It’s not often that I get to post about things as they’re happening on this blog. After all, that’s just not what you come to expect when you write about a poem from over 1000 years ago. But I’ve just lucked out.
Late last year I came across mention of a new graphic novel adaptation of Beowulf. It was touted as the work of writer and translator Santiago Garcia and artist David Rubin. But that short teaser-style mention didn’t say anything about this new graphic novel being a translation. However, that fact is what made it possible for me to post about it on the day that this “new” graphic novel comes out.
At least, according to Amazon. So if you’re reading this today or later, the English translation of this Beowulf adaptation is now available!
Unfortunately though this seems to be the least publicized graphic novel that I’ve come across (is that common for translations in the comics world? Let me know!). The most informative piece I could find about it was from 2014.
In this Comics and Cola article by Zainab, we’re told that this adaptation is a straight retelling of the Beowulf story with modern comics techniques. Also, it’s not just a retelling of the often covered Beowulf vs. Grendel section of the poem, but all three sections are retold. What’s more, along with the violent and at times brutish art style, Zainab suggests (via a Google-translated description of the comic from an unnamed source) that Santiago and Rubin have brought the melancholic resonances of the poem to their version as well.
The last full graphic novel adaptation of Beowulf that I’d seen was Gareth Hinds’ three part retelling. In that version, Hinds did a decent job focussing on Beowulf himself, but the Santiago and Rubin effort seems like it’s got more of a focus on the broader themes of the story while also drawing distinct characters.
José Luis del Río Fortich echoes that sense of the Santiago and Rubin adaptation in his article on bleedingcool.com. Unfortunately, though, the biggest difference between his coverage and Zainab’s is mostly in the different panels that he showcases (aside from a direct comparison between the graphic novel’s violence with Quentin Tarantino and Sam Peckinpah’s movies).
Nonetheless, despite the lack of information about it, the Santiago and Rubin Beowulf adaptation is something that I want to see more of. The words of the poem convey its melancholy and energy quite easily, but seeing those words rendered mostly into dialogue (which the original is relatively scant on) and the monsters and their lairs imagined in full colour is always a treat.
What’s more important to you in a graphic novel: Story or art style? Let me know in comments.