J. Williams

I first got into comic books in middle school, about eighth grade. I latched on to the character of Nightcrawler after reminiscing the first time I saw X-Men 2, which was probably in fourth grade. Blue is my favorite color, and how cool was it that here was this guy who happens to be blue, and can teleport? So I selectively sought and read those X-Men adventures that involved him and the varying personalities he was given over the decades. I did get into some graphic novels of the superhero sort. I still have a couple thick ones, but my collection has diminished over the years. At this point in my life, I can’t say those adventures really inspired me at all. I don’t know if they ever did. They were just for fun, to have something that was mine alone.

I suppose I just always assumed graphic novels were for depicting wild fantasies that were difficult to describe in words. R.A. Salvatore has graphic novels of his Drizzt stories—the adventures of dual-scimitar-wielding Drow elf and his companions—things that would be cool to draw and cool to look at. However, I found them less engaging than the actual books, and like the Marvel comics, they were just for fun. It wasn’t until I was into college that I ran into a graphic novel that seemed to serve a purpose: Wuthering Heights.

It might seem silly to make detailed illustrations of an entire novel, especially one like Wuthering Heights. I never would have expected anyone to make anything like it. Someone decided to draw out Salvatore’s stories, but they’re modern. They’re otherworldly. Why would anyone bother drawing Brönte, I wondered, and why would anyone read it? I’ll let it be known that I was assigned this graphic novel for literature course, and although it seemed cheesy at first, with all the early-nineteenth century dresses and family trees, it did give a certain life to the story that the text alone did not. I did purchase a text-only copy of Wuthering Heights but I never could get through it. It lacks the soul that the images in the graphic novel seemed to have. I could actually see Catherine’s ghost latching onto Mr. Lockwood’s arm. I could see the agony that persisted between all the contradictory characters. I’d never thought of reading a graphic novel version of a classic novel before. Now I wish there was one for every classic novel. The whole thing made me start thinking about my own work, and how it might look in graphic novel form. It exists in my mind, but for now, it isn’t going to happen. It requires minute details and realism—things I can’t begin to grasp, at least not yet. Right now I draw cartoonishly, but I want to work on new styles.

Of all the things I read in that course—perhaps in all of college—that novel is the most memorable. Wuthering Heights: the graphic novel no one knew they needed. It really was a joy, and being the fool I am, I sold it back to the bookstore at the end of that semester. I remember it well, though. Certain images are just burned into my memory. Heathcliff’s son sucking on a peppermint stick, looking sullen and sickly. Baby Hareton plummeting down from the upper landing, only to be caught by the unsuspecting Heathcliff. I guess I always was a visual learner, but it really did breathe life into what can otherwise be a tiresome, longwinded text.