Daily Archives December 11, 2012

Revisiting the Hobbit Graphic Novel and Animated Movie

In a hole in the ground lived a Hobbit…

So begins the journey into the epic fantasy world of Middle Earth. The line was written as a fleeting thought by author JRR Tolkien as he graded papers, proving that a) even professors doodle and b) that doodles do have value. As part of our Hobbit week we decided to look back at two of the more well-known adaptations of The Hobbit, the graphic novel (recently re-released) and the animated film for television from the 1970s.

The Hobbit Graphic Novel

This was my visual introduction to Middle Earth. I found the graphic novel in a used bookstore shortly after I finished reading The Hobbit for the first time. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure this was the first graphic novel that I ever read.

If you have a young or reluctant reader who isn’t eager to pick up Tolkien’s full novel and delve into passage after passage of names and intricate descriptions of scenery I might suggest this as a wonderful alternative entry point into the world of Middle Earth.

Originally published in 1989 as a three issue comic series, the book was eventually put together as a trade paperback and released as a full graphic novel. In September of 2012 the book was re-released with some updated changes to the layout, a new cover, and a few new pages of artwork as part of the run-up to the Hobbit film.

The watercolor-esque art style by David T. Wenzel gave Middle Earth a vibrant look that in some ways mirrored the animated film, though with smoother lines and a little more age to each of the characters. Many of the panels literally bleed off the pages and swords, staves and other artifacts often push outside the boundaries of the individual panels to great effect.

The original version had some layout issues with panels appearing a bit distorted or important characters being cutoff, apparently from a desire to have consistent margins on every page. The newly released version solved this issue by allowing for adaptive margins that are based on each individual page of panels.

The graphic novel is a fairly faithful adaptation with all the major characters and events retained from the book, including the visit with Beorn and an elongated retelling of the events in Mirkwood forest leading to the dwarves’ capture by the wood elves. The “Riddles in the Dark” chapter as well as Bilbo’s interactions with Smaug look particularly gorgeous. I can’t think of a better book to have with me at the theater to help pass the time while I wait for the movie to start.

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