Robot 6

Troublemaker sells well, but fans are not convinced

Troublemaker1One of the big trends of the past five years or so has been adapting prose works into graphic novels. It’s the sort of thing that seems like it can’t fail, since you pick up both graphic novel fans and the audience for the original work, but it has two major pitfalls with these books; one is publishers who rely too much on the writing and hire mediocre artists for the illustration, and the other is fans of the author who order the book online, not realizing it’s a graphic novel, and then complain about it.

Dark Horse’s Troublemaker, written by Janet and Alex Evanovich and illustrated by Joelle Jones, suffers from the latter but not the former. By all accounts, the book is doing well; it is getting good reviews, and it has been the number-one book on the New York Times graphic books best-seller list for the second week in a row. It’s not doing so well on Amazon, though, where the average customer rating is one and a half stars.

What gives? This excerpt from a one-star review, currently rated “most helpful,” pretty much sums it up:

This is no ‘novel’, graphic or otherwise. It’s a pathetic comic with a hardcover that takes less than 20 minutes to read. The artwork is beautiful. The story is beyond lame.

The reviewer also complained that the entire book had only 1,500 words in it, and others are unhappy that it’s not a complete story—there’s a second volume on the way. This is simply how graphic novel adaptation works—on the one hand, you need fewer words, because the pictures convey a lot of information. Some reviewers thought that was a plus with the Twilight graphic novel, as it eliminated Stephenie Meyer’s long swaths of descriptive prose. On the other hand, pictures take up more space than words, so adaptations are often longer than the originals in terms of page count; I believe Raina Telgemeier’s Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels had about twice as many pages as the originals.

Interestingly, even the haters liked Joelle Jones’s art, but for readers who calculate value by the number of words, Troublemaker clearly fell short. For their part, Dark Horse made a couple of miscues here. One was splitting the work into two hardcover volumes, each priced at almost the cost of a full-length prose novel; a fatter paperback with the complete story would have aroused a lot less indignation. The other is a simple bit of marketing: When you are doing a graphic adaptation of the work of an author as popular as Evanovich, the cover should telegraph that it’s a graphic novel. That way, online buyers get fewer unpleasant surprises. The cover of Troublemaker is too subtle; in a small format, the drawing almost disappears, and it looks like just another Evanovich novel.

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“The reviewer also complained that the entire book had only 1,500 words in it, ”

Not sure this is an exclusive issue to the graphic novel. According to my wife, that’s about how many words the latest Stephanie Plum novel had in it. She bought the last one and whipped through it in an afternoon. She was pretty disappointed, so she decided to just get the new one from the library rather than buying it.

Glad she did.

She just got it from the library and showed it to me. The margins were probably 2-2.5 inches. The type was unusually large, possibly close to double spaced. Almost every chapter had a blank page in front of it, too. It was only 300-something pages. I’ve never seen anything like it.

A single book with a complete story in it. That’s what readers coming from prose are expecting and it will be nearly impossible to break them of that within a single generation. If you’re going for that readership, then you better play by their rules. A hardback with a TO BE CONTINUED on the last page will just infuriate.

KentL, this article is over 400 words, so 1,500 for a prose novel seems pretty damn low, even if it’s stretched as thin as you say.

I do not actually think that the latest novel had 1500 words. That was simply hyperbole used to illustrate the brevity of the Evanovich’s latest novel. Sorry for the confusion.

I don’t particularly care about Janet Evanovich and I haven’t read this book but I’d just like to say that Joelle Jones is incredible and I love her artwork. She deserves whatever praise she gets.

Also, people who order something without knowing what the hell they ordered are literally too stupid to use Amazon. Just when you think you can’t be newly surprised by the bottomless idiocy of the general public, there you have it.

I’m no expert, but I thought this was an entirely new story using characters that had previously appeared in another Evanovich prose novel series, and not an adaptation.

Troublemaker is Volume 3 of the Barnaby and Hooker series, so it’s totally original material.

As a fan of the series who is also a longtime comics reader, I like this gn a lot. People who don’t know comics don’t get it that you don’t only read the words, you have to “read” the panels as well – most of the text in a prose novel spent on describing characters, scenes, etc. is replaced by the art in the panels. Prose readers often don’t understand this. Drives me crazy when I’m dealing with parents who want me to “make” their kids read books with more words than the graphic novels I have in the school library.

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