Robot 6

How to adapt a 1,000-page, 400-year-old classic in 7 easy steps

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It was only on Sunday that I asked rhetorically how Rob Davis has made adapting Don Quixote look so easy, when great artists like Orson Welles and Terry Gilliam have failed so spectacularly in the past. Well, it took a spectacularly short amount of time for the universe to answer, in the form of this post at Joe Gordon’s always-brilliant Forbidden Planet International Blog. Well, “spectacularly short: in the time scale of the history of Cervantes’ 408-year-old classic novel.

Davis has composed a post taking us through his creative process, or as he wittily introduces it, “This is how to adapt a 1,000-page, 400-year-old Spanish classic into a comic in seven easy steps.” Put like that, Davis’ work seems an even grander achievement. The post makes it clear that much of the craft of adapting a novel is in the knuckling down to an enormous workload: Davis scripts, draws, colors and letters the entire project solo (the section on Davis’ approach to coloring is a masterclass in its own right). The discipline extends to imposing punishing deadlines upon himself: unlike the comic book world with its piecemeal pay structure of page rates, book deals are paid for by advances. Every failed cinematic adaptation of Don Quixote suffered from spiraling out of control budgets: this was clearly never an option for Rob.

There are few creators in the world today whose minds seem so alert to the possibilities for the medium of comics as Rob Davis. Every project he initiates shows a level of thoughtfulness: he a Quixotic figure in his own way, seeking new ways to challenge himself, his chosen artform, and even his peers. Yet this potentially cerebral work process always produces work of tremendous visceral, emotional power. Here’s hoping that Davis will always find publishers willing to back his ambitious projects.

I’ll commend the publisher Self Made Hero for matching exactly the right man to the right assignment. There are a few publishers out there, we’ll name no names, who are chasing the schools and library market, publishing safe, mediocre comic adaptations of classic plays and novels. Self Made’s Eye Classics range are starting to make a reputation for standing head and shoulders clear in this field.

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