long.

A lot of that added length is due to dramatizing events the story either summarizes or implies, although Novgorodoff—or, more likely, James Ponsoldt, who wrote the screenplay adaptation the comic is itself adapted from—also adds significantly to the cast. If you're interested in either the comic or the short story, you may want to quit reading now, as I'm going to contrast the endings of each (and thus spoil them, I guess).

Here's the very last paragraph of Percy's story:

And here below is the climax and ending of Novgorodoff's graphic novel. I wouldn't normally excerpt so much from a graphic novel, but that's how many pages Novgorodoff spent attempting to say through pictures what Percy said through words. I should also note that I skipped a six-page sequence between the first page posted and below and the second, plus one abstract image (which I scanned upside down by accident), and another short sequence toward the end in which the boys have another conversation not in the story. I was basically interested in trying to capture Novgorodoff's picture version of Percy's word-evoked imagery:

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