Reconsidering adaptation as translation: The Comic in between

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According to Linda Hutcheon, adaptation needs to be viewed both as a process and its result. Adaptations do not simply repeat a creative process, they ‘affirm and reinforce [its] basic cultural assumptions’. This article looks at the comic as a central medium in an accelerating ‘convergence culture’, placed between traditional literature and film. Adaptations of novels, poems, even of songs have become a substantial part within the field of the so-called ‘graphic novel’ or ‘graphic literature’. And of course, the almost countless adaptations of comics to films provide an important source of revenue for both the comic publishers and the film industry, not just in Hollywood. To address the aesthetic uncertainties this may raise, and to sharpen the concept of adaptation, we are reconsidering the concept of translation. Drawing upon Walter Benjamin’s ‘The task of the translator’, translation can be thought of both as a mode of aesthetic transformation and its result: It appears neither as replacement nor as retelling, but as a sovereign artefact supplementing the original text. As such, the translation mediates between different ways of expression without overcoming their respective differences. This article takes a closer look at two translation processes: one from literature into comic and one from comic into film. Starting with Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli’s classic City of Glass (2004) and Dri Chinisin (2011) by Sascha Hommer, the visual aesthetics of the comic are examined as an ideal place of exchange between textual and pictorial culture. Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’ iconic Sin City and Tatsumi (2011) by Eric Khoo are employed to illustrate how the translation into moving images can offer an acoustic and narrative supplement to the original comic, while also drawing attention to the aesthetic differences between these two media.
Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in Comics
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)59–73
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 04.2013