Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stephen King's The Stand Graphic adaptation

Over the summer I took a Graphic Literature course online and for my final project I did a comparison between Stephen King's novel The Stand and a graphic novel adaptation of the first few chapters. One of the main things that I focused on was how each work uses different conventions unique to their respective media in order to achieve the common goals of the horror genre in general.

Horror fiction in general tends to work towards the goal of somehow shocking or disturbing the reader. In the novel version of The Stand, one way that King achieves this through his prose is through the use of the grotesque simile. In describing the first real plague victims in the book he states that a character “opened the driver’s side door and the man behind the wheel spilled out like an old laundry sack.” This passage has the effect of forcing the reader to combine drastically dissimilar images in order to form a clear and disturbing picture of what is going on. It is an interesting process because in prose the reader must take the words on the page and use them to put together a mental picture for themselves. Devices like the grotesque simile help this process along but ultimately it is the reader who renders the images in their head and ultimately scares or disturbs themselves.

Unlike prose, the graphic medium can essentially assault the reader with disturbing images that they might not be expecting. Here is an image from the graphic novel Captain Tripps depicting the same scene described by the simile above:

Pretty shocking right? In the graphic novel this illustration takes up a full page so as soon as you turn to it it just kind of hits you. While good prose can make a reader scare themselves the graphic medium has the distinct advantage of using unexpected images that readers may not have been able to imagine to literally startle and disturb. If anybody is interested in this kind of thing and would like to check out more just reply to this and let me know. I'd be happy to post the full project.

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