This week, my latest book, The Good Inn, co-authored with Pixies frontman Black Francis, comes out from HarperCollins. What excited me most about writing this book--besides working with two of my favorite artists on the planet--is that it takes part in the revival of the classic tradition of the illustrated novel, a tradition that has been relegated to the world of "children's books" for far too long.
The Good Inn is definitely not for children. It tells an arresting tale about art, conflict and the origins of pornographic cinema (did I mention it's not for children?). I like to describe it as the book version of a film--before the film is filmed. Hence, the illustrations by famed illustrator Steven Appleby, help to visualize the story before the movie is made.
In recent years, illustration has slowly been returning to books. The best example is J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, with Mary GrandPré's illustrations appearing at the beginning of each chapter (and on the cover, of course), each one giving readers some insight into what was to come in those pages.
One can argue that Harry Potter marks the rebirth of illustrated novels for adults. Though originally treated as children's books, as Harry Potter matured and its appeal among the 18 and over crowd grew, the chapter-opening illustrations remained.
Over the last few years, there are even more examples of illustrated novels, some specifically for adult readers. So, novels with pictures are not just for kids anymore. And, actually, they never were.
And so, without further ado, here is the first official list of eight other illustrated novels for adults you should know about, from past to present.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens - 1838:
A book about an orphan in today's world would surely be labeled "Young Adult" fiction, and receive the Hunger Games
treatment by a seasoned sci-fi screenwriter taking Oliver into deep space. When Dickens wrote it, however, it was illustrated beautifully to help tell the very dark tale of a gang of child thieves who inhabit the dark alleys of London.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - 1865:
Probably the most well-known and beloved illustrated novel. Some might call it a children's book, but before Disney got ahold of it, it was one of the great works of surrealist absurdist literature.
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien:
Before Peter Jackson made The Hobbit
a cinematic spectacle, it was one of the most recognizable stories in adult fantasy fiction, and a beautifully illustrated novel. The original edition of The Hobbit,
published in 1937 featured drawings made by Tolkien himself.
The Best of Jules Verne: 3 Complete, Illustrated Novels:
(*not the year of the original novels publication dates.)
THE classic master of fantasy and science fiction, Verne used illustrations to enhance the fantastical journeys he would take readers on from the 1930s to centuries later.
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd and Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins:
Okay, I'm cheating a bit here as this list is about illustrated novels, not "graphic novels." But these "graphic novels" first elevated the art of comics to a deserving place among great works of "traditional literature."
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick:
This illustrated novel is about a homeless boy who discovers that the great French filmmaker George Melies is working at a toy stand in the train station he calls home. It is a beautiful example of the fusion of images and story in a novel format and is described by its creator as "not exactly a novel," and it's not quite a picture book.
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs:
This sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
is a very cool reimagining of the "illustrated novel" using old photos and Photoshop magic to bring to life the characters in the text.
The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks:
This new book by Max Brooks, who wrote the very popular World War Z
, comes out the same month as my new book. Again, this is more a "graphic novel" than a true illustrated novel, but it's still an excellent example of a "serious novelist" using the illustrated format to tell a very serious story.